How To Fix The Chiefs

Now that the Chiefs are all but eliminated from the 2006 playoff picture, everyone has their own theory on how to fix this team. Joe Posnanski from the Kansas City Star suggests we need a true losing year to land premium draft picks. Jonathan Rand from KcChiefs.com has voiced the opinion that fixing the team "won't be easy."

I am not quite so pessimistic. This team actually has some good pieces to build around. One outstanding offseason could actually do the trick.

That, of course, is the rub. Having an offseason in which every move works is a difficult trick for a NFL general manager to pull out of his hat. Eighteen years without a Super Bowl appearance makes one doubt that Carl Peterson can accomplish such a feat.

The key is to focus on the obvious area which plagued the team this season: the offensive line. That's it. The decline in line play has turned Kansas City's once dominant offense into a mediocre unit. While a playmaking receiver would help, Tony Gonzalez and Larry Johnson are effective enough to power a top-notch unit.

In San Diego, Antonio Gates and LaDanian Tomlinson are the core of the NFL's No. 1 scoring offense. The Chargers have surged to this position behind the shrewd pick of left tackle Marcus McNeil in the second round of the 2006 draft.

While the Chargers were fifth in scoring in 2005 with veteran journeyman Roman Oben at left tackle, San Diego is No. 1 with Marcus McNeil after replacing quarterback Drew Brees with a first year starter in Philip Rivers. Rivers would never have been able to enjoy such success without solid protection from the backside.

Kansas City needs to pull a similar coup.

The Cleveland game showed that Trent Green can still pick apart a defense. His problem against the Ravens and Chargers was his protection. Green has been sacked 11 times in the last two games. Not surprisingly, the team scored 19 points despite solid performances from running back Larry Johnson.

But the Chiefs problems are deeper than one offensive line player. With Will Shields likely to retire, and the constant turnover at right tackle since John Tait left in free agency after 2003, there are two more positions that Carl Peterson needs to address.

It can be done and again San Diego is the model. In 2004, a down and out Charger team coming off a 4-12 season changed all five offensive line starters. They gelled well enough to fuel a 12-4 record and an AFC West title. Two of those linemen were rookie draft picks Nick Hardwick (center, third round) and Shane Olivea (right tackle, seventh round). They brought in journeyman Roman Oben at left tackle and coached the heck out of them.

While the Chiefs likely can't follow San Diego's example exactly, they need a combination of draft picks and free agent additions to solidify their offensive line.

After fixing the offensive line, the rest of the picture becomes clear. The Chiefs desperately need a playmaker at defensive tackle, which will likely require a high round pick. This time, Carl Peterson has to get it right. The Chiefs should skate at corner and hope to get another year out of Patrick Surtain and Ty Law. Replace safeties Greg Wesley and Sammy Knight with the speedy Jarrad Page and Bernard Pollard, then cut dead-weight weakside linebacker Kendrell Bell.

Insert Keyaron Fox in the lineup, or pick up a veteran like Donnie Edwards to fill in for a year. The team then needs at least another competent wide receiver with excellent hands. Move Samie Parker to the slot.

All these changes will be financed by cutting Ryan Sims, Kendrell Bell, Greg Wesley and the retirement of Will Shields. Furthermore, what the Chiefs cannot afford to do is stay the same age on offense, particularly on the offensive line.

Done properly, the Chiefs could be younger and in the playoffs as soon as next season.

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