Kansas City Chiefs: 6 Things That Could Derail Their 2012 Season
For the first time in a long time, the excitement in Kansas City is at a palpable high about the Chiefs’ upcoming season. The roster is stacked, the coach isn’t a combustible basket case and stability finally seems to be on the horizon.
But if the 2011 season is any lesson, the season can be a wash at the snap of an ACL. So many things can go wrong in a football season, and often they do. The Chiefs are better built to absorb such blows than they were last season, but there are still a few miscues that could flush the 2012 season down the drain for Kansas City.
Here are six things that could derail the Chiefs' 2012 season.
The ACL Trio Doesn't Bounce Back
Injuries are an expected and accepted part of the game, but what the Chiefs dealt with in 2011 was a backbreaking rash of wounds that hampered them immensely in attempting to reclaim the AFC West title.
Losing Jamaal Charles and Tony Moeaki on offense left Matt Cassel without two of his biggest security blankets, while Eric Berry’s absence on defense was the difference for the unit to be solid or average.
All the injuries were torn ACLs, and all of them were crippling blows to the team’s chances.
The return of these cornerstones is a hefty chunk of the high prospects of Kansas City in 2012. But what if they’re not the players they once were? Or worse, what if the ACLs retear?
The Chiefs are in a bit better of a position to absorb such blows this upcoming fall. Halfback Peyton Hillis, tight end Kevin Boss and safety Abe Elam were all signed for better depth for just such an occasion.
Will the quality of talent and play drop off? Absolutely.
Is the club still in a much better position to manage these kinds of injuries? Absolutely.
But a re-injury to any of those three would still be a terrible, season-threatening blow.
Cleveland Was an Accurate Measure of Romeo Crennel's Head-Coaching Ability
After helping the Patriots craft a dynasty with a then-novel return to the 3-4 defense, Romeo Crennel did what any good coordinator does—he left for a head coaching gig and flamed out on a subpar team.
The Cleveland Browns went 24-40 in four seasons under Crennel, the only winning season being a 10-6 campaign in 2007.
To be perfectly fair, Cleveland isn't exactly the picture of stability and talent. But what if the stint in Cleveland was a perfectly good look at Crennel’s ability to run a team?
The roster in Kansas City is far superior to that of the Browns in Crennel’s final season of 2008 except at one position—quarterback.
Dealing with a backup-turned-starter with Derek Anderson in 2007 and Matt Cassel presently, he finds himself without a widely respected passer once again as the head honcho.
Crennel’s second chance will certainly be an interesting storyline to follow. All signs indicate he can lead this Chiefs team. But if his stretch in Cleveland showed the best he can do, 2012 could be ugly in KC.
Derrick Johnson or Brandon Flowers Gets Hurt
Eric Berry’s absence at safety hurt the Chiefs defense.
Losing Brandon Flowers or Derrick Johnson would be crippling.
Johnson, who has led the team in tackles the last two seasons, is a game-changing presence at inside linebacker.
With the current backup being former undrafted free agent Cory Greenwood, the Chiefs are in trouble if a man who can keep the Raiders from scoring almost single-handedly finds himself watching from the sidelines.
If Flowers is the one to go down, the defense will wilt before it can ever bloom. With four interceptions and 20 passes defended in 2011, the former Hokie was a critical piece to the Chiefs defense finishing sixth against the pass.
But more importantly, it keeps Stanford Routt from having to be the primary corner.
Taking the torch from Nnamdi Asomugha in Oakland in 2011, Routt was a whipping boy for opposing receivers. Leading the league in penalties with 17 and allowing nine touchdowns, it was apparent he couldn't handle being the main man in the defensive backfield.
If Flowers suffers a Berry-esque fate, the Chiefs are going to have to hire more interns for all the dirty laundry that will hit the Arrowhead grass.
Dwayne Bowe Holds out
This isn’t a particularly significant possibility, but crazier things have happened.
You just never know how these things will go.
The acrobatic receiver has all the incentive in the world to play out the season under the tag, as good play will only drive his worth in free agency higher.
But he does have the very real alternative of sitting out. And if he does, the Chiefs are going to experience a shortage of end-zone trips this fall.
Bowe is neck and neck with Jamaal Charles as the most important offensive player, and his presence affects how the entire offense operates.
Besides being a deadly scoring threat in his own right, he draws all kinds of attention from safeties coming over the top to support the corner covering him. His occupying two defenders can free up any other of the Chiefs’ myriad of offensive weapons.
It also doesn’t hurt he’s a pretty good run-blocker. It’s not hard to be when you outweigh the average corner by about 30 pounds.
Kansas City can probably survive Bowe sitting out for a new deal, but it would be a rough haul.
Brian Daboll and Matt Cassel Don't Jell
The relationship between offensive coordinators and quarterbacks is crucial to the success of an offense.
Any OC worth his weight in kicking tees knows the tendencies, strengths, weaknesses and emotional buttons of his quarterback.
There’s no reason Matt Cassel and Brian Daboll can’t be grand friends and have each other over for snacks and Mario Kart after practice.
But the offensive coordinator has a history of clashing with his passer.
While in Cleveland, Colt McCoy endured an onslaught of mistreatment and sometimes downright cruelty by Daboll. It was to the point that even the veterans of the team were shocked by the ferocity of the hazing.
Unlike McCoy, Cassel has a small history with Daboll, with both coming from the New England tree of coaches and players. But if for some reason Daboll’s coaching style doesn’t fly with Cassel and the two can’t get a good relationship going, the potentially explosive Kansas City offense could be in some trouble.
Peyton Manning Is His Old Self
If everything goes the Chiefs' way this season and no one retears an ACL, Crennel turns out to be the next Hank Stram, the defense stays completely healthy, Dwayne Bowe signs a six-year deal, and Matt Cassel and Brian Daboll turn out to be the best of friends, it could still all be for naught.
The Chiefs could go 13-3. More than likely, it won’t matter, if two of those losses are to a 14-2 Broncos team.
While a wild-card berth is certainly a possibility in a situation like that, the Chiefs would definitely like to lock up the division and not leave their playoff fate in the hands of others.
If Manning is still the quarterback that made Blair White and Jacob Tamme look like accomplished NFL players, the 2012 season for the Chiefs could be over before it begins.