Powering Down The Chiefs – Part II

In part one of our attempt to place the Chiefs accurately among NFL power rankings, we looked at quarterback and pass rush. Unfortunately, the results of our analysis dumped Kansas City all the way to the league's bottom 16 teams. Can the worst spot – where Scout.com's Adam Caplan ranked the 2009 Chiefs – be avoided?

Today we'll see how Kansas City stacks up against the final 15 teams via their running game, secondary and coaching staff. Interestingly enough, the Chiefs will play six of these teams this season over the course of eight games. Win or lose, we'll eventually have a good idea whether or not our May power ranking was worth the electrons it was printed on.

RUNNING GAME

At first glance, the 2008 Chiefs were a mediocre running team, ranking only 16th in rushing yards per game (113.1). After subtracting Tyler Thigpen's 386 rushing yards from the quarterback position, the average drops under 100 per game, and the Chiefs only had nine rushing touchdowns (six by running backs). Neither are great indicators of a team that can run the football with any sort of consistency.

But somehow, despite their shaky offensive line and pass-first offense, the Chiefs wound up fourth in the league in yards per carry, at a shocking 4.8. Larry Johnson and Jamaal Charles both averaged at least 4.5 yards per carry and together took 82 percent of the handoffs a year ago. They combined for 10 runs over 20 yards.

So do the Chiefs have an opportunistic, explosive running game, or an inconsistent ground attack that merely serves as a sideshow to the passing game? Considering the only addition to the offensive line this season has been right guard Mike Goff, and the only new running back a seventh-round pick in Javarris Williams, perhaps KC's running game is better off than we thought?

Even so, we can't place it with any of the league's more productive running games from a year ago. So let's go ahead and dump the Chiefs below every team that had at least 16 rushing touchdowns (one per game) a year ago: Carolina, Tennessee, Atlanta, New England, Baltimore, New York (AFC and NFC), New Orleans, Miami, Jacksonville, Houston, Buffalo, and Pittsburgh. This leaves Kansas City fighting with 10 teams in the power rankings.

SECONDARY

We know the Chiefs have great young talent in the secondary with players like Brandon Flowers, Brandon Carr, Maurice Leggett, Jarrad Page and Bernard Pollard. The addition of Donald Washington via the draft this year will only help.

But what the Chiefs do not have is an experienced shutdown corner who can matchup with #1 receivers. This was obvious last year when players like Randy Moss (116 yards, one touchdown), Roddy White (119 yards, one touchdown), Steve Smith (96 yards), Brandon Marshall (18 catches, three touchdowns in two games) and even Antonio Bryant (115 yards, one touchdown) torched the Chiefs.

Without Tony Gonzalez, teams with shutdown corners will make life extremely difficult for Kansas City this season. Players such as Champ Bailey will be freed up to cover Dwayne Bowe one-on-one. The Chiefs will be at a disadvantage if they cannot similarly contain the opposition's best receiver.

For brevity's sake, we will begin to look at only the final 10 teams: Cincinnati, Cleveland, St. Louis, Oakland, Detroit, San Francisco, Seattle, Tampa Bay, Chicago and Denver. We can identify only three premier corners among this group: Leon Hall, Nnamdi Asomugha, and Champ Bailey.

The criteria is simple – the Bengals and Broncos both allowed only three 100-yard games to opposing wide receivers last season. The Raiders allowed two (one courtesy of the departed, and overrated, DeAngelo Hall). Clearly that's in large part to the skills of Hall, Asomugha and Bailey.

This leaves the Chiefs competing with seven teams in the power rankings.

COACHING

Cleveland, St. Louis, Detroit, San Francisco, Seattle, Tampa Bay, Chicago and Kansas City. One of these teams, according to our highly scientific process of elimination, is the worst team in the NFL at this critical time of year. Coaching - what separates the good teams from the great teams, or in this case, the mediocre from the bad – will make the difference.

