Remembering Jack Palace & Draft Day Diet

It has been 42 years since the Chiefs appeared in the Super Bowl and 19 years since their last victory in the playoffs. The Chiefs are now entering the fourth year of the Pioli regime and the sixth year since the organization decided to clean house and start with their youth movement.

Kansas City isn’t Green Bay. There isn’t a waiting list of 78,000 for season tickets. Fair or not, even dedicated fans that have supported the franchise for years have lost or are losing their patience. The Chiefs haven’t been a Super Bowl contender since Dick Vermeil left, and by his own admission they weren’t going to get there if he stayed.

During that time the AFC West has evolved from the NFL doormat to one of the most competitive divisions. It boasts two of the top rated quarterbacks in the game in Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers and at least on paper Denver has improved dramatically from last year, when it won the division.

Every AFC West team was one key victory away from the divisional title last year. All of the front offices are staffed by experienced professionals who have the ability to move their teams in the right direction. The Chiefs, Denver and San Diego all have experienced NFL coaches who have won, although none of them consistently. San Diego has the most consistent system, as Norv Turner has been there for several years. All of the other head coaches are either in their first or second years.

If the current Chiefs brain trust isn’t enduring sleepless nights and considerable hand wringing about the draft and the direction of their franchise, they likely won’t be in their current positions very long. They need to do something special to stir some excitement, and they need to do it soon. Handing out one Nike jersey to each season ticket account holder is a nice gesture but no one will feel like wearing it or displaying it unless they win.

They need to convince the fans that they are committed to getting to the Super Bowl. The early Chiefs and Raiders teams were built using that goal as their measuring stick, and it resulted in some of the best teams in the history of football. Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers were designed in that mold, and Bill Polian built the Indianapolis Colts and Buffalo Bills to be winners and not just contenders.

The Chiefs need to take a cue from legendary actor/tough guy Jack Palance – prove that you can do something extraordinary when your industry thinks you can’t, and win an award in the postseason.

Palance was who appeared in scores of movies and like many of the old actors, really was a tough guy. After being in Hollywood for 42 years, he won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Curley, the old grizzled cowboy in City Slickers.

The Chiefs could get some inspiration from watching the video of Palance’s Oscar acceptance speech, which ranks as one of the most entertaining acceptance speeches of all time. First, he told the Academy that he crapped bigger than Billy Crystal, his co-star, and then he told them that he got the part by proving that he could do “things”. He took a couple to steps to the right of the podium, got down to the floor in his tuxedo, and churned out a few one handed push-ups at age 73. You can watch the clip by typing in “Jack Palance Oscar” on Youtube.

In City Slickers, Palance’s character tells Billy Crystal that the secret to happiness is finding that one thing in life that’s important. When Crystal asked what that one thing was, Palance tells him: “That’s for you to figure out.”

The Chiefs need to figure it out.

The Chiefs need to prove to their fans that they can do “things”, like drafting some players that have an immediate impact, signing some more complimentary free agents and developing their existing talent. If they don’t, they will likely end up where the Vegas odds makers have ranked them – 3rd in the division with 45 to 1 odds to win the Super Bowl. That’s not what Clark Hunt envisioned back in 2007 when he started the rebuilding process, or 2009, when he made Pioli one of the highest paid executives in the NFL.

It takes a gambler’s mentality to build a team to win the Super Bowl because you need elite players at key positions in order to separate yourself from the other contenders. The single most important position has proven to be at quarterback, as the last nine Super Bowls have been won by teams quarterbacked by Eli Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady and Tom Brady.

The losing quarterbacks in the last nine Super Bowls are Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Peyton Manning, Kurt Warner, Tom Brady, Rex Grossman, Matt Hasselbeck, Donovan McNabb and Jake Delhomme.

Tom Brady was not an elite quarterback when he won his last two Super Bowls, but he was good enough, and his defenses were excellent. Grossman and Delhomme were gun slinging quarterbacks backed by good or great defenses, and Hasselbeck was close to elite when Seattle lost to Pittsburgh. Roethlisberger played poorly in his first Super Bowl, but his defense was excellent and bailed him out.

The bottom line is that a great defense can get you to the Super Bowl with a good quarterback, and an elite quarterback can get you to the Super Bowl without a great defense, but you probably won’t win it without an elite quarterback and good defense.

