Failure To Communicate . . . Friday Cup O’Chiefs

The great character actor Strother Martin played the role of the Captain in a Florida prison camp as part of the cinema classic Cool Hand Luke. His most memorable line came when he told the prisoners:

“What we have here is a failure to communicate.”

It’s a line that has been repeated often on the screen and in everyday life. The inability to communicate causes more problems than just about anything else on the face of the earth.

Just ask the Chiefs defense.

According to their most senior player and captain Derrick Johnson the biggest reason the defense has had so many problems in the first two games is poor communication. Despite the fact the players have been together since the last days of July with dozens of practices, likely a hundred meetings by now and six total games, they apparently don’t understand each other.

“At times we are not on the same page,” Johnson said after the Buffalo game. “(It’s) communication errors between players, myself and other guys on the team. It’s never perfect but it hurts even worse when they capitalize off your mistakes, when it’s a touchdown, or a 30 or 40-yard run, or a 30-yard pass.”

Romeo Crennel has dissected the tapes and the head coach has no argument with Johnson’s characterization of the communication problems holding back the Chiefs defense.

(That’s Strother Martin to the left; his failure to communicate line was voted the 11th most famous movie line in history by the American Film Institute.)

“When you don’t communicate, it’s hard to be on the same page, and that’s what we preach to them all the time, even simple stuff,” said Crennel. “I tell them all the time, ‘the simple things, communicate the simple things, and that will help get everybody on the same page’.”

So what’s the problem here? Are some of these guys speaking Spanish instead of English? They are not on the same page, but are they even referring to the same book?

“It’s everybody’s job (to communicate),” said OLB Tamba Hali. “If I give a call it has to go down because it tells everybody something is going on here. If they don’t get it over there they might do something totally different there.”

Generally when you hear that an athletic team isn’t communicating on the field it has more to do with players not speaking, rather than saying something that doesn’t jibe with the other folks. Or when they do speak, there’s no clarity to the conversation. It’s the same problem that couples deal with all the time – he says one thing, she hears another.

Crennel has an increasing number of gray hairs because communication within the defense is something he and his staff have preached to the players since the first practice of training camp. Heck, it goes back even further to the off-season program and OTA sessions. The importance of communication has not fallen through the cracks. It’s the follow through that’s not getting done.

That’s why Crennel has done what all coaches do when things are falling apart and the team is losing – he’s gone back to basics, and he wants that to start with the most basic of communication.

“When a guy is rushing, I want him to tell the guy next to him that he is rushing,” Crennel said. “Even though he knows he is rushing, the guy next to him should know he’s rushing, but if we communicate it, then there is no chance for error.

“Sometimes when you communicate, you may jog the memory of the guy next to you because he’s thinking about a lot of things himself. Then when the guy says, ‘Well, I’m rushing,’ boom, he’s into him, his rush lane, and some other things can happen.”

The defensive players are all willing to point to themselves as the reason there have been problems.

“The coaches are doing a good job of getting us prepared,” said SS Eric Berry. “Us as players we have to do a little bit extra before and after practice on what we need to do. We’ve got everybody on defense now calling out their responsibilities. That’s been a big emphasis for us to get everybody on the same page.”

In Buffalo there were two plays in the same series where the lack of communication cost the Chiefs nearly 100 yards on just those plays – a 43-yard pass/run by TE Scott Chandler and the 49-yard TD pass/run by Stevie Johnson. Both of those receivers were in areas where they were essentially left uncovered.

Crennel said those instances were not blown coverages. There most certainly was blown communications among the back part of the team’s dime defense.

“Everybody has to do their job,” Crennel said. “Part of my job is to communicate to the guy next to me; if I just do that, then two of us will be on the same page. Then, if the guy behind us would just talk to us and talk to the guy next to him, then we’ve got more guys on the same page.

“Ultimately, that’s what we try to get. We try to get all 11 on the same page.”


6 Responses to “Failure To Communicate . . . Friday Cup O’Chiefs”

  • September 21, 2012  - txchief says:

    Excellent point Bob. Some of the failure to communicate may also have to do with the fashion in which the team was or was not prepared by the coaching staff. Some players may have difficulty understanding their assignments due to the infrequent offseason meetings and the reduction in practice time under the new CBA. Crennel’s staff may not have properly budgeted the time that the players were available for training.


