Vindication for Carl?

As everyone reading this already knows, the Kansas City Chiefs are currently mired in an 11-game losing streak. The latest loss was particularly hard to swallow, coming at home against the hated Raiders. The same Oakland team, it should be noted, who came out in their season opener looking more like an NCAA Division II cupcake than a team capable of winning games in the NFL.

With those things in mind, you aren't likely to find too many people looking for ways to compliment Kansas City Chiefs President and General Manager Carl Peterson these days. Brace yourselves, though, because in a roundabout way that's exactly what I'm about to do.

You see, if the Chiefs recent descent into also-ran status has shown us anything, it's that Peterson may be much smarter than anyone's been giving him credit for.

What do I mean by that? For the answer, let's jump back a few months. Shortly after the NFL Draft, WPI's own Nick Athan conducted an interview with Chiefs owner Clark Hunt.

Here's an excerpt from that piece:

Ultimately, Hunt knows that he's serving the fans. Can they endure another losing season while this year's draft class matures? Hunt thinks so.

"I do realize that in the short run, going with young players could have some shortcomings in terms of our performance on the field," he said. "But that's OK. I think those guys will learn and our fans will enjoy watching those players develop."

"What I've come to learn is that the fans are actually really studied. They're really smart. It must be because there's 24-hour news on the National Football League. It's Warpaint Illustrated and all the cable channels that cover the NFL and the constant media attention and the internet. Fans have become very smart in terms of how championship teams are built, and I sense they understand what we're doing and will support it."

That certainly sounded good back in April. I imagine that many people who read those comments probably nodded in agreement and patted themselves on the back for being the smart, studied fans Hunt said they were.

But now, just two games into the regular season, many of those same fans – no doubt spurred on by the pot-stirring of those like KC Star Columnist Jason Whitlock – are demanding that Hunt take action.

They want Peterson fired, they want Herm Edwards fired -- heck, they want both of them fired. Some even want Hunt to sell the team. They want whatever it takes in order to feel that change is on the horizon.

Unfortunately, it seems safe to say that after two more losses Hunt's comments about the patience of the fanbase were a bit optimistic. Everyone knew the Chiefs would be a bad team this year. Sure, there were a few cockeyed optimists who were predicting Kansas City to shock the world and finish 9-7, but most understood that considerable growing pains were to be expected. And, echoing Hunt's remarks, most fans said all the right things about rebuilding during OTAs and training camp.

But as soon as the Chiefs began playing games again, something changed. It was even evident during the preseason. Perhaps some expected rebuilding to be a painless process that wouldn't involve any sacrifice. Maybe they understood the Chiefs would lose some games, but figured every loss would be a moral victory in some way, and that rookies like Dorsey, Albert, and Flowers would all look like future Hall of Famers in the process.

Or maybe a lot of fans just never had the stomach for it to begin with.

"Not so," they'll undoubtedly say. "We were prepared for losing. But not like this. We weren't prepared to lose because of the endless mistakes by Carl and the poor coaching from Herm. Get rid of ‘em!" That sounds good and all – but I don't buy it. Why not? Because this isn't the first time I've heard that excuse.

Two years ago, the exact same cries were rising up from fans of the Green Bay Packers. The Pack went 4-12 in 2005, the team's worst season in 14 years. That offseason they brought in the unheralded Mike McCarthy as their new head coach and began rebuilding the team.

The Packers traded away one of their top players (Javon Walker) and ended up with 12 draft picks, several of whom saw significant action as rookies. With the league's youngest roster, Green Bay began the next season 1-4, starting things off with an embarrassing 26-0 loss in their home opener against a hated rival.

Is this sounding familiar? It should. Don't get me wrong, the Packers aren't a perfect analogy to the Chiefs' current situation – Green Bay, after all, already had a franchise quarterback in place with Brett Favre, and that alone makes a considerable difference.

But as you can see, there are enough similarities to make it an interesting comparison.

The Packers lost their first three home games that season, and their lone early victory came against the similarly winless Detroit Lions. Although they rebounded from their poor start and nearly got back to .500, they ultimately lost eight of their first twelve games and were sitting at 4-8 in early December.

When the team was slow out of the gate, outraged Packers fans wasted little time in demanding that McCarthy and GM Ted Thompson be fired. Cries for change continued throughout the season as the Packers struggled, suffering lopsided defeats at the hands of the Eagles, Patriots, Bills, and Jets.

But the Packers pulled together in the final month and won four straight games to finish 8-8. A year later, still sticking to youth, Green Bay made their conference title game.

Will Kansas City finish 8-8 this season? Will they be a Super Bowl contender next year? Probably not.

As mentioned, the Chiefs don't have a quarterback, and they also don't have the benefit of playing in the weaker NFC. But the point of the comparison, as Packers fans learned, is that it's foolish to judge so quickly.

Chiefs fans can say they're not being impatient with losses, that it's the coaching and management they're upset with. It just rings hollow. Any Packers fan who signed a petition to fire McCarthy and Thompson during the 2006 season would probably admit today that they overreacted. They recognize their young team started to improve as they got more experience and developed chemistry with one another.

No matter how the angry masses in Kansas City might want to justify their reactions, the simple truth is this: anyone who's demanding sweeping changes in the Chief organization because a bad team played a bad game on Sunday wasn't prepared for what was coming this season.

For that matter, anyone who wanted to see 35-year old Damon Huard trot back onto the field Sunday, rather than see 24-year old Tyler Thigpen get his opportunity, wasn't prepared for what was coming this season. And most of all, anyone who's not willing to wait more than two games before declaring the rebuilding effort a failure wasn't prepared for what was coming this season.

So, no, I'm not buying that the reactions are all about Herm and Carl. And you know who else isn't buying it? Carl Peterson.

After all, judging by the reactions we're seeing, Peterson had everyone pegged a long time ago. He's been criticized by millions, myself included, for the strategy he's executed all these years. Stock up on free agents every few seasons, never bother to develop a young quarterback when you can always acquire a veteran with experience, and do everything else possible to shoot for a season of eight or nine wins. And if you can make the playoffs, hey, anything can happen once you're in the tournament.

That's been the Carl Peterson way, and the results speak for themselves. Sure, the Chiefs haven't won a playoff game since Joe Montana was under center, but Arrowhead has still been filled to capacity year after year. Every December, no matter how mediocre the Chiefs were, the seats were always full and the stadium was always loud as long as there was some outside chance at a playoff berth.

Contrast that to this year, when even after a highly-praised draft and one of those "moral victories" against the New England juggernaut, the openly rebuilding Chiefs – finally trying to build a championship team the right way – struggled to sell out their home opener against their biggest rival.

While Clark Hunt had reason for his view of how the fans would react to a rebuilding season, maybe Peterson's view was a little more in line with reality. Perhaps he's been more tuned-in to the fans than anyone ever thought he was. Maybe he knew that Chiefs fans just aren't cut out for this rebuilding stuff.

I just hope he's not the sort of guy to say "I told you so." Top Stories