Five Things I Think: Earning the West

In this weeks five things, how the west was won, the empty seats at Arrowhead, Cassel's snub from the Pro Bowl, the team MVP and the NFT topic of the week.

1. Chargers Didn't Lose the West - Forget any notion that the San Diego Chargers lost the AFC West. Make no mistake about it the Kansas City Chiefs won it.

Within minutes of the Chargers 34-20 loss at Cincinnati, there was a euphoric yelp within the Chiefs nation. With KC's 34-14 victory over the Tennessee Titans earlier in the day, Kansas City became champs of the AFC West.

However when scouring the national networks to get their takes on the Chiefs improbable 2010 division title, the sentiment seemed to be that the Chargers lost the division and that Kansas City really was lucky to win it. ?

Well that's not the case. Outside of the Chargers home game against New England, a game in which they lost, the two AFC West combatants played virtually the same schedule. They both played the NFC West, with the Chiefs going 4-0 while the Chargers went 2-2. They also played the AFC South where Kansas City split their four games but the Chargers went 4-0.

And since their opening day loss against the Chiefs, the Chargers faced just four teams with a winning record, Tennessee and New England at home, Indianapolis on the road and Kansas City at home, they went 3-1 during that stretch.

The Chiefs faced three teams with winning records and they went 1-2 in those games. They lost road games at Indy, Houston and defeated the Jaguars at home.

But the reason the Chiefs won the west is based on the fact they were 8-2 against teams with losing records. On the flip side the Chargers were 3-7 against sub .500 teams this season.

Case closed!!!

2. Why the Empty Seats at Arrowhead on Sunday? - I'm not going to knock anyone within the Chiefs nation for staying home the day after Christmas. For those that failed to attend the Titans game on Sunday, they probably had good reasons to miss what ended up being the victory that pushed the Chiefs to division champions.

Fans need to show in full force for the opening round of the playoffs next month.
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Still there is something missing at Arrowhead. There is still a disconnect between the new regime and the old regime. Had Carl Peterson still been the teams President and GM, I doubt that there would have been an empty seat at Arrowhead last Sunday.

And that's not meant at a slight for the new blood running the ship from the Executive offices at Arrowhead. Because they are doing a much better job building a complete team on the field than Peterson did in his tenure.

To be fair, under Peterson's tenure he had the benefit of a world of marketing experience that came from his USFL days. He applied all the tricks he learned while running the Philadelphia Stars and made game days at Arrowhead something no Chiefs fan wanted to miss.

In fact, he created more of a social environment than a football environment on game days. Because if you weren't at Arrowhead on Sunday tailgating and socializing, you weren't cool. In other words, the party before the game was more important than the play on the field. Anything that happened inside the stadium was simply a bonus to the fans.

But that's not the way it is now. Fans are still a little leery of the Chiefs sudden turn around. And that's because losing has been the norm in Kansas City since Dick Vermeil retired. But when you win just ten games in three seasons, the reaction by the fan base is something that not many people can be all that upset about.

Still the Chiefs have to do more within the community and that has to start with General Manager Scott Pioli. For those outside of his inner circle, we really don't know anything about him. And though Chairman Clark Hunt was incredible early in the season when he opened the New Arrowhead, nobody within the media ever saw Pioli during the stadiums re-birth.

And that was unfortunate. Because I think fans want to know how much he loves the city and the Chiefs nation. They want to see him out in the community. In other words, the fans want a face they can see and feel. And anything less than that, could keep some fans away.

Sure winning helps but Arrowhead has yet to have a true sellout this season. But when you factor in the Chiefs won the AFC West, they will host at least one playoff game, they don't have the showman leading the pack. Peterson did it better than anyone and I know Pioli isn't that type of person.

But those I've talked to who know Pioli well tell me to a man that he's a very nice, charismatic man who exudes pride and confidence to those he works closest with. And with the teams success this season, it's time the rest of the fan base see a part of that personality.

3. Cassel's All Pro Snub - For all practical purposes Kansas City Chiefs Quarterback Matt Cassel was slammed by the All Pro voters. Sorry but his exclusion in favor of fellow AFC West quarterback Philip Rivers is a joke. Sure Rivers is a great quarterback but he couldn't guide his team with all that offensive talent to a division title.

QB Matt Cassel not the Chargers Phillip Rivers should have been an All Pro.
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On the clip side Cassel did everything in his power to lead the Chiefs to their first AFC West title since 2003. He was and is the Heart and Soul of his team and has displayed the kind of leadership that has catapulted the Chiefs into one of the top four teams in the AFC.

I know voters think that Rivers is a better quarterback. But in my view he isn't even close. Sure statistics mean something to fan voters. However, those in the NFL (coaches and players) that would have seen Rivers flop in Cincy last Sunday, might have voted differently.

