Chiefs Skinny: Next Year is Now for Kansas City

In a world of spin and feel-good hype, Coach Dick Vermeil could smile painfully and proclaim that the handful of young players showing promise during this too-little, too-late three-game winning streak by the Chiefs is a promising indication of better things to come in 2005.

Vermeil's always-hopeful outlook would suggest that would be his approach. But that isn't necessarily the case.

"You feel pleased that some of these young kids are growing and learning, but it's no consolation (in a 6-8 season)," Vermeil said.

"I'd rather see them not play at all and have 12 wins right now with those guys just waiting and chomping at the bit to get their opportunity to play. We're in the business to win football games first and develop players as we go."

Sure, it's hopeful to see young players such as Larry Johnson rush for 100 yards in three straight games -- all Kansas City wins. It's encouraging to see young tackle Jordan Black step into the right tackle spot and hold his own. It's a positive watching unused rookie receiver Samie Parker who caught three balls for 84 yards with a 48-yard touchdown bomb in his first real action. Rookie defensive end Jared Allen is only two sacks shy of the tem rookie record set by a guy named Derrick Thomas, and first-year safety Willie Pile is looking more and more like a real keeper.

A lot of young Chiefs will get a chance to show their stuff to a stuffed Christmas Day national audience when the Chiefs host the Raiders on Saturday. Anxious to show the world that they are a better team than their record indicates, a lot of young Chiefs are approaching this Yuletide game eager to show their present employers -- or a future one -- that they belong.

The Chiefs as a whole want to keep their late-season surge going in the hope that it might generate some carryover momentum for 2005. That's a difficult proposition during the course of the offseason, but the idea of winning five straight at the season's end is a better ending than the 13-3 Chiefs faced a year ago when they failed to stop Indianapolis on any significant drive in a playoff loss.

Vermeil, while not a big believer in the carryover of momentum, does believe that a team gets better by going through adversity. A fourth straight win this week over the Raiders would show Vermeil that his team is once again heading where he wants it to.

"Real good football teams play very well in the (season's) fourth quarter," said Vermeil, citing the 18-2 final-quarter record of the past five Super Bowl champions. "We'd like to think we're a good team, so it's important we play well in the fourth quarter.

"It also means we've done a great job in handling adversity. We've diffused the criticism, diffused the negative evaluations, maintained confidence in themselves, refused to point the finger at themselves or their coaches.

"You know, you never remain status quo when you go through adverse situations. You either get better or you get worse. I think a lot of guys on our team have handled this well enough that they've gotten better, they've gotten tougher, and that's a very positive development."

SERIES HISTORY - This will be the 89th regular-season meeting between the bitter AFC West rivals. The Chiefs lead the series 44-42-2 in regular-season series after running their winning streak to three straight over the Raiders with 34-27 victory in Oakland three weeks ago. Top Stories