As Todd Haley said all throughout the season, the Chiefs are a work in progress.
In winning the AFC West, they opened themselves up to more criticism than they deserve. Going from worst to first, no matter how it is achieved, is a great accomplishment.
These are a number of things I think the Chiefs need in order to get to the next step, in no particular order:
- Dwayne Bowe cannot live on an island. Bowe has matured into a top receiver. Even his post-game comments showed his maturity. He lacked consistency, as did Matt Cassel, and I believe the two were connected. The lack of anything remotely close to a No. 2 receiver was magnified against both Oakland and Baltimore. Hint: Larry Fitzgerald.
- Todd Haley has indicated he may take over the play calling, or a large part of it. I think this is a mistake.
One of the Chiefs' downfalls all year was their play calling, which is why I'm glad Charlie Weis is gone. Still, having an offensive coordinator helped turn Haley into a better head coach. I think he needs an experienced offensive coordinator he can trust to call plays. Proof: Eliminating Jamaal Charles from the second half of the playoff game was mind-numbing.
- The offensive line, though vastly improved, needs more improvement. Again, both Oakland and Baltimore proved that. They were both able to get to Cassel. It doesn't need an overhaul by any means, but it does need some additions.
- The defensive line and linebackers. This is probably the most glaring area that needs an upgrade. Again, the Chiefs defense was arguably the most pleasant surprise of the season. Tamba Hali has turned into a star, along with Derrick Johnson. They have a number of playmakers. Mike Vrabel, if he returns, will be limited. In the 3-4 defense, they need to have exceptional linebackers.
Sometimes teams make changes specifically to beat teams in their own division. The Houston Texans did it last year to beat the Colts. The problem was they didn't beat anyone else.
The Jets have been trying for, well, forever to beat the Patriots.
The Chiefs need to beat the Raiders. That's right, I said it. They cannot allow the Raiders to beat them twice in a season ever. They must take care of business in their division and at home.
I think their secondary is set. I believe, for years, they will have the best secondary in football.
I do believe the most important thing the Chiefs need to accomplish is a great, not good, wide receiver to complement Bowe. He was at times too easy to take out of a game, leaving Cassel with few other options other than checking down or throwing the ball away.
I think the Chiefs have enough other skilled offensive players to have a dynamic offensive team.
They will also need to be on the lookout for a running back to complement Charles, as Thomas Jones is not getting younger.
No matter how much he plays, I hope Vrabel returns. I see him as the quintessential football player. He has value on and off the field. With a team as young as the Chiefs, he's as valuable as a great assistant coach.
This is where the value of Scott Pioli comes in. With this being his third full season, I have no doubt that he and Haley will put together a solid plan of acquiring free agents and draft picks to bring the Chiefs to the next level.
Congratulations to the Chiefs for a great year for the first time in a long time, and thank you for giving your fans something to look forward to next year.