When the Chiefs fell to the 0-7 Miami Dolphins several weeks past, playoff aspirations were officially crushed. Sure, the Chiefs still had an outside shot of edging out Oakland, but let's face it - this team had nothing positive left to take from this injury plagued season.
That was until the Broncos decided to officially move on from Orton. By claiming Orton off the scrap heap, the Chiefs' 2011 season officially took on new life. The Chiefs fan base finally had something to look forward to. Sure, Orton had been beaten out by a second-year quarterback, but for a battered Chiefs fan base, Orton brought a chance of redemption.
Orton made the Chiefs interesting again. But all those high hopes went up in flames when a flea flicker resulted in nothing gained but more questions from an already confused fan base.
The initial reports on Orton are a dislocated finger, but the effects of the injury likely won't be known until well into next week. Either way, it's looking like the Chiefs spent $2.5 million for one incomplete pass.
I have never been someone who roots for losses to garner better draft position, but the Chiefs gained nothing with a victory Sunday. The Chiefs' offense is one of the worst we have seen in the NFL (including the Herm Edwards offenses, which were bad enough to result in his firing) and is doing nothing but getting worse. When Tyler Palko completed what would later become the game-winning touchdown pass, the only gain was the justification Todd Haley needs to start Palko next week in New York.
But I hear you out there, already - "a win is a win is a win." Perhaps, just not with the Chiefs.
Look at the team's previous wins this season. All could have an asterisk applied due to facing terrible quarterbacks, teams with extreme organizational dysfunction, or both. The Chiefs have learned nothing from their victories this season and will continue to do so until the emphasis is placed on the future.
This season is no longer about winning, it's about the future.
It's obvious Palko is not a capable NFL quarterback. No amount of winning will change that. The Chiefs do not, however, know what they have in rookie Ricky Stanzi. The team will likely have a shot to pick a quarterback in the first round of next April's draft but before they do, the Chiefs need to know if that kind of investment needs to be made.
The Chiefs have a lot of holes to fill and will need to be diligent with their draft picks. They simply can't afford to invest in a position that is anything but a must. We can't say for certain that Matt Cassel isn't a capable NFL quarterback, but we can say that he could certainly use some competition. With Orton out, let's see if the Chiefs have that competition in Stanzi. If not, then acquiring a quarterback is general manager Scott Pioli's top priority during the offseason.
Stanzi isn't the only player who needs to find the field. Running back Jackie Battle, defensive back Travis Daniels, nose tackle Jerrell Powe, and offensive linemen Rodney Hudson and David Mims need playing time. The concept of winning not being the ultimate goal will not go over easy with most sports purists, but equate it to baseball's September call-ups.
In baseball, when the season is late and for all intents and purposes over, you sacrifice winning for early player evaluation. The Chiefs will have a lot of questions to answer during the offseason, including the one about the head coach. Answering as many of those questions as possible in 2011 will go a long way towards ensuring a promising 2012.
WARPAINT ILLUSTRATED MESSAGE BOARDS:
Was KC's win meaningless?
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