What's Missing?

Through two games, Chiefs quarterback Damon Huard is averaging 5.62 yards per pass attempt, good for 27th in the league. Huard's longest completion has gone for 31 yards, and that came on a short pass to fullback Kris Wilson, who gained most of those yards after the catch.

The Chiefs, after years of throwing the ball down the field with Trent Green and Willie Roaf, are suddenly addicted to throwing the ball sideways. That leads to a high completion percentage (67.2 percent for Huard), but few first downs. Kansas City is tied for 24th in the league with just 18 passing first downs thus far.

The only question I can ask at the moment, is why?

A year ago, the Chiefs ranked ninth in yards per attempt (7.21) and Huard, despite playing with a bad offensive line and a limited version of the playbook, was an impressive sixth in the league (7.70) in yards per attempt.

What's changed? Is former offensive coordinator Paul Hackett working fiendishly behind the scenes to sabotage KC's passing offense? There's no reason for the Chiefs to usher in a return to the dead-ball era.

The offensive line is providing better pass protection than it did a year ago. Right now, Damion McIntosh looks like an enormous upgrade over Jordan Black at left tackle. Kansas City still has All-Pro tight end Tony Gonzalez, who is currently being fitted for a Hall of Fame bust after making a living of going down the middle of the field over the last 11 years. First-round pick Dwayne Bowe is ready to contribute now (and has already made two sensational downfield receptions), and even Samie Parker is catching the football more consistently.

The Chiefs have all the pieces in place (save Eddie Kennison) to do exactly what they did in the passing game a year ago and even more. What's going on?

I came to one inevitable conclusion after the Chicago game: this team doesn't have all the pieces in place. There's two huge factors missing right now.

Trent Green and Terry Shea.

When Green was injured last year, the input he offered on the sidelines was invaluable in keeping KC's offensive attack afloat. The Chiefs didn't throw the ball as much, but they still maintained an aggressive approach when the game called for it.

Shea, Kansas City's former quarterbacks coach, obviously did a great job preparing Huard to start in Green's absence. No one could have predicted he'd play as well as he did last year during his eight-game stretch. He even torched a couple of teams along the way.

Right now, it's clear the Chiefs need someone like Green or Shea. Dumping Shea is the worst coaching decision Herm Edwards has made in two offseasons. By preparing Huard to play at a high level, you can argue Shea was as critical to KC's playoff season last year as any big-name player on the roster.

Right now, the Chiefs don't seem to want to throw the ball down the field until they are completely desperate, trailing by two scores or more. Edwards talks about going on the road and not falling behind, but the best way to do that is to obviously score first.

Against the Bears, the Chiefs had three golden opportunities to strike quickly. They moved the ball to midfield on each of their first three possessions, and yet squandered this great field position by remaining benign in their offensive attack.

The most egregious example of this ho-hum approach to the passing game came after Bears wide receiver Bernard Berrian fumbled, setting up the Chiefs at the 50-yard line. From my couch, I begged the offense to take a shot down the field off play action (they showed a propensity to do just this after turnovers last year, and hit big passes against San Francisco and St. Louis) to no avail. The Chiefs ran on first down and threw a yawner of a pass to Wilson in the right flat for a four-yard gain on second down. Not surprisingly, they punted a play later, wasting a great chance to take an early lead in a hostile stadium.

None of this is really surprising when you look at the current offensive braintrust in Kansas City. There's offensive coordinator Mike Solari, who is in his second year at the position after a mediocre 2006 season. There's quarterbacks coach Dick Curl, Shea's replacement, whose claim to fame is leading the offensive attack of the now-defunct NFL Europe's Barcelona Dragons for six years.

There's no one on this staff with real credentials when it comes to planning during the week and calling an NFL offense on gameday. The Chiefs desperately need someone like current Broncos coach Mike Heimerdinger, whom Edwards hired to install a downfield passing offense during his last season in New York. They need a guru.

The bottom line is that this offense must start throwing the ball down the field early in games. It's the only way to relieve pressure on the running attack, which is struggling right now. And judging by comments from Tony Gonzalez following the Chicago game, I'm not the only one thinking this way.

Sunday's game against Minnesota is the final exam for Edwards, Solari and Curl. If the Chiefs come out against the Vikings trying to run up the gut while throwing three-yard passes in the flats, they won't move the football. Minnesota's mammoth pair of defensive tackles, Pat and Kevin Williams, will make life incredibly tough on KC's offensive line.

The Chiefs have to attack the edges in the running game and throw down the field early. They can't rely on their defense, even if Minnesota's young quarterback, Tavaris Jackson, is way overmatched on the road in Arrowhead Stadium.

Give the Vikings a chance and they'll wear down KC's defense with their huge offensive line and ultra-talented rookie running back, Adrian Peterson. It's up to Herm, Dick and Mike to prevent that from happening, and the best way is to attack.

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