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Handling The West … Weekend Cup O’Chiefs

In Denver they have a new head coach. In San Diego they are trying to find a new defensive coordinator. In Oakland they are without a head coach and heaven knows how long it will take the powers that be in Raiders Land to complete the process.

And then there are the AFC West champion Chiefs, with a hole at offensive coordinator, but holding the division title for the first time since 2003, after breaking the Chargers stranglehold on the position.

That the Chiefs could win the division while losing four of six games against the Chargers, Raiders and Broncos is unusual. Since the league went to two conferences/four divisions in 2002, only two teams have won their division with a losing record attached to the intra-division games: the 2010 Chiefs and the 2002 Miami Dolphins team that was part of a three-way tie for the AFC East. Both teams went 2-4 in the regular season.

The Chiefs beat the Broncos by four points and the Chargers by seven points and went to overtime and lost to the Raiders by a FG. But in three other division games against those teams they lost by 20, 31 and 21 points. Those were the three worst losses in the regular season.

With only 20 percent of their 10 victories coming out of their own division, it creates an odd predicament for the Chiefs. They are division champs, but they are not the best team within the AFC West. That would be Oakland (6-0), followed by San Diego (3-3). Denver (1-5) finished behind the Chiefs.

“We showed you can get into the post-season without doing it,” Todd Haley said of winning in the division. “It’s not the way we’d like it to occur because you’re most efficient way to get into the post-season is to beat your division opponents. I think it’s very important from our players’ standpoint, we have to learn and understand how critical those games are to your placement, your seeding and really your overall chances of being a successful team in the post-season, which is the goal.

“We need to get better. We’re not there yet but we’ve done a real good job to this point of starting to lay the foundation of what’s going to be a real good team.”

The truism of football is that players, coaches and teams are either getting better, or they are getting worse. So it is within the AFC West.

“We’ve got to get better; they’re getting better,” Haley said. “I think it’s clear that the Oakland Raiders were a better team than they were a year before, at least from my vantage point. San Diego is a good team. They’ve been there, they were coming fast at the end and they put themselves in a position that was difficult to overcome. They’re a good team and I don’t see that changing a whole lot and I would expect them to continue to improve because that’s what they’ve been doing. Denver’s in a little bit of transition now. Obviously they’re a dangerous, dangerous team. They had a tough year but I see them doing nothing but going up, at least judging by the roster and they have some veteran players that they have to continue to do the same things we’re doing but that’s not going to change.”

The hiring of John Fox as the Broncos new head coach certainly brings a change in philosophy to Denver. With Mike Shanahan and then Josh McDaniels, the Broncos were a team with the emphasis on offense. In recent seasons it has been the defense that’s caused the most problems for the Broncos and why they’ve been out of the playoffs since 2005. Fox is a defensive guy who had some success in Carolina and got the Panthers into the Super Bowl after the 2003 season, losing by just a field goal to New England.

In San Diego, defensive coordinator Ron Rivera left and became Fox’s replacement as the new head coach in Carolina. The Chargers have talked to several in-house prospects and will interview former Chiefs LB Greg Manusky, who was the San Francisco defensive coordinator and previously coached in San Diego on Marty Schottenheimer’s staff.

In Oakland, Davis wasted no time in making a decision on head coach Tom Cable. Despite finishing with an 8-8 record, the Raiders decided not to pick up the option season in Cable’s contract and that took only two days after the season ended. It’s hiring that takes Davis a long time to get done. When he traded Jon Gruden to Tampa Bay, it was 22 days before he named Raiders assistant Bill Callahan as the new head coach. After Cable replaced the fired Lane Kiffin during the ’08 season, it was five weeks after the last game before Cable had the interim title removed.

So the division is in a state of flux and it shows in the AFC’s final four for the playoffs, with no AFC West team among those still playing. Since 1978 when the NFL went to two wildcard teams in the conference playoffs, the AFC West has had a team in the divisional round all but three of the 33 seasons – 1999, 2004 and now 2010.

