As tough as this is right now, I'm gonna try and put out some words on what I'm seeing from the Kansas City Chiefs this year (tissues are nearby).
First, I need to get something off my chest though. I was offered free tickets to each of the last two games. I didn't go either Sunday. Warp back to three years ago, and this was unheard of to me. I would feel embarassed to even call myself a fan. Here's the thing though: I don't feel like I'm in the wrong. I liken it to a friend becoming an alcoholic (analogy alert!). Lets call him Nate. Now, Nate (The Chiefs) has recently started drinking too much (Carl + Herm + Haley), and gets irrational when he does (bad drafts in the 2000's). I don't really want to to see Nate when he gets like this (not going to the games), but I still want to support him (watching them on TV). So what do you do? You lie to yourself, tell yourself its not that bad, keep an eye on the situation from afar and wait for it to pass over. Now is this being the best friend in the world? No, but its atleast keeping you sane. I don't want to see the joke that his life (Arrowhead Stadium) has recently become, and want to remain naive to preserve his friendship (sacredness of Arrowhead). Arrowhead just needs some time to itself and a bottle of Hennessy.
Now on to actual thoughts about the team...
Charlie Weis- It seems to make too much sense for it not to happen. He's familiar with Scott Pioli and Todd Haley. He seems to run a similar offense to what Haley runs and likes. He's been a good coordinator in the past, and will most likely be looking to return to that position. Haley needs to hire an offensive coordinator to get better control of the game (and if he doesn't want one, then he needs to go). Pioli will need to make some sort of move before free agency starts to get this season off the fans' minds. I see a strong chance of this happening.
Matt Cassel- He has looked shaky at best the last couple of weeks. His biggest problem is that he seems to get uncomfortable at times. This is the exact problem you'd expect from a quarterback without much game experience. He needs games under his belt. The good news is that we can give him that experience. Remember how bad Trent Green was in his first year with the Chiefs (led the league in INT's)? How did he turn out? Green lacked experience the same way Cassel does. Now I don't envision Cassel becoming as good as Trent (Top 10 quarterback) was, but he could be in the 10-15 range in the league, and I do think we can win with him. His biggest asset is that he performs well in crucial moments. He has led successful drives at the end of games against the Raiders (first game), Cowboys, and Steelers (twice). He makes plays to win games (his teammates don't always respond, i.e. Chambers vs. the Bills). I remain sold on Cassel for now, and would like to see him with a better offensive line. However, next year will be his last year as the undisputed starter if he continues to stuggle.
Defense- The Chiefs defense lacks the same thing it has since Derrick Thomas: Leadership. They try to appoint people as leaders (Shawn Barber, Kendrell Bell, Derrick Johnson, Mike Vrabel, Mike Brown), but leadership needs to be earned, not given. We have three solid pieces to build around: Hali, Flowers, and Carr. We have some overpaid underachievers: Dorsey, Jackson, and DJ. We have some role players that would be good not playing every down: Edwards, McGraw, Brown, Page, Mays, and Belcher (too many). I just noticed that I named every starter except Mike Vrabel/Andy Studebaker. There's our answer. Vrabel is best off becoming co-defensive coordinator and Studebaker is best off starring in preseason games. So what's the solution?
Shawne Merriman- But, Nic, isn't he your most hated player in the league?? Yes, yes he is. That is until he leads the Chiefs in double-digit sacks. I learned years ago with Freddie Mitchell that I can learn to like anybody that puts on a Chiefs uniform. Merriman will become a free agent after this year and has a pretty rocky relationship with general manager A.J. Smith that will in all likelihood lead to his departure. Merriman is having a down year (4 sacks), but we all know that he has the potential to be a force. He is coming off a major knee injury suffered last year, which can take a year or two to overcome (perfect timing), or could possibly be the end of his career (Lights out!). The Chiefs would be forced to overpay which makes the move somewhat risky. I, however, feel in favor of taking the chance because I know I'd be getting a player fully motivated (Lights on!) after switching teams to a division rival.
This will be the first of many posts on the Chiefs franchise, and completes the trifecta of writing about "my teams" (Chiefs, Nebraska Football, KU Basketball). I hope this comforts some of the hopelessness felt by a beaten down, once proud, Chiefs fanbase. Stay tuned for what I think the Chiefs need to address in the upcoming draft (only 5 months away!) and how I see the NFL season playing out.