Part one: The ugly
The great Chinese philosopher Confucius once said, “Study the past if you would define the future.” Thus, before looking ahead to the 2013 Kansas City Chiefs, it is important and necessary to look back at how this year’s Chiefs arrived in the present. Over the next three columns, I will take a look at how the ups and downs of the 2012 Chiefs affect the franchise moving forward. As with every NFL team, the Chiefs had good, bad, and ugly moments in 2012. Unfortunately for Kansas City fans, the bad and the ugly heavily outweighed the good. Since I am generally an optimist, I will start with the ugly, work my way through the bad and finish with the good, looking towards the 2013 season.
Before analyzing the 2012 Chiefs from a football standpoint, the tragic circumstances surrounding the suicide of LB Jevon Belcher must be discussed. The Chiefs handled the situation as well as any organization could. While they proceeded on with their game just one day later, it was the right action to take. It allowed players to heal together, gave the community an opportunity to move forward and gave a national voice to the issues of domestic violence, gun safety and mental health care. The Chiefs were a shining example of how to handle a tragic situation and should be commended for their response.
As for their on the field results, the 2012 Kansas City Chiefs had many ugly moments, the ugliest on field moment being the end product. The Chiefs finished last in the NFL, with a 2-14 record. No one saw this coming at the beginning of last season. The Chiefs were thought to be a middle of the pack NFL team, not able to challenge for the Super Bowl, but also not expected to have an abysmal season. They signed some impressive free agents in 2012, including DT Ropati Pitoitua, S Abram Elam and RB Peyton Hillis. I even predicted the Chiefs as my preseason AFC West champion. Did they make me look dumb or what?
So how did the Chiefs go from an average NFL team to the worst in the league? One large factor in their demise was injuries. Between June 13 and November 17 the Chiefs placed seven players on injured reserve, including 3 TE’s and Rodney Hudson, the projected starting center before the season began. They also had important players like Jalil Brown, Jamaal Charles, Peyton Hillis and Matt Cassel miss games due to injury. Overall the Chiefs lost a projected 54 games from starters due to injury. That total ranked ninth highest in the NFL. While injuries are “part of the game” it is almost impossible for a team to overcome that many injuries.
Although injuries were a major contributor to the 2-14 record, a look at the team statistics from 2012 show the Chiefs were just simply not that good to begin with. Their defense finished in the bottom third of the league in total yards, the bottom quarter in points allowed and tied for last in the NFL with only 13 takeaways for the season. As the former Ravens and Jets linebacker Bart Scott would say, their defense couldn’t stop a nosebleed.
As ugly as the Chiefs defense was, their offense was even uglier. The team was in the bottom quarter in total yards and yards per game. They tied for last in giveaways and were dead last in points, averaging a measly 13.1 points per game. When you are unable to muster two touchdowns per game, it’s a miracle that you would finish the season with any victories, let alone two.
With all of the ugly play, it was inevitable that the 2013 Chiefs would look nowhere near like the 2012 team who finished last in the league. While the ugly 2012 record netted the franchise with the number one overall pick, unfortunately the 2013 NFL Draft Class was not blessed with a clear cut “franchise player”. This is not to disrespect Eric Fisher, the promising LT out of Central Michigan, but he alone will be unable to change the direction of the franchise. Fisher was the smart pick, a ten year starter at one of the most important positions on the football field, but for the 2013 Chiefs to improve upon the ugly 2-14 season, they will need a lot more help than a number one draft pick in a weak draft. In addition to Fisher, the Chiefs added two important free agents in Dunta Robinson and Anthony Fassano. They also traded for a new quarterback (more on that in Part 2: The Bad).
The poor record not only netted the Chiefs the number one overall pick and a few new players, it also created a necessity for a new organizational direction. Coach Romeo Crennel was immediately fired at the end of the season. Scott Pioli “mutually parted ways with the team“(read was fired). The Chiefs needed help, and by a stroke of good fortune, help was readily available. After a disappointing season in Philadelphia Andy Reid was fired by the Eagles. The Chiefs wasted no time scooping up the free agent coach. This was truly a coup for the franchise. Reid was the best coach on the market, and had his choice of where he wanted to coach in 2013. Cleary Reid saw some pieces on the roster and feels he can transform the Chiefs from worst to wild card contender. Reid brings immediate credibility to a franchise that has not won a playoff game since Joe Montana ended his career in Kansas City. His task, achieve what so many other NFL teams like the 2012 Redskins and the 2011 Broncos achieved; go from worst to first.
For Reid and the Chiefs to achieve this reachable goal, they will have to solve the problem of the bad: the quarterback position. In part two of my three part series, I will attempt to solve just that for them.