Saturday, November 17, 2007

Drop your tomahawk

Looking at my recent record in predicting the fortunes of the Kansas City Chiefs, readers can be forgiven for ignoring the rest of this article.

Actually, if anyone is still reading, my record is worse than abysmal – particularly when predicting the outcome of games against tomorrow's opponents, the Indianapolis Colts.

This season I have been particularly upbeat. Back in October I waxed lyrical about the talents of our new wide receiver, Dwayne Bowe. I explained that with his pass-catching ability to contend with opponents would not be able to load the box to stop the run and, therefore, Larry Johnson would find running room and the Chiefs passing attack would be revitalised.

Some of this has happened!

Young Mr Bowe is leading the rookie wide receivers in the NFL. Whilst he is not putting up planetary-orbiting numbers, he is certainly providing the deep threat I was so enthusiastic about. He is progressing very nicely.

I confidently predicted that the Chief's defence would be much better. Lot's of quality players had been recruited through the draft and free agency. With an adequate defence the Chiefs would be a real threat and a shoo-in for the play-offs.

The defence is better. In fact, it is actually quite good. Stats don't tell the whole story, but there is no arguing with the fact that opponents are not scoring at a great rate. The Chiefs defence, once the notoriously “Red Sieve”, has firmed up to become more than adequate.

So, Mr Clever-Clogs (I can hear you screaming), kindly explain how the Chiefs reach this point of the season with a 4-5 record and find themselves with an away game at the Colts this week to try to get the season back on track.

Fair enough.

I'll give it a try.

1) Quarterback. The Chiefs don't have one. It was obvious in the pre-season that Coach Herm Edwards wanted to trade Trent Green and install young Brodie Croyle as his number one guy. He managed to unload Green to Miami (where Trent promptly received a career-ending re-occurrence of a smash to the head – which goes to show how dangerous this game can be and how smart Edwards was to unsentimentally unload Green); but, despite his best efforts, he could not convince even himself to install Croyle as number one. The job went to Damon Huard who has just been benched and Croyle will take over. This is nine weeks too late. Coach Edwards should have started the season with Brodie and said, in effect, we'll lose some with this guy now – but later on he'll get us to the playoffs. Now young Croyle has no chance. He may get murdered by the Colts defence and face crucial games against San Diego and Denver with zero confidence. Coach got this one wrong. Big time.
2) Running back. Chiefs are now down to one. The Priest Holmes pre-season saga was as interesting as it was educational. Priest, a franchise running back, was forced to (in effect) try out for the team and he made it. Just when Chiefs fans were mopping up the little bit of mouth-watering dribble that was on their chins, ecstatic at the prospect of Holmes and Larry Johnson teaming up in the back-field and terrorising the opponents' defence; Johnson gets injured, is out for some time and Priest is left on his own to carry the load with an offensive scheme that is tailored for another, very different, type of running back. What was one of the real strengths of the team has disappeared. Chiefs can't run the ball effectively. Ergo – young Brodie, barring a miracle, will have to throw. Unless the running backs produce, Croyle may spend the afternoon picking nylon threads (the RCA Dome in Indianapolis is an artificial surface) from his teeth and wishing Larry Johnson were healthy.
3) Offensive line. Gone south. Or, at least, so far over the hill that they are three blocks south of the line of scrimmage. This is really disheartening and disappointing. Chiefs have had outstanding offensive linemen for a decade. They have protected the QB when there was functionally no running threat. They have opened holes for (first) Holmes and (later) Johnson to post big numbers from the running back slot. Now, seemingly, it is all gone. It's a balancing act – coaching and finding the right players, but the Chiefs have spent so much time, effort and money on improving the defence and the receivers somebody forgot that without an O-line you are not going very far in the NFL. This will take some time to fix.

That just about sums it up. In these three vital area, the Chiefs are well-short of either expectations or predictions.

It is just possible that the Chiefs will win this week in Indianapolis. Unless someone is giving you say 10-1 or a 20 point spread, I wouldn't bet on it.

With the season half-gone the Chiefs are just about half-crocked. As Shakespeare said, “If you have tears, prepare to shed them now.”

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