Change is coming to One Arrowhead Drive and it's not going to be pretty. After Kansas City blew a 21-10 lead with less than two minutes remaining, the aftermath of KC's locker room was dismal, at it's lowest point of the season.
How could the Chargers, who turned the ball over three times and fell behind 21-3, pull out a win? The culprit this week is the entire organization. That's the simplest way to put it.
The Chiefs squandered two timeouts in the fourth quarter because they could not get their offensive calls from the coaching booth to the sidelines to the quarterback in the allotted time. Those gaffes came into play when KC's offense found itself without a timeout on the final desperation drive.
Defensively, despite the fact the Chiefs recorded three sacks, they could not generate any pressure on Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers in the final two minutes. But it gets worse - the broken coverage on Rivers' 42-yard pass to Vincent Jackson, that set up the game-winning touchdown, fell at the feet of a pair of veterans on defense.
Cornerback Patrick Surtain was supposed to be deeper in coverage. When he tried to jump an underneath route, it left Jarrad Page in single coverage. Page was late getting over to defend Jackson. After the game, Surtain admitted he should have been deeper, but Page was also upset - either by the defense that had been called, the blown coverage, or at himself for the outcome of the play.
Special teams also let the Chiefs down once again. Rookie kicker Connor Barth missed a short field goal into a swirling wind by not driving the ball. He took a chipshot for granted, which set up the need for his game-winning field goal attempt.
On that attempt, Barth drove the ball low with enough force that it would have cleared the uprights from 60 yards. But Thomas Gafford's snap to holder Dustin Colquitt was high, and that was enough to disrupt the timing.
This loss also gives a clear indicator of the problems at the top of the organization. It should be obvious now that this team didn't value veterans enough, and sat back in free agency a year ago with money to burn. They didn't provide the young nucleus of KC's roster enough experienced leaders to bridge the gap.
After this debacle, how can Chairman of the Board Clark Hunt not make changes? You can blame Peterson, Head Coach Herm Edwards, the Chiefs' scouting department, the assistant coaches and the players, but when fans stay away by the tens of thousands, when season ticket holders are already on record that they won't renew next season without changes, Hunt has little choice.
Two weeks ago a Chiefs official told me that if he were Hunt he would, "blow the whole thing up" and start over. That would be my choice at this point, too.
The apathy for the Chiefs in the Kansas City community, and more specifically from season ticket holders who are unlikely to renew for the 2009 season, is higher than it's ever been in 20 years. It's not about playing for next season anymore, it's about the salvation of the franchise. Someone has to take control of the situation before it gets worse.
Most of the Chiefs scattered to their cars after Sunday's game before talking to the media. It was obvious the locker room took this loss extremely hard. Hunt may now find himself with a bigger mess on his hands than he predicted he'd be dealing with when he signed off on the youth movement a year ago.
In short order, he's really the only man that can make the changes that will appease the fans and the core group of players who will be charged with coming back in 2009 to win the close games the Chiefs have been losing the last two seasons.
Hunt may not see it that way, but the moves he makes next will radically affect this franchise for better or for worse. That's a lot of pressure.
It starts and ends with Hunt. My gut tells me changes are coming.
Four to Remember
QB Tyler Thigpen - Another loss, and more learning experiences. Thigpen's interception in the end zone on a pass intended for Tony Gonzalez negated critical points that would have been the difference in the football game. If Thigpen is going to be the guy next year, he'll have to learn not to zone in on Gonzalez. Dwayne Bowe and Mark Bradley have to be more involved. Teams are collapsing in on Gonzalez because Thigpen doesn't check off.
DE Tamba Hali - He made no excuses Sunday, which is a good sign and his two sacks were another positive sign in what has been a bad season for the former first-round pick. Hali was supposed to be the guy to replace Jared Allen at the beginning of the year, but it didn't work out. Defensive end might be KC's biggest need this offseason, but at least Hali showed some life and made plays.
OC Chan Gailey - I loved the trickery on Johnson's touchdown pass to Tony Gonzalez, and I was equally impressed with the hook and ladder the Chiefs ran. But the simple fact is that Gailey's offense has scored only 29 points in the third quarter the entire season. Even further, his offense only gained two first downs in the entire second half against the Chargers.
Gailey's halftime adjustments leave something to be desired. He appears to be someone who has a game plan and that he's going to stick to it no matter what happens from one half to the other. Opposing defenses are making changes and Gailey isn't offering many - if any - new wrinkles in the second half.
HC Herm Edwards - This was by far the hardest loss of the season. You have to wonder how Edwards comes back from this. There is no doubt in my mind that he can - if given the chance - lead the Chiefs into playoff position by 2010 or sooner. I sensed after the Raiders game Edwards was rejuvenated. My sense this week is that he's contemplating his future. This is a good man who just might have too many obstacles to overcome. If Edwards stays, he needs more tools at his disposal next season.
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