Five Questions on the Chiefs v2012

September 4th, 2012 by Lee Eldridge

Kansas City Quarterback Matt CasselLet me first admit that I’m not only an NFL junkie, but that I even enjoy preseason football games. I typically watch every minute of every Chiefs’ preseason game. This year? Not so much. I have maybe watched five quarters of preseason football. And it doesn’t appear that the Chiefs have answered any of the questions I had coming into the season.

Matt Cassel: What exactly is Matt Cassel? Is he the solid quarterback who put up good numbers for the Patriots in 2008 (QB rating 89.4) and the Chiefs in 2010 (QB rating 93.0)? Or the guy who struggled in 2009 (QB rating 69.9) and 2011 (QB rating 76.6)? Can you win playoff games with Cassel? How about a Super Bowl? I’ve been slow to come around. For years I’ve held the belief that you could win a Super Bowl with a competent quarterback. We’ve seen guys like Mark Rypien, Jeff Hostetler, Doug Williams, Jim McMahon, Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson win Super Bowls. And Matt’s struggles are not all his fault. He’s had a different offensive coordinator every year in Kansas City. His offensive line has been mediocre. And last year he lost running back Jamaal Charles and tight end Tony Moeaki for the season.

It’s also important to understand that Cassel’s had limited time as a starting quarterback. If you combine college and the NFL, he’s still only got four years of experience as a starter. Matt has all of the intangibles you could want in a quarterback. His ability to read a defense will continue to improve. If given protection and a strong running game, Cassel can be an effective quarterback.

But is that enough? It appears to me that in today’s NFL you must have an elite quarterback (Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rogers, Drew Brees), or at least a quarterback capable of playing at an elite level (Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger), to win a Super Bowl. During the last 20 years, the only quarterbacks to win Super Bowls who we can compare to Cassel are Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson. Smart players who can best be described as game managers. The odds are stacked heavily against the Chiefs ever winning a Super Bowl with Matt Cassel. And isn’t winning the Super Bowl the goal? (See list of Super Bowl winning quarterbacks here.)

And having said all of that, what are the odds that Brady Quinn could eventually unseat Cassel? If the Chiefs start 3-6 or worse, would Crennel consider switching quarterbacks? Quinn was drafted by Crennel in Cleveland in the first round of the 2007 draft.

Romeo CrennelRomeo Crennel: Crennel seems like a great guy, and he’s been a fine defensive coordinator in the NFL. His only stint as a head coach came in Cleveland from 2005-08 where he compiled a record of 24-40. Was that his fault or is Cleveland just that bad of an organization? I’m not sure. But I will tell you this — at the age of 65, Crennel is not the long-term answer for the Chiefs. It seems to me that you should be looking for the next Mike McCarthy, Sean Payton, Bill Cowher, Jon Gruden, Mike Tomlin, Bill Belichick or Andy Reid. A guy young enough to be your head coach for many years to come. The goal is not only to build a Super Bowl winning team, but to build stability within the organization in order to obtain long-term and continued success. Even if Crennel achieves some success with the Chiefs, how long will he be the head coach? And he’s stuck with a competent quarterback who will likely never get him to a Super Bowl. Seems like a short-sighted solution for a team without a Super Bowl caliber quarterback.

Brian Daboll: I don’t know a lot about Brian Daboll, but I do think that this is an interesting hire as the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator. He’s a high energy guy. He’s 37 years old, and has some experience as a coordinator — 2009-10 with Cleveland and 2011 with Miami. He got pretty good production out of quarterback Matt Moore last year. The Dolphins started the season 0-7 before going 6-3 over their last nine games. Their offensive production improved as the season went along. But as I mentioned before, the Chiefs have had a new offensive coordinator every year since Matt Cassel has been here. I think it’s a lot to expect for this offense to hit the ground running starting week one.

Scott Pioli: No matter what you feel about Todd Haley, the fact that he was fired midway through his third season in Kansas City means that Pioli made a poor decision when he hired his first head coach. And I’m not confident that he’ll be any more successful with his second head coach. Pioli also needs some of his draft choices to step up and produce. Eric Berry looks like a star. Kendrick Lewis has been solid. I like how Pioli’s been rebuilding the offensive line. But after that we’re left with a bunch of question marks. Will Jon Baldwin produce big plays? Can Dontari Poe become the force on the defensive line that the Chiefs have been missing? Will Pioli ever attempt to draft and develop a replacement for Matt Cassel? We’re now in year four of Pioli’s tenure and his drafts have been unspectacular at best.

Defense: While the offense has been under a lot of scrutiny by the fans, the Chiefs defense hasn’t been much better. We’ve been saying it for years, but the Chiefs have to get better play out of their defensive line. It all starts up front with the big guys. They were one of the better defenses in the league in the second half last year. Can they carry that success into this year? How much will they miss Brandon Carr? Will Justin Houstin become that second pass rusher they so desperately need?

The good news for the Chiefs is that everything that could go wrong, did go wrong last year. And they still finished the season 7-9. Romeo Crennel will certainly offer a steadier hand than Todd Haley. And you wouldn’t expect the team to have the same devastating injuries two years in a row. This team has big questions, but on paper this is probably the best collection of talent that they’ve had since the mid ’90s.

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