Now, in Week 14, there's a new epidemic that's threatening to bring down the Chiefs: The Pity Party.
Just over a week ago, defensive tackle Ryan Sims cried to the KC Star about his horrible lot in life that has doomed him to a role as a backup for the Chiefs. He said he lost his starting job in Kansas City because of an off-the-field meeting in training camp.
Just under a week ago, Sims showed us the real reason why he lost his starting job: he's not very good at playing defensive tackle. With starter James Reed and top backup Jimmy Wilkerson sitting out the game due to injury, Sims was called upon to play extended snaps against the Cleveland Browns.
Had you slapped another number on Sims' jersey, you probably would have missed him. He was almost completely invisible against one of the worst offensive lines in football. The only time I noticed him was when he waddled around and fell down trying to get to Browns backup quarterback Derek Anderson.
And Sims isn't the only one. This week, another underachieving Chief was crying to the KC Star again: Dante Hall.
Hall, like Sims, is having a horrible season. The Chiefs are ranked 19th in kick-return average and 22nd in punt-return average. But Hall's ineptitude goes beyond stats.
He's cost the Chiefs field position and turnovers with horrid blunders all year. Against the Bengals he muffed a punt. Against the Browns last week he let a late kickoff touch the ground, almost resulting in a live-ball recovery by Cleveland. He also let another return ball skip off his hands and go over his head.
Worst of all, he lost his cool. Hall was flagged for a 15-yard taunting penalty that cost the Chiefs valuable real estate at a key moment in the game.
What do Hall and Sims have in common?
They're both Dick Vermeil boys.
After the Cleveland game, Warpaint Illustrated Publisher Nick Athan wrote that several leftovers from the Vermeil era were still costing the Chiefs games. Originally, I thought his comment was a bit silly, but in light of "The Pity Party" going on in Kansas City recently, I'm now inclined to agree with him.
Sims and Hall have contributed to the loss column this year. So has safety Greg Wesley, another relic from Vermeil's regime.
He was absolutely awful in Cleveland. He was late in zone support on Cleveland's first touchdown of the game, a third-and-14 prayer thrown up by Charlie Frye. He got run over by a quarterback later in the game.
Like Hall and Sims, Wesley is soft. The Chiefs were often accused of bearing that label during Vermeil's time in Kansas City. After a nice road win over the St. Louis Rams earlier this season and hard-fought home wins against the Raiders and Broncos, I thought the Chiefs had turned a corner. I thought they had shed the "soft" label for good.
We found out different in Cleveland. There's still a soft core to this KC apple. Herm Edwards hasn't driven it from them fully.
Players like Sims and Hall would rather whine and complain to the media about their lackluster performance than correct their mistakes, work harder and get better.
What point is there in feeling sorry for yourself? None whatsoever. All it does is distract you from your job as a football player.
Does anyone remember Larry Johnson whining about his poor offensive line early this year? I sure don't. And all he's done is credit those big guys for his recent success. That's called being a professional.
If Sims wants to turn around his career (which will likely continue in another NFL city next season), he should follow the example set by James Reed. He's not the most talented defensive tackle in the world, but he keeps his mouth shut, works hard, plays with passion and doesn't complain. Edwards specifically sought him out in free agency this year, just because of those attributes.
Why can't Hall be more like Trent Green? He's played with him for almost six years now. Green isn't the most talented quarterback in the world, but he says the right things, works hard, stays focused on what counts and gets the job done. Green has overcome more adversity in his NFL career than most players. Hall is reacting badly to a poor season, but does it even compare to the travesty that Green was forced to endure during his first year as a Chief when he threw 24 interceptions?
How about Wesley? We'll give him credit for avoiding "The Pity Party", but no one will argue that he hasn't underachieved this year. His calling card, plucking errant passes from centerfield, has gone by the wayside in 2006. He has only two interceptions. Despite a bevy of competition at his position, he hasn't really been playing his best football.
All he has to do is follow Sammy Knight's example. Like Reed and Green, Knight isn't the most talented football player in the world. But he's not soft. Knight has been an instrumental defender in KC's run defense all year long. Despite his lack of speed, when was the last time you saw the deep zone on his side of the field getting exploited?
Yeah, there's still some softies on this football team. The good news is, Edwards has a plan. Sims won't be a Chief next year. Rookie Jarrad Page will surely supplant Wesley in 2007.
And Hall? Who knows, but if he doesn't follow the example of the players who count, he'll no longer be known as "The X-Factor." He'll be "The Ex-Factor."
Soft Chiefs holding back the rest of the team
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