By dominating the Chiefs soundly in all three phases of the game, the Broncos hopefully made it clear to Haley and the Chiefs that their formula is flawed. The unfortunate and embarrassing side effect of this domination is that the Broncos also made it clear to the entire NFL that the Kansas City Chiefs are frauds. They are not deserving of the first-place honor they held for the first eight weeks of the NFL season. The 3-0 start was a hoax.
How else do you explain a 20-point loss to a 2-6 team that hadn't won a game in over a month? We can't even chalk this one up as an aberration because the cracks that showed in the Chiefs' armor over the last month were viciously ripped open against Denver, and our greatest fears about their weaknesses were confirmed. To make matters worse, this savagery wasn't even performed by a particularly talented team. The Broncos have been decimated by injuries this year and, even when healthy, are without question a terrible football team.
The Chiefs are masquerading as a playoff competitor right now. The idea that they can win the AFC West and make some noise in the postseason this year is a fantasy. At this point, even making the playoffs would be a surprise. Unless something changes drastically by the end of the year, we're all going to be disappointed.
So, thanks to McDaniels and the Broncos, we've just been introduced to the real 2010 Chiefs. Just how deep does the rabbit hole go?
The Real Matt Cassel
Making a case against Cassel every week is getting old, but there is no shortage of Chiefs fans who choose to believe in him. Warpaint Illustrated's own Publisher, Nick Athan, is now propping him up, trying to pass him off as someone who has arrived as a franchise quarterback and is, quote, "living up to the expectations that warranted his $63 million contract a year ago."
This isn't personal, Nick, but I'm sorry, I just can't allow this myth to be perpetuated. I won't sit idly by and allow people to believe it without at least hearing a dissenting voice.
The truth about Cassel is that his statistics – 16 touchdowns, four interceptions, a 95.4 quarterback rating – are a complete mirage. Chiefs fans are so thirsty for a quarterback they see Cassel as an Oasis in the desert. Unfortunately, if they attempt to drink they'll just wind up with a mouthful of sand or, even worse, camel dung.
Cassel's 469-yard, four-touchdown performance against the Broncos was the most deceptive start of his NFL career. After Kansas City fell behind 35-0, every pass was a lie. The idea that the Chiefs could have won the game thanks to Cassel's "prolific passing," that his amazing game was somehow sabotaged by KC's defense, is ridiculous.
The truth is that the Chiefs' terrible defensive performance exposed Cassel as a fraud. When he absolutely had to drive his team down the field and respond with scores, when he absolutely had to live up to the expectations of his contract, he was at his worst. He couldn't convert third downs, the issue that has plagued him all year. He was a drive killer.
Cassel has been terrible
on third down.
One possession later, after the refs intervened and gifted the Chiefs with two drive-extending first downs, Cassel dropped back to pass, oblivious to a blitz coming from his right. He was also oblivious to a wide open Dwayne Bowe and a wide open Mike Cox as he surrendered to the blitz. Despite the fact he wasn't even hit hard, he then fumbled and the Broncos ran the ball back for a game-clinching touchdown.
The competitive part of last Sunday's game ended with that play. Instead of lauding Cassel for the statistics he put up after that point, we should all recognize just how meaningless they are. Cassel may have thrown for the second-most yards in franchise history, but stats are for losers. If you need more proof, just look up the quarterback who's ahead of Cassel on the list.
The Chiefs will miss the playoffs if Cassel doesn't improve his performance on third down. Right now, they are ranked 26th in third down conversion percentage, and Cassel struggles to convert even short third-down situations. He's completing a pathetic 47.3 percent of his passes on third down. In the entire NFL, only Donovan McNabb is worse.
It should be noted that there's a fairly obvious correlation between third down success and Super Bowl winners. Of the last 19 champions, only two were below average in third down conversion rate – the 2005 Steelers and 2002 Buccaneers, who both fielded top five defenses. Even the 2000 Ravens were 11th in third-down conversion rate, which essentially means Cassel is no Trent Dilfer.
