Entering the year, the Chiefs were expected to battle with the Denver Broncos for an AFC West title. With only two games remaining, however, Kansas City holds the tiebreaker over the Jacksonville Jaguars for the top pick in next April’s draft—a position the franchise has never been in.
Though the results have been deplorable, up is the only direction this team has to go heading into the 2013 season. And luckily for the Chiefs, considerable improvement from one year to the next is not uncharted waters in this league—just ask this year’s Indianapolis Colts.
Here are four reasons why Kansas City will rebound from 2012.
Flexibility with the Top Pick in the Draft
Should the Chiefs trade down or take a quarterback with the top pick?
With remaining games against the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos, the Kansas City Chiefs are in position to close out the 2012 season as the NFL’s worst team, and therefore would be awarded the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft.
With the new collective bargaining agreement limiting rookie salaries, teams are afforded more flexibility in how to approach their plan of attack during the draft. The Chiefs’ biggest need this offseason will be finding a cornerstone under center.
However, the combination of a not-so-hyped quarterback class coupled with few teams in the running for the position gives Kansas City a unique opportunity to trade out of the top spot.
By doing so, the Chiefs can stockpile extra draft picks to refurbish a thin depth chart while still having their pick of rookie signal-callers. And if Kansas City decides to stand pat, their quarterback will obviously be sitting there waiting for them at No. 1.
Talented Core of Players to Continue Building Around
In the midst of a 2-12 season, few bright spots find their way out of the rubble. For the Kansas City Chiefs, that centers on a talented group of young players that this team should look to build its future around.
Running back Jamaal Charles, one season removed from ACL surgery, has exceeded expectations and could be in store for an even bigger year in 2013.
Second-year linebacker Justin Houston hasn’t missed a beat in 2012 after finishing last year with 5.5 sacks over his final five games. He leads the Chiefs with 10 sacks this year and is part of a handful of young pass-rushers—Aldon Smith, J.J. Watt and Von Miller—who are sure to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks over the next few seasons.
Derrick Johnson has become one of the more reliable middle linebackers in the entire league. And with his playmaking ability, he allows others around him to shine as well.
Cornerback Brandon Flowers, linebacker Tamba Hali, safety Eric Berry, tight end Tony Moeaki, defensive linemen Dontari Poe, among others, also help form the stable of young talent this franchise can lean on heading into next season.
Jamaal Charles and Eric Berry another Year Removed from ACL Injuries
When Jamaal Charles and Eric Berry went down in the early part of last season with ACL injuries, it seemed that things couldn’t get any worse on the field for the Kansas City Chiefs. Instead—even with both back in the lineup—2012 has represented rock bottom for this franchise, but not necessarily because of these two players.
Berry has struggled at times this season to execute his assignments, which could simply be due to the safety not being utilized for his strengths. He is a playmaker that performs best in space, not guarding bigger and stronger tight ends—something he has been asked to do far too often this season.
Another year of trusting his knee could help in that department and allow Berry to get back to what he does best in the defensive backfield.
Charles, on the other hand, has done nothing but impress all season long. While it’s apparent that his speed has taken a hit—which should return next season—his explosiveness out of the backfield hasn’t missed a beat and the running back has been the lone bright spot for a dreadful offense.
The only problem with Charles is the Chiefs’ inability to consistently use him in games, which obviously isn't his fault.
When given 16 or more carries, Charles has tallied 205 carries for 1,134 yards and four touchdowns. When Charles is handed the ball less than 16 times in a game his numbers are sluggish: 44 carries for 96 yards and zero scores.
Charles has proven to be reliable when given the opportunities. If Kansas City can make strides as a team in 2013, we could see a career year out of the running back.
Who deserves more blame for the Chiefs woes in 2012?
New Leadership in Key Spots?
NFL franchises are only as successful as the individuals leading them: the General Manager, Head Coach and the starting quarterback. In these roles, the Kansas City Chiefs have Scott Pioli, Romeo Crennel, Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn.
The Chiefs' situation under center is arguably the worst in the entire league. It's imperative that this franchise does a complete 180 regarding its policy toward taking quarterbacks near the top of the draft.
As far as Pioli and Crennel are concerned, it is reported that the two won't be back in Kansas City after this season, though the team is denying the reports (via SI.com).
Whether or not either—or both—return in 2013, this season has been a catastrophe and someone has to be held accountable.
With so many areas at fault, the Chiefs would be better off starting from scratch with team leadership.
Follow Jeremy on Twitter @KCPopFlyBoy.