Considering it had been twenty years since a college safety was drafted in the top five and with other needs on this football team like defensive tackle and inside linebacker, I'd hoped for a better pick. Or even further, a trade down to garner even more picks.
On Sunday night Eric Berry was added to the 2011 Pro Bowl squad. And it was well deserved. After a slow start to the season, he came on strong in the second half of the year. He had four interceptions, two sacks and was outstanding in supporting the run from the opening bell. But to make the Pro Bowl in his first season is something we really shouldn't be all that surprised to see out of Berry.
There were moments this season when he looked like a rookie, especially when he had to cover tight ends that were more physical than his less than six foot frame could combat.
But Berry has something that eventually his lack of size can counter. He has impressive closing speed but more so he has heart and passion for the game. He was the teams second best defensive player behind Tamba Hali, who was going to join Berry in Hawaii for Sunday's Pro Bowl. But an undisclosed injury will cost him a seat at the Hawaiian table.
Speaking of Hali, it's hard to imagine that the Chiefs aren't making a stronger effort to retain the AFC's leading sack master. Hali finished the year with 15 sacks and there still has been no progress on contract talks with their soon-to-be free agent.
Forget the impasse between the owners and players (see my comments on that subject below) Pioli has to swallow his pride to get this deal done. Sure he's not the prototypical all around linebacker he wants for his 3-4 defensive schemes. But he's the best pass rusher this team has developed since Jared Allen. And before that, we have to go back to the late Derrick Thomas.
At hand right now is the fact that Hali, now that he is Pro Bowl bound, is going to be asking for even more money than he was earlier in the season. Top sack masters can expect a contract in the $65-80 million range. And I can't see any scenario that Pioli would pull the trigger on a deal in that stratosphere even for the talents of Hali.
The problem for Pioli is that he already has a lot of money tied up on defense. Derrick Johnson signed a new deal last October, Berry got over $65 million, and defensive end Tyson Jackson is the 18th highest paid defensive player in the NFL. Ouch!
The good news is that Hali wants to remain a Chief for life. The bad news is that it'll cost Pioli some major coin to keep him.
2.Why Marty's Son Passed on KC - There was little doubt that the small contingency of Chiefs brass that went to Pittsburgh on Sunday had very little interest in the AFC Championship game between the Steelers and Jets. Instead, they were there to see if they could lure New York offensive coordinator Brian Schottenhimer back to Kansas City.
Losing out on Brian Schottenheimer indicates that not many, if any, want to work with Todd Haley.
The Chiefs have struggled in finding a replacement for Charlie Weis. The word at the Senior Bowl on Monday evening and Tuesday morning is that most of the talented offensive coordinator candidates, don't feel that the Chiefs are going to be a good long term fit. And at the center of their hesitancy is Head Coach Todd Haley.
According to an NFL source I spoke with in Mobile on Monday evening, coaches like Schottenhimer don't want to come to Kansas City for a year. Already Haley has ruffled enough feathers inside and outside of the organization with his dealings with Weis. So much so that he's already placed himself on the 2011 Head Coaching hot seat. Per that reference, our source said that if Haley struggles early next season, he'd likely be one of the first coaches fired.
And as the team reached out to the young Schottenheimer, it's likely he didn't feel taking a lateral move, that would have included a promotion of sorts to assistant head coach, was enough to get him to leave New York and come to the Chiefs to save the day.
In fact, with aspirations of someday becoming an NFL Head Coach, it would be foolish for Marty's son to fix the offense in Kansas City and help Haley keep the job he might want someday.
For the moment, it appears that Brian Schottenheimer and the Chiefs are not going to get a deal done. And it also appears that Haley, right or wrong, will be the coach next season. Further, it would appear that any expectations for the Chiefs to repeat as AFC West Championship in 2011 are getting slimmer by the day.
With the Denver Broncos, Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers upgrading their respective coaching staffs, the Chiefs probably rank somewhere near the bottom in regards to stability and ability with the top three positions on their coaching staff.
A month ago before the Weis fiasco, they were at the very top of the coaching spectrum within the division.
