Lady Luck Moves Out … Tuesday Cup O’Chiefs

Lady Luck is quite a tease. One minute, she will rub your neck and whisper sweet nothings in your ear. The next minute, she’s moved on to another sucker without even saying good bye.

During the 2010 NFL season, the Lady hung out with the Chiefs. She stood between the team and serious injury. Off-season programs and well-conditioned athletes are a must, but in a collision sport like football, staying away from major injury also requires a long visit from the lucky Lady.

She left town on the 2011 Chiefs, leaving in a huff and with recriminations. After not losing a starter due to injury for more than five games last year, the Chiefs are but one game into the regular season and they’ve now lost a pair of starters.

By any measure, if the best players in the Chiefs franchise were listed it would include these names:

  • OLB Tamba Hali.
  • ILB Derrick Johnson.
  • CB Brandon Flowers.
  • SS Eric Berry.
  • WR Dwayne Bowe.
  • RB Jamaal Charles.
  • TE Tony Moeaki.

What might be the criteria for making that list? There’s one major element – those players make the teammates around them better players.

Just 1/16th of the way through the 2011 season and the Chiefs have lost two of their seven best players. The announcement on Monday from head coach Todd Haley that Berry was headed to the injured-reserve list because of a torn ACL in his left knee was a major blow to the franchise’s hopes and dreams of remaining a contender for the playoffs.

Haley spoke quickly on Monday about how the rest of the team must step forward and carry the load that Berry can no longer haul. It’s the old “one man goes down, another has to step up” routine. That’s page 29 of the head coaching handbook.

It would be nice if that was actually possible. But the roster that was built by GM Scott Pioli doesn’t have the depth of talent to replace one of the team’s best players, let alone two.

Right now, the choices are 10-year veteran Jon McGraw, 5-year veteran Sabby Piscitelli and 3rd-year draft choice disappointment Donald Washington. There’s always the possibility that CB Travis Daniels or rookie CB Jalil Brown could get a look at safety as well.

When he was asked Monday about the play of McGraw and Piscitelli in place of Berry against the Bills, Haley’s answer told us all we needed to know.

“I’m going to speak for the whole team, the whole entire team,” Haley said. “We know now the areas that we have to make improvements in. We knew it yesterday when it was occurring because it was pretty obvious stuff. It was a team loss that I take full responsibility for. I will say I am very encouraged by how today went that our team and our group of guys will not let this keep them from doing great things.”

Translation: I’m not going to tell you how badly McGraw and Piscitelli played against the Bills because everybody else around them played badly as well. McGraw was the first man off the bench and played strong safety in the base defense. For most of the game against Buffalo, the Chiefs were in their sub-defense, a dime package where McGraw moved to a linebacker spot and Piscitelli came in and played strong safety.

Obviously, there isn’t a body on the roster that equals the talents of Berry. There’s not a single player that can do the things the Chiefs asked of Berry, especially in supporting the run. Berry was still learning his way through coverage, but his willingness to fly to the line of scrimmage and fill open gaps more than made up for deficiencies he may have had in coverage.

Pioli’s roster didn’t have anybody to pick up the slack when Moeaki went down either. Leonard Pope and Jake O’Connell can’t come close to making the contributions as receivers that were expected of Moeaki.

Losing guys like Berry and Moeaki changes the way a team operates and forces alterations in defensive and offensive schemes. It also changes the season’s ultimate bottom line: the won-lost record. Understand that on the average Sunday in the NFL season, in the average game the winner will be the team with the most talent. There are always exceptions to that rule thanks to circumstances, weather, injuries and the like. But talent wins, not enough talent loses.

The Chiefs as they are currently built with a cost-effective roster of draft choices and street free agents can win 10 games if they have all their best players available. They have enough talent to do that. But take away two of their best players and those absences are going to be darn near impossible to overcome.

There’s nothing Pioli can do right now to find significant talent that can help in the coming months. The best players that would have been available say six or seven weeks ago are spoken for and now unavailable. A more extensive July shopping list may have brought more experienced depth just for occasions like this.

Thus, it will be up to Haley and his coaching staff to figure out how to make their offense and defense productive without all their pieces. They will have to be creative. They will have to motivate other players to step forward and fill the void.

