Archive for January, 2011

Chiefs Get Offensive in 2010

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

Kansas City ChiefsI want to spend some time analyzing what the Chiefs accomplished in 2010, and what they need to do to improve in 2011. Today we’ll talk about the offense. This will include an overview of the various position groups, and the Chiefs’ own free agents.

By The Numbers
The Chiefs made some great strides on offense this year. We watched Matt Cassel, Dwayne Bowe and Jamaal Charles become playmakers. We saw glimpses from rookies Dexter McCluster and Tony Moeaki of what they can be in the future. And we saw veterans Ryan Lilja and Casey Wiegmann come in and fortify the offensive line.  Statistically, here are some numbers to digest:

Total Offense: #12
Rushing: #1
Passing: #30
Total Points: #14 (avg 22.9 points/game)

It’s a little hard to put these numbers into perspective. And I think they’re a bit misleading. The Chiefs were effective running the ball, and ran the ball more times than any other team in the league. They were also pretty effective in scoring points. But early in the season they put little emphasis on passing the ball. It wasn’t until the loss at Denver that the Chiefs found they could trust Cassel and Bowe to deliver in the passing game. (I wrote this article earlier this year about the emergence of the passing game.) This season was largely about developing the team. As they continue to progress, the Chiefs must find better offensive balance.

Stat: Out of the top ten rushing teams in the league, half of them failed to make the playoffs. This list includes: Oakland, Jacksonville, New York Giants, Houston, Tampa Bay and Minnesota.

I’ve never believed that you want the top running game in the league. And I’ve never believed that you want the top passing game in the league. The best teams typically have balance, and can do both.

Stat: Out of the final four teams in the playoffs, none of them are offensive juggernauts. We could review any of the stats, but here are their numbers in points per game: Green Bay (#10 at 24.2 points/game), Pittsburgh (#12 at 23.4 points/game), New York Jets (#13 at 22.9 points/game), and Chicago (#21 at 20.9 points/game). Next time we’ll take a look at how these teams are defensively. Offense may be sexy, but defense wins in the playoffs. At least it did this year.

What do these numbers mean? They mean that the Chiefs’ offense is on par statistically with these remaining teams in the playoffs.

Position Groups
Let’s take a quick look at the Chiefs’ position groups, and what they need to do moving forward.

Kansas City Chiefs Matt CasselQuarterback: Matt Cassel, Brodie Croyle (free agent), Tyler Palko

The development of Cassel should put people at ease. He passed for more than 3,000 yards, which is OK considering the Chiefs put so little emphasis on the passing game. What was truly impressive was how he took care of the ball. His TD to INT ratio of 27/7 was spectacular. It will be interesting to see what the Chiefs do with Croyle. The fans want him gone after his ineffective play against the Chargers. But what I found interesting is that the Chiefs had a gameplan for Croyle much like they had in the season opener for Cassel. And early in the season, fans and media pundits were clamoring about how the Chiefs don’t trust Cassel. I think this could go either way, and will not be surprised if the Chiefs bring back Croyle. If they decide to move on, they will need to sign another backup quarterback, or take one late in the draft to develop alongside Palko.

Running Back: Jamaal Charles, Thomas Jones, Dexter McCluster, Jackie Battle (free agent)

The Chiefs have quality and depth at running back. Charles is possibly the most explosive player in the league. Jones is strong and dependable. McCluster can make plays when given the opportunity. And Battle has plenty of potential. I hope they resign him, as he’s a good special teams player as well. I am completely onboard with how the Chiefs shared carries between Jones and Charles. I don’t believe that Charles has the body to withstand carrying the ball much more than he did this year. And I can’t imagine any reason why the Chiefs would consider drafting a running back this year.

Fullback: Tim Castille (free agent), Mike Cox (free agent)

The Chiefs shared time this season between Cox and Castille. Both are free agents. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the Chiefs resigned them both.

