The Kansas City Chiefs magical 2010 season has concluded where few thought it would: The playoffs. But, how did the Chiefs go from one of the league's laughingstocks to winners of the AFC West? Lets examine the top ten reasons ri now....
1. Scott Pioli- The man with the best long-term vision in the NFL. It's becoming more and more apparent that he played a huge part in building the New England Patriots into what they are today (or even more so, what they were yesterday). I believe his biggest and best move to date was overloading Todd Haley's plate with responsibilities (head coach, offensive coordinator, QB coach) in his first year. Although the move may have cost the team a few wins that season because Haley was stretched too thin, it gave him a better understanding of the proper aspects of the game to focus on as a head coach, while shrinking his head in the process, proving to Haley that he couldn't handle everything by himself. I believe it is also Pioli who is masterminding the under-usage of NBA Jam Charles, thus keeping him fresh for the entirety of the season, in hopes that he'll avoid the Chris Johnson drop off next season (pure brilliance). On top of that, Romeo Crennel and Charlie Weis would not be here if it wasn't for Pioli. So, you could say he is getting the job done. He could be the face of Kansas City sports when it's all said and done.
2. Their schedule- Some of my favorite radio of the year is when KC haters call Nick Wright and continually state that the Chiefs have yet to beat anybody, believing that fact somehow takes away from the Chiefs' accomplishments. Wright handles it the wright way by responding with silence, and then berates them, asking what their point is. The fact of the matter is that the Chiefs were very beneficial in who they played this year, drawing the worst division of all time as their interconference pairing. On top of that, their own division was relatively weak, and their AFC South draw had an uncharacteristically down year to boot. Pair that with their flexible games coming against the Bills and Browns, and you could make the argument that the Chiefs avoided the 10 best teams in the NFL (Colts rank 10th in ESPN's Power Rankings). But what IS the point? The Chiefs don't owe the other teams in the league any favors. Sometimes you get lucky, and sometimes you don't (I believe the 2005 Chiefs were one of the five best teams in the league, but had an impossibly tough schedule). When you get a break like that, the best thing you can do is take advantage of it. The Chiefs took advantage.
3. Matt Cassel- When I'm in my ultimate zen-state of mind inside the friendly confines of Arrowhead Stadium, and the Chiefs get rolling on offense, I can't help myself but yell Tom Brady following every completed pass by Icy Matt. They just strike me as very comparable. I'm sure the reason being that Cassel studied Brady's each and every move for 4 years (just wait til he grows out his hair in about 3 years). Cassel is putting together a top-5 quarterbacking performance this season. I'm not saying he is (although I'm not saying he isn't) one of the 5 best QB's, he has just played at that level. (The QB's from around the league I would take over Cassel at this point read like this: Definitely- Brady, Brees, Rodgers, Manning, Roethlisberger, Rivers. Maybe- Ryan, Bradford, Freeman, Vick, Seneca.) I won't soon forget the heartbreak I felt when he came down with the appendectomy, and how I thought that might derail our season, only for him to come back 10 days later and play terrifically against the St. Louis Rams in the biggest game of the season. Nobody has ever doubted this dude's heart, nor his haircut.
4. Todd Haley- He came in a young hot shot Offensive Coordinator fresh off a Super Bowl trip. He clashed with his reigning Offensive Coordinator and wanted control of his offense. He took his lumps in his first year, but he learned from it, mostly via the hard way, which can often prove to be the best way. He responded by relegating power to incoming coordinators Weis and Crennel. Haley withstood criticism all year about his unconventional wisdom applied to this year's team, especially when it came to 4th downs. But, he didn't waver all year. I'm still a firm believer that it was a tone setter for the team. His players absolutely loved him for it. He gave Shaun Smith a carry on the goalline. He wore a skull cap to the NBA preseason game in Kansas City. He displayed true emotion aimed at our rival's head coach. He gets mad (not Bo Pelini mad, but mad) at silly pass interference calls on his defensive backs. He offends people by not shaving. He calls for onside kicks at crazy times. But, above all else, he wins.
5. Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel- They are impossible to separate. It was easier to say Crennel was doing a better job throughout much of the season, but Cassel's turnaround has to be accredited to Weis. While Weis's job was singularly focused, Crennel had the task of turning around one of the NFL's worst defenses from top to bottom. And he did so without much of a talent upgrade from last year. The biggest turnaround was seen in the team's ability to rush the passer, racking up 34 sacks through 15 games thus far, good enough for 12th in the NFL. This after only accumulating 22 in 2009 (31st in the NFL), and an NFL-record low 10 in 2008. I would argue the two most surprising teams in the league this year (KC and Chicago) have the best assistant coaches in the NFL (Mike Martz and Rod Marinelli for the Bears). This isn't a coincidence. You have to wander with so many head coaching jobs opening up around the league, if either of these two names will be mentioned for them.
6. Herm Edwards- It's awfully easy to bash on Herm after his downward spiral of a tenure with the team. However, one aspect of his that cannot be disputed was his knack for evaluating talent (aside from Crodie), specifically the 2008 Draft class he oversaw. That one class produced a potential future Pro Bowl Left Tackle, the best pair of young Cornerbacks in the league, the team's best defensive lineman not named Wallace, and another starting offensive lineman. Wow! Thanks Herm, enjoy your ESPN gig. Oh, and there was one more guy in that class you may have heard of....
7. JamaAL (pronounced Juh-ma-ALL) Charles- The Chiefs are solid in a lot of areas, but their one big difference maker, which every great team needs, is The Swivluh. From the team's first touchdown of the season, his 56 yard gallop on Monday Night against the Chargers, to his 80 yard statement run to put away the Rams game, he is the best unknown player in the NFL. If people WERE paying attention, they'd realize that God Jam Charles is better than Chris Johnson now, who was run into the ground trying to prove a point by getting to 2,000 yards last year. Good thing we got #1 in charge.
8. Monday Night Football Win- This was THE game. Without this victory, the team probably doesn't get off to the hot start. Without this victory, the Chargers might not get off to their slow start. Without this victory, the Chargers most likely sweep the season series, and are most likely representing the AFC West in the playoffs. There was so much to love about this game from the rain which befuddled the Chargers, leading to Phil Rivers yelling at his teammates every chance he got, to the highest blood alcohol level in NFL history, to Dave throwing up anywhere and everywhere, to cuddling with my closest friends in the very top row, to the heart the team showed holding on to the lead at the end. The best part was that everybody knew the season was on the line going into the game, which produced the loudest crowd I've ever heard for an NFL game. And I was there.
9. The Arrowhead Stadium crowd- The magic has returned! A year after breaking the consecutive sellout streak that Chiefs fans could always point to when making their claim as the best fans in the NFL, Arrowhead made a comeback at just the right time. The Chiefs are well on their way to an undefeated season at home, a feat they also accomplished back in 2003. Without just one of those wins, the playoffs would not be a reality today. It's ironic that the Chiefs road problems might stem from their monstrous homefield advantage. With a lesser advantage at home, the difference between home and road would be much less, which would make it much easier for the team to adjust. Should we change a thing? Um, no.
10. Tamba Hali- Wanted to give my man a special shout out after he got hosed out of the Pro Bowl. I've been Muhammad Hali's biggest supporter for the past couple years, telling anyone that would listen that he was playing at a higher level than his sack numbers would lead you to believe. My faith, which stemmed from the belief that he would make a better 3-4 OLB than he did a 4-3 DE, paid off this year, where he was basically doing the work of two men (while Vrabel is slowly being transferred over to the coaching staff). I will never forget the bloodied up Tambahawk screaming in Peyton Manning's face "You don't know where I've been!!!" earlier this season. Below was my forecast for TambaHawk's 2010 season, written while the team was still in training camp...
~As far as individual players go, I'm predicting that Tamba Hali makes the Pro Bowl this year. Last year was his first year at a new position, and while 8.5 sacks isn't too shabby, a handful of others slipped out of his hands, and he drew numerous holding penalties that were leading to obvious sacks. Comfort in the position, the addition of Romeo Crennel, and capitalizing on last year's missed opportunities will lead to 13 sacks and the Pro Bowl this year.That's it! That's the list!
Take it with you,