Still, do the Chiefs have to tinker with their rebuilding to better match up with their AFC West foes? Haley says no.

“I am a big believer that you just have to continue the growth,” Haley said. “You continue to bring in good football players and (the division) can’t completely drive your decision making. You just keep bringing in good football players; you have a good staff that does a very good job of developing those players and putting them ultimately in a position to succeed then you will win games.

“If you get too caught up in trying to matchup specifically for teams you have a chance to run into a wall and it can be very dangerous. I think Scott (Pioli) and myself are very clear on how we want to do this and how we want to build and we are just going to continue doing that.

“We’ve got great competition in our division which I’m happy about because we’ve got to take care of business in our division here going forward and that’ll make us a better team.”

NFL PERSONNEL FILE FOR THURSDAY, JANUARY 13

  • BRONCOS – agreed to terms with John Fox to be the 14th head coach in franchise history. Fox was 73-71 during his nine seasons as head coach of the Panthers.
  • CHIEFS – signed LB Eric Bakhtiari.
  • SEAHAWKS – quarterbacks coach Jedd Fisch will be the next offensive coordinator at the University of Miami.
  • TEXAS – named Vance Joseph defensive backs coach.
  • TITANS – signed reserve/futures contracts with WR Yamon Figurs and FB Joe Tronzo.

21 Responses to “Handling The West … Weekend Cup O’Chiefs”

  • January 14, 2011  - Rick says:

    .
    The goal is to continue to get better. That will help in the division and outside it.

    I think the Chiefs are about 5 or 6 players away from being where they want to be for next year.


  • January 14, 2011  - Rick says:

    .
    Oh, that’s assuming there is a next year. ;)


  • January 14, 2011  - jim says:

    There will be a next year – there’s too much for both sides to loose. When they come to an agreement that makes both sides unhappy, then they’ve probably got a fair deal. Hope someone is there to point that out to them.


  • January 14, 2011  - RW says:

    I don’t think this CBA will be resolved in the near future. The owners are dug in, resolute in their position of taking back a bigger piece of the revenue pie.

    The players and their union know that to cave on this basic demand is to take a step backwards which labor history suggests is a losing strategy. Can a compromise be reached where both sides give a little and still save face?

    My prediction: CBA will be reached in early August on the best case scenario.


  • January 14, 2011  - Tenand6 says:

    Bob,

    What was your biggest disappointment for the 2010 season? Mine was the production of the Special Teams. I expected/predicted the Chiefs would have the best Special Teams in the NFL this year.

    Oops: http://www.footballoutsiders.com/stats/teamst


  • January 14, 2011  - el cid says:

    Expect the CBA to be signed 2-4 weeks before the season begins on television (to get enough training camp in so no one gets killed). The owners will not want to miss out on those big bucks. Unless both sides get a big bite of stupid and the owners go with replacement teams, a whole other can of worms. Then the fight is to the death and the pols in DC will stick their noses into it.

    Disappointing, probably what followed the first game. I thought (not the right word) the rookies were on fire and the team was headed for the sky. Still 10 wins was un-imagineable but sort of ended with a thud.


  • January 14, 2011  - Rick says:

    .
    If the Chiefs can improve as much this off season as they did this past off season, they have a shot at repeating as division champs. But it will probably take that kind of improvement to do it.


  • January 14, 2011  - Nate says:

    Bob- Your statement that the Chiefs were not the best team in the afc west is simply not true. It is a 16 game season and when it is over “you are what you are.” The Chiefs won 10 games more than the other 3 teams while playing an virtually the same schedule. If any of the other teams were better than the Chiefs they would have won more than 10 games. Pretty simple stuff, except you have a burr under your saddle that impacts your writing.


  • January 14, 2011  - el cid says:

    Cannot agrue with a 10 season, that said talent wise, the Chiefs are young, missing pieces, and in their first test of the playoffs against the Raven, seemed overmatched. Are the Chiefs the best in the West, yes but there will need to be continued improvement this off season to be the best in the West in 2011. Remember we are all about the long haul, not one season.