“People are going to go down,” Haley said. “I’m sure across the league a number of guys were probably lost for the season yesterday. The teams that are able to handle that and have guys step in and up. In the case of Eric, I believe it’s not going to be just one person. I think it’s going be every special teams player, every defensive player, every offensive player will have to elevate their game to kind of counterbalance that loss of a great kid that I think is going to be a great player in the league.”

26 Responses to “Lady Luck Moves Out … Tuesday Cup O’Chiefs”

  • September 13, 2011  - James says:

    Hope Mr Berry will recover and be back with the Chief’s next year. This could be a long and painful year for Chief fans.

  • September 13, 2011  - KC_Guy says:

    Isn’t it telling that there is no word on Matt Cassel as one of the team’s best players?

  • September 13, 2011  - TDKC says:

    Bob, you may be right about Pioli not stocking the cupboards but I don’t think there was ever a player on the bench ready to replace Tony Gonzalez either. Had he ever been injured there would have been no one to fill that spot. The same could be said of this Berry situation. Not saying he is a hall-of-famer but some players just cannot be replaced with backups.

  • September 13, 2011  - Chuck says:

    BOB; YOU are trying to hard to be diplomatically correct with your:”cost effective roster”, My translation:”Hunt/Pioli= CHEAP ASSES. Lets call a spade a spade. Also I could have told you McGraw can’t get the job done. Remember last years playoff debacle when Todd Heap kept burning McGraw on play after play.

  • September 13, 2011  - bhive01 says:

    My hopes of an 8-8 season are dwindling. If we hold our own against the Lions I’ll be happier, but the loss of Berry is devastating. Sabby and John better step up.

  • September 13, 2011  - Chris says:

    It doesn’t surprise me that Cassel isn’t listed as one of the best players on our team. For me I support him 100% but to call him one of the best on the team would require that he would start on at least 75% of the teams in the league. At this point the jury is out on that with Cassel. I hope he proves he is at the top but at this point he hasn’t completely gotten there yet. Everyone complains he has played like crap the last three home games and I won’t say he has played great. But this season will truly show us what we have if we aren’t hamstrung by play calling which at this point makes me nervous. I will reserve judgement until we see Baldwin in the offense and are actually making play calls that seem to fit the situation.

    This coming week we will have to be on top of our game if we want a chance to play with Detroit. Stafford is the real deal and Megatron is going to be a nightmare to cover.

    If our O-line has a bad game we may lose Cassel as well. It will be interesting to see how we play.

  • September 13, 2011  - Tim says:

    I agree Chuck. McGraw may be a “heady” veteran & good special teamer BUT he just physically can’t play on a professional level in pass coverage. He never should have made the roster this year. Word to Haley: You better accumulate players that have the PHYSICAL capabilities to perform at a professional level rather than a smart vet on the downside. You can’t hide slow safeties. What’s going to happen is they’ll play deeper & it wil be maddening to watch all the unchallenged passes that are made in front of them with no rush.

  • September 13, 2011  - RW says:

    I think the problems this team faces goes deeper than the loss of a key player or two. Chuck’s comments are on the mark: It’s hard to win on the cheap. The lackluster effort to sign key veterans once the lockout was settled has pointed its crooked finger squarely at Hunt/Pioli.

    Beyond that, it’s an attitude, a mindset of wanting to be the best to get the best. I thought the story told on SNF relating to the JETS telling Plaxico Burress he was not going on to interview with the 9ers, that he was staying and would become a Jet, was the kind of mindset and attitude the Chiefs sorely lack.

    Clark Hunt Jr is nothing more than a caretaker owner with Pioli playing the role of his flinty eyed lapdog. The result is what we viewed this past Sunday and now, with Berry out, what Chief’s fans had best get accustomed to seeing in varying forms for the balance of the season.

  • September 13, 2011  - Tenand6 says:

    So, if the Chiefs win on Sunday, Haley is a genius, right?

    I don’t expect anything good out of this season for the reasons Bob highlights. The Chiefs don’t have the talent to have top players go down. If they somehow manage an 8-8 record, it would be remarkable. In fact, it will be remarkable if there isn’t a serious melt down given the schedule and the way the Chiefs have played to date.