Wide Receiver: Dwayne Bowe, Chris Chambers, Dexter McCluster (yes I also put him in the RB group), Terrance Copper (free agent), Kevin Curtis, Verran Tucker, Jerheme Urban (IR), Jeremy Horne (practice squad), Quinten Lawrence (practice squad)

Bowe finally had his breakout season this year. He was phenomenal when given the opportunity to shine. McCluster is fine to have in the mix, but is not a starting wide receiver. I assume Chambers will be cut. Not sure what happened between Chambers and the Chiefs, but Kansas City is apparently through with him. He was inactive against the Ravens in the playoffs, and the Chiefs started newly signed Curtis. When you watch teams like the Packers, they have three to four receivers who are all capable of making plays. The Chiefs must upgrade the talent they have here, and they must find a starting wide receiver who can take some of the coverage away from Bowe. Would expect the Chiefs to consider a receiver high in the draft. They must improve their passing game in order to have a more balanced offensive attack.

Tight End: Tony Moeaki, Leonard Pope (free agent), Jake O’Connell, Brad Cottam (IR)

Moeaki during this rookie campaign put up better numbers than Tony Gonzalez in his rookie campaign. Very impressive. He runs good routes. He has great hands. And he seems to block pretty well. Not sure what they plan to do with Pope, who is a free agent. It would not surprise me if the Chiefs drafted another tight end this year. While not a great area of need, they can continue to look to upgrade this group.

Kansas City Chiefs Brian WatersOffensive Line: Branden Albert, Brain Waters, Casey Wiegmann (free agent), Ryan Lilja, Barry Richardson (free agent), Jon Asamoah, Rudy Niswanger (free agent), Ryan O’Callaghan (free agent)

The offensive line was better this year. It’s clear that Wiegmann and Lilja helped solidify the group. But personally, I’d like to see the Chiefs continue to upgrade the line. I was concerned early in the year with undersized players such as Wiegmann and Lilja anchoring the middle of the line. Waters is nearing the end of his career. Both of their right tackles are free agents. And the line was manhandled by several teams late in the season. I’d like to see rookie Asamoah starting in 2011. He’s a beast, though I’m not sure how you reshuffle the line to make that happen. He played guard in college, but he’s capable of playing center. I’d be curious if you could move Lilja over to center, and start Asamoah at right guard. Waters has also had some experience at center. Would also like to see the Chiefs consider a right tackle early in the draft.

Notes: I have not necessarily listed all practice squad players, or players who were on injured reserve.

Collective Bargaining Agreement
As a fan of the NFL, I hope they get the collective bargaining agreement in place soon. Do not expect any agreement until the last minute, or even later. I will be surprised if we get a lockout, but it’s not out of the question. Under the old rules, many of the Chiefs’ free agents would be restricted or exclusive rights free agents, which means that the Chiefs have some control over them. But without a collective bargaining agreement in place, it’s impossible to predict what will happen with the status of these players.

Free Agency and the Draft
I do not expect the Chiefs to be very active in free agency beyond resigning their own free agents. They made a few strategic signings last year with Lilja, Wiegmann and Shaun Smith. Expect more of the same this year. Substance over flash.

In the draft, fans will be clamoring for wide receivers and offensive linemen. Or possibly a backup quarterback. That’s all well and good, but in my opinion, the defense needs more infusion of talent than the offense. We will cover that next time around.

Chiefs Thoughts — 01-17-2011

Monday, January 17th, 2011

Kansas City ChiefsOffensive Coordinator
It’s been pretty quiet in Kansas City concerning the search for a new offensive coordinator to replace Charlie Weis. ESPN has speculated that the Chiefs have been interested in Denver’s offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, but with McCoy’s history with newly hired head coach John Fox, it appears likely that McCoy will remain in Denver.

Was watching the playoffs yesterday, and a thought crossed my mind. Maybe the Chiefs are waiting to interview an assistant from one of the teams still in the playoffs? And who are the offensive assistant coaches for the New England Patriots?

Did you know that the Patriots don’t list anybody as their offensive coordinator or defensive coordinator? (See Pat’s coaching staff here.)

