This Is A Big One … Game-Day Cup O’Chiefs

From Oakland, California

As the Chiefs begin the post-bye portion of their schedule, they now have a much clearer vision of what their team is and could be in the 2011 season.

Losing three very important contributors in RB Jamaal Charles, TE Tony Moeaki and SS Eric Berry, they started the season reeling. They struggled to find their equilibrium without the offensive engine in Charles and the defensive leader in Berry. It was an ugly first two games, as they were outscored 89-10 in the worst back-to-back beatings in the 52 seasons of franchise history.

They were able to gain some balance after the blowout in Detroit. They fell by three points to the Chargers in a game where they had the ball in their hands and a chance to win or tie at the end. Then, they strung together back-to-back victories against two of the league’s worst teams – Minnesota by five points and Indianapolis by four points.

Now 2-3 and with football life in their lungs, they get back into action after their week off, facing division rival Oakland in what is the first of a very important four game-stretch of their schedule. Sunday’s kickoff is set for 3:05 p.m. CDT and the broadcast is set for CBS-TV.

If the Chiefs have any hope of climbing out of that 0-2 hole they dug for themselves at the start of the season, they must go 4-0 in this next month of games if they expect to be any type of contender in defense of their 2010 AFC West championship.

After the 4-2 Raiders, they host San Diego (4-1) in the Halloween/Monday night battle at Arrowhead Stadium. Two more home games follow, with Miami (0-5) and Denver (1-4). Win all four and they are 6-3 with victories over the two teams currently ahead of them in the division. Lose any one of the four and that drops them to 5-4 at best. Split the four games and they can kiss the post-season dreams good bye.

“This is a very important game for us,” said head coach Todd Haley. “It’s a division game. It’s a division road game. It’s a team that beat us twice last year. We dug ourselves a hole with our bad start and we can’t stop now.”

One thing the Chiefs can carry with them into this important stretch is the fact they continue to perform for Haley, despite the controversy that seems to dog their head coach at every turn. In recent weeks there was the blow up between Haley and QB Matt Cassel on the sidelines during the victory over Minnesota. In the bye week, 610Sports reported that if the Chiefs had lost to Indianapolis, GM Scott Pioli was going to fire Haley. No attribution was given for the information; it was stated as fact.

Pioli seldom talks on the record with the local media, but he actually broke silence and told the Arrowhead Pride website the report was not true. The whole affair only intensified the already vivid picture of dysfunction between the team’s GM and head coach, which is a very real problem right now for this organization.

Through it all, Haley marches on and he’s kept the players in line behind him, even after that embarrassing 0-2 start.

“We have a lot of faith in him (Haley) and he makes it known that he has a lot of faith in us,” said CB Brandon Flowers. “This coaching staff has us ready to play every week. There haven’t been any surprises or bad decisions. When we’ve had problems, it’s been because we’ve had our head up our b*#@.”

The key phrase around the Chiefs locker room continues to be “work in progress.”

“We are getting better at stopping the run,” said NT Kelly Gregg. “It’s a work in progress.” Or, when conversation turned to the offense’s passing attack, Cassel said: “We’ve been working hard and that’s starting to show. We keep improving and continue to be a work in progress.”

That progress must lead to victories in the next month, four of them against the Raiders, Chargers, Dolphins and Broncos. It starts with Oakland, a team that beat them twice last season, including demolishing them in the regular season finale by shoving the ball down their throat with the running game.

It’s rare that from one year to the next nothing changes with the Raiders. From the time they beat the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium, the Raiders changed head coaches, putting Hue Jackson in charge. They brought in some new coaches, including offensive coordinator Al Saunders who held the same position for five years with the Chiefs (2001-05). They lost All-Pro CB Nnamdi Asomugha in free agency, but kept other players they wanted.

And in the last few weeks they’ve lost their ultimate leader in Al Davis, and made a trade for a field general in QB Carson Palmer.

Even with the turmoil, the Raiders have played good football. They now have won eight straight games against the AFC West; the last time Oakland dropped a division game was on November 15, 2009 when the Chiefs beat them at the Coliseum 16-10. In that eight game winning streak, the average margin of victory for the Raiders has been 14 points.

Their success has come on the line of scrimmage, where they have been able to open holes and running room for Darren McFadden and Michael Bush; McFadden currently leads the NFL in rushing. Defensively, Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly on the line and second-year LB Rolando McClain in the middle have been the keys to a defense that has 16 sacks and nine takeaways.

The Raiders sold enough tickets to this game that the local TV blackout was lifted, so there will be a good-sized crowd on hand for the game, especially with a weather forecast that calls for sunshine and temperatures in the high 70s.

It presents quite a chore for the Chiefs. But it they are to continue down the road to proving the 2010 season was not a fluke, it’s a game they must win.

