A rambling explanation of why the Chiefs need more than a QB and coach no matter what the stupid Pro Bowl roster says
The Kansas City Star
So, just stop it.
Save the cries about how having five Pro Bowlers means the Chiefs have all this talent — same number of Pro Bowlers as the Broncos! More than the Falcons! — and can turn into a Super Bowl contender with the drop of a coach and quarterback.
First, the number of Pro Bowlers is a fraud. Eric Berry has been great lately, but average overall. Tamba Hali is a fantastic player by work ethic and reputation but has been less than Pro Bowl worthy this season. Derrick Johnson is the team’s best all-around defender, but if there’s one guy on that side worthy of the honor — let alone three — then Justin Houston has had the best season. A few weeks ago, Hali told Teicher Houston was the better player. Dustin Colquitt has had a nice season, particularly punting inside the 20, but he’s 17th in punting and net yardage.
Nobody can argue Jamaal Charles’ selection — he is the shining diamond lodged in a manure pile of a Chiefs season.
So, if we can all agree that the Pro Bowl selection process is flawed at best — I would say they had two players worthy of selection, you can make a good case for three — we can look at how close or far the Chiefs are from competing with clearer vision.
At the beginning, when there was still a chance that this season would turn out mediocre instead of unmitigated disaster, I was among those saying the Chiefs weren’t that far off. A new quarterback, a new coaching staff, a few roster tweaks, and the Chiefs would be on their way. That’s what I thought, anyway.
Then the Chiefs played out one of the least competitive seasons in recent NFL history — almost certainly, this is the least competitive team in franchise history.
They have the worst point differential in the league, and the quarterbacks and coaches can only be blamed for part of this.
The truth is, depending on your flavor, the Chiefs are set with the following 12 players: Javier Arenas, Jon Asamoah, Eric Berry, Charles, Brandon Flowers, Hali, Houston, Johnson, Kendrick Lewis, Tony Moeaki, Donald Stephenson, and Eric Winston.
There are other players, like Rodney Hudson and Allen Bailey, who are either cheap enough or still have enough upside to feel good about keeping around.
But there are others — Branden Albert and Dwayne Bowe, most notably — who are very good players set to become free agents. These spots are a particular problem because the Chiefs don’t have any readily available replacements. We’ve seen the Chiefs try recently, with Albert and Bowe both hurt, and the results have been even uglier than we’ve become used to seeing.
So even if we account for the fact that there are no perfect teams, this leaves the Chiefs needing to fill six to eight starting positions with quality players — assuming one of them is a legitimate quarterback — plus depth.
The Chiefs are (backhanded compliment alert) one of the league’s most talented terrible teams in recent memory, but it’s still worth noting that of the 19 teams to lose 13 or more games in the last 10 seasons, only five managed winning records the next season*.
* The Rams, who went 2-14 last year, can make it six by winning at Seattle this weekend, which, well, I wouldn’t bet on.
- 2006 Saints. This is such an outlier it’s probably not instructive to pay attention to. The year before, Hurricane Katrina turned everything in New Orleans upside-down. Most of the coaches and many players lost their homes. The team practiced in parking lots, and out of the state. Also, they replaced coach Jim Haslett with Sean Peyton and quarterback Aaron Brooks with Drew Brees. They drafted Reggie Bush and Marques Colston, improved the offensive line, and remade the defense. They also had the magic of a city and region rebuilding itself after a devastating natural disaster.
Other than that, sure, use this as the model.
2008 Dolphins. Went from 1-15 to 11-5, making up for Chad Pennington by employing a lot of Wildcat, got 17 1/2 sacks from Joey Porter, turned it over more than once in just one game, and had the fifth-most takeaways in the league. The turnaround didn’t stick, though, so I’m not sure this is a great model, either.
2010 Bucs. Another example of success that didn’t stick, but the Bucs went from 3-13 to 10-6 in no small part because local kid Josh Freeman went from awful as a rookie in 2009 to very good in his second season.
2012 Vikings. This one’s largely on the defense, though Christian Ponder has improved significantly from a miserable rookie season in 2011 and Adrian Peterson is having one of the best seasons for a running back in league history. The Vikings are also playing eight draft picks, including four starters. Four other starters were drafted in 2011.
2012 Colts. This one, to me, is the most instructive of how the Chiefs might operate. The Colts took on a severe makeover, including the front office and coaching staff. Andrew Luck has the look of a franchise-defining quarterback, but he’s also thrown 18 interceptions and fumbled 10 times. Colts GM Ryan Grigson did a wonderful job of retaining key veterans like Reggie Wayne and Robert Mathis, but also being bold in turning the roster over at other places — Luck is just one of three rookie starters on offense.
The Colts have three new starting offensive linemen, three new receivers and a tight end, and an entirely new backfield. On defense, 10 of the 22 players who’ve started a game are new to the Colts this year.
Even understanding that the Colts aren’t great — they’ve been outscored by six touchdowns on the season, after all — this has the look of a sustainable competitor. Say what you want about Luck’s future, and it is bright, and there probably isn’t a quarterback as good as him in this year’s draft, but also think about this:
History is clear that there’s a very good quarterback somewhere in the draft. In the last 10 years, there has been at least one quarterback to build around in nearly every draft.
2012: Luck, Griffin, Wilson.
2011: Cam Newton (and Colin Kaepernick, taken 10 spots after Jon Baldwin)
2010: Sam Bradford.
2009: Matt Stafford and Josh Freeman.
2008: Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco.
2007: This year sucked. In the first two rounds, teams took JaMarcus Russell, Brady Quinn, Kevin Kolb, John Beck and Drew Stanton. Gross.
2006: Jay Cutler.
2005: Alex Smith and Aaron Rodgers.
2004: Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Schaub.
2003: Carson Palmer.
So, all of this is a very long way of saying there is probably a very good quarterback in this draft class and it will be the job of whoever replaces Scott Pioli to identify that man and then hire the right coaches to maximize his ability, and perhaps most importantly, build a roster that does have talent but is also flawed enough to be the worst team in pro football.
In other words: this is more than a coach and a quarterback, no matter what the stupid Pro Bowl roster says.