    Although you must admit the Chiefs did not dominate the teams in the West. For the most part, the Chiefs were handled pretty easily. They need time to develope players and coaches. I think it was Marty’s concept, you win at home and the West and you are in the playoffs every year.


  • January 14, 2011  - Edward says:

    Agreed with your comments el cid we most continue to hold dominance at Arrowhead. We’ve got alot of good talent on defensive side of the ball. It time to build up the offense and it starts upfront with the o-line. Younger center and need another guard whether Waters is coming back or not simply because we need to be way more physical upfront. Then now we need playmakers at receiver. We need at least 2 burners that can flat at run with good size. If we do that defense of course I think will go from rank 14th to top 10 maybe even 5 depending on if Jackson can do like Dorsey did in his 3rd yr and really make an impact.


  • January 14, 2011  - el cid says:

    Ed, hope you are right but believe we need a monster DT before anything else (got to stop the run). Defense wins game, offense wins championships. So the offensive must be dealt with. And dealt with this year. Best available but in positions of need.


  • January 14, 2011  - Kiowa says:

    I think our 1st 3 priorities should be an explosive inside linebacker, 2 WR’s and a stud at guard to take over for Waters in the next year or two. After that work on the D and O-lines with a mix of vets and taking a sleeper or two deep in the draft.


  • January 14, 2011  - el cid says:

    We signed DJ to a new contract so the guy beside him cannot be a “high” paid rookie (need to spred out salaries), maybe in the third round. Like the WR in 2nd, draft supposedly full of WRs. How about a center in the third?


  • January 14, 2011  - cychief24 says:

    We already drafted Asamoah to replace Waters. ILB and WR are the top needs. Edwards was very solid at NG as was Wiegmann at C, but they are aging.
    It will be fun to watch how Pioli and Haley draft again and add some mid-free agents to address our needs.


  • January 14, 2011  - Merwin says:

    el cid, I believe the owners get paid the television revenue for this year, regardless of if they play a game or not this year. Which is why I believe the owners opted out of the CBA, they will get income coming in where the players will not get a share of that pie if they are locked out and do not set aside any money this year.


  • January 15, 2011  - Michael says:

    Although the Chiefs schedule outside of the AFC West likely will be tougher in 2011, the AFC West itself might be an easier nut for the Chiefs to crack than it was in 2010. Denver and Oakland are going to have new Head Coaches and the turnover in coaches, players and systems that come with that, and San Diego is San Diego. For the Chiefs, getting an OC squared away will be important; and it needs to be someone who can keep Cassel’s game moving in the right direction.

    As long as San Diego has Rivers they are going to be a good team, but they have proven over and over to be a team inclined to large dips in their play for long stretches, usually at the beginning of the year. And the Chiefs showed this year if you can get up on San Diego first, you can bury them.

    All the teams in the division have a geat many free agents of their own to sign. Retaining your own best free agents is the first critical step. Next, in my opinion, is continuing to develop players already in house. Sort of lumped together after that, it’s having a good draft, the often-overlooked signing of college FA’s, and the signing of veteran FA’s.

    To me, all positions are always in need of upgrade, but I would try to address them in this order: WR, NT, interior OL, OLB, ILB, OT, RB, backup QB, S, CB.


  • January 15, 2011  - Nate says:

    Good analysis Michael! You looked further than the end of your nose. Your comments should have been included in in bob Gretz’s analysis. I might add that San Diego has lost Ron Rivera, long time DC, so that is another change to consider.