Scott Pioli has only been part of drafting two quarterbacks who have started in the NFL – Tom Brady and Matt Cassel, both in the later rounds of the draft. It’s doubtful that an elite quarterback prospect will be available when pick number 11 rolls around, so the Chiefs will go into this year with a good but not great quarterback. History suggests that they need a great defense.

To be a great 34 defense, you need some combination of a nose tackle like Vince Wilfork, a playmaking inside linebacker in the mold of Clay Matthews or Ray Lewis, and a safety like Troy Polamalu or Ed Reed. They have the safety in Eric Berry but could use another because they don’t have depth and don’t know how Berry will perform this year. They have excellent linebackers, but could use an elite inside linebacker who could stop the run and rush the passer, and they haven’t had a dominant nose tackle since they switched to the 34. It shows. They were the 26th ranked team in the NFL last year against the run.

If the Chiefs’ defense doesn’t evolve from a good to a great this year, history suggests that fans will need more patience. There are no elite impact free agents available, so the draft will make or break the Chiefs’ hopes for post season success this year.

By the time pick 11 rolls around, Luck, RG3, Kalil, Blackmon, Tannehill, Richardson, Claiborne and Reiff will likely be off the board, which means that at most three elite defensive prospects will have been taken, in addition to Claiborne. The three highest rated impact defensive players available will likely be Luke Kuechly or Don’t'a Hightower at linebacker, Mark Barron at safety (who many rank just below Eric Berry in ability and can play both the run and pass) and Michael Brockers, a defensive tackle from LSU.

The recent selections of Baldwin and Jackson in the first round don’t give me a lot of confidence, however, so I am going to eat a lot on draft day. Hunt and Pioli are larger than Billy Crystal, and I am going to want to get any disappointment out of my system as quickly as possible.

7 Responses to “Remembering Jack Palace & Draft Day Diet”

  • April 26, 2012  - Johnfromwichita says:

    OK, going to be yelled at as FKC, again, but I’m going to say again, Chiefs won the Superbowl in 1970 because Lenny Dawson was good, recivers and running backs were good, O-Line was very good and the defense was great. Right now Cassel is good, the recivers and running backs are good, the O-Line is improving and the defense? They did beat Green Bay, but did Green Bay really care that much? Whooo, all those fans in green shirts after the game did! I think the defense is so close to being very, very good that two draft picks tonight could make a difference. One last thing: quit pretending we are a 3-4 defense. That’s nonsense. We don’t even have the personnel for a 3-4.

  • April 26, 2012  - el cid says:

    John, Pioli won. He is golden to the Hunt family. Nothing else matters. Winston a great move, two backup, RB and TE, and a wash at CB. That is what they have done to be a better team in 2012. Guess you have to throw in Crennel as HC over Haley.

    This draft and Winston, if the injured do not return and play lights out, this year could easily keep the Chiefs in 4th place in the West. It is just the way it is in KCMO.

  • April 26, 2012  - kcarrowhead says:

    Or, Winston will be a great move, Hillis and Boss will play key roles, Routt will give the Chiefs the best play of his career, all the injured guys will come back and play lights out, the Chiefs will have a solid draft and be in the thick of the race for the AFC West crown. I guess it all depends on how you want to look at things.

    KC may not have had the personnel for the 3-4 a few years ago, but they do now for the most part. No team has a prototypical player at each position. In some cases, you just have to make it work, such as with Dorsey at DE. Even at that, the 3-4 really employs 3 DT’s along the front line.

  • April 26, 2012  - Johnfromwichita says:

    OK. With Poe they are now more of a 3-4. Strange that Pioli would spend so much to prove me wrong.

  • April 27, 2012  - johnfromfairfax says:

    kcarrowhead has a point. I’m not a Pioli worshipper but I’ll give him a pass on this until we see how it works out. People have been ripping Poe but he did play on a very bad team and he has some talent. he also fills a glaring need for our defense if it’s going to go from good to great. We’ll see how the rest of the draft plays out but this team is truly a mystery at this point.

  • April 27, 2012  - Johnfromwichita says:

    Fox Sports this morning named the Chiefs as one of the drafts losers. Sigh.

  • April 27, 2012  - kcarrowhead says:

    Those kind of reports from Fox and the rest mean nothing, and we all know that. No one ever goes back to check them the year after, or anytime after that.

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