  • September 21, 2012  - spellchecker says:

    You have Poe, Pitoitua, Routt, Reeves and Elam who are new players in the rotation. You have Toribio, Lewis and Brown who they were counting on out with injuries. Eric Berry is back after missing all of last year. Flowers is not 100%. This isn’t the same defense that finished strong last year.

    Add that in with new rules concerning how many contact practices you can have plus Romeo’s approach to the preseason and it is no surprise that the defense is struggling; although it should not be this bad and other teams are dealing with the same rules.


  • September 21, 2012  - R W says:

    Blah, blah, blah…

    How refreshing would it be for a head coach to come to the podium and tell it like it is, for example:

    “I have no excuses. Our defense has sucked the past two weeks. You media dogs know it, the fans know it and we know it. If it doesn’t get fixed, I’ll be gone along with several players responsible for sucking. Next question?”


  • September 21, 2012  - txchief says:

    And speaking of Clint Eastwood films, maybe Schottenheimer could come in and send the current front office and coaching staff on a “Missouri boat ride.”


  • September 21, 2012  - ED J says:

    Its not just communication issues that bother its scheme. Romeo has consistently not put this defense in a position to make plays. I’ve given several examples of that on here. From playing too soft in coverage allowing alot of underneath routes like in Atlanta game. Or like in Buffalo game blitzing six guys but not allowing underneath routes to develop because once again playing soft in coverage and safeties and corners being too far back to make a play on the ball. Now whether this coming from him having too much responsibility being head coach I don’t know. What I do know is Romeo can’t continue to be stubborn and blame his players. He needs to watch the film because even when play is going right its not play designed to stop what opponent is doing.

    Last thing if this defense comes out next week and do the same thing. Like having Elam and Daniels lined up 20 yards down field. Or have Routt and Flowers play 10 yards off LOS (line of scrimmage) then expect us to give up another 40 pts. Graham and Sporles will have big day. Breeze with throw for 4tds this game. Romeo IMO needs take responsibility for this mess and stop passing the buck. Don’t wait till we’re 0-5 before you decide pass off defensive coordinator responsibility. Pioli needs strip him of his play calling duties if give up 40 again against Saints. Put friendship aside do you job Scott don’t allow this train-wreck to continue.


  • September 21, 2012  - johnfromfairfax says:

    I agree with others that something must change. I don’t think that Romeo doesn’t know what’s wrong with his defense and team. I also don’t think he misses things or sees something different on his game film that posters here see on their television film or bleacher seats. I also think that Romeo’s knowledge of defensive football including game planning and coverages hasn’t disappeared because he’s the head coach. How much time he can devote to his duties as a defensive coordinator because of the extra duties as HC and how each interferes with the other is the question. Of course the injuries have hurt us. Injuries obviously play a part and can wreck a team but the rest of the league deals with the same problems and the teams that are willing to spend and do so wisely to establish a roster with better depth and do a better job of handling these issues are the consistent winners in the league. Having a top flight quarterback can help a team overcome much adversity. Whatever you think of Cassell, Pioli committed to him and then paid lip service to fan discontent by saying he would bring in competition this year. That competition is a third team QB and a draft pick that shows no skill set that will get him on the field anytime soon. The owner’s job is getting the right person for GM. Getting the right person to pick the right coach and working with him to select the right players to form the “right 53″ is a hard job and what it’s all about in the NFL. It’s going on 4 years and I, and apparently many others, think we should be more competitive than we are at this point. Maybe we can turn it around but we’re not showing it on the field and Pioli and Crennell offer little to give us confidence. Pioli received a lucrative contract to deliver on that and so far all he’s done is fire the one coach who was in charge when we went to the playoffs, hire the current one who has a lifetime losing record as a head coach and alienate many loyal fans. If Romeo gets fired as HC I have little doubt he’ll find another DC job quickly, despite some posters’ weekly coaching critiques. As far as Pioli, to my knowledge he has and will collect his money. Unfortunately Clark Hunt will still own the team and that will put us squarely back where we started. Call it jumping off the bandwagon or whatever you want but we have a right to be dissatisfied with the team we have right now. That doesn’t mean we aren’t loyal fans and actually demonstrates that we are. Call it jumping back on the bandwagon or whatever you want but I and other impatient long time fans will be glad to cheer for our team when we have something to cheer about. hopefully that will start this week.




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