Chiefs and AFC Stuck in Minor Leagues vs. Patriots Machine!
By Nick Athan
After watching the New England Patriots, sign, trade, maneuver, an already impressive Super Bowl roster, they’ve managed to stick their collective middle finger at the AFC and the NFL. Already possessed with the NFL’s greatest Head Coach and Quarterback, Robert Kraft intends to embarrass the NFL and the Commissioner, by piling on another championship in 2017 and likely 2018. And what are the Chiefs doing?
If this reality television show wasn’t playing out in front of our eyes, one would deem the New England Patriots miracle comeback in the Super Bowl, just the beginning of their launching pad to a series of Titles that will never be matched in the history of the NFL.
In nearly four days of free agency, the New England Patriots have signed or traded for the following high end NFL players: TE Dwyane Allen (Colts), CB Stephone Gilmore (Bills), WR Brandin Cooks (Saints), DE Kona Ealy (Dolphins), DE Lawrence Guy (Ravens) and quite possibly WR Justin Hunter (Bills). Further, to think they are done, heck they’ve just gotten started!
For the Kansas City Chiefs, they saved some Geico Insurance Cap Money ($400K) after re-structuring the contract for Long Snapper, James Winchester. In addition, Kansas City signed Safety, Daniel Sorensen to a four-year, $16 million contract – certainly a move I believe made sense for Kansas City.
As free agency hit its third and fourth days, the Denver Broncos, Tennessee Titans, Miami Dolphins, Jacksonville Jaguars, San Diego Chargers and Cleveland Browns have significantly upgraded their football teams with starters at key positions. They managed to do so without throwing in the towel on the inevitability of the Patriots likely dominance in 2017 and beyond.
Though I can’t see a single move, any of those teams has made since Thursday, will impact their chances to dethrone the Patriots, at least they’re giving it the old college try. The Kansas City Chiefs organization find themselves in the bridesmaid path of the New England Patriots – even if they ended 2016 as the fourth best team in the AFC – that means nothing in March.
If I had to rank all the AFC contenders listed about, three days into free agency, I can make a strong case, the Chiefs are not as good as most of those teams in the AFC, that have been active to date. Heck on the NFC side, even the San Francisco 49ers have done a terrific job rebuilding their roster with some prime free agent talent – all the while doing so – without a legitimate winning NFL quarterback on the roster.
So, can the Chiefs save the fan base that’s already down on the organization for the decision to keep Quarterback, Alex Smith, ownership’s in ability to force Head Coach, Andy Reid, to find a true offensive play caller and allowing Chris Ballard to take over the reins of the Indianapolis Colts?
Instead, Reid who wants to win a Super Bowl to end his coaching legacy with honors, refuses to change his meddling, ego based play calling and the stripes of his clock management deficiencies. General Manager, John Dorsey, has cost the Chiefs millions in cap space the last three years by not signing, QB Alex Smith, S Eric Berry and LB Justin Houston, before they each commanded top dollar. In waiting on the market, and his own inabilities to actual negotiate contracts in an orderly fashion, he’s shackled KC’s cap restrictions in 15,16 and 17. Now it will be another year or two before Kansas City gets on the right side of the cap, likely under a new General Manager, and possibly, a new head coach.
Since Reid and Dorsey came into the organization, beginning their tenure with an impressive 9-0 start, the Chiefs have fallen prey to mediocrity. They all talk about winning Super Bowls, but instead the higher ups push for a better game day experience at Arrowhead, more profits in their annual coffers extracting millions from every fan who walks through their turnstiles. What they’ve failed to do, as money rules their mindset, this team has not grown from a good football team to a great football team.
What they’ve failed to understand is fans could care less about the Arrowhead experience, they want a Super Bowl champion – above better food, more bathrooms, or even parking lot procedures, that exactly understand the ebb and flow of traffic – despite the use of orange cones and not humans to direct an easy entrance. They can forgive all that crap but the organization does not see it!
In January, this franchise had a chance to change everything with a one game home field advantage in the playoffs for the right to play in the AFC Championship game against the mighty Patriots. So, what did they do, they blew it. Reid, once again called a horrific game, and wasted yet another post season opportunity to change his legacy from predictable meltdown to clutch. Like he was a year earlier, Smith was awful under pressure to win in January, and Dorsey has failed to build enough capable backups to become starters in the event of injuries.
Add that with the fact, Defensive Coordinator, Bob Sutton has shaped his entire defense around the talents of Safety, Eric Berry instead of the NFL’s best pass rusher, Justin Houston. Case in point, on the infamous third and four play against the Steelers in the playoffs (where one stop gives the ball back to KC’s offense), Houston was in pass coverage.
So, where does that leave the Chiefs?
They are a good football team but can’t match wits at the ownership level, management level, coaching level, nor at the core of every great team, evaluating player personnel at the college and free agent level, as the Patriots. Like it or not, New England is the Gold Standard in which every organization should model themselves. Add that with the fact, Robert Kraft, is highly motivated to stick it to the NFL after deflate-gate. For him, it’s personnel now and that’s powerful motivation for a man leading the greatest NFL show on the planet.
You may hate the Patriots, but their dominance the last 15 years, can’t be ignored. What hurts the most, considering the NFL is a copycat league, not one single NFL franchise has shown the grit to fight them head on for AFC supremacy.
If the Chiefs, who will be lucky to go 8-8 this season, suddenly decided to dump Smith, make a run for Saints Quarterback, Drew Brees, sign LB Donte Hightower, and any of the other top free agents still available at areas of needs (cornerback, linebacker, wide receiver and back-up quarterback, or heck make a blockbuster trade, then perhaps I’d feel different.
Sadly, that won’t be the case in Kansas City. This franchise has hit their ceiling as a one year on – one year off – AFC West contender and Wild Card chaser. However, they aren’t built, designed or capable of winning the big game that serves as a launching pad like what occurred in 2014 with the Kansas City Royals.
Perhaps in time that will change, and maybe some roster miracles occur between now and start of the 2017 NFL season. Maybe, the Chiefs will draft Deshaun Watson and let him play in 2017 over Smith. Maybe, they’ll take one of two offers on the table for Smith from the Cleveland Browns or New York Jets.
Maybe the decision to allow both Reid and Dorsey to enter the final years of their contracts, with the rest of their respective staff, means a major shakeup is in the offing and Chairman Clark Hunt goes all in prying Michigan Head Coach, Jim Harbaugh to take over the Chiefs in 2018 and beyond. I’m good with at as well because at least with Harbaugh, we know he has no ceiling as a head coach.
If not, I’d have to think the men running the Chiefs organization, all immensely smarter than this 55-year old fan, would think the same thing and do one of the items I suggest before fan apathy, and reality, actually costs this team money at the gates of Arrowhead. Because, if they think standing pat is the answer in 2017, they’ll have more than empty seats to deal with this season – especially if the Royals make another World Series run.
Then again, perhaps I’m wrong altogether. Perhaps tomorrow I’ll wake up out of this nightmare, pitch my negativity forever, that this was just a bad start to free agency and nothing more because Kansas City went BOLD to contend with the Patriots!
Either way, I hate this feeling in my gut that competing on the world stage of football for my beloved Kansas City Chiefs, is simply nothing but a pipe dream cemented in watching the same Twilight Zone episode, you know the one that no matter how many times you watch that episode, the ending never changes.