None of these teams have a true franchise quarterback, though the Bears, Seahawks and Rams come close with Jay Cutler (attitude issues), Matt Hasselbeck and Marc Bulger (age).

None possess a premier pass rusher, or even particularly good team pass rushes for that matter. The Seahawks top our list with 35 sacks last season. Some guy named Parys Haralson is our leading sacker (8.0).

We're looking at a collection of teams with either mediocre or truly pathetic running games. The Rams, despite Steven Jackson, scored only eight rushing touchdowns last season. The Chiefs, despite Larry Johnson, scored only nine. There are actually several other decent running backs on this list – Frank Gore, Kevin Smith, Matt Forte – which tells you how important "franchise" running backs are to the success of a football team.

We've also found some truly horrible secondaries. The Lions, for instance, gave up 25 touchdown passes, picked off only four passes, and tied for the league-high in completion percentage allowed (68.4). The Seahawks allowed a league-high 59 passes over 20 yards. The Bears gave up more completions than almost any other team, and also allowed the always embarrassing 99-yard touchdown pass.

In short, there's nothing all that special about any of the football teams in our not-so-elite eight. Coaching is going to have to make a difference. But how do you separate one coaching staff from another?

We'll automatically remove the Bears from consideration. Lovie Smith and his staff recently went to the Super Bowl. Jim Mora, the new Seahawks head coach, won a division title in Atlanta, so cross him off the list.

We're left with six coaching staffs, all essentially headed up by fresh hires: Eric Mangini, Steve Spagnuolo, Jim Schwartz, Mike Singletary (essentially a new hire), Raheem Morris, Todd Haley.

At this juncture, we're shooting in the dark. There's no legitimate way to separate six new head coaches, only one of whom has extremely brief previous head-coaching experience. So, we'll come up with a completely arbitrary method of elimination that actually makes a slight bit of sense: who has a Super Bowl ring?

Mangini (New England), Spagnuolo (New York), Singletary (Chicago) and Morris (Tampa Bay) all sport hardware from previous career stops as a coach or player.

So we're left with the Detroit Lions and the Kansas City Chiefs. Only one team can wear our crown. Who is it? What separates the coaching staff in Detroit from the coaching staff in Kansas City?

Both are headed up by men who were highly successful coordinators (Schwartz in Tennessee, Haley in Arizona) on their previous teams. Both have offensive coordinators who are former failed head coaches (Scott Linehan and Chan Gailey). Both have wide receivers coaches who previously played wide receiver in the NFL for the New England Patriots.

But only one coaching staff has Gunther Cunningham as defensive coordinator. Is this a negative or a positive? We'll let history decide. Cunningham has served as a defensive coordinator on three different NFL teams across 12 seasons. Shocking fact: no defense led by Cunningham has ever won a postseason game.

While it is true that the 1993 Raiders won a playoff game in which Cunningham served as defensive coordinator, it was Oakland's offense that won the game. Jeff Hostetler threw for 294 yards and three touchdowns. Napoleon McCallum ran for three touchdowns. James Jett and Tim Brown caught touchdowns.

Cunningham's defense couldn't stop John Elway from throwing for 302 yards and three scores of his own that day. Oakland's offense simply outscored Denver's. The Raiders needed every inch of their 427 yards.

So, technically, it's true: no defense led by Cunningham has ever won a postseason game. In fact, this tradition dates back to 1979, when the California Bears lost the Garden State Bowl. Cunningham's defense gave up 28 points that day.

How does Cunningham compare to Chiefs' defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast? As we know, Pendergast's Arizona defense turned in a brilliant performance in last year's divisional playoffs, holding the Panthers to 13 points, shutting down Steve Smith and forcing Jake Delhomme into five turnovers. Pendergast's defense won a postseason game!

Do we need any more proof? According to our elaborate and foolproof process of elimination, clearly, the Kansas City Chiefs are not the worst team in the NFL. However, they could be among the eight worst. Hopefully this helps Chiefs fans sleep at night.

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