Warpaint Roundtable – Week 16

This week we discuss the new regime, the defensive scheme, Larry Johnson, Tony Gonzalez, and young players.

What is your prediction for general manager, coach and starting quarterback next year? Do you think people should be buying or renewing season tickets?

Nick Athan: The triplets from New England. Scott Pioli will move from New England and become the next Chiefs GM and he will likely fire Herm Edwards if Clark Hunt does not do it Monday afternoon as some are anticipating. Pioli will interview a few courtesy candidates before offering the head coaching job to Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.

Once that duo is on board expect a handshake deal to be completed by late January with free agent quarterback Matt Cassel. If you don't buy season tickets at that point you're going to miss out on a new era of Chiefs football. Heck, if all three Patriots defect, I'll purchase season tickets.

Michael Ash: Unless money is no object for you, I wouldn't start making decisions about season tickets until all the key hires get finalized. As for a prediction, I'd be really surprised if Clark Hunt pried Scott Pioli away from New England, and I don't think Chris Polian is a legitimate candidate since he's sure to take over in Indianapolis within a few years. So with that in mind, I'm looking to the next tier of candidates.

McDaniels and Cassel - a package deal?
Elsa - Getty

Hunt likely wants to make a big splash with his first major hiring, and with Pioli off the table, the biggest hire would be someone who can land a major coach. The biggest name on the coaching market is Bill Cowher, and that leads us to Pittsburgh, where Kevin Colbert has been the Steelers' Director of Football Operations since 2000. He doesn't actually have full control of the team, though, so he should be able to come to Kansas City if Hunt granted him that power.

Colbert and Cowher worked alongside each other for years. Assuming they still have a good relationship, and that Cowher would take a job where he's not making the final decisions, I think that's the path Hunt will take. With those two in charge, Chan Gailey would likely stay on as offensive coordinator, and that would keep Tyler Thigpen as the starting quarterback, depending on how the draft shakes out.

C.E. Wendler: Pioli coming to Kansas City just seems like a perfect marriage of need and opportunity. The Chiefs desperately need someone with Pioli's credibility and ability to scout talent. Pioli needs the right opportunity to get it done, and with all the cap room, a new stadium and a hungry fanbase, the Chiefs are the perfect opportunity.

It seems likely that McDaniels and Cassel would then follow Pioli, but I'm not so sure Bill Belichick will want anyone stealing his young offensive coordinator. I'm also not so sure Pioli is completely sold on Cassel. He's no dummy. He sees the same thing the rest of us see – a limited quarterback who's flourishing in nearly a perfect situation.

I can see Pioli coming to Kansas City and hiring Steve Spagnuolo, recognizing the Chiefs' dire need for a head coach with actual defensive credentials. Then he'd kick the rebuild into overdrive by trading up for Matthew Stafford, or his rookie quarterback of choice. That's enough to make anyone buy season tickets.

What are the chances our defense changes scheme if Herm stays? What defense do you think the players on this team could run?

Nick Athan: At the moment, I don't see a scenario where Herm Edwards stays as head coach of the Chiefs. But to be honest the entire defensive scheme needs to be blown up. The Chiefs have players who can cover man to man in the secondary and two linebackers (Derrick Johnson, DeMorrio Williams) who if given the chance to play more freely would be far more productive.

The problem lies in a defensive line that a college team could prevent from getting to the quarterback. The only defenses that work in the NFL today, that win division titles and playoff games, are those that attack. That philosophy, for whatever reason, has been changed since Cunningham and Edwards teamed up three years ago.

Michael Ash: Herm changing his defense would be shocking. To scrap the Tampa-style scheme would be an admission the Chiefs don't have the players to run it, and the blame for that would fall right back on Edwards. If he was going to admit to failing at finding players to run his bread and butter scheme, what rationale would there be to keep him as head coach?

C.E. Wendler: The defense has changed in some way every year Edwards has been here. Gunther Cunningham's genius plan to offset the loss of Jared Allen this year was blitzing linebackers. So if Edwards is retained, along with Cunningham, expect more changes.