Bill O’Brien is listed as the quarterbacks coach, and he is the primary play caller for the Patriots. Teams are typically allowed to interview assistant coaches from other staffs so long as the position they’re interviewing for would be a promotion from their current position. And becoming offensive coordinator for the Chiefs would qualify as a promotion for O’Brien.

Though they stumbled against the Jets yesterday in the playoffs, the Patriots had an excellent season offensively. They released WR Randy Moss and traded RB Laurence Maroney early in the season. People assumed that the Patriots were in rebuilding mode. Rebuilding didn’t take long. They ended the season as the highest scoring offense in the league averaging 32.4 points per game.

Now the Patriots can always promote O’Brien and keep teams from interviewing him. And I haven’t seen this speculated anywhere else. It just makes a lot of sense to me. He was on the coaching staff in New England the year Matt Cassel filled in for Tom Brady. The Pats run a similar offense to the Chiefs. And he has experience calling plays in both the NFL and in college. (See O’Brien’s bio here.)

The Raiders are the Raiders
Well the mystery has been solved. I had wondered how Al Davis could be so stupid as to fire the best head coach the Raiders have had since Jon Gruden. (Technically he wasn’t fired, but Davis did not pick up the option on Cable’s contract.) And now the story is out. Davis has been unhappy with Cable about something, and has deducted $120,000 from his paychecks over the last several weeks. Cable has filed a grievance with the NFL against Davis. Sound familiar? According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, “The NFL has had to help settle financial disputes with four of Davis’ past five head coaches.” (See the ESPN story here.) Too funny!

Chiefs Free Agents 2011

Friday, January 14th, 2011

Kansas City ChiefsThe lack of an NFL collective bargaining agreement will make this an interesting off season. The Chiefs have quite a few players without contracts for 2011. Typically, some of those free agents are restricted or exclusive rights free agents, which means that their team still maintains some control over that player’s future. But without a collective bargaining agreement, nobody knows if these designations will still exist in the new NFL landscape.

Here are the players who do not have contracts for 2011: CB Brandon Carr, DT Ron Edwards, LB Tamba Hali, T Barry Richardson, C Casey Wiegmann, LB Charlie Anderson, RB Jackie Battle, FB Tim Castille, WR Terrance Copper, FB Mike Cox, QB Brodie Croyle, CB Travis Daniels, LB Cory Greenwood, DE Wallace Gilberry, S Reshard Langford, CB Maurice Leggett, LB Corey Mays, S Jon McGraw, C Rudy Niswanger, T Ryan O’Callaghan, TE Leonard Pope, DL Shawn Smith and LB Mike Vrabel.

Whew.

The Chiefs have already extended contracts with RB Jamaal Charles, LB Derrick Johnson, LS Thomas Gafford and LB Andy Studebaker.

My plan is that over the next couple of weeks, we’ll take a more in-depth look at the offense, defense and special teams. Today is just to shed some light on the fact that the Chiefs have a lot of decisions to make with their own free agents. Here would be my priorities:

Kansas City Chiefs Tamba Hali1. LB Tamba Hali: In my opinion, he’s the best player on the defense. I would have made him a priority to resign over LB Derrick Johnson. Hali finished second in the league with 14.5 sacks. He’s only 27 years old. He’s proven to be a real playmaker. He’s relentless after the quarterback. And he’s perfecting the old Derrick Thomas swipe at the football. He forced four fumbles this year (plus another one in the playoffs against the Ravens), and recovered two of them. It is imperative that the Chiefs sign Hali to a long-term contract.

2. CB Brandon Carr: There were some concerns about Carr’s play early in the season, but he played very well down the stretch. And the Chiefs have no replacement for Carr on the roster. Good cornerbacks are hard to find. Especially young ones. The Chiefs need to keep Carr.

3. DE Wallace Gilberry: You might be wondering why Gilberry is my third priority from this list of free agents. Gilberry was second on the team with seven sacks with limited playing time, and he’s only 26 years old. Used primarily in the Chiefs’ rush package, he makes an impact when he’s on the field. And while the Chiefs have an improving defense, they’re not great. And they need players who make an impact.

