Embracing the Constant Force of Change: 2009 Kansas City Chiefs
In the middle of June, the NBA and NHL seasons come to a close, baseball is mired in the pre-all-star game doldrums and pre-trading deadline frenzy and well....golf and NASCAR simply don't appeal to a wide enough audience to be relevant, at least to me.
The time period between OTA's/mini-camps and training camp in the National Football League is also a period of relative rest. Unless of course, you are a rabid fan who breathes football year-round.
The theme of this article is change, and how it should be embraced, not feared.
The NFL resembles an amoeba, with the ability to continuously change its shape, yet remain a viable living organism.
Football teams consistently change their appearance as well over time. One of the most quoted lines in history, famous or infamous depending upon if you are an optimist or pessimist states, "The only constant is change, change is the only constant." (Heraclitus).
The Chiefs are attempting to re-invent themselves as an organization. From the top down, the 2009 Chiefs appear to be in line for one of the most significant upheavals in team history. Arrowhead promises to field a different tone this year.
At this point, no one knows quite what to expect from our new look Chiefs. Every team feels good about themselves at this juncture. Or at least they should. Otherwise, some seats are hot.
I feel every change the Chiefs have made this offseason has been a positive one, with the exception of losing Tony Gonzalez. That's much more than I can say at this time one year ago.
I am ready to embrace our team and all the changes that come with it. Training camp dates are set, and I for one, am cautiously optimistic that our team is headed in the right direction.
Here is a list of positions within the Chiefs organization and personnel, and my take on how they will impact the Chiefs in 2009.
Out with King Carl, In with Scott Pioli. My thoughts are simple on this one - great move for the Chiefs. A man with an eye for talent and a knack for making deals steps in for a man with a personality infamous for turning people and prospective free agents off. My grade - A
Out with the players coach in Herm Edwards, in with the strong-fisted disciplinarian Todd Haley. I know coach Haley has the energy and smarts to make a good head coach. What worries me is if his personality may wear on the guys, and they eventually tune him out. My grade - C
Good riddance to Gunther and his cover-2 defensive scheme, famous for a lack of creativity and over-reliant on defensive talent. I never did get the approach of playing defense expecting the other team to eventually fail in order to get off the field.
In steps Clancy Pendergrast and his 3-4 hybrid defense. There are more blitz packages, especially from the linbebackers, and more opportunity for turnovers on defense. If he can figure out how to stop the run, look out! My grade - B
While the Chiefs are doing the right thing in reporting a "competition" exists here, you know and I know we aren't paying a guy $14 million to hold a clipboard. Matt Cassel will operate from the pocket and rely on his preparation and decision making to "matriculate" the ball down the field.
Conversely, sparkplug Tyler Thigpen will return to backup duties, though his mobility and team leadership skills are likely to find himself in the game during certain situations. My grade - B
A pivotal point for the success or failure of the 2009 Chiefs will depend on the production of Larry Johnson, who has said all the right things this offseason. A healthy and happy LJ in conjunction with an improved offensive line could mean a bounce back season. Speedy Jamaal Charles and Kolby Smith will provide rest and spurts of excitement. My grade - B
On to the ATL with Tony Gonzalez, one of the finest tight ends in the history and in steps presumably Brad Cottam. There's no way to sugar coat this one, Tony will be sorely missed as a valuable third down and goal line resource. If Chiefs tight ends produce half of Tony's numbers as a group this year, I will be shocked. My grade - D
Branden Albert will enter is sophomore campaign as the undisputed left tackle and anchor of the offensive line, protecting Cassel's blind side. Paired with a hopefully committed Brian Watters, the left side of the line appears solid.
The addition of Mike Goff will improve the right guard position, and the competition between Rudy Niswanger and newcomer Eric Ghiaciuc should provide a serviceable if not solid center.
At this point, it appears the right tackle position is up for grabs. Declining incumbent Damion McIntosh will likely be replaced by Herb Taylor or fifth round draft pick Colin Brown. In my opinion, the Chiefs OL will be a much improved unit in 2009. My grade - B+
Dwayne Bowe will assume the #1 option duties previously held by Gonzalez. Behind him are a series of question marks. Mark Bradley will likely be the second receiver and if healthy, can be an athletic field stretcher.
Bobby Engram will likely function out of the slot, and if healthy, should provide a decent underneath option for Cassel. Terrence Copper is an off-season addition and will attempt to fulfill his brief display of potential while in New Orleans. My grade - C-
What a mess! At this point, I'm not sure anyone knows who will line up for the Chiefs on September 13. My early guess is Glenn Dorsey/Alfonso Boone and Tyson Jackson to man the ends, with a rotation of Tank Tyler and Alex Magee in at Tackle. Depending on the down and scheme, most of the players are likely to be interchangeable. My grade - C-
Zach Thomas and Mike Vrabel are additions to the defense this season, as a switch from a base 4-3 to 3-4 is inevitable. Derrick Johnson and Demorrio Williams will join them. There is also the project of moving Tamba Hali and Turk McBride to LB. Whew, another brain scratcher on how to mesh this corps in to a unit. My grade - C
Promising youngsters Brandon Flowers, Brandon Carr, Maurice Leggett as well as rookie draft pick Donald Washington will provide the Chiefs a solid group of corners, so long as they are given a modest pash rush from the line and backers.
Safeties Jarrad Page, Bernard Pollard and Jon McGraw also are solid, so long as they won't lead the team in tackles. My grade - B+
With the exception of the defensive backfield, the Chiefs are unsettled in many areas heading to camp. In a few short weeks, we'll see if the constant force of change will result in a brighter future.
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