Question time: What are the two most common responses people give when they’re asked about what it’ll take for a team to succeed in the upcoming season? “Well, if (insert quarterback name here) can be productive, I think we have a real good chance at a division title this year” and “as long as everyone stays healthy we should be able to make a real run at the division.” Well, no duh! Now, to be fair, not everybody follows the game as closely as you or I do, but there are people who cover these teams for a living that give those same responses to the aforementioned questions. Are they important pieces to having a successful season? Yeah, and nobody said that they aren’t. But if you really want a good answer to that question, sometimes you have to dig a little deeper.
Take, for instance, the Kansas City Chiefs. What is the most common response you hear when someone asks what it’ll take to be competitive in the upcoming season? Everybody, I mean everybody, says “Matt Cassel needs to play well. They need to avoid the injuries.” Sure, one of the reasons you hear that is due to the injuries the Chiefs suffered last year, but does that answer not hold true for every team in the league? I mean, it’s certainly no secret that if three of your star players blow out their knees that the team won’t be competitive. So, let’s take this example a bit further, except, I want to give a few ideas that are a bit off the beaten path. No, these thoughts aren’t ground-breaking, but I wanted to come up with some ideas for team success that are outside the mainstream so as to not end up parroting others and stating the obvious (like many in the media like to do).
1.) Chiefs head coach Romeo Crennel can’t be too much of a “players’ coach.” As we saw when the Chiefs played the Green Bay Packers, the players really like and respect Crennel. There’s nothing wrong with being nice to your players and it sure doesn’t hurt to throw out some words of encouragement. You definitely don’t want to turn into a Todd Haley-like “motivator.” But, there is such a thing as being too lenient. Do I think this is a big issue? Not at all. It’s just something to watch.
2.) Make sure running back Jamaal Charles has some relief. Charles is a stellar back with a tremendous motor. However, running backs tend to go through quite a bit of wear and tear, so it helps to split up the carries by having another back. Getting a solid running back in Peyton Hillis to complement Charles was just one of the many great moves the Chiefs made this offseason. And with new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll‘s ground and pound offensive philosophy, this is going to be one of the keys to victory for the Chiefs. With a right tackle widely hailed as one of the best in the game in Eric Winston, the running game ought to remind Chiefs fans of 2010. I don’t know anybody that’s going to hate that.
3.) The last thing that I think would contribute to the Chiefs’ successes this season is smart clock management and in-game decisions. While these haven’t been horrid in the past, this is definitely an area that could use some attention. Keeping an eye on the clock, especially if you’re a run-first team, is vital to team success. Also, and I don’t see this being as much of an issue now that Haley is with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but it will help to moderate how much the team goes for it on 4th down. If the team is down by 2 scores and it’s the 4th quarter, that’s one thing. But if it’s the 1st quarter and we’re already going for a 4th and 3 on our own 41 yard line, I would consider changing that. Is this problem highly situational? Yeah, and there are times when you should go for it even though you wouldn’t 9 times out of 10. As a general rule, though, scaling back the aggressiveness in those aspects of the game should help the team’s success.
I’ve just given three ways the Chiefs can help themselves this season. None of them are being talked about very much. That’s the point, though. I wish people could get away from instantly mentioning how much Cassel brings the team down every time the Chiefs are talked about. Not that I don’t agree that he’s a below average quarterback, but it takes 53 guys to make a team, so let’s do some more investigating before we start dragging just the quarterback through the mud. I’m David Abeyta, and that’s my opinion.