Instability is the enemy


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Jan 22, 2006
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Instability is the enemy
May 25, 2006, 3:56:31 AM by Jonathan Rand

Change brings hope to an NFL franchise. Change also brings setbacks because it takes time for even the best-planned changes to start clicking.

A new coaching staff brings in fresh ideas and new players and must be willing, as the old expression goes, to take a step back to take two steps forward.

When you get the right players in the right system and keep them together for a few seasons, success should result. But first come the growing pains.

Which brings us to the Chiefs. New coach Herman Edwards inherits on offense athletes who’ve played and succeeded together under one system. He inherits on defense athletes who haven’t played together for very long — and the few who have will be learning their third defense in four seasons.

The Chiefs’ offense, the NFL’s total yardage leader for the past two seasons, probably will start seven players, including five Pro Bowlers, who’ve been together since 2002, Dick Vermeil’s second season.

When you put standout players in a well-designed system under a talented coordinator, you should enjoy the kind of success the Chiefs have had on offense.

The defense has been an entirely different story. From the Chiefs’ defense in 2002, only four starters even remain on the roster and just two started last season.

The Chiefs offensively are a fine example of how nothing succeeds like success. When good players jell, they’re kept together and make a good unit even better. When new players come in, they have an optimum chance to succeed because they’re surrounded by top players and in a system that works.

And the rich get richer. Priest Holmes, one of the league’s top running backs, went down and Larry Johnson stepped in and made the Pro Bowl. Surely, he would’ve become a star anywhere, but would a lesser line have enabled him to close out 2005 with nine straight 100-yard games? Probably not.

It remains to be seen if the Chiefs’ offense can keep humming with a new coordinator, Mike Solari, and Edwards’ increased emphasis on the running game.

While the Chiefs have tried to keep their offense together, they have, understandably, kept taking the defense apart. There’s no point preserving a unit that isn’t stopping anybody. Hence the Chiefs’ continual search for better players and schemes.

Now it’s Edwards’ turn to improve his defense’s talent, attitude and design.

Some veterans claim that Edwards’ defensive empathy already is boosting their morale. The Chiefs drafted for defense with pass rusher Tamba Hali and three defensive backs. He has rising stars in end Jared Allen and linebacker Derrick Johnson. His defense should be respectable if he can find a reliable cornerback opposite Patrick Surtain.

Edwards is going with a cover two defense, which is a rock-solid concept, providing the front four can pressure the passer without much help from blitzers and the outside linebackers can get downfield in a hurry.

A new coach normally might be given a few seasons to fix a problem area but the Arrowhead faithful can’t be expected to wait that long. The Chiefs, 10-6 a year ago, should be ready to win now.

Edwards’ first order of business will be to stop the defensive merry-go-round. He’d want to do that quickly, anyway. Given the number of offensive stars pushing retirement age, he’ll be seeking stability on the other side of the ball soon enough.

The opinions offered in this column do not necessarily reflect those of the Kansas City Chiefs.
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