The Kansas City Chiefs have drifted in obscurity, a joke of the NFL, since exiting the playoffs in the divisional round after the 2003 season to the Indianapolis Colts. This season, they’ve made strides that could potentially propel them from 4-12, to possible contenders in the next couple of years.
There’s no doubt that Scott Pioli has attempted to assemble a winning coaching staff. Coordinators Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel have as much football knowledge as they do body fat. They’ve seen success; they’ve been instrumental, vital components to the New England Patriots of old. At the same time, fans have to wonder if the answers to the Chiefs offensive woes are standing on the turf of the newly renovated Arrowhead Stadium.
Quarterback Matt Cassel seems less of the answer, and more of a new Elvis Grbac to some Chiefs fans. His long ball is often criticized – infamous for making receivers slow down and turn, erasing would-be touchdowns.
The numbers weren’t stellar last year: 16 touchdowns, 16 interceptions, 2,924 yards and a quarterback rating of 69.9. Pushing 30 years old, Cassel has to improve and improve fast.
On the other hand, Cassel can not be criticized for his drive, enthusiasm and leadership. He came through in the clutch in three key games of the 2009 season: once against the Oakland Raiders in a beautiful lob to Dwayne Bowe, another to tie the Dallas Cowboys on a laser strike in the endzone and once again against the defending champion Pittsburgh Steelers on a simple short route to Chris Chambers that set up a huge run-after-catch and the game-winning field goal.
Cassel is either a career backup masquerading as a starter as the result of poor judgment, or he’s going to make strides in the coming season to prove he’s Kansas City’s franchise quarterback. Time will tell, but the true positives on this year’s Chiefs squad include running back Jamaal Charles – the speed demon who frankly doesn’t need an offensive line – and cornerback Brandon Flowers – a constantly improving, soon-to-be feared defender with Pro Bowl potential.
With the Raiders in uncertainty with loads of talent but no one to coach it, the Chiefs can place ahead of Oakland with ease if the scales tip in their favor. The Denver Broncos are torn to shreds, their star linebacker out for the season, most threatening wide receiver traded to Miami, and a coach who, let’s face it, hasn’t proven he has a bite to go with his bark – the same can be said for Chiefs head coach Todd Haley.
The Chargers will place first in the AFC West this coming season; that much is a near certainty. But the Kansas City Chiefs will contend in due time, when they find their sure answer at quarterback – Cassel or no Cassel – and prove that they can run their franchise similar to the San Diego Chargers and Indianapolis Colts: as a well-oiled machine that drafts consistently well, retains prestige and contends for championships for several consecutive years.