Move #6: Promoting Mike Solari

Chiefs head coach Herman Edwards had to decide what to do with Al Saunders this off-season. Under Saunders, Kansas City's offense set NFL records in scoring and yardage. But Saunders name became a hot commodity as a head-coaching candidate, so Edwards turned to Mike Solari when Saunders bolted for Washington.

Solari has more than paid his dues in the NFL. Regarded as one of the best offensive line coaches in the league, Solari has been with the Chiefs for ten years. If there's been a consistent part of the team during his tenure, it's been the offensive line.

After a three year stint as offensive line coach at the University of Kansas, Solari was offensive coordinator for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1986. He lasted only one year in that position and bounced around the NFL and NCAA until he came to Kansas City in 1997.

Edwards felt there was no better man to run his offense than Solari, a hard-nosed coach who is both vocal and passionate with his players. The two played college football together at San Diego State, but that was not the reason why Edwards hired him.

Solari's coaching mentality appears to be similar to that of defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham. That makes him the perfect choice to run this offense.

You're not going to find many people that will say anything negative about Al Saunders. He was a great person and always answered questions with an air of confidence. But sometimes he was guilty of running the same type of plays too often. You like to run certain plays and you stick with what works, but sometimes that catches up to you.

The key factor for Solari this year will be his ability to change things up during the course of a game. NFL defenses are getting tougher and tougher to fool. Talent on offense is one thing, but execution is what separates playoff contenders from playoff pretenders.

He's inheriting a handful of all-pro talent, which should lead to a smooth transition. But does he know enough about the passing game to get the ball into the hands of someone else besides Larry Johnson?

To help him, he has a former offensive coordinator on his staff. Quarterbacks coach Terry Shea spent a year in Chicago running the offense, but due to quarterback injuries and an inept front office, the Bears parted ways with Shea after only one year.

Shea is a gifted quarterbacks coach and if there are any shortcomings in the offensive game plan from a passing standpoint, Solari can lean on him.

Edwards has made it very clear that he intends to run the ball a little more this season than in years past. But I have a sneaking suspicion that he might be a little more creative than people are giving him credit for.

In New York, he didn't have a running back as talented as Johnson or a tight end as gifted as Tony Gonzalez. He also didn't have a quarterback as efficient and cool in the pocket as Trent Green. You mix that up with an incredible offensive line, and the sky's the limit for this team.

Solari's best attribute might be his ability to teach. Like Edwards, Solari was a former player. He understands that today's players relate better to coaches who have played the game.

On offense, its all about attitude and swagger, but you have to be quick on your feet in this league. You need an offensive coordinator who can tell what's working and what's not working, and has the ability to recognize it and change it up on the next series.

With all his experience, Solari comes across as a guy who can do just that. You don't last that long in the NFL and college if you can't adapt and make changes on the fly.

Edwards made the decision very early on that Vermeil left him some very talented offensive coaches. He chose to keep some of them and let some of them go. As an insurance policy, he brought in his assistant Dick Curl from New York.

But it will be Solari who must make the right calls and more importantly put the correct players on the field to execute. This team still has some questions along the offensive line – especially at right tackle - and they don't have Tony Richardson in the backfield any longer. That's two holes to plug, and there's still wide receiver talent that needs to be developed.

It'll be his job to get some of the pieces that had not been used in recent years to blend with the veterans. If he can do that, then clearly Edwards made the right choice in promoting Solari to the position of offensive coordinator.

The fact he surrounded Solari with a cast of great offensive coaches should help him if he struggles. But that negative also gives Solari an edge, because everyone around the league knows that Solari will have this team ready to go. Opposing defenses might assume one thing and get something completely different.

And that's what must happen for this team to continue its offensive dominance in 2006.

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