  • September 13, 2011  - el cid says:

    Do not believe much in “lady luck”. It is more about be prepared and plannning than some imaginary entity bestowing good or bad things.

    I know I have beat it to death but 3 years of playing on the cheap has left the team incapable of dealing with injuries. It sit in that fat lap of Pioli. There is no talent with backups because they were the only cheap players who would come to KC.

    Add Haley, a hot OC at the time of hireing, is beginning to reach the height of his ability. It is only 3 years but he seems to be a one trick pony, who did not have the foggiest of an idea of how to handle the offseason for the developement what players he had.

    Lastly, this may be the end of the first Pioli rebuild. If Haley tanks this season, if Cassel flops or gets injured, if Crennel cannot get the defense turned around…..well let’s just say a new HC with coaches and we start over again. A real possibility with Clark keeping Pioli around for the next great rebuild plan.

  • September 13, 2011  - Mike says:

    Who might we draft next April with the #1 overall pick?

  • September 13, 2011  - Todd says:

    I think Mike might have just nailed it.

  • September 13, 2011  - Tim says:

    We’re in a tough spot for sure, but we need to see how it plays out.

  • September 13, 2011  - James Braunwalder says:

    We can’t survive with major injuries to are starters because we have no depth, the offense played the way they did in preseason, and with a 1st place schedule it’s going to be tough and a long year, the defense looked like they did 2 years ago, missing tackles, no pressure on QB, etc.

  • September 13, 2011  - Jimbo says:

    I could’nt even watch on TV or listen to Mitch & Lenny about midway into the third Qtr. Sunday. The Chiefs sucked bigtime. Just like in years past It was flat out embarrassing. To lose like that… At Arrowhead… The sky is falling.
    Being a Negative Nancy is not really my thing. We got bushwhacked and trampled by a team we considered very beatable. We can blame the coaching or the game planning or the lack of expensive talent. Heck we can blame Mr. 3.3 yd. dink & dunk Cassel.
    I’m not blaming anyone but myself. Why you say? Cuz I set myself up and this team up to be stronger, healthier, wiser, tougher and somewhat improved. The fall from grace during the 3rd Qtr was humiliating and quite frankly a joke. Nobody is laughing, nobody is cheering and nobody is believing in this team right now. Enough said about that.
    I know for a fact that come Sunday morning I will be excited to watch the Chiefs play again. Yeah, I’ll be a little hesitant and alot less sure about how well we end up playing. I will appreciate the little things we do well and get just as excited when we score a touchdown in dramatic fashion. I’ve been watching Chiefs games like this for over 40 years. You know, sitting on the edge of the couch knowing each & every play could make a difference in the score and ultimately in the game. The resulting excitement or disappointment each one brings. That is why I love this sport. That is why I love the Chiefs. I always want them to win and I hope to watch them win the Superbowl someday while I am still vertical. But, ultimately I watch the Chiefs because it “entertains” me to no end. They are my team and my passion. Other than wanting to sleep in on Mondays when they lose, I still for 40 plus years now, get excited when Sunday rolls around and I’m entertained for a few more hours. You see, I will always believe each and every game we play there is a chance we will win.
    Go Chiefs.

  • September 13, 2011  - David says:

    15 weeks of piscatelli-poor defensive backfield play ahead. Ugh.

  • September 13, 2011  - scott evans says:

    My bottom 5 guys that should not be on the roster
    1) Piscatelli
    2) McGraw
    5) Battle

    All cheap, all having proven to be of extremely limited value (or perhaps detrimental)if they have to step in and be expected to contribute on offense or defense. All having no decernable upside. All indictments of Pioli having the ability to build a roster. That there are multiple players on this bottom of the barrel list that actually might have to start is unconscionable.

    Feeling like season tickets were a total waste of time and money.

  • September 13, 2011  - el cid says:

    Nicely put Jimbo. But we were not bushwhacked, no you might have been but negative nancies (also know as some who have a faint idea of what NFL football is about) were not. Be a fan and enjoy the Chiefs but look at the bigger picture. Fans leaving like they had a sale at walmart made Kansas City look like clowns for all the US sporting world to see and comment on.