The Chiefs will certainly sign several others from this list of free agents. For instance, both of their fullbacks are free agents (Castille and Cox), and they’ll likely resign one or both of them. Their two right tackles (Richardson and O’Callaghan) are fairly interchangeable in my opinion. They’ll certainly keep at least one of them. Ron Edwards and Shaun Smith both played well on the defensive line, but I wouldn’t consider it imperative that both are resigned.

Maybe the two most interesting decisions the Chiefs face are Wiegmann (15 years in the league) and Vrabel (14 years in the league). They are the two oldest players on the Chiefs’ roster. Wiegmann played well this year, but I think the Chiefs need to continue to improve their line. I’d like to see Jon Asamoah starting this next season, though I’m not sure how you juggle the line to make that happen. And Vrabel was clearly losing playing time to Studebaker. Plus, there’s no guarantee that either of these guys want to play next year. Wouldn’t surprise me if one or both of them retired, though I think Vrabel is the more likely of the two to retire.

And don’t be surprised if the Chiefs resign Brodie Croyle. The fans will howl, but I think Croyle is better than he displayed in his limited action this year.

Chiefs 2011 Opponents Determined

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

Kansas City ChiefsYowza. Have you seen the Chiefs’ list of 2011 opponents yet? The Chiefs will need to continue their development if they have any hopes of matching their 2010 record of 10-6.

Like every season, the Chiefs will face their AFC West rivals. This accounts for six of their 16 regular season games. In 2010, the Chiefs went 2-4 against their division. They must improve on this record to defend their title of AFC West Champs.

The Chiefs will play the AFC East this year, which includes New England, New York (Jets), Buffalo and Miami. Two teams who are very good, and two teams who are very capable on any given Sunday.

The Chiefs will also face off against the NFC North, which includes Green Bay, Chicago, Minnesota and Detroit. Again, two very good teams, and two capable teams. Detroit is no longer the doormat they’ve been for years.

And their two final games will come as a result of the NFL’s unbalanced schedule. Since the Chiefs were first in their division, they must play the winners of each of the divisions in the AFC. They will already play New England, but add to that Indianapolis and Pittsburgh to finish up the schedule.

Good luck Chiefs. Could be a very tough season.

My Chiefs Cup is Half Full

Monday, January 10th, 2011

Kansas City ChiefsIf last August I had told you that the Chiefs would finish the regular season 10-6 and AFC West Champions, and would lose at home to a very good Baltimore Ravens team in the first round of the playoffs, would you have accepted that? Would you have been excited by that?

I think most of us would have exuberantly said “YES!”.

Don’t be down today. Yes, the Chiefs were outclassed yesterday. Yes, the Chiefs made plenty of mistakes. But look at where we’ve been, and where we’re going. The Chiefs are clearly on the right track. And here are the biggest reasons to be optimistic that things will continue to get better for the Chiefs.

1. Matt Cassel: If you’re going to win consistently in the NFL, you MUST have stability and production from your quarterback. At the beginning of the year, most Chiefs fans were down on Matt Cassel. Matter of fact, I wrote this article asking if Cassel had run over your dog. Matt played very well most of the year. He dramatically improved his TD/INT ratio. He improved his accuracy and fundamentals. And he won over his team with his leadership. He’s still an inexperienced quarterback. He’s young, he’s good, and he’ll only get better.

2. The Draft: I had some concerns about general manager Scott Pioli’s ability to draft after watching his 2009 draft picks contribute little last year. I liked his 2010 draft from the start, and am even more pleased after watching them play for a season. Eric Berry is going to be a star.

3. Coaching: Todd Haley is growing up as a head coach. While he’s been ridiculed for his fourth down gambles, statistics seem to back him up that these are solid decisions. And he’s built a fine staff. Even with the departure of offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, I expect the Chiefs to continue to make good staff decisions.

