First off, if you’re expecting something radical, immediately, don’t hold your breath. It took nine circles of Hell knocking on the door in 2012, lawsuits a mountain of scar tissue, paper bags, airplanes and tragedy for Clark Hunt and family to finally blow up the Scott Pioli Era and start clean.
The 2015 Kansas City Chiefs aren’t there. Yet.
Of course, after a fifth straight defeat — this one a 16-10 slog at Minnesota on Sunday — they’re inching closer to the kind of awful nobody expected to see anytime, certainly not anytime soon, as long as Andy Reid was on the headsets and John Dorsey was buying the groceries.
But 1-5 is 1-5. And here we are.
So: What’s next?
Start backup Chase Daniel against the Steelers at home? The former Mizzou star has done everything asked of him in a Chiefs uniform — which, granted, hasn’t been much — but he’s also in a contract year with a contract that doesn’t seem earmarked for a return engagement.
If football was Madden, you’d throw quarterback Aaron Murray to the wolves and see what happens. Just because.
But this isn’t Madden. It’s reality. And the reality is that, in an untrusting game, a untrusting business, the Chiefs lead the league in at least one other intangible right now besides crushing disappointment: Loyalty.
And they’re paying for it.
They can’t really run the ball (18 totes, 57 yards) without Charles. They couldn’t really block with him. Each week, the defense looks great for three quarters at a time, while the offense only looks functional for one.
That’s not how you become a purported Super Bowl contender. It’s how you become the Oakland Raiders.
To paraphrase the late Yogi Berra, 90 percent of every NFL battle is half mental. Committing eight penalties for 95 yards on the road, as the Chiefs did at TCF Bank Stadium, is bound to get you beat 90 percent of the time. With 13:30 to go in the first half, Smith had thrown for a grand total of just one yard while his offensive line had been whistled for three holding calls.
For the third time in four weeks, and for the third straight away tilt, Reid’s men looked outcoached and underprepared for the first two-and-a-half quarters of the matchup.
That’s on Andy.
And Andy’s staff.
And Dorsey, who brought the pieces for the chess board.
And Alex Smith, who has to try to maneuver them without getting his brains beat in.
The only thing all of them have done consistently since mid-September is let down the other parties involved, invalidate all that faith.
It’s as if the 2015 Chiefs were put on this Earth to torture people. Mainly, their fans.
Those same fans have turned their collective backs on Smith, the way they turned their backs on Matt Cassel nearly four years earlier. A nice guy who couldn’t win games by the sheer force of his arm and/or will or hang on to the ball has been replaced by a nice, smart guy who can hang on to the ball but also can’t win games by the sheer force of his arm and/or will. Adversity sifts the elite signal-callers from everybody else, and the more things around No. 11 fall apart, the more wanting his skill set appears.
To put it another way, Smith looks dynamic as a lead man when he’s gt the Foo Fighters backing him up. Replace Dave Grohl and the gang with Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, though, and the locals treat big Alex like just another Muppet.
Maybe Daniel can squeeze more blood from this stone, but you wonder. Dumb mistakes and brain cramps are becoming frequent, more damning, and nothing wears away at a team’s psyche the way losing does — be it losing games or losing star players (Charles for the season; wideout Jeremy Maclin for the game with a fourth-quarter concussion). The only thing worse than a 1-5 locker room is a 2-9 locker room, when egos and agendas start crossing off the calendar days until 2016.
Even when fate smiles on Reid right now, it’s as if his roster doesn’t know how to get out of its own way. With 4:38 left in the contest, the visitors down 16-10 but having just completed a 37-yard dart to tight end Travis Kelce, Chiefs tailback Charcandrick West — one of the understudies carrying the flag for Charles — fumbled the ball away at the Minnesota 38. Upon replay review, the rock appeared to have been accidentally jarred loose by a teammate rather than a Vikings defender.
Three circles down. Six to go.