Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The Evolution of the 2019 Kansas City Chiefs

If you’ve heard me on Amateur Hour, or followed me on Twitter, or frequented my LinkedIn profile -- you’ve probably heard me mention the 2019 Chiefs at least a time or two.

For the un-OG’s, this idea originated roughly 30 months ago, early in the offseason of 2017...

The Kansas City Chiefs are winning the Super Bowl in 2019.

This proclamation, this prediction, this prophecy came to me following yet another Chiefs playoff disappointment, staring down another year of Alex Smith at QB with very little cap room in the coming years to provide the perfect supporting cast that he needed to win a championship.

The premise of the 2019 Chiefs was a 4-way intersection where everybody knows their turn and traffic flows seamlessly:

  1. A rare collection of young talent entering their primes at very little cost, combined with superstars at the tail end of their primes
  2. Veteran contracts coming off the books opening up cap room
  3. The inevitable demise of the powerhouse Patriots
  4. A quarterback entering his second (playing) year under Andy Reid

The actuality of that 2019 Chiefs premise is a 4 way stop where nobody goes, and then two cars start to go, and then both cars stop, and then whoever’s most aggressive slams the gas screaming SHMOHAWK out the window and we are all now 30 seconds later to getting home and sitting on the couch:

  1. That young talent had some … issues while the superstars’ legs stopped working
  2. The cap room got (mostly) Jimmy Gobble’d up
  3. The Patriots just won another Super Bowl (13-3? Are we sure this game happened?)

Lets dive a bit deeper on these, shall we?

1. John Dorsey is a pinball wizard. It was apparent in early 2017 that he had this drafting thing figured out with a nucleus of talent set to carry this franchise through the Andy Reid era -- Marcus Peters, Chris Jones and Tyreek Hill -- later adding Kareem Hunt and some squeaky voiced QB.

What I didn’t anticipate was Peters getting shipped out (he sure seems like the missing piece this season doesn’t he?), Kareem brutalizing his reputation and Tyreek using his 4.24 speed to narrowly avoid trouble. Alas, Tyreek and Jones account for $4M against the cap this year as they await their mega contracts, while Patrick Mahomes remains the best bargain in the NFL sports this year ever.

Meanwhile, the defense was meant to be carried by Eric Berry and Justin Houston entering this flagship season at age 30. Little did we know, one now plays for a top rival while the other is on America’s (Team) Most Wanted List. If either (or, especially, if both) had been at full strength last season, the Chiefs might’ve been a year early on my premonition. 

2. At the time, the only veterans “guaranteed” to be on the Chiefs roster in 2019 were Berry, Travis Kelce, and Eric Fisher. Things change, huh? There were a few contracts to extend between then and now, but the rest of the roster was a blank slate with cheap talent scattered all over the board.

This is where every blogger’s favorite Super Bowl run comes into play: The 2013 Seattle Seahawks!!!

I know, I know, I realize they are an overused analogy. But the only other examples of the modern era are whatever blood magic the Patriots use or paying homage to the Broncos (the Eagles won in very similar fashion to Seattle). When I think back on that team, I always harp on the Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril additions. The Seahawks already had a good defensive line. These two stud pass rushers weren’t needed. But that luxury made scoring on their defense nearly impossible with multiple Hall of Famers roaming their secondary for very little money. It was those cheap contracts that made the Bennett and Avril additions possible. This was the formula for a young team to win the Super Bowl.

Meanwhile, the 2019 Chiefs won’t be remembered for the way they’ve navigated the salary cap. They have Berry and Houston on the books for $14M to not play football. Four of their top five cap hits are: Sammy Watkins, Fisher, Anthony Hitchens and LDT ($50.6M of cap space). These are (mostly) fine players but not exactly how you want to spend 30% of your team’s salary. Furthermore, KC has $24M in cap room right now, which is A. smart to carry over into next season with all the money already on the books and B. tough to swallow with how close this team is and holes yet to be filled on the roster. 

3. The 13th best Patriots team of the Bill Belichick era trumped the best Chiefs team of the last 50 years in Arrowhead Stadium despite Tom Brady having received 41 open mouth kisses from his dad at his most recent birthday party.

In a vacuum, that loss is hard to fathom. However, from a greater distance, the loss makes perfect sense. As any NBA fan will tell you, a team has to pay its dues before reaching the mountain top. Last year the old guard made its last stand. And it was impressive as fuck. But now the Chiefs have tasted it. They were right there. They know what it takes. They have their eyes on the prize. [enter one more cliche here]

4. Following that playoff loss to the Steelers back in 2017, you could sense the time was right to move on from Alex Smith. While he was certain to remain the team’s QB that upcoming season, it was (finally) time to start planning for his predecessor. And while I thought the team’s roster would be ready to win in 2018, I didn’t think a new QB necessarily would be in his first year of play. Well … chalk up another L in this teardown piece of myself, by myself.

It’s crazy how quickly it can all change and how the ideas behind the 2019 Chiefs have evolved (it’s almost like there’s a Darwin involved). You could easily replace my “2019 Chiefs” premise with a “Chiefs every year Mahomes is their QB” premise and it would probably be more accurate. It’s Mahomes that has picked up the pieces while the young talent has disintegrated, the superstars’ bodies decayed, the cap room disappeared and the Patriots dominated.

Mahomes is the reason my prediction looks smart now. If he were a decent QB going into his second season, say Sam Darnold or Mitch Trubisky, this team ain’t winning a damn thing. But he’s the 4th best player in the NFL. And he was 6 inches from reaching the Super Bowl last year with a team that looks better on paper this year.

So ... am I the man for predicting something I thought would happen, that seems like it could happen, that I still think will happen, but we have no idea if it will actually happen? Yes, no question.

Did it happen the way that I prophesied 30 months ago? Mmm, not exactly.

But I never liked showing my work in math class. I will get you that correct answer though:

The Kansas City Chiefs are winning the Super Bowl in 2019.

His Dirkness

No comments: