Chiefs Repeat History With Line Failures

The last year the Chiefs had a winning record, made the playoffs and featured a 1,000-yard rusher was 2006. That was also the last season they had a truly solid offensive line? Is it some crazy coincidence? Not likely.

After Willie Roaf retired in 2006, Larry Johnson's production increased by 39 yards, but his yards-per-carry average dropped over a full yard from the previous season. After Will Shields retired in 2007, Johnson's production plummeted and he suffered an injury that forced him to miss seven games. Coincidence? Hardly.

Without a solid offensive line, achieving success in the running game becomes harder. Without the threat of a productive rushing attack, success in the passing game becomes harder. Without the ability to move the ball, defense becomes more difficult, because of the inability to control the clock and keep the defense fresh.

It all lends itself to the argument that a solid offensive line is essential to a good running game. Factor in how much time it can allow your quarterback to throw the ball and attack downfield, and it becomes clear the offensive line is the quite arguably the most important part of any team.

Without running this theory by him, it's fair to say Herm Edwards would agree with it. After Sunday, it's fair to say a potent running game is high on Todd Haley's list of priorities. Sure, while in Arizona, Haley made his name with three 1,000-yard receivers (Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, Steve Breaston) and the NFL's worst rushing offense, but keep in mind the Cardinals won only nine games in the regular season a year ago.

So, if it's a universally accepted thought that a solid offensive line is crucial to success, and Edwards and Haley belong to that universe, why have the Chiefs have not been able to piece together that kind of line since 2006? Sure, two probable future Hall of Famers retired, mainstay Casey Wiegmann moved on to Denver and the offensive line's best friends, Tony Richardson and Jason Dunn, have also moved on, but it doesn't take five Pro Bowlers to field a worthy blocking unit.

Who have the Chiefs, be it Edwards and Carl Peterson or Haley and Scott Pioli, brought in to fill the void left by Roaf, Shields and others? Chris Terry, Kyle Turley, John Welbourn, Kevin Sampson, Jordan Black, Rudy Niswanger, Adrian Jones, Damion McIntosh, Barry Richardson and now Ike Ndukwe and Mike Goff. Some of those players - Goff, Turley, and Welbourn - had success prior to arriving in Kansas City, but their teams voluntarily released them, and all were either over the hill or well on their way there when they became Chiefs.

Why is it that only one realistic, viable attempt to vastly improve the offensive line for a significant amount of time has been made in the drafting of Branden Albert?

Over Edwards' tenure in KC, the one mantra he always recited about his offensive line was continuity. He firmly believed that if a unit played together long enough it would be successful. If only the five linemen could learn each other's idiosyncrasies, they could move as one and block cohesively. Edwards said it time and time again. Last offseason, the same players ran with the first-team from OTAs and minicamps through the regular season, health permitting.

What is becoming Haley's offensive line mantra? Technique trumps all. When Warpaint Illustrated asked him if he had the personnel on this team to field a successful offensive line, Haley reiterated that sentiment.

"We just have to do it right," he said. "We have to do it right, and when I watched the tape (from Sunday's loss to Philadelphia) last night on the plane, and then again today with the coaches, and then again today with the players…offensively, if the guys had just done their job with technique, I think it would have been a different outcome. Now, whether we won the game or not, I don't know that, but offensively it wouldn't have been a different outcome. That just tells me that if we just do it the right way and are physical, then yes we can be good enough up front to compete and win."

When his line was shedding pounds by the truckload, Haley said a player like Albert would benefit from the weight loss by relying more on his technique than his size and weight. Is anyone itching to stand up and say Albert's playing better this year than last?

Edwards and Haley both put the offensive line on the back burner, and underestimated the role pure, raw talent plays on a good offensive line. Edwards thought his line could somehow transform into talented players over time, and Haley thinks his line can overcome their lack of talent with superior technique.

Haley receives something of a pass on this grievous mistake, for he's only made it over the course of one offseason. Edwards made it over three.

What makes the mistake worse for both coaches is their affinity for talent at what could be considered their "pet" positions. Wouldn't it have been strange if Mike Solari had told Edwards to pass on Bernard Pollard in the second round because he believed a slower, smaller player could start at safety if he only he logged enough time with his other defensive backs? What if Bill Muir told Haley to quit working out numerous receivers because there's this free agent named Bobby Sippio (or Sean LaChapelle, Marc Boerigter or Snoop Minnis) who, with the right technique, could be the next Randy Moss?

It all adds up to more failure on the offensive line. Now we'll see if Haley can avoid Edwards' mistake of failing to fix his line over the long term.

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