From America’s Highways & Byways
There was a lot that got done with the Chiefs during the last six months.
But then, there was a lot to do.
And the new regime of Scott Pioli/Todd Haley has not solved all the problems, plugged all the holes or gotten every questioned answered.
There are some things that didn’t get done.Â Here’s the top five.
GETTING BRIAN WATERS ON BOARD
There’s no question that Waters is one of the team’s best players. Now, that may be damning him with faint praise given the team is 6-26 over the last two years, but other than Larry Johnson, he’s the only returning Chiefs player who has sniffed the Pro Bowl.
Most people consider Waters one of the team’s leaders. Now again, that’s a tainted label given the fact the team has performed so poorly in recent years. The media likes to label Waters a leader, but that’s because the guard is always approachable and always willing to talk. If he’s as much a leader as everyone thinks, then he needs to start doing a better job of leading.
No matter what happened between Waters and Haley in their now famous hallway conversation back in February, that situation should be history. It appears it is not from Waters perspective. His only appearance was for the mandatory mini-camp, when missing would have lead to a fine. He showed up and was out of shape compared to his teammates. There was still pout in his demeanor.
It’s going to be very interesting to see what type of shape Waters is when he arrives in Wisconsin. It’s going to take him a lot of work over the next six weeks to get his conditioning to the level that Haley is looking for from his players.
That Waters decided to make himself an outsider during this off-season is a disappointment. Thankfully for the Chiefs, there was Mike Goff. He’sÂ a year older and has played two more seasons in the league than Waters, but Goff was at every single off-season practice. Haley said the team honored Goff in one of their final meetings for his efforts during the last three months.
Goff has played in seven games in the playoffs over the last four years with the Chargers, who won three of those seven. In the same time frame, Waters played in one post-season game and did not get a victory.
If there was something for Goff to accomplish with this team during the last three months, there was certainly something for Waters to get done in this off-season.
GETTING MIKE VRABEL ON BOARD
Pioli/Haley believe in actions, not words. So forget Vrabel’s words during his brief appearance with the team, specifically his commentsÂ that he was happy to be with the Chiefs.
Go by Vrabel’s actions and his absence from all the non-mandatory work with the team says he’s not thrilled by his change of address. That has to be a disappointment, especially for Pioli. Getting Vrabel at this point of his career isn’t so much about production in the defense. It’s about him bringing the Patriots Way to the club. Vrabel was one of the poster boys for the way Belichick built those Super Bowl teams.
He’s smart, he’s durable, he’s versatile and he’s a leader, or was. Certainly, he can still bring those features to the Chiefs. But the fact it hasn’t happened during this off-season is a hole in the Chiefs picture.
NO PASS RUSHERS ADDED
When a team sets a new NFL record for pass rushing futility, it would figure that would be an area where a lot of attention, bodies and money would land in the off-season.
That hasn’t been the case with the ’09 Chiefs. There have been veteran pass rushers available and they did not land in Kansas City. The most recent example is DE/OLB Greg Ellis, released by Dallas who signed with Oakland.
It appears that Pioli/Haley believe a change in scheme will bring more pressure on the quarterback. If what was seen in mini-camp and OTA sessions is how the Chiefs are going to rush the passer, then they are going to rely heavily on the blitz.
Defenses that live by the blitz will eventually die by the blitz. The Chiefs need somebody to step up their game and get the quarterback on the ground.
NO PUNT/KICKOFF RETURNER IDENTIFIED
Haley makes it very plain that special teams are going to be important to him and the ’09 Chiefs. But as the summer vacation started, they don’t appear to be any closer to identifying a solid return man than they were when Haley and the staff first walked into the building.
In the public portions of practices, very little was done in the area of punt or kick returns. The one time they did work on catching punts, rookie Quentin Lawrence struggled to hold onto the football. Haley will stress ball security on special teams and he’s not going to give a fumbler a second chance.
First-year guy Rodney Wright has also been back returning kicks and punts, but his experience in that area comes from Arena Football over the last five years. RBs Jamaal Charles and Dantrell Savage handled some kickoffs last year as rookies; in fact Savage had the team’s longest kick return at 59 yards.
Again, there were returners available in free agency, but the Chiefs kept their hands in their pockets. The job is wide open.