The Chiefs have been on the must win watch for two weeks and Cassel led them to victories on the road against St. Louis and last weekend at home versus the Titans.

For that alone, Cassel should have been the third quarterback behind Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.

4. The Chiefs MVP? - There is no question that Matt Cassel is the teams MVP on the field but there is another who is more deserving of the award. And in fact, he didn't even play a single snap under center. He never dealt with the elements nor did he even set foot on the field outside of pre-game. The Chiefs MVP is Chairman Clark Hunt.

Chairman Clark Hunt is the franchise MVP in 2010.
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No I'm not sucking up to the owner but honestly the work he did in guiding the franchise from the old stadium to the New Arrowhead was impressive. The fact, two years ago he jettisoned Carl Peterson and dug deep in the checkbook to make Scott Pioli the highest paid General Manager in the NFL, has already started to pay huge dividends.

A year and a half ago, we had a conversation at the Hall of Fame. In the Chiefs tent after the ceremony honoring the late Derrick Thomas, he made a very candid comment to me. We started talking about righting the franchise ship and the subject of his father came up. And he told me that he hoped he could duplicate what he did in brining a championship to the city and fans of Kansas City.

It was a very candid comment. One that told me that he was driven to do just that. And with his team on the verge of hosting a playoff game in Kansas City in ten days, it appears that he's a lot closer than either of us felt he'd be during that conversation.

The young Hunt has some very difficult shoes to fill in honoring the legacy of Lamar Hunt. In fact, I doubt anyone would even take on that challenge. And the fact, that he tends to be a bit more private than his father, he appears to be coming of age as the Chiefs owner. And he's on the verge of getting this franchise back to relevant in the AFC.

And when you consider that the Chiefs are at least one maybe even two years ahead of schedule, his leadership might be the reason that's the case. As a franchise the Chiefs have already overcome the hardest aspect of this turn around, they've changed the losing culture. Plus Hunt is putting his money up to secure some of the teams youthful core.

Last season he signed off on Cassel's $63 million contract. This year linebacker Derrick Johnson and running back Jamaal Charles received some big dollars to stay in Kansas City. Combined, their contracts were worth roughly $70 million.

That's a good sign for the young owner who in my view is well on his way to guiding his team to a Super Bowl in the very near future.

NFT: KU's Next AD - When University of Tulsa Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham snubbed the University of Kansas a few weeks ago, it sent a shocking message through the heart of Jayhawk land.

Kentucky AD Mitch Barnhart (left) has to wonder when his basketball head coach is going to get the attention of the NCAA.
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All of a sudden the University managed to whiff on the only candidate that was recommended by everyone on the search committee. In fact, even Bill Self, the spokesperson for the University, appeared to be happy with Cunningham.

Now Kansas, to their credit, has plugged all the leaks as they search for their new Athletic Director. But make no mistake about it, they have to hit a home run. The Kansas job, despite the mess left by Lew Perkins, is still one of the best in the country.

The basketball program is going to be great as long as Self is coaching the team. But the football program is a work in progress. And even though football coach Turner Gill appeared to be in over his head last season, he's on pace to garner a Top 30 recruiting class, which tells me he has a chance to succeed at Kansas.

So that leaves the new AD in pretty good shape. That is if they can find the right guy. In my opinion, there are only two candidates who fit the Jayhawks.

One of them is former USC AD, and one of the Super Bowl IV heroes for the Kansas City Chiefs, Mike Garrett. The other rests in Lexington, Kentucky where Mitch Barnhart currently resides as the Wildcats AD.

Garrett was caught under fire for the cheating that followed his head coach Pete Carroll. And from people I've talked with about that situation, he may have been relatively out of the loop during the entire Reggie Bush pay for play fiasco.

True he comes with some baggage and big question marks but he knows football and he could be a shot in the arm to Gill and his staff. Plus I think Boosters would warm to Garrett. He has an engaging personality and if the University of Kansas is going to increase it's profits, football has to be relevant again.

As far as Barnhart, he's a Kansas City native and I'm told he wants out of Kentucky. He's been privately lobbying for the job. And though Kansas has listened, I'm not sure they'd be willing to hire him. But they should.

Still why would he leave Kentucky? Well as long as John Calipari is the basketball coach, Barnhart is going to have to look over his shoulders waiting on the NCAA to offer an officially inquiry into the basketball program.

He never wanted to hire the used car salesman but that call come from Kentucky's chancellor. Barnhart had little choice but to fire Billy Gillispe, a close friend of Bill Self, in favor of the man who has been caught red handed at every stop in his college career.

Ultimately, Self would have to sign off on the hiring of Barnhart because of the way his friend was ousted at Kentucky. But should that happen, there isn't a better man for this job at Kansas than Mitch Barnhart.

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