Here's the statistic you won't find on ESPN.com. The Chiefs have asked Cassel to convert a third or fourth-down situation 90 times this season. He's converted, via pass or run, on only 36.6 percent of those opportunities (33 conversions). Considering that almost one-third (10) of those conversions came in one game against a team (the Texans) that fields not only the NFL's worst pass defense but is on pace to field the worst pass defense of all time, it's difficult to consider Cassel anything but an extreme liability at this point.
The Real Todd Haley
Haley played nice for nine games and projected a professional, calm appearance. All signs pointed to a reality that he had passed an anger management course with flying colors. But his defiant finger thrust in Josh McDaniels' face following Sunday's 20-point embarrassment in Denver is proof that leopards don't change their spots.
It's clear Haley's done a nice job of controlling his anger. But it's obviously still there. What other conclusion can we draw when he acts unprofessionally and childishly after his team has been exposed by the head coach of a bottom feeder? It's pretty clear what happened – McDaniels put a clown suit on Haley, and he didn't like it.
Haley doesn't appear to like McDaniels. It's not surprising, because the young head coach is everything Haley would like to be at this point. If you'll recall, both entered the 2009 offseason as hot head-coaching candidates with impressive offensive resumes.
McDaniels, for all his blunders, has legitimized his reputation as a passing-game guru. He's turned Kyle Orton into a fantastic pinpoint passer. The Broncos replaced Brandon Marshall with a receiver who has done nothing in the NFL – Brandon Lloyd – and suffered little dropoff. Lloyd leads the NFL in receiving.
Haley still has a temper.
Let's be honest. Herm Edwards and Chan Gailey produced more explosive and efficient passing attacks in Kansas City. That stings, especially when you drop $63 million on a quarterback.
It goes beyond reputation, however. McDaniels has taken Haley out behind the woodshed twice in three meetings now. Denver made mincemeat of the Chiefs last Sunday, but it was nothing compared to the 44-13 Bronco Beatdown at Arrowhead last season.
After getting completely owned like that twice already, why did Haley stick a finger in McDaniels' face and tell him there's a lot of (expletive) being talked about him? All he did was ensure McDaniels, who scripted the first 18 plays against the Chiefs, will bring his A game to Arrowhead in two weeks. McDaniels has more incentive to beat the Chiefs that day than he has to beat any other team remaining on Denver's schedule.
If the Broncos seem uncommonly motivated on December 5, we'll know why – Haley woke up a sleeping giant. If the Chiefs desperately need a win to keep their playoff hopes alive in two weeks, the idea of them facing a pissed off last-place team trying to avenge a public slight against their head coach isn't too appealing.
Bottom line – Haley wasn't acting in his team's best interests when he gave McDaniels the finger.
The Real Scott Pioli
With the Chiefs on a slide, is there a reason no one is talking about Pioli? He shouldn't escape criticism at this point. He laid the groundwork for all the problems currently plaguing the Chiefs.
This offseason, Pioli tried to bolster Kansas City's wide receiver corps with Chris Chambers, Dexter McCluster and several nobodies off the NFL scrap heap (Jeremy Horne, Jerheme Urban, Verran Tucker). Ten weeks into the regular season Chambers is a ghost, McCluster is injured, and the Chiefs are splitting out Tony Moeaki and Jamaal Charles because they have absolutely no depth or legitimate NFL talent at wide receiver outside of Dwayne Bowe.
Pioli failed to upgrade KC's
front seven and receivers.
The Chiefs have allowed 24.6 points per game over the last five weeks. Should we really be surprised when Pioli didn't bother to upgrade KC's front seven over the summer? If the reigning NFL Personnel Man of the Decade had brought in even a decent wide receiver or pass rusher this offseason, the Chiefs might have beaten the Texans and Raiders.
Kansas City faces three Top 10 scoring offenses in their final seven games, not to mention the suddenly prolific Denver Broncos. It won't be shocking if Kansas City's defense continues to get exposed. You wonder if Kansas City's offense will be able to keep up with Cassel revealing his true nature on every third-down snap. That's the reality of the 2010 Chiefs.