What's Next For Chiefs?

The Chiefs' 16-6 loss to the Bengals Sunday wrapped up possibly the most pathetic season in franchise history, but also signaled the beginning of what could be the most exciting offseason in franchise history.

I could break down Sunday's loss in detail if you wanted, or talk about who had a good game and who didn't. I could evaluate the reasons the Chiefs lost to a terrible Bengals team that shared KC's lack of anything to play for. I could bash Kansas City's defense for its inability to put pressure on Ryan Fitzpatrick despite the Bengals' reserve offensive linemen. I could spit out a couple paragraphs on the embarrassment of letting a Bengals offense minus Carson Palmer, Chad Johnson, and T.J. Houshmandzadeh outscore your spread offense.

But I'd rather talk about Herm Edwards and the future of his coaching staff, the probability of Rocky Boiman's induction into the Ring of Honor at Arrowhead Stadium, and in which Kansas City suburb Scott Pioli is house shopping.

Has Edwards coached his last game with the Chiefs? Probably. Unless Edwards accepts a couple of demotions and become KC's next defensive backs coach, he's likely finished in Kansas City. It's not concrete yet, but all indications point towards Edwards' exit as head coach.

Will any of KC's assistants remain after he leaves? Let's hope not too many of them do. If we're going to judge Edwards' with the barometer of wins and losses, then we ought to judge his assistants based on the performance of their respective units. With that in mind, is there any assistant whose unit has been so exceptional that he deserves to keep his job?

Gunther Cunningham will always be loved by many Chiefs fans. Be it his fiery and intense nature, his funny training camp quotes, his long love affair with the blitz, or his scary defenses from the 90s, Cunningham has somehow captured the hearts of many Kansas Citians.

However, his defenses over the past several years have been beyond bad. Sure, this season his defense has been depleted by a youth movement and injuries galore, but he's not done anything in his second stint with the Chiefs to point towards him being a capable coordinator. Unless Cunningham wants to take another step down on the coaching ladder and make linebacker coach his sole title, Cunningham needs to be let go.

Cunningham's offensive counterpart, Chan Gailey, has had similar hurdles this season. His starting quarterback couldn't even muster a half of playing time this season because of injuries, Larry Johnson missed time due to off field issues, and Willie Roaf and Will Shields didn't come out of retirement. Though Cunningham and Gailey both endured a season with terrible conditions, Gailey deserves to be strongly considered for retention.

Despite all the problems, Gailey was resourceful. In the words of departed quarterback Casey Printers, he made chicken salad out of chicken you-know-what. He scrapped the power running and play action offense he and Edwards devised over the offseason and instituted a spread offense, keeping the Chiefs competitive over the second half of the season. He made Tyler Thigpen look like a young Brett Favre, and that, my friends, is not an easy thing to do. If a new head coach comes into Kansas City, he'd be wise to keep Gailey around. He's proven he's willing to change his offense to better suit his personnel, and if a new guy wants to institute his system, I'd think Gailey would definitely be flexible enough to make that change.

Now, after looking at the futures of Edwards and his coordinators, let's look at some players who may be looking for a job these next several months. I'd like to preface this discussion by saying that many of the players who strapped on pads for KC this year gave it their all, and should be commended for that. I understand that many of them have families and that for many of them, losing their jobs means more than just changing uniforms. However, the NFL is a performance based business, and these players understand that.

When sifting through KC's active roster, how many names will remain on that roster into the 2009 season? Realistically, not that many. Edwards has said that 90 to 95 percent of the players on this roster will be back next year. That's probably not the case. Many of the guys currently on the roster are only there because of injuries, and with seven more draft picks and a boatload of money to spend in free agency, there will be plenty of turnover this offseason.

Names like Andy Studebaker, Tavares Washington, and Curtis Gatewood may easily be forgotten. These are young player who either got on the active roster via the practice squad, via injuries, or both. They might be retained on the practice squad, they could make the 2009 team, or they may float from one practice squad to another in their quest to stick in the NFL.

There are also players like Jason Babin, Quinn Gray, Rocky Boiman and David Macklin, veterans who have been evaluated time and time again by different teams. Chances are, they won't be back next year. They were all brought in out of desperation created by injury, and after those injuries heal over the offseason, there will probably be no room for them.

Then there are guys like Jeff Webb, Rudy Niswanger and Jarrad Page. Page and Webb were late-round draft picks and Niswanger was a college free agent. All are at the end of their rookie contracts, and it's time for the decision makers at Arrowhead, whoever they will soon be, to make decisions.

Have Niswanger, Page, and Webb impressed enough to garner a second contract? Do they want to test their worth in the market? I'd say the Chiefs would be crazy not to resign Page, and they'd be best served to make him a priority this offseason. As for the other two, flip a coin, but I'd say Niswanger is more likely to be around in 2009 than is Webb.

These are just a few examples of players whose futures hang in the balance. There are also the practice squad guys, the IR guys, and many others on the active roster. With coaches to fire, coaches to hire, players to sign, players to say goodbye to, and free agency and the draft looming, look for KC's general manager to be in place soon and the dominoes to fall. As for where Pioli will soon be shoveling his driveway, my money's on Mission Hills.

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