“We don’t have a lot of options,” said ILB Derrick Johnson. “We’ve got to win.”

6 Responses to “This Is A Big One … Game-Day Cup O’Chiefs”

  • October 23, 2011  - Tenand6 says:

    The bigger story to me out of 610 Sports is that Scott Pioli spoke in a negative manner and/or planted a negative story about his head coach with a member of the media. Perhaps more than once. If that is true, then Scott Pioli must be fired. That is the height of dysfunction. It is an act of cowardice in a business where courage and loyalty must be core elements of the Mission Statement. It also runs counter to the almost bizarre secrecy regarding team matters with the media. I would put this claim on par with betting against your team.

    I now have an additional reason to hope the Chiefs win today and several more going forward—- I want Pioli to look like an even bigger ass than rumored. And I want Clark Hunt to take a second look at what he’s doing to the Chiefs. The fact seems to be there is dysfunction at the upper levels of this administration. That ultimately falls at Clark Hunt’s door step— his Dallas doorstep. That’s a problem with this organization that won’t go away. Absentee owners and under-performing GM’s aren’t a recipe for success. If the Chiefs finish 8-8 this season, Haley has earned his money and then some.

    Go Chiefs!

  • October 23, 2011  - Mike says:

    I’ve done a 180 on Haley over the last two years. I believe he’s got the support of his team and the ability to lead them positively. I’ve also done a 180 on Pioli. He came in with an outstanding reputation as a draft guru. He had a tremendous draft in 2010, but zilch (except for Mr. Irrelevant) in 2009. The jury’s still out on the 2011 draft, but it would appear closer to 2009′s than 2010′s. If either Pioli or Haley has to go, I’d vote for getting rid of Pioli. It appears that he was a draft guru only because it was Bill Bellyache really pulling the strings. Just my thoughts.

  • October 23, 2011  - Aloha Ray says:

    “The whole affair only intensified the already vivid picture of dysfunction between the team’s GM and head coach, which is a very real problem right now for this organization.”

    Bob, could you paint this “vivid” picture a little better with some actual reporting to back it up. What are your specific examples of dysfunction between these two men? On what are they disagreeing? What decisions, and who made them, that are causing the problems? I agree with you completely that reporting that has “No attribution” and is simply “stated as fact” is no way to do business, so how about building a clear and coherent case to support what is so obvious to you. I would be interested in reading that.

  • October 23, 2011  - Tenand6 says:

    Kevin Harlan alludes to this “dysfunction” when he’s on 810. No one is going to give up their sources. A common report is Chiefs officials have told reporters not to side with Haley’s challenges because he won’t be around much longer. Harlan admitted last week that the team is playing hard for Haley and (paraphrasing) Pioli hasn’t had the drafts or personnel moves to demonstrate his/Pioli’s competence as a new GM. That was a big turnaround from what Harlan said the week before. I think Harlan was one of those guys clued in about Haley being a “problem” and on the way out.

    This is a huge story. If Pioli is putting the word out to the media that in any way undercuts his coach, that’s the either incompetence, treasonous or both.

    This team has a good coaching staff. It’s a very young team that probably gets more out of OTA’s than more established teams. That and the injuries have been huge setbacks— but instead of showing public appreciation and support of his head coach, Pioli has hidden behind a perverted cloak of secrecy that has apparently allowed him to make manifest his insecurities by trying to scape goat his coach that has developed strong relationships with his players….which should be lauded.

    The “Pioli Way” is to be secretive to a fault. It appears to be a mechanism to protect him as much as anything else. Again, Bob’s report that Pioli in his first draft shut out Peterson’s entire scouting staff— who had damn good credentials and track records— was one of the most astonishing stories I have ever read. Pioli thought so little of the people that scouted and drafted Hali, DJ, Bowe, Flowers, Carr, Charles and Colquitt that he would read their reports or talk to them about the college players they spent years in evaluating. The KC and national media did not pick up on this blockbuster report as far as I can tell. That wasn’t just a blunder (proof is Pioli’s first draft), it was an insight into the Chief’s new GM….and not a pretty one at that.

    There’s enough on the record now to start getting a sense of where the dysfunction stems from and why the Pioli-Haley rift hasn’t been put to rest by the Golden Boy GM the Chiefs thought they hired.

  • October 23, 2011  - cychief24 says:

    I don’t live in KC so I must be missing something.
    Will you please address what Tenand6 is talking about?
    I will say this. There is no way anyone can judge what kind of a NFL Head Coach is or will be when Clark/Pioli have us $30+ million under the cap.
    That is all on Clark/Pioli.

    4 big games here. We sweep and we are in great position. 3-1 and we are still relevant.
    Go Chiefs!

  • October 23, 2011  - Michael says:

    I agree with Aloha Ray. How about some actual facts and evidence. All the other stuff just sounds like stories cycled by people who watch too many soap operas.

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