Jeff Herr, a finalist in the 2011 Big Gig Contest on 610 Sports Radio, was born and raised in Kansas City. Following the Chiefs, Royals, and Jayhawks all his life has led him to blog about all three extensively at the-jeff-report.blogspot.com. He has also spent time covering the Royals for the blog site kingsofkauffman.com as well as serving for a period as the lead editor of throughthephog.com a blog covering the Kansas Jayhawks. When not writing about the local sports scene, he pays the bills by serving as an accountant.
Jeff Herr: I Saw Magic, but?
by Jeff Herr,posted Sep 10 2012 2:35PM
I saw magic on Sunday. I saw a wide receiver who was a 2011 draft pick with a skill set we haven’t seen in Kansas City in a long time. I saw a quarterback who was poised, under control, made smart decisions and looks like he’s ready to take the next step in his career. I saw a defense that was by no means the most talented but was as fast as any offense and played a brand of smart, disciplined football we haven’t seen here since the Marty Schottenheimer era. The only problem is, I saw all of those things on the Atlanta Falcons and not the Kansas City Chiefs.
The most hype for a season in a long time came to a head with the second consecutive year of starting the season off with a whimper. While it wasn’t as bad as the Buffalo Bills loss from last season, in which the Chiefs were down 20-0 at halftime en route to a 41-7 loss, but a 40-24 defeat doesn’t look good no matter which way you slice it.
The excuses are plenty and they do have their legitimacy. Tamba Hali was out with a suspension limiting the pass rush to near non-existence, Brandon Flowers and Kendrick Lewis were both inactive forcing Abe Elam and Jacque Reeves into starting roles. This banged up secondary would have had trouble against your local flag football team, so you can imagine how well the (possibly) most prolific offense in the league performed.
Matt Ryan was a cool and efficient 23/31 for 299 yards and three touchdowns. He might as well have been called the bubble boy the way the Chiefs looked averse to hitting him. His jersey was clean and so was his play.
Julio Jones looked more like Lolo Jones running all over the Chiefs short-manned secondary. The second year stud had six receptions for 108 yards and two touchdowns. Matter of fact, I like this comparison so much I want these two to get married and their offspring can be drafted by the Chiefs. Perhaps Juliolo Jones-Jones will be able to make more of a positive impact for the Chiefs.
Despite all the built in excuses (that everyone was already making before the game was even played) this loss was still incredibly frustrating. There are a few reasons that I walked away from this game shaking my head and sinking deeper and deeper into the apathy that is becoming more palpable every day in this city.
First of all, I take issue with said excuses. Yes, Hali, Flowers, and Lewis are very important players and big losses. The NFL has forever been a “next man up” league. Players like Miles Austin, Victor Cruz, and others have been unsung and even undrafted before finding a spot and making the most of it. The Green Bay Packers has 15 players on the IR the year they won the Super Bowl (2010) and that list included contributors such as Ryan Grant, Nick Barnett, Justin Harrell, Marshall Newhouse, Brady Poppinga, and Mark Tauscher.
Now, all of those teams listed had elite or near elite quarterbacks. If you want to argue the problem with the Chiefs is Matt Cassel then that is fine, but that’s not what this article is about. At least not entirely.
The problem exists with the depth the Chiefs have, or the lack thereof. More specifically, the lack of depth at positions that have persisted. The Chiefs have needed a nose tackle since Pioli arrived and with all the players they’ve brought in to fill that role, still only have “potential.” The secondary was mighty thin when he arrived and rumors had it that Pioli was “forced” by Todd Haley to draft Eric Berry. While the starting four defensive backs are solid to great, there is nothing above replacement level beyond that.
Pioli has constantly harped on offensive line and depth at all those positions and while that unit wasn’t an issue today, they currently only have seven offensive linemen on the roster and are dangerously thin at the position group.
Beyond just the personnel, some of the blame has to fall with the coaching as well. If the Chiefs are short handed, then they should have schemed to cover up those differences. Romeo Crennell got the head-coaching job because of his proficiency as a defensive coordinator. This was a chance for him to really show his mettle by scheming a way for the defensive secondary to make up for the loss of Flowers and Lewis.
All this game did was serve to show where the Chiefs have failed in their intended rebuild. In the NFL, in the fourth year of a complete rebuild a team should be nearly complete. While this roster is well constructed and close, there are still a lot of things missing from this organization.
On the bright side the team looked pretty good in the first half. The defense couldn’t stop anybody but the offense was keeping pace looking more like the unit we thought we were going to see. Only trailing by three points at halftime and receiving the ball after the break was a good place to be. Unfortunately, it was a missed field goal that seemed to turn the tide negatively for the Chiefs and it was all downhill after that.
When the Chiefs went down by 10 points, it was game over. Come to think of it, I can’t even remember the last time the Chiefs had an offense in which I didn’t automatically call the game after they went down by ten points (2003? 2004?). It seems being a predominantly losing team for the last six years or so has completely seeped in to the culture. You can see it in the body language of the players when they fall behind, they expect to lose.
As I said earlier, I’m not out on the ledge because of this game. I think the Chiefs play two teams in the coming weeks that didn’t look great today and can be winnable games. If they’re 2-1 when they come back to Arrowhead on September 30th then things will look a lot brighter.
But I’m no longer content with middling success. This franchise has been there too often. They need to take the next step and what we saw Sunday is a team that has too many obstacles in their way to prevent them taking it this year. I predicted 10-6 and a playoff loss for this team and I’m sticking to that. And I’ll still be waiting to see some magic on THIS side of the field.