A Shared Responsibility

Last week we discussed fan apathy and the reasons behind it. It's fair to give Chiefs fans their say in the matter, because after all, they are the lifeblood of Kansas City's franchise.

Without their presence at Arrowhead Stadium, KC's defense isn't as effective. Without the money from ticket, merchandise and concession sales, the Chiefs wouldn't be a financial success. Without the necessary votes, stadium renovations wouldn't be taking place next year.

So yes, the fans have a right to be disgruntled. It's been 14 years since the last playoff win, and enough is enough.

Or is it? At this juncture, should Chiefs fans be a little more patient? Is the current attitude toward the Chiefs, Clark Hunt, Carl Peterson and Herm Edwards really appropriate?

Today we examine the situation from the other side of the coin. Do the men running the pro football show in Kansas City really deserve such harsh criticism at the moment?

•••

Most fans entered 2007 pining for a true rebuilding year. Before the season began, the sentiment expressed by many in Chiefs Nation was that a losing season might be a necessary evil if Herm Edwards was ever going to lead his team back to a Super Bowl.

"We're ready!" said the fans. "We're bunkered in! Play the youth, mortgage the year and come back strong for 2008! We'll be behind you all the way!"

Uttering that sort of statement is one thing, but following through on it? Something else entirely. The excrement hit the fan in preseason after Brodie Croyle threw yet another interception and left the field at Arrowhead to a cacophony of boos.

Where was the patience? Where was the tolerance for mistakes from young players?

This was a preseason game in which Croyle was playing behind a patchwork offensive line. Considering how little he played during the 2006 preseason, it's not surprising he struggled so much early on this year.

Was it really appropriate to send him off the field as if he was Elvis Grbac? Probably not.

And speaking of veteran quarterbacks who are prone to mistakes, that leads us to the next point. When the Chiefs declared Damon Huard their starter after the third preseason game, few fans appreciated the move. Peterson and Edwards were soundly whipped over the decision from one corner of Chiefs Nation to the other.

"They're playing not to lose!" screamed the fans. "Huard isn't taking us anywhere! We're wasting a year of Croyle's career!"

Understandable objections, to be sure. Most likely, even Edwards and Peterson had no reservations about Huard winning Super Bowl XLII. But in hindsight, starting Huard from the onset of this season may have been the best thing for KC's quarterback of the future.

Huard was rocked behind Kansas City's fragile offensive line. He left the field dinged up by the second game of the season in Chicago, but managed to persevere for several more weeks. The subject of his pain-racked existence was a weekly topic of discussion, however, so much so that the FOX Network highlighted his injury-riddled body before the beginning of the Green Bay game.

The Chiefs won some games with Huard, but eventually he succumbed to his injuries, giving way to Croyle. To play the veteran the rest of the year would have been asking too much – he's done his part (on a personal note, we'd like to thank the Most Valuable Piñata. He met the challenges of 2007 head on with no complaint).

Is it possible Edwards and Peterson saw this coming? It was the head coach who said in preseason that "people will try to divide this football team." Is it feasible that holding Croyle out of the starting lineup until Week 11 may have done the young quarterback some good? Who knows what shape he might be in right now had he been forced to play behind such ragged pass protection for all 12 games (and in fact, it only took two games for Croyle to suffer an injury of his own).

Here's the ironic part – Chiefs fans expressed more support for Huard, at least in a show of attendance, than his younger counterpart. When Kansas City was leading the division and winning games, Arrowhead Stadium was full. The fans were loud.

Now that Croyle has taken over, the crowds that pack the stadium will grow sparser by the week. The Chiefs were forced to sell $25 seats last week in order to salvage the upper deck crowds.

Just what exactly do Chiefs fans want?

•••

So, should the fans be just a little more patient? Indeed, it was those same fans who knew their team was going nowhere before the season began. The Super Bowl was a pipe dream, no matter the quarterback.

Perhaps Hunt, Peterson and Edwards gave the fans exactly what they wanted – a rebuilding season. Plenty of youth has played this year. Page, Pollard, Niswanger, Bowe, Croyle, Smith, Webb, Grigsby, Brackenridge, Tyler, McBride – the names go on and on.

When Larry Johnson went down against the Packers, and soon thereafter Priest Holmes finished up his career, what was really to be expected? When the Chiefs couldn't find a kicker to begin the season, couldn't find one to consistently kick a field goal from 30 yards, and were finally forced to turn to John Carney, what was really to be expected?

Is more patience required from the fan base? Is Edwards' plan right on schedule, and good things are coming a year from now? One would certainly like to hope so.

But in the event that the groundwork laid in 2007 results in success in 2008, it would be nice if the fans were there to support the effort from Week 1 – although no one would complain if ticket prices remained static.

We're not saying the fans are wrong or right in their disapproval of the current state of affairs at One Arrowhead Drive. We're not saying the men running the Chiefs are right or wrong to shamelessly promote ticket sales to what will likely be a depressing home finale against the Tennessee Titans.

As is usually the case, the truth is probably somewhere in between. In that spirit, a man who is neither a Chiefs fan nor a member of the front office at One Arrowhead Drive – and in fact, is quite dead – can sum it up best.

"Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm."

- Ralph Waldo Emerson


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