Looking Ahead to 2010: Five Questions the Kansas City Chiefs Need To Answer

James AdkinsCorrespondent IIDecember 3, 2009

KNOXVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 10: Eric Berry #14 of the Tennessee Volunteers runs with the ball after intercepting a pass during the SEC game against the Georgia Bulldogs at Neyland Stadium on October 10, 2009 in Knoxville, Tennessee. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

In case you haven't been paying attention, the Kansas City Chiefs won't be making a trip to the playoffs in 2009. In fact, if the season ended today, the Chiefs would have the 5th overall pick in April's NFL Draft.  

So, over the course of the final month of the season, Chiefs General Manager Scott Pioli and Head Coach Todd Haley need to begin finding answers to some very important questions.

Question One:

Will Pioli and Haley bring in an offensive coordinator that they both know very well, in Charlie Weis; or will they opt for a coach with a lower profile that Haley can more easily influence?


While it is rare to see a coach hired this late in the season, it may be Pioli's best chance to bring in his old friend before he's had a chance to entertain offers elsewhere, after the season. 

Weis, who flopped as a head coach at the college level, is still one of the best offensive minds in football. He could undoubtedly figure out ways to best utilize Matt Cassel, Dwayne Bowe, Jamaal Charles and company.

Unfortunately, I don't see Haley giving anyone, even Weis, total control of his offense. Instead, it is probably more likely that you'll see a current assistant (like Maurice Carthon) promoted, or a young coach brought in to fill the role of offensive coordinator with Haley continuing to play a big role in what plays are called on Sundays.

Question Two:

Will Haley continue to entrust his team's defense to Clancy Pendergast?


A trademark of a good coach, at any level, is that he is able to adapt to his personnel and still be productive and win.

Haley and Pendergast are both guilty of moving the Chiefs to a 3-4 defense they were ill-equipped to install in 2009. Pendergast was just as guilty of this when he was the defensive coordinator with the Cardinals. Pendergast's defense wasn't the reason the Cardinals got to the Super Bowl, Haley's offense was.

While many Chiefs' fans were baffled by the choice of Pendergast to begin with, especially with Romeo Crennel unemployed at the time of his hire; just as many will be baffled when Pendergast is retained in 2010.

Like Haley, it seems Pendergast was given a one-year pass to get his system implemented, and he'll have through 2010 to make it work.

Question Three:

With the Chiefs likely picking anywhere from fifth to 10th in next April's draft, will Pioli be willing to do whatever it takes to select one of the few game-changers that may or may not be available when the Chiefs pick?


The Chiefs offensive line needs improvement, but good offensive linemen can be found outside the first round of the draft. This team's greatest areas of need, defensive tackle and safety, also happen to be the positions played by three of college football's best players.

The most dominant player in the 2010 draft is Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. Suh, while better suited to a 4-3 scheme, would still be a major upgrade over Ron Edwards and Kenny Smith even if he had to play in a 3-4.

A 4-3 Chiefs defense, with Suh and Glenn Dorsey in the middle, and Tyson Jackson and Tamba Hali at the ends, would be a vast improvement over any defensive line the Chiefs have had since the mid-90's.

USC free safety Taylor Mays or Tennessee strong safety Eric Berry could fill a huge void in the Chiefs' secondary at either of safety positions. Mays is the best athlete in the draft, and Berry has playmaking abilities that have prompted comparisons to late Redskins safety, Sean Taylor.

While it is very doubtful the Chiefs will be able to make a move up the board to get Suh, it's very possible that both Mays and Berry could be available when the Chiefs make their first selection.

If Suh, Mays, and Berry are gone, look for the Chiefs to possibly trade down and take 365-pound nose tackle Terrence Cody out of Alabama.

Question Four:

What will the Chiefs do with LB Derrick Johnson?


Demorrio Williams has far and away been the Chiefs best inside linebacker, and is likely the Chiefs' Defensive MVP for 2009.

Johnson has played inside this season as a backup to Williams, but is far more talented than Corey Mays, who has started most of the season at the other inside linebacker spot.

Mike Vrabel, oft-injured and 34-years old, may have seen his final days starting for the Chiefs at outside linebacker. Of the team's other outside linebackers, Hali and Andy Studebaker, neither is the caliber of athlete or as versatile as Johnson is.

While it would seem that Johnson should be able to find himself in a starting role in 2010, it doesn't appear that Pendergast and Haley necessarily agree with that.

Since Johnson is playing out the final year of his contract, and the Chiefs have younger (and cheaper) linebackers in Studebaker and Jovan Belcher, who have both gotten substantial playing time this season, it appears inevitable that Johnson and the Chiefs will part ways.

Question Five:

Can Jamaal Charles prove to the coaching staff that he is the team's future at the running back position?


Unlike the quarterback position, where the Chiefs have committed $63 million to Matt Cassel, the team doesn't have near as much invested in Charles.

While Charles has proved that he is capable of being the team's best offensive playmaker since Priest Holmes, he has not proved he can hold on to the football. He also hasn't proved that he can take the beating that goes along with being a full-time running back in the NFL.

The 2010 draft may see as few as two or three running backs taken in the first round, depending on the number of underclassmen who forgo whatever eligibility they have remaining.

That said, there could be several productive backs available between the second and fourth rounds.

If the right player falls to the Chiefs between the second and fifth rounds, like Stanford's Toby Gerhart or LSU's Charles Scott, expect the Chiefs to take them. Both Gerhart and Scott are bigger backs, and could fill the Chiefs need for a guy to hammer it between the tackles, and replace Kolby Smith as the compliment to Charles.  

James Adkins is also a syndicated writer for the Sports Page Network. To see James' recent stories, please visit: