Sunday's victory over the hated division rival Broncos was a fun and appropriate way to finish off the 2011 Chiefs season, but let's call a spade a spade. This game was as about as meaningful as a Todd Haley led training camp and from the moment that game clock read all zeros, all efforts will now be focused on the 2012 season.
The Chiefs have a bevy of holes to fill including the head coach, quarterback, and several key free agents.
Warpaint's own Nick Athan expects the decision on the head coach to come in the next few days (if not sooner) but the future of free agents Dwayne Bowe and Brandon Carr may linger for some time.
Bowe left the game Sunday with what was being called a head injury initially and the Chiefs' offense struggled to move the ball from that point on. Most anticipate the Chiefs will slap the franchise tag on Bowe and they would be wise to do so.
Brandon Carr is the real wild card here. Carr is looking like a player who will get prime interest on the free agent market and seems reluctant to cut the Chiefs a hometown deal. The Chiefs will likely have the money to keep the secondary of Carr, Brandon Flowers, Kendrick Lewis, and the returning Eric Berry. Whether they will open up their checkbook after being notoriously cheap remains to be seen.
It has been amazing to watch the Chiefs' offensive playcalling and approach change since Bill Muir and Jim Zorn took over as primary playcallers. Although neither is likely to return as offensive coordinator in 2012, the way in which they have maximized their offensive weapons has been impressive. None of which has been more impressive than running back Dexter McCluster.
With the injury to Jackie Battle, McCluster's role in KC's offense this week was forced upon the offensive coaching staff and this team may be better off for it. McCluster had an impressive day rushing the ball for 61 yards and the Chiefs only touchdown of the day. He added 25 yards receiving.
The growing sentiment towards McCluster locally had been rapidly shifting towards the negative. His role has been largely undefined but we saw the best of McCluster against the Broncos.
It was perplexing to understand why the offense had not been called this way before. The Chiefs ran McCluster outside the tackles, which utilized his speed and open-field abilities.
When used in this role, and system, McCluster could be a major weapon when paired with the returning Charles in 2012. Let's hope the new coaching staff takes notice.
Steady As They Go
From the first moment Scott Pioli stepped foot on One Arrowhead Drive he has preached about consistency. For the most part this mission statement would have been on the failing end had it not been for the consistency of the defense.
This Chiefs' defense has been a reliable beacon of light throughout the 2011 season and lends real optimism for the future.
There has been just concern for Romeo Crennel's ability to lead this defense while taking the reins as head coach as well. With just the final three games to make our assessment, it appears Crennel can handle the extra duties. During that time, Chiefs opponents have averaged 296 yards per game and 11 points. To put that into perspective, the Pittsburgh Steelers, arguably the NFL's best defense in 2011, allowed 273 yards and 14 points per game.
One big knock on Crennel's defense, however, is the inability to register sacks. The Chiefs have pressured the quarterback on occasion but with little success or consistency.
Crennel appears to have a future Chiefs legend in Tamba Hali but has yet to find a steady running mate. Kansas City's pass rush was one of the worst in the NFL. They were able to mask the troubles in 2011 with exceptional secondary coverage but will surely get exposed without another pass rusher up front.
Linebacker Justin Houston had another promising day Sunday registering seven tackles and 1.5 sacks. If he continues to emerge as the player many thought he would be coming out of college, he may be the missing link this defense has be desperate for.
Stay tuned to Warpaint Illustrated in the coming days to get the best info on Kansas City's coaching search.
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