Chiefs Badly Need Brown

On the surface, the Chiefs' signing of veteran safety Mike Brown may not seem like a big deal. Free agents signed in the heat of June rarely come with big price tags or snatch big headlines.

But if I had to guess, I'd say Scott Pioli and Todd Haley are pretty happy about this signing. It's not like there wasn't any competition out there also trying to sign Brown – in addition to the Chiefs, the Cleveland Browns had him in for a visit.

We shouldn't be surprised Cleveland and Kansas City were after Brown. In addition to heartbreaking postseason futility, the Browns and the Chiefs have one other thing in common – terrible defense, and a lack of experienced defensive leadership.

The Browns actually had a couple of players who might've filled that role a year ago – linebackers Willie McGinest and Andra Davis. Both were fairly accomplished veterans. But with McGinest released and Davis a Bronco, the Browns were left with a pack of defenders mostly comprised of unimpressive 20 somethings who had never been part of a good (let alone great) NFL defense.

Sound familiar?

The Chiefs find themselves in the same situation. There's plenty of youth, but not many standouts. There are two accomplished veterans – Zach Thomas and Mike Vrabel – but both are linebackers, and Vrabel has barely shown up to breathe the air in Kansas City this offseason.

And there's certainly no one for Brandon Flowers, Brandon Carr, Jarrad Page, Bernard Pollard and Maurice Leggett to look up to in the secondary.

Enter Brown, who is reminiscent of former Chief Sammy Knight. He's not the biggest or the fastest player on the field, but he knows where to be, what to do, and probably where everyone else should be at the same time. We've all heard how Gunther Cunningham referred to Knight as a "coach on the field." Brown's history in Chicago indicates he can be the same type of player.

Brian Urlacher, the Bears' longtime Pro-Bowl middle linebacker, once referred to Brown as the real leader of Chicago's defense. In a 2006 Chicago Tribune article, his teammates cited Brown's absence as the reason for a sudden glut of 100-yard rushing games by Bears' opponents.

Then there's Chicago's young secondary - Danieal Manning, Chris Harris (now a Panther), Nathan Vasher and Charles Tillman.

Somehow the 2006 Bears (a Super Bowl team) not only qualified for the postseason with a pair of rookie safeties (Manning and Harris) starting the majority of the year, but also fielded one of the NFL's best pass defenses to boot. Only one other team faced more passing attempts that season, but the Bears gave up just 18 touchdown passes and picked off 24 passes (second-most in the league). Chicago's defense allowed only 5.8 yards per pass attempt, the best mark in the NFL.

In the case of Vasher and Tillman, we have a pair of young corners who, like Manning and Harris a few seasons later, came into the league, immediately started, and were immediately successful, productive players. By his second season Vasher, a fourth-round pick, was in the Pro Bowl.

Mike Brown was right there alongside all of those players. Think he had anything to do with all of that? It's a good bet Pioli and Haley see the connection.

In their review of last season, they also saw enough poor tackling to last a lifetime. Only two teams – the Denver Broncos and Detroit Lions – allowed more rushing plays over 20 yards the last two seasons than the Chiefs (35). If Brown can help Pollard and Page improve their tackling, that statistic should improve, but he might just have to get his hands a little dirty to help out, too. Then the Chiefs can figure out their pass rush.

I still don't understand why the Chiefs let go of Knight so easily. He immediately left Kansas City and had a terrific season on a playoff defense in Jacksonville. The Chiefs dumped Greg Wesley on the bench and handed a starting job to Pollard, who really hadn't earned it.

With Brown on the roster, maybe that mistake can be rectified. And who knows, might second-year safety DaJuan Morgan surprise us? Competition is never a bad thing.

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