A Blessing In Disguise

When Robert Geathers knocked Trent Green senseless on opening day, what had seemed to be a promising season suddenly looked bleak. I was one of many who feared that this devastating injury, combined with the team's 0-2 start, would be too much to overcome. I expected I would soon be mouthing that most dreaded of fan clichés: "Wait 'til next year."

Even casual NFL fans know what happened next. Reserve quarterback Damon Huard came off the bench after attempting one pass in five years to lead the team on an improbable run. Huard won five of eight starts, including a three-game stretch when the Chiefs scored more than 30 points in every game.

Along the way, KC's offense transitioned from a high-flying unit into a dominating, pound-the-ball attack preferred by head coach Herm Edwards.

Would this transformation have been as easy had Green been under center the whole time? I sincerely doubt it.

Dick Vermeil's Chiefs were very proud of their glowing offensive numbers. From 2001 to 2005, Kansas City sent 27 players to the Pro-Bowl: 25 of those players came from the offense. You don't receive that many accolades without creating some kind of pride on the part of the participants.

While the team never publicly indicated any dissatisfaction when it became clear Herm Edwards intended to change their identity, common sense tells you that some members of that offense had to be uncomfortable. Stats mean money and notoriety for the players that pile them up, and Edwards' new direction promised to limit those opportunities for some players.

When Green suffered his concussion against the Bengals, the Chiefs had lost the one player most pundits felt they could not afford to lose. They replaced him with a journeyman quarterback that had not started in five years. Suddenly, Edwards no longer needed any "sell job" to convince his team that pounding the ball was the way to go. Running back Larry Johnson had established himself as a legitimate NFL star after rushing for 1,750 yards in 2005, and the team still had two Pro-Bowl guards on the offensive line. Sheer common sense dictated Johnson become the focal point of the offense. The Chiefs would also have to depend on the defense to keep them in games.

After early struggles, most notably in Denver and Pittsburgh, the team caught fire and won three straight games. With defenses keying on Johnson, Huard racked up 11 touchdown passes against only one interception and, lo and behold, the team won games.

By the time Green returned against the Raiders, the team had confidence in "Hermball" after their successful run. Winning is even better than statistics. Right now there isn't a whole lot of nostalgia for the Dick Vermeil/Al Saunders offense.

While this transformation came about due to Edwards' persistent effort to change the culture and has been cemented by success on the field, Green's injury also played a role. If the Chiefs had suffered early struggles with Green under center, the team would have naturally blamed the new direction of the offense for the failures. Not only would the team have been less willing, deep down, to follow Edwards' new direction, they would also have been quicker to doubt it once they suffered adversity.

In many ways, Green's injury played right into Edwards' plans.

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