I am going to speculate on several possibilities in this piece but one thing I can assure you of is that this organization will need to make significant changes if there is any hope to recapture the magic of Arrowhead.
The first and the most obvious change is at quarterback. Matt Cassel is exactly who he was in New England - a serviceable backup.
Can Scott Pioli, or for that matter anyone currently on the coaching staff, really believe Cassel is anything but? In public they might say "Yes, he's the Chiefs quarterback." In private, I guarantee the tune is far different than the sheet music. The only rub here is he's a $63 million dollar man. I don't believe Tyler Palko is the answer but Ricky Stanzi might just surprise everyone.
The next change, which will be the most controversial, is the head coach. I truly don't think that Todd Haley has the appropriate skill set to be a head coach. I see him for who he is, a micromanager.
Haley can't keep his mitts out of the assistant coaching staff's business. The job of the head coach, as I see it, is that of an operations chief. An overseer of purpose. The head coach provides the plan, strategy and direction. The assistants develop the tactics and implement the plan. A simple concept but difficult to implement with a man who needs to have input on everything.
I agree with one point relative to the head coach and that is the GM needs to let him do his thing. The problem in the current situation is the wrong guy is steering the ship, period. There has been plenty of chatter about who could be the successor here but no one will know for certain until Scott Pioli does something.
I can see several potential possibilities, many with playoff experience as head coaches. We've heard about Jon Gruden but as everyone knows he signed a five-year contract with ESPN and seems comfortable behind the desk. We've heard about Bill Cowher possibly coming back to save the day. To be honest, and I am a Cowher fan, I don't think he has any interest in coming back to Kansas City unless he has complete control. Brian Billick has been tossed around. We've heard of the Jeff Fisher possibility.
Let's talk assistants for a moment. Romeo Crennel is probably the best assistant on staff as it sits today. He has previous head coaching experience and coordinated Super Bowl defenses for the Patriots three times. Crennel would be an easy in-house choice, but does he have the support for that position from the front office? If Haley flames out around the Pittsburgh game and gets fired, Crennel, I believe, will be the interim.
Bill Muir? No comment. Maurice Carthon? Probably not. Jim Zorn? He wasn't impressive in his last stint and I think that will haunt him for a few more years. Emmitt Thomas? Always been an assistant and probably has no desire even in the interim.
So what happens if the other shoe drops? This will be the time for a new philosophy to emerge. A new plan, something for the future. I know, Arrow-Heads, we've been waiting for, and what is it now? Over 41 years for a return to the Super Bowl let alone a win! That is a long time but Cubs fans most definitely have it worse than Chiefs fans but that's a whole other story.
The Chiefs organization has seen many different philosophies over their existence but the two that have made the most impact were from two different eras and those coaches couldn't have been more different themselves. Hank Stram was more offense-oriented (although he did come up with the "triple stack" defense) and Marty Schottenheimer was defense-oriented. What they were both great at was establishing a management structure that built on the strength of the teams they created.
Both Stram and Schottenheimer also installed assistants in positions of authority to run it their way and not overly interfere. They allowed the development of tactics that followed their overall strategy and when implemented, were very effective. Stram with the moving pocket, expert game planning and creative play calling and Schottenheimer with Martyball.
Stram never had any coordinators but he had talented assistants. Schottenheimer had it all including assistants like Bill Cowher, Tony Dungy and Herm Edwards. Both of these eras are considered the best in Chiefs history.
The next era should bear the hallmarks of those storied teams. I'm not saying that the schemes need to be the same but the results should be. We need not only a head coach that can harness the assets that Pioli will bring but also a head coach who is willing to develop a plan to exploit the existing assets.
This team has serious offensive capability with Jamaal Charles, Dwayne Bowe, Jonathan Baldwin, Tony Moeaki and even Dexter McCluster. McCluster was affectionately known to the Ole' Miss faithful as "Run DMC." Let's see if the next head coach can really make this kid shine.
On the defensive side of the ball they have Derrick Johnson, Tamba Hali, Brandon Flowers and Eric Berry.
The problems aren't in the secondary on either side of the ball. The offensive line needs serious help and the defensive line as well. Maybe the 3-4 isn't the right scheme for this team. They don't have enough big bodies to claim the line of scrimmage thus releasing the linebackers to wreak havoc in the backfield.
The offensive line is, well, offensive. I don't think Branden Albert is a left tackle. He belongs at guard, maybe. Those of us who remember Willie Roaf know what a left tackle is supposed to do for a right-handed passer - seal the edge and pull on runs and create seams on stunts to the left. Albert has problems in both situations. Casey Wiegmann, as great as he used to be, will not be the answer at center next year.
Ryan Lilja in the right line is a beast at guard. This isn't the right line for his ability. When he had Jeff Saturday and Tarik Glenn next to him, we saw what the Colts could do. Lilja, with beefed up and skilled line mates, could make something work for a couple of more years.
The key to fortifying the lines is to create depth. I know that everyone has an opinion on who and how but what this team needs is someone willing to go out and find that depth. Whether it is free agents, solid late round draft choices or even trades, with $40 million in cap space, I'm pretty sure Pioli and his player personnel staff can find something. Ray Farmer and his staff may need to work a little harder, pound the ground a little more and dig a little deeper but I'm sure they can identify prospects with plenty of upside.
This offseason, I believe, will be more exciting and hold greater opportunity than any off-season in the last decade. I'm looking forward to covering a new approach with a fresh outlook. I'm looking forward to an organization with a clear direction and a plan. I want to hear them acknowledge they have an eye on the prize and really mean it.
No more excuses, no more "we're building for the future." You have the tools Mr. Hunt, let's see if Scott Pioli is as great a builder as you're paying him for and have him build it.
Just like the line in Field of Dreams, "If you build it, they will come" and Arrowhead will be feared again.
Looking to the Future
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