In last week’s article, I outlined a simple method by which one can recover from a potentially debilitating loss, personal or professional: put it behind you. Dwelling on prior mistakes does nothing to assist a person or group in making better decisions for the future. Usually it has rather the opposite effect. Hearkening back to a much older article, written about the 2009 draft, I’ll reiterate the premise of Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being, which is that we, as a society, tend to forget both successes and mistakes from the past, and thus are destined (or doomed) to repeat both. Kundera applies this concept in the macro, over decades or centuries, but it can be a useful tool to employ even day to day. Learning from our mistakes makes us stronger, but in the long run, remembering them makes us weaker.
As I write this, I’m watching one of the most error-prone football players of our time have an absolutely awful game. He’s relying heavily on his tailback to bail him out of bad situation after bad situation. To his credit, however, he forgets every interception he throws by the next time he hits the field. That’s a good thing, because he throws a lot of them. Lately it seems he does more wrong than right, personally and professionally, but in the macro he’s done more right than wrong, and that will be his legacy.
It’s far too early to discuss the legacy of the 2010 Kansas City Chiefs, but thus far, ya gotta be impressed with the transition from a year prior. Last season, the offense wasn’t posting scores in the 30s. Last season, the defense wasn’t holding opponents to 20 or less. They had a terrible draft, no true offensive coordinator, a bad defensive coordinator, and prior to the final game, no real semblance of chemistry. It’s still plausible that the Chiefs will crash and burn in the manner of the 2007 Detroit Lions. There are no easy games in the NFL, and even some of the bad teams on the remainder of the schedule have had the best of them in recent years (see: the 2008 loss to Buffalo). The downfall of the 2007 Lions was an offense that couldn’t move the ball on the ground, which just doesn’t work in winter months in the NFC North. The 2010 Chiefs don’t suffer from that affliction, however, so the chances of avoiding an embarrassment of that nature are greatly reduced.
In all fairness, the Jaguars are a bad team. Those three wins of theirs obscure the fact that their defense is as bad as it’s ever been in franchise history, and that Jack Del Rio may finally be in over his head. Had the Chiefs of a year ago taken the field, it would have been competitive. As it stands, with the 2010 Chiefs, this game fell squarely in the Should-Win column. In that regard, it had the makings of a trap game. At the end of the first half, the Chiefs looked as if they might have been exactly that: trapped. But they didn’t look bad, and they didn’t look demoralized. The team that let a safe lead slip away a week ago could have, in the face of adversity, looked exactly that way.
What they did instead was lift the burden from Thomas Jones’s shoulders and start making plays in other phases of the game. The team’s two primary underachievers, Dwayne Bowe and Derrick Johnson, started finding the endzone. Matt Cassel atoned for a 3 of 6 start by completing 10 of 12. Jamaal Charles, largely ineffective in the first half (save for a gimme touchdown on a Pro Bowl block from a Pro Bowl left guard), found his legs. Jackie Battle, Mike Cox, Tony Moeaki, and rookie Eric Berry played their parts. Even Terrance Copper contributed. Those of you who didn’t see the game are probably surprised at that. So was I. My guess is so was he.
In short, it was a textbook win. It was a competitive football game that turned into a thrashing. The better team was the victor.
That doesn’t mean all is well in the kingdom. The Chiefs are still woefully short at a couple of positions, and, while the Jags aren’t very good, they still exploited some of those weaknesses. Cassel once again did a functional, utilitarian job of passing the ball. His numbers still aren’t very good. He’s averaging 174 passing yards per game. That’s a fair chunk less than Damon Huard circa 2006 (234 yards per game). He’s doing it with a less run-happy offensive coordinator too, and while Charlie Weis placing his trust in the hands of Charles and Jones is perfectly understandable, I’m concerned that he’s doing it less out of trust for his tailbacks and more out of distrust of his signal caller.
Yes, I’m harping on Matt Cassel again, even after a victory. I see no future with the guy. Still, I’d take him in a heartbeat over Todd Bouman, who looked to me to be nothing more than a Tommy Maddox retread – temporarily successful on account of lack of film for the opposing defense to study. Post-halftime, however, Romeo Crennel proved once and for all that the Patriots probably didn’t need all that film they acquired illicitly. Two quarters of seeing Bouman in person was all he needed to make the necessary adjustments to effectively shut him down.
It was a trap game wherein the better team dodged the trap. Next week’s is not much different. The Chiefs are superior to the Bills in nearly every aspect. At 0-6, they’re probably a little demoralized too. Chan Gailey is a solid coach, however, and he knows a thing or two about some of Kansas City’s key players. Herein lies a delicate balancing act. The Chiefs must forget they won today and play with the hunger of a team that just lost, but at the same time play with the uplifted spirit of a team that expects to win every week. That, or they could elect not to over analyze the entire process and just focus on playing some football.
Yeah, probably better to go with the latter. Leave the analysis and neuroses to us professionals.