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Par for the Course: Week 4 Game Review
Posted By ChiefsWarpath.com On October 6, 2009 @ 8:55 pm In Commentary | Comments Disabled
There is a pivotal scene in the movie Tin Cup, Kevin Costner’s ode to underachieving, alcoholic golfers, wherein Costner’s character breaks every club in his bag except his 7-iron. He then proceeds to shoot par through the remainder of the course using a single club. Later on, he asks Don Johnson’s character if he ever shot par with a 7-iron. Johnson replies, “Well hell, Roy… it never even occurred to me to try.”
I dont know if the coaches and execs of the Kansas City Chiefs ever watched that movie, but if they did, they took the wrong half of that scene to heart. Every season they take a few more 7-irons to each game, casting aside the clubs they really need to be competitive. The organization has made practice of shedding its most talented player at the end of each year, sometimes owing to retirement (Willie Roaf and Will Shields), but far too often to trades that fail to yield results (Jared Allen, Tony Gonzalez, and even Trent Green). The result? A team of role players. Good athletes. No stars.
By contrast, look at the Minnesota Vikings. They too could have built a team out of 7-irons, and, with the right coaching, perhaps even shot par. But it never occurred to them to try. The recent ascension of their team is attributable to the acquisition of three players, Adrian Peterson in 2007, Jared Allen in 2008, and Brett Favre in 2009. Each of them has won a game for the team this season – Peterson against a very bad Cleveland Browns team in week one, Favre against a surprisingly improved San Francisco team in week two, and Allen tonight against a very tough Green Bay unit. Those three players were the catalyst for success with a team that was already strong in the trenches, but needed that extra spark to go from being a consistent middle of the road contender to becoming something truly special. All three are potential Hall of Fame candidates, with Favre being a sure lock.
Now go back to the Chiefs’ roster. Which of those players is destined for the Hall of Fame? If nobody comes to mind, answer this much simpler question: which of those players is destined for the next Pro Bowl? Still coming up empty-handed? Me too. What do you see instead? I know what I see: 7-irons in spades, and none of the right kind of coaching that could elicit a par performance.
That, of course, is why the Chiefs were taken to task by the Giants on Sunday. The Giants have every imaginable club in their bag. Three top notch pass rushers (three makes it a down year – just two years ago they had four). Two bruising runners (down from three, with the loss of Derrick Ward). Three emerging receivers. An offensive line anchored by one of the most underrated right tackles in the league. And, most importantly, a Pro Bowl quarterback who looks more and more like his surefire Hall of Fame big brother every day.
By comparison, the Chiefs have no top notch pass rushers. No bruising runners. A handful of moderately talented possession receivers, but no deep threats. A shell of the offensive line that made them so potent in the Dick Vermeil era. And, most importantly, a quarterback who hasn’t been a penciled in starter for any team since his senior year of high school. Somewhere along the line, it occurred to them to try to win with 7-irons.
But they’re not winning.
The most obvious issue with the Chiefs right now is the play calling. I know last week I said I would reserve judgment against Todd Haley on the grounds that he’s a rookie coach, bound to make rookie mistakes. Attempting to run a team for the first time without an offensive coordinator is not a rookie mistake. It is a product of egoism, and the by-product is a team that can’t score without great field possession and an extra set of penalty-induced downs at the goal line. When I see the coach who built a reasonable approximation of The Greatest Show On Turf out of a previously unproductive offense repeatedly call the same failed no-block draw play on consecutive downs, including 3rd and longs, I know he’s in over his head.
I also know he can’t ask for help. Hiring an offensive coordinator to take over play calling mid-season would be perceived as a sign of weakness. Haley won’t permit that perception. I’m not so sure he should either. As I watch this team play, I get the distinct impression that Haley’s grip on the locker room is tenuous at best. A display of fallibility could loosen that grip. If you think the team is ugly now, picture what would happen if they didn’t try at all. Can’t picture it? Try picturing the team that gave Matt Millen his last win.
Now picture them without Tony Gonzalez and Jared Allen.
Todd Haley was dealt a tough hand in taking over a team as talent-handicapped as the 2009 Kansas City Chiefs, but at every step he seems to handicap himself a little more. He handicapped himself by hinging his team’s success on a career backup quarterback. He handicapped himself by taking away that quarterback’s one reliable target. He handicapped himself by converting to a 3-4 defense with a 4-3 staff. He handicapped himself by hiring Clancy Pendergast to manage that conversion. Most of all, he handicapped himself by firing the man best equipped to help him through these first few months in his new position. And it shows.
In football, however, unlike golf, handicaps don’t help your score. That’s what talented players and good coaches are for. Right now Todd Haley needs all the help he can get.
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