If you're like me, you've spent your past four months' days off waking up around 2, flipping on Nick Wright and scouring Twitter and Arrowhead Pride for the latest Chiefs news, opinions on how the Chiefs could turn (sh)it around, and updates on Brodie Croyle's marriage (no way that lasts right?). Well, you might find yourself as perturbed as I am listening to the exhaustive rhetoric that the only way to win in the NFL is to field an elite QB. I do not believe this to be true. Here's why...
There are all kinds of ways to win in the NFL. Why? Because, by definition, you only have to be one point better than your opponent on that given day. Bad quarterbacks win, good quarterbacks lose, bad defenses trounce, good defenses get trounced, yada yada yada. There's no proven formula for success here.
That's the lesson of this Divisional Round weekend.
~The San Francisco 49ers advanced to Championship Weekend behind a Guinness defense, an unblockable force in Justin Smith, a freak of a tight end, some questionable playcalling, and an amazing display of heart from their QB (who nobody, including me, thought could get it done when it mattered).
~The New England Patriots advanced to Championship Weekend by jumping to an early 14 point lead on a team who, according to most people, is quarterbacked by a 4'9 Jewish carpenter, over-celebrating every defensive play made against that hairy man in sandals (given, it was the first time many of these defenders had actually made a play), and by whipping their Gronks out and slinging them around. And their QB is alright.
~The Baltimore Ravens advanced to Championship Weekend by slowing down the league's best RB in the second half (Ray Lewis and Arian Foster's postgame, futbol-style trading of jerseys was the coolest thing that happened this weekend), growing lucky handlebar mustaches (how else do you explain playing TJ Yates in an NFL playoff game?), and taking advantage of two huge breaks (muffed punt and Yates' conundrum numero uno) that they're also gonna need come next week.
~The New York Giants advanced to Championship Weekend behind a QB who hangs in the pocket as well as anyone, playmaking wide receivers, a defensive secondary that dominated the game long before their feared pass rush did (their defense is built similarly to the Chiefs), outlasting the referees, and taking advantage of a 15-1 (seriously, how did the Packers go 15-1?) team that peaked much too early in the season. (Side note - Brother Eli's success this postseason could provide even more drive/inspiration for Brother Peyton come next year, yet another reason I hope the Chiefs make a play for him.)
The song remains the same - How do you win in the NFL?
The most simplistic answer, and the one that makes my ears bleed, is to employ a great quarterback. However, this might be the most difficult of all strategies to successfully pull off. Elite quarterbacks are an endangered species. By most accounts, there are precisely five ON THE ENTIRE PLANET.
I know some people would like the process to be as simple as losing a bunch of games, getting a top draft pick, and then BAM...Eli Manning (yeah, I said it). It's not though. Even if it were, ask Dan Marino if that's the only necessary ingredient for a gourmet Bowl of Sup.
So some teams get there with great QB play, some teams get their by not making mistakes, some teams get their with an intimidating defense, some teams advance purely because of circumstances or a favorable matchup.
So what's the key then? How do you build a winner if you can't just turn over a rock and find a great QB? And how does that apply to our Chiefs? Well...
- Build around what you DO have (great defense, potential defensive mastermind, dynamic WR's, and hopefully a great RB in God Jam Charles).
- Take what you can get when you can get it (yes, Kyle Orton is eons better than Matt Cassel, a fact I feel so strongly about that I stood on top of a mountain and screamed it at the top of my lungs - IN DENVER, no less).
- Keep your known valuable quantities (Dwayne Bowe and Brandon Carr are 2 of the 5 most important Chiefs on the roster right now - don't let money be an issue).
- Keep improving the team (beef up that defensive line, build some depth along the offensive line, snag a new tight end, add another RB to the mix).
- Take a chance on one of them danged endangered species (you never know when one might turn up, so keep your eyes open and have a contract ready. That means finding new homes for the domesticated pets - and bring your playbook with you, Tyler/Matt.)
We're not as far off as you fear, folks. The Kansas City Chiefs have a good team. We've seen it in bits and pieces. They can win, and I think they can win next year. There are no dominant teams in the NFL right now like we saw in New England and Indianapolis five years ago (and if there is, then we just manhandled them last month). So keep your heads up Chiefs Nation, ignore this phone tapping story that will be forgotten by the first big snowstorm, and enjoy the final three games of The Beautiful Game (that is, the NFL sans pass interference - notice how it wasn't called this weekend? Mmmm, poetry).