What Needs to Happen to Fix The Chiefs?

The Kansas City Chiefs are 1-5 and coming off their bye week have named Brady Quinn as their starting quarterback over Matt Cassel.

This isn’t a shock, given the ineffective play of Cassel so far this season, but is it all that is needed to rescue the Chiefs season? Looking at Quinn’s performances so far in his NFL career, probably not. So what is needed to fix the Chiefs and turn the team around for this season or next?

The General Manager?

Scott Pioli has drafted some decent players during his tenure in KC, but he has also not hit on several high picks, including the last two first round picks, Jonathan Baldwin and Dontari Poe. Neither of these two are ready to be big contributors to the Chiefs, and developing them is important to the future of the team.

One of the main problems though is that he has stuck solidly behind Matt Cassel on the basis of one good season in New England and one good season with the Chiefs. Backing Cassel as QB has meant that the Chiefs have passed on signal callers who could have been improvements, such as Andy Dalton, who is now the future in Cincinnati.

There hasn’t been much improvement in their record during his time in charge of the team. The team has gone 22-33 with Pioli as GM, and has not improved year-on-year. Pioli has also hired Head Coaches who have not been successful hires, whether it was Todd Haley or Romeo Crennel.

Firing Pioli would be a popular move with the Chiefs fans, but to do this would mean a full-blown reworking of the organisation, since it would mean a new GM, most likely a new coaching staff and a new quarterback. There is some talent on the team to rebuild with, as well as some high draft picks given the current record. If the team does stick with Pioli, how much will he do to change things? Possibly not a great deal. The team need to get away from the Patriots Superbowl era staff, with Pioli, Crennel, and Daboll all having been involved with the Pats in the early 2000s.

The Coaching Staff?

Romeo Crennel was described as a coach players want to play for after last season’s period as Interim Head Coach. This is something that either means the players will try harder for a coach that they like and respect (e.g. Dick Vermeil) or it means that the coach allows them to do whatever they want, and as soon as it gets hard the team doesn’t fight (e.g. Raheem Morris). At the end of last season the team pulled out all the stops for Crennel, but mainly because he wasn’t Todd Haley.

Also, Crennel is 65 and while he has got success as a defensive coordinator, he has not been convincing as the Head Coach with either Cleveland or Kansas City. A 27-46 record as a Head Coach in the NFL with one winning season seems to suggest that Crennel isn’t really HC material, and isn’t able to improve the team he is in charge of.

Combining the 2009 Browns offensive pairing of Brian Daboll and Brady Quinn is not likely to generate any real improvement on a poor offence that has not been able to put up a lot of points, especially through the air.

The Quarterback?

Matt Cassel has had enough opportunities to prove that he should be the guy in KC, and outside of the 2010 season, he hasn’t shown enough. When you get benched for Brady Quinn, I think it is a sign that it is time to move on. The other quarterback on the roster is Ricky Stanzi, who might as well get an opportunity to show what he can do, given that the two QBs ahead of him on the depth chart are pretty much known commodities right now. The quarterback of the Chiefs future doesn’t seem to be on their roster right now, and it is the position that is holding them back the most.

The Roster?

Offence: The Chiefs have a decent rushing attack, with Jamaal Charles one of the premier backs in the league this season. Having Peyton Hillis as the power back and change of pace gives a decent balance to the running game. Tony Moeaki is a pretty good tight end, and the combination of him and Kevin Boss at the position next season could be solid. Jon Baldwin needs to be developed faster, and Steve Breaston is not looking as effective as he was in Arizona, though this may have a lot to do with who is throwing the ball. What Dexter McCluster‘s role in the team is going to be also needs to be defined, otherwise they are in danger of falling into the Devin Hester trap: trying to get a player involved in the offence because of his athletic ability rather than his real skills.

Defence: There are some talented players on the defence. Up front Glenn Dorsey is a good player, at linebacker Tamba Hali, Derrick Johnson and Justin Houston are all good players, and if the secondary can get better performance from Brandon Flowers and Eric Berry, there are pieces to build with on defence. It is understandable why Dontari Poe was drafted to fill the middle of the defensive line, but his play has not been good enough yet.

So:

If the Chiefs decide to fire Pioli it will mean a change of coaching staff, quarterback and some more roster adjustments. While this means essentially three Head Coaches in three years – which is certainly not a recipe for success – they need to define where the future of the team is. There is enough talent on the team to tempt good GM and HC candidates. While they are not on the same talent level as the 49ers, this is the model they should look at: some talented pieces who aren’t being well coached and need a strong coach who can bring real direction and purpose to the team.

This won’t happen until Pioli is gone though, since he does not seem to have a real idea of where this direction is going. Once they get to clean house, then they can rebuild. Until this happens, the holding pattern will continue and things won’t get any better.

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