The 2011 season for the Kansas City Chiefs was supposed to be an extension of their AFC title from the previous year. Who knew that the lockout would influence management and the coaching staff in such a lackluster manner, or that the team would lose three of its key players (Jamaal Charles, Eric Berry and Tony Moeaki) to significant injuries very early on?
While the Chiefs certainly put up a valiant effort—other than opening the season with losses to the Buffalo Bills and the Detroit Lions by a combined score of 89-10—the fact that they were able to squeak out a 7-9 record, only missing a return trip to the postseason by two blocked field goals at the hands of Oakland Raiders defensive lineman Richard Seymour, is a rather remarkable feat.
The 2011 season can be looked at in two ways: 1) the Chiefs persevered and maximized the outcome of a doomed season, or 2) playing in a less-than-mediocre division, they still should have found a way to win the AFC West, regardless of what obstacles were in their way.
Whether you tend to view things as glass half-empty or through rose-colored lenses, there is, however, plenty of enthusiasm surrounding the Chiefs heading into the 2012 season.
General manager Scott Pioli devised one of the more successful offseasons in recent memory, bringing in key free agents and draft picks to add depth to a squad that wasn’t able to absorb injuries or poor play a season ago.
With the additions of players like Eric Winston, Peyton Hillis, Kevin Boss and Dontari Poe, along with the returns of Charles, Berry, Moeaki, Matt Cassel and Brandon Siler from injuries, the Chiefs have become one of the deepest and more talented teams in the NFL.
Former head coach Todd Haley is now the offensive coordinator for the Pittsburgh Steelers, so it is up to Romeo Crennel to lead this team to its first postseason victory since 1994. Along with Crennel, Pioli also brought in Brian Daboll to run the offense.
Both Crennel and Daboll have ties to the New England Patriots organization.
It seems as though the overall culture surrounding the Chiefs organization is gradually being transformed into what Pioli and owner Clark Hunt envisioned when Pioli was hired back in 2009. The goal was to create an atmosphere that exudes a pointed focus towards the only thing that matters in the NFL: winning.
In the first few seasons with Pioli steering the ship, the Chiefs have certainly had to navigate through rough waters, but the 2012 season gives the impression of something different.
With everything in place, Pioli can start to relax a little and let the fruits of his own labors begin to finally pay off—if not for his own selfish motives, but so that the downtrodden fanbase can start to look towards the future instead of being trapped with thoughts of the past.