  • January 15, 2011  - Michael says:

    I would like to see KC draft a WR and NT high in the draft, but I wouldn’t count on all the improvement coming from two rookies. Unless you’re able to grab the first WR off the board and it’s someone like Calvin or Andre Johnson, most of the time WRs take some time to develop. We all well know it normally takes DL some time to adjust to the pros (possible exception of Suh). Although a big-body NT might help faster than a 3-4 DE as a rook. Bottom line: regardless of drafting a NT, Chiefs need to find out if someone like Toribio has enough upside and can help enough to take some pressure off Edwards. If not, a veteran FA needs to be signed who can compete with Edwards or be an effective backup to him.

    Pretty much the same thing at WR. There’s Bowe, with McCluster in the slot. Tucker or Horne might develop into reliable number 3 or 4 WR, but someone is needed opposite Bowe. A high pick rookie might fit the bill, but I’m for hedging the bet and bringing in at least an effective veteran. Someone of the ilk of Jericho Cotchery or Jabar Gaffney.

    The interior OL can be addressed in later rounds-3 to 5. Asamough will start at some point, and the Chiefs still seem to like Niswanger and D.Harris.

    Drafting an OLB likely will mean some time for a rookie to develop also because OLB who can rush the passer, which the Chiefs need, are normally converted DEs. Continued delopment of Studebaker is important, and hopefully Sheffield can return 100%; he has pass-rush ability.

    KC’s return game needs improvement. Most of that should come from better play from the blocking units. The blocking wasn’t nearly good enough; that’s coaching and getting the right special team players. Still, I would rather see Arenas and McCluster returning only punts, and concentrating more on their positions at CB, and RB/WR for McCluster. The Chiefs are going to need another good RB, and if that guy is a good returner as well, you’re killing two needs with one player. The Chiefs might be able keep Thomas Jones, who tends to wear down as the season gets into the stretch, effective through the entire season if they can give some of his touches to another RB throughout the season. A guy who could really help here is Darren Sproles, and he just might be available.


  • January 15, 2011  - napahank says:

    My two cents has more to do with who to release and/or how to save some 45 man roster spots. It starts with the defense and Jon McGraw. He is cagey but way too slow.

    I wish Carr was a safety. As long as the play is in front of him he is spot on.

    As for the offense…eliminate both fullbacks and use Battle as a FB or a OL as a FB in short yardage.

    Finally, I would go with two TE as my base set with Moeaki and Cottam. Both can block, both are big and both know how to get open. This reduces long threat maybe… (Bowe & DMC deep?) but even more important puts defenses on their heels.

    Finally, can Asamough play center and Rudy play gaurd?????


  • January 16, 2011  - Edward says:

    Personally I would love for us to draft another guard and center. And go sign a guy like Mike Sim-Walker. He’s got good speed, good hands, and he runs great routes. He’ll come at 6mill mark per yr would make a great signing and would be good player put opposite of Bowe. People have to realize yeah we drafted Asomoah but we need another guard simply because of one depth and two I like Lija but he’s not a young player anymore either. Of course we need center because Wiegman may have played his last game and Nigwaner isn’t a starter. I also would love see us go after two big play wide receviers in the draft. Like I said two guys with good size and speed. The defense could use a good young nose tackle. Inside linebacker we could use depth but its not nearly as important as fixing the o-line and receiving core.


  • January 16, 2011  - el cid says:

    Niswanter has the built of a guard. Garantee he is no center, by skill or size. I believe he got the job because he is very mental and could handle those duties. Spent more of his time on his heels backing up. So maybe depth at guard is where he fits in. Wiegman is at the end of a good career, might have another year but to darned small if he loses any skill to age. WR, I want a free agent. The new OC or Haley will have enough to get the offense fitted to what he does to worry about a “high” draft pick learning the NFL.

    As for S, we have young good players and, frankly, there are enough failed CBs to fill in as backup or on special teams. Watch the draft, if we pick up another S, it is for special teams or returner. My opinion would be a mistake.

    Still say we need a stud NT and after that the best talent available (in no order) WR, C, RB, ILB, pass rushing OLB, for depth QB, DE, CB, and OL. Need to skip TE, got to many backups now (bet they don’t).




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