It’s Christmas Eve and we have a full slate of meaningful games in the NFL. I love this time of year. The Chiefs, who have a glimmer of hope of winning the AFC West, must beat the Raiders today at Arrowhead. And as a Chiefs fan we will also be rooting for the Bills to beat the Broncos, and the Lions to beat the Chargers. Stranger things have happened. GO CHIEFS!
Just a few thoughts on the Chiefs.
Beating the Packers
Interim head coach Romeo Crennel deserves a lot of credit for the Chiefs beating the Packers this past weekend. The defense has been inconsistent, but has shown glimpses of excellence this season. I wasn’t overly surprised that our defense played well against the Packers, who were missing their top wide receiver, their best running back, and were banged up along the offensive line.
The big surprise was the play of the Chiefs’ offense. They were effective, efficient, and dominated the time of possession. I have defended Todd Haley often, but there’s no denying that the offense looked it’s best with offensive coordinator Bill Muir and Jim Zorn putting together the offense without Haley’s interference. If you’ve never watched the Bill Muir interviews on the Chiefs’ website, you’re missing out. He’s a great guy and a good interview. This week he was asked about the offense’s efficiency. From the Star:
The Chiefs had one of their best offensive games of the year, piling up a season-high 438 yards in a 19-14 win over Green Bay.
Offensive coordinator Bill Muir suggested this was because the Chiefs were led for the first time by interim head coach Romeo Crennel rather than Todd Haley, who was fired earlier in the week. Muir didn’t mention Haley by name, but when asked about these observations, he said, “If you thought it appeared that, then it probably was.
“Romeo delegates authority and expects the people who are given authority to do their job. He’s hands-on and he knows what he wants. As long as he’s getting it, he’s pretty calm. If he’s not getting it, then the calmness disappears in a hurry.”
The offense had good balance. The play calling was good. The line protected quarterback Kyle Orton and gave him time to make his reads. The Chiefs were able to get the plays in quickly to Orton, who got to the line with plenty of time to read the defense, call out protections, and adjust his receivers. That’s something we haven’t seen all season.
The Future at Quarterback
Not only have I defended Todd Haley, I’ve often defended Matt Cassel. I still believe that Cassel is a good quarterback. He’s just not a great quarterback. If you believe that you can only win a Super Bowl with an elite quarterback, then the Chiefs are in trouble. And for those now clamoring for the Chiefs to keep Kyle Orton and cut Cassel, be careful what you wish for. I’ve watched Orton enough the last couple of years to know this — Kyle Orton is Matt Cassel. Their career numbers are virtually identical. They are decent quarterbacks who can manage the game when things are going well. Orton may be a little more accurate down the field than Cassel, but he’s just as likely to melt down and throw three INTs in a game.
My problem with playing Orton now is that we learn nothing about rookie Ricky Stanzi. And if you believe that the Chiefs need an elite quarterback, with every win we get further away from being able to draft Robert Griffin III.
The Next Head Coach
The best news we have about the head coaching search is that people have stopped talking about Josh McDaniels! The public support has swung considerably to Crennel. But once again, be careful what you wish for. Even if he wins the next two games and somehow manages to get the Chiefs into the playoffs, he would still be down my list of candidates.
My biggest concern is that Crennel is Wade Phillips. Phillips has repeatedly proven to be one of the best defensive coordinators in the NFL. And he’s repeatedly shown that he’s not up to the task as a head coach. And my second biggest concern is Crennel’s age. Pioli should be looking for a guy who can be the head coach for the next ten years. At 64 years old, can you really see Crennel as the long-term answer in Kansas City?
Now having said that, he wouldn’t be an awful choice. I just hope he’s not the first choice.
While there’s no evidence that Bill Cowher wants to return to coaching, I hope that Pioli at least makes that call. And if not Cowher, there’s still Jon Gruden and Jeff Fisher out there. Both have been successful head coaches (more successful than Crennel was in Cleveland where he went 24-40), and are young enough to be a long-term fit in Kansas City.
I like the thought of Gruden a lot. He was the last head coach to win the Super Bowl without an elite quarterback (Brad Johnson). Bill Muir was the offensive coordinator when Gruden took the Bucs to the Super Bowl. And you would think that Crennel would be willing to stay on as defensive coordinator under Gruden. The Chiefs don’t need to start over, and Gruden could keep quite a bit of the staff in place.
Their are a number of rumors that the Chiefs and Fisher are close to finishing up a deal. While I think Fisher is a good choice, my concern is that the Chiefs will have to start over with new coordinators. Since Matt Cassel has been here, he’s already had four offensive coordinators. The Chiefs need consistency. But more than anything, the Chiefs need the right head coach. I’d take Fisher over Crennel.
But now let’s take Gruden and Fisher off the table. Where do the Chiefs go now? I think that leaves Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz or Romeo Crennel. I do not want to see the Chiefs take a flyer on an unproven coordinator when there are better, safer options available.
The Players Want Crennel
It certainly appears that Crennel is the top choice among the players, but this should be expected. Players don’t like change, and Crennel is a player’s coach. The players also wanted Gunther Cunningham when Schottenheimer left. And the players lead a revolt that got John Mackovic fired and Frank Gansz promoted. How did that work out?
CORRECTION: I misidentified Marv Levy as the coach who had been fired, when it was in fact John Mackovic. I have corrected it above.