Kansas City Chiefs Are Contenders Thanks to Character
As a Kansas City Chiefs fan, there has not been much to be happy about in recent memory.
From quarterback controversies to trading away one of the best defensive players in the league, they have seemingly been a role model of what not to do in the NFL. However after a surprising 3-0 start to the season, the Chiefs have been catapulted from cellar dwellers to potential contenders (even though I would happy with a .500 season).
This transformation is thanks to the Chiefs' infusion of character from the past few years, culminating during this offseason.
Brought in as general manager during the 2008-2009 offseason, Scott Pioli has headed the Chiefs' turnaround.
Coming from the New England Patriots, he attempted to carry over his winning ways to the lowly Chiefs. Described as "capable, hard working, loyal and team oriented" by the stingy Bill Belichick, Pioli established strong positive character at the top of the organization that has trickled down through the team.
Eliminating the Trouble Maker
While he once was an undoubtedly talented running back, character was not one of Larry Johnson's strong points.
He was told early in his career by then-coach Dick Vermeil that he needed to "take the diapers off" and play football—however, he never followed this advice.
He was suspended by the Chiefs and the NFL several times in responses to various negative comments about the organization, homophobic slurs, and four arrests (for domestic battery, aggravated assault, disturbing the peace).
It is also worth noting that these incidents were committed against women. Thankfully, he was waived in November 2009 before he could break Priest Holmes' franchise rushing record.
While neither had success at their last head coaching job, both Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel were brought in as offensive and defensive coordinators, respectively.
Having both coached under Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick, they have learned under two successful coaches how to win and work in a tight ship.
Weis said he has watched every one of Matt Cassel's snaps of the last three seasons, showing a strong work ethic and dedication to his new team. This appeared to have finally paid dividends in Cassel's fine showing last week against the 49ers (16-for-27, 250 yards, 3 TDs,1 INT) and hopefully will carry on in the future.
Likewise, the defense has showed a huge improvement under Crennel, allowing 14 points or less in their three games, the sixth-fewest rushing yards in the league, and sacking the quarterback seven times after having only had 22 sacks all last year.
The Changing Talent
In the 2007 draft, the Chiefs selected Dwayne Bowe with their first pick (23rd overall).
While he was compared to Hines Ward and had an impressive first season leading all rookie receivers in major statistics, his second year was plagued with dropped passes. He has also been out of shape for preseason workouts, benched during preseason games for lack of attention to detail, and most notably suspended for four games for a drug violation (he had take a diuretic that can be used to mask steroids).
However, Bowe has shown recent signs of maturity and character. He spent his summer working out with Larry Fitzgerald and was singled out by head coach Todd Haley in a press conference for his improved blocking.
If this positive progression continues Bowe may finally become the elite receiver he was drafted to be.
The Draft Picks
As a product of their four-win season, the Chiefs looked to capitalize on this year's draft. With seven picks, including the fifth overall pick, the big name selected was Eric Berry, a play-making safety.
However, the Chiefs drafted as much for character as for talent, as all of their first five picks were captains of their college teams.
A perfect example of this is tight end Tony Moeaki. While he only only had 76 catches for 953 yards and 11 touchdowns during his five-year college career at Iowa, coach Kirk Ferentz said he was one of the most important players in his 11 years. In his three professional games, Moeaki leads the Chiefs in receptions and targets.
The Chiefs' second-draft pick, Dexter McCluster has also made an immediate impact. In the Monday night season opener against San Diego, he returned a punt for a franchise record 94-yard touchdown. He has also taken snaps as the third running back behind Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles.
With their top three drafts already performing well, the future is bright in Kansas City.
While the Chiefs have good young players, they also have two veteran leaders to help shape the team: Mike Vrabel and Thomas Jones.
A key player in the Patriots' three Super Bowl wins, Vrabel showed character and versatility in addition to pure talent. During his 12 years in New England he never missed a game and played inside linebacker, outside linebacker, and tight end in short-yardage situations.
While he definitely played his best years in New England, he still can make plays and leadership to a young, developing Chiefs defense.
During the latest offseason, the Chiefs signed free agent running back Thomas Jones to provide a physical contrast to Jamaal Charles' fast, agile style. However Jones' physical style is only an outward representation of his character.
As the son of a coal miner, Jones is hard working, disciplined, and tough. Jones will undoubtedly carry these virtues with him to Kansas City.
Thanks to their new-found character, the Chiefs are much improved from their last few disappointing seasons.
While they still may not be the most talented team, their attitude has transformed from being a timid and confused team to that of a confident team that wants to be on the field.
With this change, the Arrowhead faithful will soon be rewarded with winning—and hopefully playoff seasons.