Throw To Win

If there's one lesson we can learn from the first round of the NFL playoffs, it's this – in today's league, the teams that throw the football effectively will win more often than not.

In Seattle, despite the fact Shaun Alexander was bottled up by Washington's defense, Matt Hasselbeck's efficient passing led the Seahawks to a win. The Redskins, meanwhile, also failed to run the football, but could not get Todd Collins on track, as the journeyman passer threw 50 times but amassed only 266 yards.

In Tampa Bay, the normally efficient Jeff Garcia looked lost when Joey Galloway left the contest. The Buccaneers offense could not move the ball on the ground, either, fell out of their element and eventually fell behind, 24-7. Game over, thanks in part to Eli Manning's mistake-free game.

Out West, the Titans stuffed LaDainian Tomlinson, as expected, but the Chargers were ready. Throwing early and often, Philip Rivers eventually found his rhythm and racked up 292 yards through the air, leading to San Diego's first playoff win since 1995. Tennessee wound up losing because Vince Young is clearly not a playoff-ready quarterback.

Man, you hope Herm Edwards was watching.

In his search for a new offensive coordinator, one thing is becoming clear – Edwards wants his running game back. You can't blame him after watching the Chiefs struggle to average three yards a carry in most games this year.

The rumored interest in coaches like Jeremy Bates, Chan Gailey and Alex Gibbs (now hired by the Texans) speaks volumes. Gibbs and Bates clearly have roots in Denver's zone-blocking system. Gailey's history as an offensive coordinator doesn't include fantastic passing games, but rather steady ground attacks. This is a man who coaxed career-best seasons out of Jerome Bettis (the Bus racked up over 3,000 yards in two years under Gailey) and somehow squeezed almost 1,200 yards out of no-name running back Lamar Smith in 2000 (Smith's only 1,000 yard season).

At Georgia Tech, Gailey's offenses featured a successful run-first attack pretty much every year, and during Gailey's short stint as Dallas Cowboys head coach, Emmitt Smith ran for more yards than any other two-year stretch during his final nine seasons.

The one exception to all of this is Eric Price, the coordinator who directed UTEP's wide-open air attack the last few years. As an ex-wide receivers coach, Price's roots are deep in the passing game.

I won't pretend to know who the right man is to lead KC's offense next year. But you just hope the Chiefs bring in someone who's got some credentials where throwing the football is concerned. Last year, they had no one on the coaching staff who measured up outside Charlie Joiner, and he's gone. Terry Shea obviously isn't coming back. Is help on the way?

The Chiefs need it. Brodie Croyle averaged only 171 yards passing per start last season (minus the Detroit game, in which he left early), and his yards per attempt was embarrassingly low – just 5.5, easily the worst mark in the league. Dwayne Bowe had a good year, but wasn't involved enough. The message is clear – KC's passing game is busted. The team needs a guru to fix it.

The Chiefs ought to take a hint from Norv Turner next year and put the weight of the offense on Croyle. Turner was widely criticized at times this season for running the "LT Lite" offense – Tomlinson took only 315 carries in 2007, his lowest total in five years. But it worked out. It prepared Rivers for Sunday's playoff game, where he was forced to carry the team to victory.

Such forward thinking has been rare on KC's coaching staff. No one has forgotten last year's playoff game, in which the Chiefs appeared to have no Plan B when it became evident Larry Johnson would find no running room.

Do you get the point? The Chiefs need a guru. You hope they hire the right man – a modernized, sharp offensive mind who'll stand on his own two legs. Someone to bring Kansas City's offense into the 21st century.

That brings us back to last weekend's Wild Card playoffs. The only team that managed to win without a successful passing attack was Jacksonville. It's worth noting the Pittsburgh Steelers clawed their way back from a 28-10 deficit on the strength of Big Ben's arm, but why did the Jaguars really win? They capitalized on four turnovers.

Now, you know Herm would love to win that way (and at this point the Chiefs as an organization would probably take a playoff win in any form), but it doesn't always work. We'll see how much success the Jaguars find this week against the New England Patriots – a team with a great passing attack. Hopefully the 2008 Chiefs offense shares some similarities.

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