4. Player Development: You have to draft talented players, and then you have to develop them into good players. Some of them have to become great players. The Chiefs have struggled with this for years. Since Marty left, the Chiefs have not developed very many young players. Were they just drafting bad, or were they failing to develop their draft picks? Probably both. But this year, talented players became productive players. Jamaal Charles. Tamba Hali. Dwayne Bowe. Derrick Johnson. Eric Berry. Tony Moeaki. Javier Arenas. Dexter McCluster. A couple more drafts, and continued development from within, and the Chiefs should be good for years to come.

Offensive Coordinator
The Chiefs first order of business now that the season is complete is hiring a replacement for offensive coordinator Charlie Weis. Have seen a few names floating around out there, but not much news on this front. ESPN has reported that the Chiefs are interested in Denver’s offensive coordinator Mike McCoy.

And you’d have to think the Chiefs have at least had conversations about Josh McDaniels. While I wasn’t a fan of McDaniels while he was head coach of the Broncos, he’s clearly a fine offensive coordinator. And he has a great track record with Cassel.

If the Chiefs decide to groom a younger, and less experienced coordinator, don’t be surprised if Haley decides to call the plays next year. Lots of head coaches have had offensive coordinators but still called the plays, such as Josh McDaniels and Mike Shanahan. Matter of fact, when Todd Haley was hired as offensive coordinator for the Cardinals, head coach Ken Whisenhunt originally called the plays until he was comfortable turning over that responsibility to Haley.

A Little Self Promotion

Sunday, January 9th, 2011

I typically try not to mix business and my personal blog, but for those who don’t know, Kristin and I own a promotional marketing company called Snap Promotions. In the last couple of weeks, we have launched two online resources for our clients:

Promotional Items Company: This website features more than 100,000 promotional items and gifts. Lots of interesting products from food gifts to apparel. Basically an online catalog where our clients can do some window shopping for promotional ideas.

Customizable Promotional Items: This site is more robust than the first one, and features more than 300,000 promotional products. Tons of great products for your next promotion. This site also allows our customers to place orders through the website.

And with the launch of these two new sites, we have a special offer for 15% off your next order. You can view the details here. This offer is only good till the end of January.

And now, back to your regularly scheduled programming!

Haley: Leader and Motivator

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

Kansas City Chiefs Todd HaleyLots of interesting things we could discuss this week. The Chiefs are headed to the playoffs for the first time since 2006, and have won the AFC West for the first time since 2003. The game against the Ravens on Sunday. The impending departure of Charlie Weis. But before we do all of that, I want to spend a little time on head coach Todd Haley.

If you spend any time reading the various forums and blogs, it’s amazing the amount of ire some fans have for Haley. He’s described as egotistical, hard headed and ruthless. Even unstable. These people have missed what has been an amazing display of leadership and motivation.

Last year, Haley came to Kansas City to coach a team that had won only six games combined over the two previous seasons. People couldn’t understand his approach. He belittled and pushed his team and his coaches in every way possible. He beat them down for all to see. The media and the fans concluded that Haley was irrational and unable to control his emotions. He was a hot head who was in over his head.

Have you seen the movie Heartbreak Ridge with Clint Eastwood? What does every drill sergeant do in every war movie with a bunch of young soldiers? He breaks them down and builds them back up as a team.

Last year, Todd Haley was that drill sergeant.

It was interesting to hear the talk radio people early this season. Haley had become much more composed. Somebody had gotten to him and Haley had changed his style. Somebody (probably Pioli) must have convinced him that he needed to change. The media somehow missed what had just happened. Last year was about tearing down the individuals. This year was about rebuilding them into a team.

The Chiefs won 10 games. Won the AFC West. And are hosting a home playoff game Sunday against the Ravens. The Chiefs still have some deficiencies. They’re a good team, but not a great team yet. Haley has done an amazing job in Kansas City, and everything he has done was done by design.

Kansas City Chiefs Charlie WeisCharlie Weis
I was very excited about the hiring of offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, and am disappointed that he’s leaving after only one year. There has been a lot of speculation that Kansas City is not big enough for Haley and Weis. This stems from the misconception about Haley’s ego. Why is Charlie Weis leaving? I think there are two factors in particular that have transpired.

