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: Narratives Gone Awry
by Jeff Herr,posted Aug 6 2012 4:35PM
Every year when training camp rolls around, there are a few things that sports fans in Kansas City have come to expect. There will be lots of canned answers from the Chiefs, it will be hotter than all get out, and the Royals season will be over. While the latter two are unavoidable, the first one only means that the media is left to come up with their own stories.
At some point, a narrative begins to form and it carries its way through training camp, sometimes into the season, and other times even further into future training camps and seasons. For whatever reason, these things begin to take on a life of their own.
Part of the culprit is the fact that around this time there is very little to report on, especially from training camp. Practice is usually light in the early goings, the players are doing low contact drills, and most of the time they’re not even in full pads. All together, it makes noteworthy stories hard to come by.
Yet, with the football crazed nation we have, stories need to come out. “[Player] is running with the 1st team,” or “[Player] didn’t participant in morning practice,” are usually what we get. Such a thing is to be expected and can become noteworthy if there’s a trend. However, with so much being put out there and certain stories taking lives of their, the question gets posed as to what’s real and what’s just “the narrative.”
It’s always curious to see which narratives catch on and which ones don’t. The collective media will put many different observations and tidbits out there, and the people will react and call for more and more information. What follows are a few of the narrative’s that have developed with the Chiefs over the last few years and my thoughts on their validity.
-Glen Dorsey – Dorsey came in with some of the biggest expectations of a Chiefs rookie ever. In 2008 he was looked upon as possibly the most talented player in the draft. For most of his senior collegiate season he was seen as the consensus best player and first pick in the draft. As usually happens his stock dropped ever so slightly with the NFL combine and increased scrutiny, allowing him to “fall” to the Chiefs at the #5 overall pick.
At the time the Chiefs were still running the Herm Edwards led ‘Tampa 2’ defense. This was a defense with a 4-3 base and one that Dorsey and his skill set was superiorly suited for. Defensive tackles take a notoriously long time to get acclimated to the NFL, but even by those standards Dorsey still had what many perceived to be a poor rookie season netting 46 tackles and one sack.
The next year was the biggest shift the Chiefs had seen in 20 years. Carl Peterson was out, Scott Pioli was in and so was Todd Haley as head coach. The two decided they wanted to install a 3-4 scheme on defense and Dorsey was going to be a defensive end. Many fans and “experts” cried out that Dorsey wasn’t a fit for this scheme. There was even talk of a possible trade due to Dorsey’s skill set not fitting the needs of his new position.
Instead, the Chiefs kept the supremely talented player with faith his skill set could adapt. Even still, every year there is talk of the Chiefs possibly trying to trade Dorsey or getting someone to replace him. While most people are judging him by his sack totals--which are very low--they don’t tell the whole story.
Over the last 3 years, Dorsey has become one of the better 3-4 defensive ends in the league. According to this article (http://www.profootballfocus.com/blog/2012/06/02/secret-superstar-tyson-jackson-and-glenn-dorsey-des-kansas-city-chiefs/) written by Pro Football Focus after last season, it could even be argued that Dorsey is a “secret superstar.
With this being the last year of Dorsey’s current contract many people have wondered if the Chiefs will re-sign him. I would say that it would be a huge mistake not to do so. Dorsey has been a vastly underrated player and excellent citizen in his four years in Kansas City. If his price is within reason the Chiefs would be remiss not to pull the trigger on re-signing this player who will be a big key to their success.
-Branden Albert – Albert is another player very similar to Dorsey. As a first round pick in 2008 (the Chiefs had two that year) Albert came in with very high expectations as well. Like Dorsey, Albert would be playing a spot that many deemed not his “natural position.” A guard in college Albert was to be moved to left tackle, arguably the most important spot on the field behind quarterback.
A solid rookie season was followed by a regression in 2009. 2010 saw Albert step up and in 2011 he was able to maintain and improve, if only ever so slightly. Every year of Albert’s tenure fans have been calling for a position switch. The narrative would have one believe that the Chiefs were forcing his hand and he is ill prepared to be a left tackle.
This is yet another example of a narrative taking on a life of its own. Albert’s situation is not a creation of the media as they have mostly reported simply the facts. Albert wasn’t a tackle in college, there is no disputing this. While many thought he was capable, there were some doubters as to whether or not Albert could maintain at LT in the NFL.
As Pro Football Focus shows in their evaluation of pass blockers (http://www.profootballfocus.com/blog/2012/02/20/2011-pass-blocking-efficiency-offensive-tackles/), not only has Albert proven himself, but he’s a top ten player in the league in that regard. With passing becoming more and more prominent in the NFL, it would be a mistake on the Chiefs part to let Albert go, as a player in which they know exactly what they have.
Both of these players represent key pieces in the solid base the Chiefs have constructed. They are also examples of a narrative that has taken a life of its own and, while based in reality, isn’t the whole truth of the situation. They both show that the further we get into training camp and discussing contract situations the more important it is to keep things in perspective. Players of this caliber are not easily replaced no matter what beliefs are out there.