Nick Athan: It simply boils down to talent. Right now Derrick Johnson is a solid linebacker but in order for him to flourish like Bulluck, he needs a strong supporting cast. The problem this year may have been that Cunningham wore two hats. At Tennessee he was strictly the linebackers coach, then he came to Kansas City as the defensive coordinator, now he has a dual role.
Michael Ash: I think you can credit Gunther with developing Kawika Mitchell. That's not exactly a glowing endorsement, and Mitchell's development obviously doesn't benefit the Chiefs anymore. But, hey, at least it's something. Gunther hasn't been a total failure.
C.E. Wendler: The Chiefs have had so many problems finding defensive tackles, it's been difficult for linebackers to be playmakers since Cunningham returned. However, as Mike pointed out, Mitchell has turned into a good player, and Scott Fujita has gone on to be a solid player with the Dallas Cowboys and New Orleans Saints.
Derrick Johnson made tremendous strides last year, and actually led the entire NFL in tackles for loss. He's been a little nicked up this year, and the loss of Jared Allen may have affected him more than some of the other players on Kansas City's defense. It was almost like shooting fish in a barrel for Johnson last year when he lined up behind Allen at right outside linebacker. These days, teams are probably more concerned with Johnson than Turk McBride.
The most glaring weakness on this team is the lack of a pass rush. When healthy we are starting two first round picks, a second-round pick, and a third-round pick on the defensive line. How did we manage to assemble this collaboration of players who also happen to be the worst pass-rushing front four in the NFL since the strike shortened year?
Nick Athan: Tamba Hali has been a disappointment thus far and his play the final six games are going to determine his future in a Chiefs uniform. It's not fair to judge Turk McBride just yet since he's moved outside this year. He's not suited at right end. The Chiefs have to add a pass rusher this year and move McBride back to left defensive end, he has upside.
On the inside, Glenn Dorsey will be solid. The jury is still out on Tank Tyler but that position is a hard one to learn. Still, the draft picks haven't made the impact many expected. This line is still a work on progress.
What's wrong with KC's pass rush?
Doug Pensinger - Getty
But think of it this way: if Jared Allen was playing instead of McBride, wouldn't a line of Allen, Tank, Dorsey, and Hali look pretty good? If the Chiefs find a pass rusher to replace Allen, the rest of the line will be fine. Hali may need replacing soon just due to his constant injuries, but McBride is the more pressing issue for now.
C.E. Wendler: It looks worse than it actually is because the Chiefs have no defensive ends. That's not an exaggeration. McBride isn't a starter in this league, and a terrible reach as a second-round pick. Hali is just going to be too injury-prone to be a consistent threat, which is sad because when healthy, he's a player who consistently beats right tackles. The rest of the scab defensive ends on KC's roster aren't even worth discussing.
But as bad as the Chiefs' defensive ends are, the situation at defensive tackle is promising. Tank Tyler has made major strides this year and has really improved his pass rush. Glenn Dorsey needs seasoning, but he's too talented not to make the leap eventually. Alfonso Boone is about as good a backup defensive tackle as you'll find in the NFL. Of course, right now he's playing end because the Chiefs have no quality depth at that position.
What the Chiefs lack is the player that keeps opposing offensive coordinators up the night before games. Allen was that player last year. This offseason, his replacement must be found, or we'll suffer through more bad defense in 2009.
Who's on your list of free agents the Chiefs should go after this year?
Nick Athan: First I'd settle the offensive line and go after tackle Jordan Gross from Carolina. Second, I'd grab Ravens defensive end Terrell Suggs to shore up the defensive line. But where this team must spend money is at linebacker. Both Karlos Dansby (Arizona) and Jonathan Vilma (New Orleans) are going to be coveted by every NFL team.
The Chiefs had Dansby in their sights when he was on the draft board and falling but Dick Vermeil didn't pull the trigger for him in the second round. He eventually went in the third round. If this team is going to go after a quarterback, Chicago's Kyle Orton is a free agent.
Michael Ash: Players like Suggs and Albert Haynesworth would certainly be nice, but they'll probably never even make it to free agency. Knowing that, there's not much point in making a list of free agents this soon, because there might not be anyone left on it by the time teams finish re-signing their players or using the franchise tag.
But I will throw out an under-the-radar name: if the Chargers let him hit free agency, the Chiefs should jump all over Darren Sproles. Unless a kick returner emerges over the final few games of the season, Sproles would fill that void and provide valuable depth to a backfield that may be without Larry Johnson next year.
C.E. Wendler: On offense, the Chiefs could use a receiver like Sam Hurd, a tall, fast player who has flown under the radar with the Dallas Cowboys. He'll be available cheap this year because he had ankle surgery this season and is on injured reserve. Devery Henderson is another deep-threat receiver who would complement Dwayne Bowe well. He's been a role player with the Saints so they may not have the money to re-sign him.
On defense, safety Dawan Landry is an up-and-coming young player who can actually tackle, something the Chiefs lack at the moment with Jarrad Page and Bernard Pollard starting. Guard Mike Goff, a drive-blocking force at guard in San Diego for the last few years, would solve KC's problem at right guard. However, he's 32.
Can you come up with a reason why Herm should be here next season?
Nick Athan: That question becomes harder to answer with each loss. This is a results oriented business and right now what Clark Hunt has to determine is if he can judge Edwards on the play of his injury-decimated team or simply by the mounting losses. Right now it's 50/50 that Edwards will get into his fourth year as Kansas City's head coach. The fact there have been zero overtures at the moment to extend Herm's contract beyond 2009 leads me to believe Hunt is not yet ready to make up his mind on the future of his head coach.
For me personally, I'd like to see Edwards get another year but only if other changes are made in the executive offices and with some of the coaches. It's going to be hard for Hunt to enter 2009 with both Edwards and Carl Peterson on the final year of their respective contracts. Something has to give.
Michael Ash: There figure to be plenty of head coaching vacancies in the league next season. There's Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Oakland for sure. San Francisco and St. Louis will be in the market if they don't keep their interim coaches.
Will Herm be around in 2009?
Charlie Riedel - AP
There will be competition for the top coaching candidates. Do the Chiefs want to vacate their spot and take the chance that nobody worthwhile will be out there to fill it? Keep in mind that a new coach is probably going to get at least two or three years here. I'd take another year of Herm and a fresh start in 2010 rather than the team making some uninspired retread hire (like Norv Turner in San Diego) and being stuck with that coach until 2012.
C.E. Wendler: It's really not difficult. Herm miscalculated Brodie Croyle's ability as a franchise quarterback, but Tyler Thigpen's emergence has changed the situation. If Thigpen continues to play well, he's clearly Herm's best chance to prove his mettle next season as the Chiefs' head coach.
I've been quite clear that I want no part of Edwards in Kansas City any longer. But to be fair, he hasn't had any stability at the quarterback position whatsoever. Part of that is his fault, to be sure, but if Thigpen gives him that, maybe Clark Hunt will give Edwards the chance to ride Thigpen as far as possible.