One, Charlie Weis would like to be a head coach again. He’s not likely to get that opportunity in the NFL. Teams have found success with younger candidates such as Todd Haley and Raheem Morris in Tampa. Seldom do you get the opportunity for your first head coaching job in the NFL later in life. Moving back to the college ranks and a high profile job as offensive coordinator at Florida puts him in a better position to get another crack as head coach. He also gets to work with longtime friend Will Muschamp, who is the new head coach for the Gators.

And two, Weis finds himself in a unique position where he’ll get to work with his son. His son wants to be a coach, and will be joining the staff at Florida as well. Here’s a good article from the Gainesville Sun about Weis and his son going to Florida. Football coaches work incredibly long hours, and I guarantee you that they miss out on a lot of family time. I’m sure many of them look back with some level of regret as their children grow up and they realize that they weren’t around as much as they would have liked. Weis has an opportunity to spend time with his son, and be the offensive coordinator at Florida.

And a quick note about Todd Haley — I’ve spent years reading about leadership. Leaders in business. Leaders in politics. And leaders in sports. I’ve watched many of Haley’s press conferences, and he’s much more humble than how the media likes to portray him. The best leaders surround themselves with the best people. Haley brought to Kansas City two of the most established coordinators in the NFL with Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel. Haley’s ego did not get in the way. And Haley’s ego is not driving Weis out of Kansas City.

Who will be the next offensive coordinator? I’m not making a prediction, but wouldn’t Josh McDaniels be high on the list if it wasn’t for handshake-gate?

Chiefs vs Ravens
I have to admit, I was hoping for the Jets this weekend. The Ravens were my preseason pick to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. Baltimore will be very tough. Their defense is very good, though it’s not as good as it has been in years past. They’re ranked #10 in yards allowed and #3 in points allowed.

But you want a reason to hope? The two defenses that have given the Chiefs the most problems recently have been the Chargers and the Raiders. They are attacking, blitzing, aggressive defenses. They put a lot of pressure on the quarterback, and are tied for #2 in the league with 47 sacks. Baltimore is a much more controlled defense, and they don’t put nearly as much pressure on the quarterback. The Ravens are tied for #27 in the league with only 27 sacks. Matt Cassel has proven that if the offensive line can give him protection, that he’ll make very good decisions with the ball.

Kansas City Chiefs Jamaal CharlesOffensively, the Chiefs will need to attack the Ravens much like they did the Titans. They will need to pass the ball to open up the running game. The Ravens are ranked #21 against the pass, and #5 against the run. Expect Weis to move the ball around a lot. Screens to the running backs. Sideline patterns to the receivers. And if the Chiefs don’t give the ball to Jamaal Charles, I’m going to be very disappointed. I like how the Chiefs have shared the ball between Charles and Jones this season. Charles is fresh and healthy because he hasn’t had to carry the load. But Charles is the Chiefs most explosive player. The time for saving him is done. There is no tomorrow if they lose. Charles had better receive the bulk of the carries against the Ravens if the Chiefs want to move to round two of the playoffs.

Prediction: I’ve tried hard not to be a homer this season, but today, I’m a Chiefs fan all the way. Chiefs 20, Ravens 17

Super Bowl Prediction
If you go back to my preseason predictions, I had the Colts losing to the Ravens in the AFC Championship. I had the Packers losing to the Saints in the NFC Championship. And the Saints winning their second straight Super Bowl.

Today? I’m not a gambling man. And it’s easy to pick the teams with home field advantage. The Patriots look unstoppable, and are undefeated at home. The rest of the AFC teams have a few warts, and it will take a Herculean effort to win in New England. It would be very difficult to bet against Brady and the Pats.

I think things are much tighter in the NFC, and I think you could make a case that the two best teams in the NFC are the Packers and the Eagles. The Falcons are very tough at home, but not unbeatable.

Super Bowl Prediction: Would love to see Tom Brady vs Michael Vick. I’m picking the Patriots over the Eagles.