The key to football success in Kansas City is, and always will be, defense...a hard-nosed, blue-collar, hit 'em in the mouth, turnover producing defense.
Sure, there were a few years under Dick Vermeil when the franchise tried to change its identity and win with offense, but the team's success with that formula was short lived and didn't produce a championship.
Defense is what sold seats 19 years ago, when the Chiefs recently broken sellout streak began, and it's the reason those same seats were empty in the team's 41-34 loss to the hapless Cleveland Browns.
Chiefs fans don't care about their team having a high powered offense. The people of Kansas City want to see a defense that makes opposing teams dread coming to Arrowhead Stadium to play a game.
The problem once again this season is that the Chiefs defense has played awful in most games, and invariably gives up too many big plays. The Chiefs offense, still growing as a unit and in need of help on the line and in the receiving corps, simply can't overcome the deficits the defense creates for it.
The Chiefs have talent on the defensive side of the ball, including four former first round draft picks (Tyson Jackson, Glenn Dorsey, Tamba Hali, and Derrick Johnson). The unit also boasts three accomplished veterans with experience playing on championship-caliber defenses (Mike Vrabel, Mike Brown, and Demorrio Williams).
The million dollar question is: "So why is this defense so bad?"
The short answer to the question is: "Defensive Coordinator Clancy Pendergast."
Pendergast's defenses in Arizona should have clued Chiefs fans into what to expect prior to this season. Pendergast's units have never been dominant and he utilizes a scheme that can only contain an opponent for so long before inexcusably allowing an 80-yard run or pass for a touchdown. Sometimes, these breakdowns happen several times in one game.
While Pendergast's objective is no different than any other defensive coordinator in football, to force turnovers and not let the opponents score; his approach is far different from his more successful predecessors in Kansas City.
In Kansas City, former defensive coordinators Bill Cowher and Gunther Cunningham dominated opponents with an aggressive style of play that allowed it players to play with great emotion and fire. That style of play also served as the catalyst for stirring the Arrowhead faithful into a frenzy each and every home game, and making it difficult for any opposing offense that came to town.
Pendergast's defense, by contrast, doesn't unleash the hounds on every play like those great defenses of the 1990s. Instead, he takes a more cerebral approach with his playcalling. As a result, his players are asked to play "smarter" and are therefore more apt to making the mental mistakes that invariably lead to big plays for the opposition.
Unfortunately for Pendergast, his defense isn't making enough big plays itself to balance things out. With his approach, Pendergast tries too hard to out-coach the offensive coordinator on the other sideline when attempting to put his players in a position to make big plays, instead of just letting them go out there and make big plays.
The Chiefs need to make a change.
If General Manager Scott Pioli and Owner Clark Hunt are interested in once again filling Arrowhead with frenzied fans who have a fiery passion for winning, than they should hire a new defensive coordinator with just as much passion.
Kansas City wants someone who's aggressive leading the defense, someone who will turn games into a street-fight, not a chess match.
Then after bringing a new defensive coordinator to town, it wouldn't hurt to grab a dominant defensive player like Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh or Tennessee's Eric Berry in April's NFL draft.
James Adkins is also a syndicated writer for the Sports Page Network. To see James' recent stories, please visit: http://kcsportscentral.sportspagenetwork.com/Default.aspx
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