Chiefs fans, be patient!


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Jan 22, 2006
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Chiefs fans, be patient
The Kansas City Star

If Willie Roaf doesn’t change his mind, we’re going to need to change our expectations.
We could be looking at a rebuilding year for the Chiefs. There’s nothing wrong with that. You can rebuild in the NFL on the fly. And if you’re lucky, you can rebuild in eight to 10 games and sneak into the playoffs.

If the Chiefs reach December with a 5-6 record, they conceivably could finish 9-7 or 10-6 and be a dangerous wild-card playoff team. Right now, with no Willie Roaf and with Will Shields hobbled by an ankle injury, I just don’t see the Chiefs being consistent or strong the first half of the season.

How could they be?

Herm Edwards took over the team with the idea of fixing Kansas City’s defense — particularly early in the season — by controlling the ball and the clock with KC’s punishing ground attack. Kansas City’s leaky defense can’t leak when Larry Johnson is chewing up 5 yards a carry.

The subtraction of Roaf and fullback Tony Richardson damages more than Johnson’s fantasy football value. It throws Edwards’ overall plan into flux. Edwards wanted to maul opponents on the road. I’m not sure it can be done with Kyle Turley at left tackle and Ronnie Cruz leading Johnson into non-existent holes.

Throwing the ball will be even more risky. Thirty-six-year-old Trent Green can’t weather the beating he’ll probably receive in a pass-happy attack. The Chiefs don’t have a legitimate backup quarterback (I have Jeff George’s cell number).

So what should the Chiefs do?

You’re not going to like my game plan, but it’s the only thing that makes sense at this point. Kansas City’s best player right now is punter Dustin Colquitt, and Edwards should call his number as often as Larry Johnson’s.

My old college coach called it “field-position football.” Three runs and a punt formed a beautiful combination, a winning combination. Edwards should be far more conservative than Marty Schottenheimer lunching at Rush Limbaugh’s house. Colquitt and return man Dante Hall should be KC’s offensive MVPs the first half of the season.

On defense, Edwards should scrap using the Tampa 2 as KC’s base defense. He should let Gunther Cunningham turn Ty Law and Patrick Surtain loose in bump-‘n’-run coverage and blitz whenever the mood strikes. Surtain and Law are KC’s two most experienced and proven defenders. I’d let ’em earn their money.

Law and Surtain could fix the Chiefs’ poor pass rush. If they can cover man to man, Gunther can send Kendrell Bell, Derrick Johnson and the Chiefs’ safeties after the quarterback and crashing into potential running lanes. It’s a high-risk, high-reward scheme. But is there reason to believe the Chiefs can accomplish anything sending their front four after the quarterback?

Also, I’d stick Kansas City’s rookie safeties — Bernard Pollard and Jarrad Page — on the field from the get-go and let them grow up on the job. This defense is going to have to create turnovers. Pollard and Page’s big-hit instincts could lead to some forced fumbles. I wouldn’t bench Greg Wesley. He’s pretty good in pass defense, and on Thursday against the Giants he stoned a runner for a short gain the way he used to as a rookie. I’d rotate Pollard, Page and Wesley.

As the season wore on and the young guys — Page, Pollard and Tamba Hali — improved and the team developed an identity, I’d slowly loosen the offensive reins and hope that I reached the Dec. 3 road game against Cleveland with five or six victories.

The Chiefs will play three winnable road games at the end of the year — Cleveland, San Diego and Oakland. Those three teams, in my opinion, will struggle because of suspect quarterback play all season. The Chiefs’ two home games down the stretch — Baltimore and Jacksonville — will be difficult.

But Arrowhead in December is a monster.

By the season’s last month, the Chiefs could be a decent team. They’ll have to hope that 9-7 or 10-6 will be good enough to qualify for an AFC playoff berth.

Whatever happens, we all need to be patient this year.

The Chiefs were dealt a major curveball when Roaf retired. A veteran team that was trying to make one last run at a Super Bowl became an old offensive team in need of rebuilding once Big Willie decided he’d rather eat chili.

I actually feel sorry for Carl Peterson. Seriously.

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