It's sad to see how far they've fallen in just a month. It's even sadder that the Chiefs brass won't make, what will likely become the inevitable move with Haley in October or November of next year, right now.
That delay is just going to stunt their long-term success by a year or even two. And when you can't sell out your stadium for a playoff game after winning the division for the first time in seven years that could mean more blackouts and numerous losses in 2011 in Kansas City.
3. Kudos to Cromartie – The New York Jets are certainly my guilty pleasure. I love their Head Coach Rex Ryan and even further their trash-talking players who were so good at it that it carried them to the AFC Championship game.
New York Jets CB Antonio Cromartie correctly and accurately called out his NFLPA Union Chief over the ‘War' comments.
Getty Images/Gregory Shamus
But one player, veteran cornerback Antonio Cromartie blasted the man, DeMaurice Smith, who is shamefully running the very union in a way that this football player doesn't agree with.
"So to tell you the truth they need to get their damn minds together and get this [expletive] done. Stop bitching about money. Money ain't nothing. Money can be here and gone. Us players, we want to go out and play football. It's something we've been doing and we love it and enjoy it. It's our livelihood," Cromartie told the national media.
However, it's what Cromartie didn't say in his jab to Smith, that needs to be talked about. What he wanted to say was that the rank and file of this union would willingly cross the picket lines and oust the men at the top of the union who claim that they are at War with the owners.
They're not really at War but Smith is as dumb as they come in walking the fine line of public rhetoric and understanding the deaf ears people have about the woes of his players. His jabs are hindering players like Cromartie who have to worry about creating even more bad blood between the players and the owners. His words both sharp and critical on both sides should have even more players upset with Smiths' tactics. Because what Smith is failing to understand is that this is a business dispute.
It's clear that the Washington attorney has put his own Political Interests ahead of what he's fighting for within the union he's suppose to be representing. He wants to run for the Presidency someday and unless he's the perceived winner in his ‘War' with the NFL owners, he won't garner the support he needs to run in 2016 against Sarah Palin.
And that's all he cares about. If he were a man who wants to be the premier power broker in Washington at some point, he would not be acting so childish in his dealings with the NFL.
Instead, he'd keep his rhetoric to a minimum and work behind the scenes to resolve the best way to split $10 BILLION dollars over the next five or six years.
And if he can't do that, the players are not going to lie down like they've done in the past. Because as Cromartie put it correctly, it's not just NFL players involved but it's the people who work for the teams and in turn there families that could be effected by Smith's lack of leadership and negotiating tact.
With Cromarties' comments becoming so public, it sounds to me as if Smith has lost all his leverage. And thus has scheduled for a hard bargaining session with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell later this week. It might be too little too late for Smith to save face now. But I do expect that players such as Cromartie will be even more vocal if he doesn't shut his mouth and get a deal done before the Super Bowl.
Because to me that's about how long Smith has to get that deal done before the rank and file rise and boot him to the curb. In my humble view, Smith has already overstayed his welcome in both the NFLPA and in Washington, DC.
4. Go Packers! - Growing up in Wisconsin as a little boy I bled Green. My Grandfather and Father were both die-hard Packers fans. However, when we moved to Kansas City shortly before Super Bowl I, my family became Chiefs fans. My Grandfather however, remained loyal to his Packers.
Packers Quarterback Aaron Rogers has made everyone forget about Brett Favre.
Getty Images/Andy Lyons
Both attended the first Super Bowl at the Coliseum in Los Angeles and as my energy for football grew, it was a hard to choose between my Grandfather or Fathers team. In the end, I became a Chiefs fan, mostly because back then Red was my favorite color.
Still I've always had a special place for the Packers in my heart. And as they ascend on Dallas next week, I'm going to give them my strong support in their attempts to become World Champions again.
To me the 2010 Packers were the hardest working team in the NFL. They overcame numerous injuries, at times a lack of playmakers, a very tough schedule and had to win their final regular season game just get into the playoffs.
On Sunday in the NFC Championship game against Chicago, they almost made a household name of third string Bears quarterback Caleb Hanie. But they held on down the stretch and did what they had to do to gain a birth in Super Bowl XLV.
I like their chances to defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers because I think this team is on a collision course with destiny. One that will forever, push aside the memory of former quarterback Brett Favre's reign as a Packer. Since his departure, he's been anything but a leader or role model.
As the scandals about his off-the-field behavior continue to grow week in and week out, at least the Packers won't have to deal with those distractions any longer.
A Super Bowl win will wash away any distaste the fans might have for Favre who at one point as a Packer was as revered as you can get in the city of Green Bay. Now he's just another player who led them to a Championship. Because right now this is Green Bay Packers Quarterback Aaron Rogers' football team and he's the present and future.
5. NFT: KU's Thomas Robinson - If there is one player that means more to the Kansas Basketball program it has to be sophomore Thomas Robinson. To me, he's the heart and soul of the entire team. But the tragic events that have surrounded his life over the last three weeks should really put a perspective on what sports should mean to all of us.
Even with a strong Kansas family in his corner, Kansas Basketball player Thomas Robinson continues to handle his recent hardships with class and dignity.
Getty Images/Jamie Squire
As a reporter the joy of watching sporting events has all but vanished. Today it's about trying to make sense of stories that have little to no content. To coaches, players who offer lip service because of fear of speaking how they feel. Or even worse, despite how obvious things really are inside a program or team, being told the truth about the inner workings of just that and having to stay silent about it.
But when a situation like the one that Robinson has been forced to deal with at such a young age has changed even my cynical outlook.
I already mentioned my Grandfather earlier in this piece. He was the greatest man I ever knew. He passed nearly 35 years ago and there isn't a single day that I don't think about something he said to me as a child.
It sounds like Robinson had the same relationship with his mother as I did with my Grandfather. The fact she suffered a heart attack in her 30's is tragic enough. But the fact, Lisa Robinson lost her parents in the last several weeks and has been in charge of raising Thomas and his young sister Jayla without the help of their biological father, tells me she was an amazing woman.
And that's all that matters right now. I could care less if the Jayhawks win another game this year, win the National Championship in April or which recruit decides to come to the program. What matters now is the well being and future of Thomas and Jayla.
It was heartwarming to hear that the NCAA will allow the University of Kansas to cover the costs of the funeral and allow the entire team to travel to Washington for the burial. Head Coach Bill Self has done a remarkable job of keeping his team together and carefully praising Robinson. Even further the Kansas Alumni base has come together from all over the country to offer their assistance.
In short order, they rallied to help the Robinson family. And they did so at a time when the University is under so much scrutiny for its embarrassing ticket scandal. It's a good sign that they are doing everything within the rules to help Thomas and Jayla.
I think this week it's important to understand why we love sports. Sure we all want our teams to win. But the definition of what makes us a fan should be based on the level in which we're willing to support our teams through the lowest of points.
Sure the Jayhawks basketball team still has an impressive win total. But that won't serve the players well in their future endeavors. How they deal with this tragedy will certainly define them as men.
Because in my view to be an elite college basketball team, their has to be a cohesiveness of the five guys who share the court at any given point in a game. If one key cog isn't functioning well, the rest as we've seen at times this season with the Jayhawks, can quickly fall apart.
That's why the pain on the faces of each of the players in this tug of emotions is so great. This will unite them ever further for today, tomorrow and even decades from now.
Thomas Robinson's loss can never be replaced. He will never see his Mother again nor will she ever see him play basketball in person. It's something that Robinson is going to have to live with during his remaining tenure at Kansas. And there is no doubt that on a daily basis, he'll be reminded of her in some way or another.
Still years from Thomas Robinson will look back at this time of sadness and hardship and be grateful that his extended family, the one that resides in the very fabric that is at the core of Kansas Basketball, was there for he and his sister.
Because going forward Lawrence, Kansas will always be home to Thomas and Jayla Robinson. It's cliché to say it but Dorothy had it right, ‘there is no place like home.'
WARPAINT ILLUSTRATED MESSAGE BOARDS:
Did anyone think Berry would be an All Pro his rookie season?