    This team was built cheap and you get a cheap building that does not compete in the NFL. No point to beat it to death, there are 15 more games but with fans like you who are satisfied to sit on their couch sunday and just enjoy being there is….well I guess your are right it is your fault the Chiefs look the way they do. You never demanded more.

  • September 13, 2011  - el cid says:

    PS for all your long suffering satisfaction, I sat in center field on bleachers in the 60s and still have my wolf pack gloves. No, there were lots of us then, not so many left but no prize for your sacrifice.

  • September 13, 2011  - Jimbo says:

    I can demand better all day long el
    cid. That is not my point. Nor if I did would it be effective. The Chiefs in the past have had payrolls near the top in the league. (no Superbowl) We have had opportunities to draft what turned out to be hall of fame players on someone elses team.(we picked the wrong guys) We have paid top dollar in the past for free agents. (no Superbowl).
    My expectations for the Chiefs are always great and for you to think that I am satisfied with below average results is missing my point completely. My dad & I have also sat on a cold seat or two at Municipal Stadium. I have football signed by Jeryl Wilson, Ernie Ladd & Bobbie Bell.
    All I ever wanted was the Chiefs to win every single game they played. That has never changed. My point was that I am not going to lose any sleep or get all pissy every time my team loses. Life is too short. It is a sport that I have absolutely no control (power) over. I understand this. I am just a fan albeit a slightly gray haired one.
    I just like to watch them play. I know you do too.
    Go Chiefs.

  • September 13, 2011  - Carl says:

    Why do the Chiefs keep trying out and/or adding players that have been cut by four or five teams and out of football for a year or two?
    Is this really the best way to build a team? I think not!

  • September 13, 2011  - el cid says:

    And why do them seem to mostly be TEs?

  • September 13, 2011  - Michael says:

    No point in pissing matches about who has been the most long-suffering Chiefs fan; there’s plenty of us graybeards around.

    Ok, so the Chiefs suck, Pioli sucks, Haley sucks, and Clark Hunt sucks, too. They never were any good, aren’t any good, and never will be. Now what? Fire Pioli and Haley. Can’t fire Hunt; so hope he finds two that are better. Start another rebuild from the bottom up, again. What are we looking at here? 3 years, maybe more? Teams aren’t required to spend to the cap minimum until, what, 2012, 2013? So, Hunt can’t be forced into it until at least then.

    2014, 2015? Maybe something good by then. Nope. Guess what, you’re a Chiefs fan so hopeless is the way it will be until Hunt sells the team and moves it from KC. Am I right, or am I right, el cid?

  • September 13, 2011  - Ragtime says:

    Pioli has to take a ton of blame here. There is no depth on the roster. If he had addressed the defensive line early in the draft or through free agency the secondary wouldn’t be so exposed.

  • September 13, 2011  - Michael says:

    I agree, Ragtime. I’ve been saying for the last couple of years some of that available money shold be spent on at least some quality depth.

    And, even though I personally wouldn’t label Tyson Jackson a complete bust just yet. This year is it. If he doesn’t make it, they have to admit the mistake and move on. I don’t know if I even want to get started. But, sitting on draft mistakes too long is a team killer.

    Belcher should be replaced by Williams. Find somebody, anybody, to replace McGaw and Piscatelli. Wiegmann is now too old and too small. Both he and Lilja are gettting thrown around like rag dolls. Richardson is regressing. Maneri, hopefully Gaither can take over? Cassel is either regressing or the injury is limiting him too much. Either way, if he can’t do better you have to put Palko in. Do I think that’s a great idea? No, but it’s what you’ve got, and at least he can run around out there and extend plays and now and then he thows a pretty nice ball. And why are Chiefs receivers never really open? They always have a defender right on them. Except for that one play against Buffalo where Urban was wide open, and Cassel didn’t see him. Do they not know how to run a pick play like everyone else? Chales may not be able to be an every-down back. Might have to see a lot more of Jones, McCluster and Battle with Charles sprinkeled in. Or find someone else, although there’s not a lot out there now. Wow, you can go on and on with this stuff…Just my opinions, but, Jimbo I still agree with you. I’ll keep watching and hoping for the Chiefs to do good in any and all phases. Can’t help it. I always want them to win and do well.

  • September 14, 2011  - James Braunwalder says:

    Right on Jimbo!!

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