NO OFFENSIVE WEAPONS ADDED
The plus/minus scale for the Chiefs offensively did not balance out in this off-season. On the minus side is TE Tony Gonzalez, traded to Atlanta and taking with him about 20 percent of the passing game over the last few years. On the plus side would be 36-year old, 14-year receiver Bobby Engram. He’s a possession/slot receiver at the end of his career.
Whether it was at tight end, wide receiver, or in the backfield, the Chiefs needed to add another weapon for Cassel to work with. It didn’t happen and that could have season-long consequences.
As proven and consistent NFL receivers, the Chiefs offense has WRs Engram and Dwayne Bowe. That’s it. WR Mark Bradley has shown flashes, but he’s not consistent and is often injured. WR Devard Darling seems to have the skills, but has never been given the opportunities. WRs Jeff Webb and Terrance Copper are journeymen types.
Cassel is going to need top notch protection because there are not many receivers available who can create plays with their speed, quickness or moves.
CHIEFS/MISSOURI WESTERN/STATE COMPLETE DEAL FOR TRAINING CAMP
The agreement between the Chiefs and Missouri Western University in St. Joseph for training camp is finally done and moving forward.
Last minute political histrionics by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon and his minions slowed the process down, but ultimately they stepped aside and the tax credits needed to get Missouri Western up to standard to hold an NFL training camp were approved and documents have been signed.
The Chiefs agreed to hold camp at Missouri Western for five years and agreed to hold training camp in the state of Missouri for 10 years. Those were pledges made during negotiations with the state months ago. The Chiefs agreed to nothing new in this deal.
Now that the money is set the next question to be answered is whether Missouri Western can get facilities constructed in time to hold training camp there in 2010. There’s a lot of work for the school to do in a very short period of time.
Eventually, Chiefs training camp will land in St. Joe. Whether that happens next year remains to be seen.
In late July, the Chiefs will go back to River Falls, Wisconsin for the 2009 training camp.
UFL HOLDS A DRAFT
Although it didn’t include already assigned players or quarterbacks, the United Football League held a draft on Thursday night. Whether they wanted to do it secretly or under cover we don’t know, but there was little or no pre-hype on this event.
The UFL’s four teams picked players over 24 rounds, all of it done by phone and computer.
Among the players selected that Chiefs fans will rememberÂ are LB Gary Stills (Las Vegas),Â WR-KR B.J. Sams (San Francisco), FB Ronnie Cruz (Orlando) and S Oliver Celestin (New York).
SIGNINGS & MOVEMENT AROUND THE LEAGUE
NFL – suspended Cleveland Browns WR Donte Stallworth indefinitely and without pay after he pleaded guilty to drunk driving charges in the case where he struck and killed a man in Miami.
BENGALS – signed seventh-round draft choice WR Freddie Brown.
BRONCOS – released S Herana-Daze Jones, CB Rashod Moulton and RB Kestahn Moore.
DOLPHINS – signed sixth-round draft choice OT Andrew Gardner.
EAGLES – fired assistant secondary coach Otis Smith.
JAGUARS – claimed LS Jeremy Cain on waivers (Redskins).
RAVENS – signed fifth-round draft choices LB Jason Phillips and TE Davon Drew, sixth-round choice RB Cedric Peerman and LB Tony Fein; released DB Anwar Phillips, DB David Jones, QB Drew Willy and DE Luis Vasquez.
STEELERS – agreed to terms with third-round draft choice WR Mike Wallace and sixth-round draft choices DL Sonny Harris and C A.Q. Shipley; released DE Jeff Bradley, WR Jayson Foster, FB Ryan Powdrell, WR Cedric Goodman, LS Mark Estermyer and QB Kevin McCabe.
SAY HAPPY BIRTHDAY …
Born on June 19, 1976 in New Orleans was CB Patrick Surtain. He joined the Chiefs for the 2005 season and played four seasons at Arrowhead (2005-08). He appeared in 55 games with the Chiefs, starting 49 games. Surtain had eight interceptions. Before coming to the Chiefs, he played seven seasons in Miami.
Born on June 19, 1981 in Westwood, New Jersey was OT Kevin Sampson. He was a seventh-round choice in the 2004 NFL Draft out of Syracuse. Sampson played in 16 games with seven starts over three seasons with the Chiefs (2004-06).