However, the lack of talent at defensive end and linebacker pretty much spells doom for any scheme these players try to run at the moment. They could attempt to run any scheme they choose, but run it well? Not without serious upgrades in the front seven.

What's your take on what might happen to Tony Gonzalez, Larry Johnson and others with a new GM coming in? Do we keep them or trade them?

Nick Athan: Tony Gonzalez isn't going anywhere. He'll retire a Chief and we can thank outgoing GM Carl Peterson for holding his guns and not giving him away for a conditional third-round pick. Gonzalez will thrive in this offense next year. As for Johnson, there is absolutely no way in my opinion that he'll be back on this roster in 2009. If the Chiefs can get a second-round pick for him - and someone will bite - he'll be off to another team. My bet is that he ends up in Pittsburgh so he can be closer to his family. Johnson's last game in a Chiefs uniform will be Sunday. I'm told he'd rather retire than come back as a Chief in 2009.

What of LJ?
Jonathan Daniel

Michael Ash: It's hard to say without knowing who the new hires will be. If the GM is a no-nonsense type guy, he might not want any part of someone with the off-field issues Larry Johnson has. Then again, if it's someone who came up with the Bengals or Raiders, maybe LJ will get another contract extension. If the coach likes a power running game, having Johnson here would obviously be appealing.

As for Tony Gonzalez, I can't see any movement to trade him unless he asks for it. He's proven his value to the team tenfold this year.

C.E. Wendler: There's no way Tony Gonzalez is going anywhere. Any new general manager who comes in is going to take one look at the receiver corps on KC's roster and realize a young quarterback will absolutely need another reliable target in the passing game.

Nick's comments about Johnson are interesting, but who are the Chiefs going to give the ball to if he's not around? Jamaal Charles is too light to carry the load. When Kolby Smith isn't getting hurt, he's taking 10 seconds per carry to pick his hole. I have a feeling both Gonzalez and Johnson will be Chiefs in 2009, whether they like it or not.

What do you expect out of the young players on the roster who might make contributions next year? Specifically Barry Richardson (RG?), Herb Taylor (RT?), DaJuan Morgan, Kevin Robinson, Mike Merritt (blocking TE), and Will Franklin?

Nick: Richardson can be a starting right tackle in 2009. He had some bad habits to break from college but with a full offseason in Kansas City, he could be a part of filling out KC's offensive line. If he develops the Chiefs could move Wade Smith to right guard, but Herb Taylor could compete for that spot, too.

Morgan will start opposite Page in 2009 and Franklin needs to get in the weight room and bulk up. He could be the Chiefs' number three receiver next year, Robinson isn't getting much love from the coaching staff and the fact he's sharing duties with Jamaal Charles isn't a good sign. He might benefit the most from a new special teams coach. Merritt will be a blocking tight end for the Chiefs and has all the tools to be the next Jason Dunn.

Does Herb have a shot at a starting job?
NFL Photos

Michael Ash: No matter the coaching staff, Herb Taylor should be in the mix for a starting job somewhere on the offensive line. For the others, there are few expectations.

Richardson is a project who may never pan out. Robinson was drafted purely as a returner and doesn't appear to be the answer there. Merritt hasn't even participated in a game. For a new coaching staff, these guys are just sixth- and seventh-round picks of a previous regime. Players like that may not even make the roster after training camp.

Morgan and Franklin will get more of an opportunity because they were drafted higher, but both their rookie seasons have been major disappointments. Franklin being a non-factor in the Chiefs' new scheme has to be a concern since he just came from a spread offense at Missouri. The nicest thing one could say about Morgan's season is that when he allowed Anthony Fasano to run right through his tackle for a touchdown in the second quarter last week, at least he was finally in position to make a stop, unlike the numerous other plays where he's given up scores.

C.E. Wendler: Michael is correct, and this is what I was talking about last week when discussing how a new regime would, in short order, offload the roster rabble drafted by the previous regime.

The only thing that might save some of these players is the fact the Chiefs had so many draft picks in 2008. There are only seven draft picks coming this year barring any trades. It's tough to replace all those rookies in one year, so you can't dump everyone.

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