Roaf Spot


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Jan 22, 2006
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Aug 04, 2006, 8:37:11 AM by Rufus Dawes

Nothing is more dangerous than to live in the temperamental atmosphere of a Gallup Poll, always feeling one’s pulse and taking one’s temperature.“
- Winston Churchill

To hear the media pass judgment one day that the season has been saved by the arrival of one aging player, only to dismiss it a day later by the loss of another, is to identify just how foolish it is to pay serious attention to such claims. In 2003 and 2004 New England’s starters lost a total of 142 games to injuries and their teams still won the Super Bowl both years.

But whatever the retirement of Willie Roaf implies, it surely makes clear the perils of relying on older players to carry you, if indeed you are one of those who continue to make the case that Roaf has done just that.

Dating back to 1989, the Chiefs have relied heavily on veteran players. The idea that Roaf could somehow go on forever, or that Will Shields can, or that any number of Chiefs can seems to be a notion that many in the public and media just can’t kick. If, indeed, the season is hanging by a thread represented by one player – who could fall victim to injury at any time – then the coming season or any season is never one that you can truly enjoy.

Aging players are prone to injury and Roaf was no exception. The Chiefs are an aging team that needs to get younger, in case you hadn’t noticed – the third oldest in the National Football League (26.4 years of age). It has been that way for some time – longer than you can remember – and that appears to be OK for most folks. But Kansas City had a starting lineup on offense that averaged 30.8 years of age last year, the second oldest in the NFL.

A team populated with old players finds itself with plenty to worry about. First there’s the matter of games lost to injury. Last season, the Chiefs lost 30 games and just half of the team’s starting lineup started all 16 games, according to NFL records. By contrast, Super Bowl champ Pittsburgh, a young team, lost just 16 starters to injury and in 1992 the champion Cowboys, another young team, lost only eight. Secondly, the old vets eat up a team’s salary cap and if they are on the roster at the start of the season teams have to pay them no matter what happens to them.

Nevertheless, no one would be foolish enough to discount Roaf’s value or his worth as an important part of one of the strongest positions on the Chiefs, perhaps one of the strongest units in the National Football League. But that is just what he was – a part and any attempts to cast him in a light that makes him a bigger part, or the most important part, is to discard the truth in favor of pleasing myth. Willie Roaf helped the Chiefs win plenty of games these few years, but he wasn’t the reason they won them.

Lose Larry Johnson and Trent Green, well, then there’s something to fret about.

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