Enter KC's Replacements

When I heard that DaJuan Morgan was working with the Chiefs' starters this week, my initial reaction was "finally."

I've backed Morgan even before he was a Chief, when he was just a 2008 draft prospect. After Kansas City's widely-praised draft last April, I even wrote a column that singled him out above the other heralded additions as a particularly strong pick-up.

But my enthusiasm hasn't been rewarded. Morgan came out of college as a junior who had only started for one season, and there's often an adjustment period for such players. Watching Morgan during his rookie year, it seemed like he might need that adjustment period and then some. In fact, he didn't even see all that much action as a rookie, which was telling in itself given last year's youth movement.

So far this season, Morgan has been on the depth chart behind Mike Brown. Much like the addition of Mike Goff to the offensive line, Brown hasn't proven to be the upgrade everyone hoped he'd be. In fact, it's hard to see any noticeable difference between Brown and the play of Bernard Pollard from a year ago.

As C.E. Wendler wrote earlier this week, with the Chiefs not getting much from Brown, why not give Morgan a chance and see what he can do?

That's exactly how I felt – not just about Morgan, but in general – and I expressed that opinion during a recent conversation with another Scout.com writer. As someone with an outside perspective on Kansas City, his response was somewhat eye-opening.

"You're thinking about the Chiefs like they're still Herm's team," he said.

Really? I just wanted a young player to get an opportunity. Edwards was big on using younger players, but didn't invent the idea of benching an aging veteran to give the backup a shot.

"You think they can still afford to make those kinds of sacrifices," he elaborated. "You're still operating under the assumption that giving a youngster some experience and letting the team see what they have going forward is more important than the team having some tangible results."

Well, yes, that is how I was looking at it. This is a rebuilding year, after all. We knew all along that the Chiefs weren't going to be any good this season. Why not get a jump start on competing in 2010 and beyond by analyzing players who might be part of the future?

"Because you have a rookie for a head coach. He doesn't have the luxury of writing off the season the way the Chiefs did a year ago. He has to do everything he can to make sure the players buy what he's selling. The way you do that is by winning."

"Certain starters on the team might be lousy, but their backups might be even bigger liabilities. A new coach trying to earn credibility in the locker room can't go around making decisions that hurt this year's team, just so he get a jump on next year."

"Few coaches can get away with that, in fact. How did coaching for next year work out for Herm?"

After consideration, I had to re-evaluate my thoughts on the matter.

Last year's Chiefs did operate with a certain luxury by lowering everyone's expectations. With the Jared Allen trade and renewed focus on the draft and younger players, the team basically told the fanbase, "Hey, we probably won't be good this year, but bear with us because we're building something special for the future."

As it turned out they never actually had that luxury. Edwards found that out the hard way when he was told to clean out his office in January.

It's also true that Haley needs to win to build credibility with his players. Victories show the team that the coach has them on the right track, that the things he's asking them to do will bring about positive results.

Looking at things from that perspective, it's almost impossible to imagine that Haley isn't doing everything he possibly can to give the Chiefs the best chance to win every week. But for some reason, many of us tend to suspect otherwise.

We see the likes of Brown and Goff and think there has to be a better option. There has to be someone else on the roster who can play better. We wonder why Haley and others can't see the glaring problems right in front of their face.

But what if there's not anyone better? What if it's true that players like Brown and Goff continue to start because the Chiefs would actually be worse without them?

If that's the case, then it's a clear indictment on the roster that's been assembled, but that's another topic entirely. To better illustrate this point, let's go back a few weeks to the Dallas game, where I analyzed the production of the Chiefs' offense while Goff was on the sideline.

There were some obvious signs that Goff should be replaced. But just as glaring was the fact Andy Alleman – coming in fresh off the bench in the fourth quarter – was driven into the backfield like a blocking sled after only five snaps. In a situation where he should have had an advantage over a tired defender, he was manhandled so badly that it ruined the play.

After witnessing that display, it's not much of a stretch to think that over four quarters, Alleman might well be worse than Goff. Perhaps a different lineman might fare better, but on the other hand, maybe our brief look at ABG – Anyone But Goff -- only showed why Goff still has the job in the first place.

We could speculate all day, but the good news is that we should actually get some answers this weekend. Not only is Morgan set to make his first career start, Goff was a late addition to the Chiefs' injury report and is listed as questionable for Sunday's game.

It should be noted that Morgan isn't replacing Brown at strong safety – he's actually an injury fill-in for Jon McGraw and Jarrad Page at free safety. Still, he has the opportunity to make a statement and possibly stake his claim to a starting job, whether it's replacing McGraw or replacing Brown once McGraw is healthy.

As for Goff, it's unclear who would replace him. Alleman is listed as his backup, but Wade Smith has been KC's first option off the bench. Will "ABG" prove to be an upgrade on the offensive line? Or will another right guard only make clearer Haley's decision to start Goff. Will Morgan step up and make his supporters proud? Or will he show us why he's been stuck behind Brown on the depth chart?

One way or another, we should know after Sunday's game. To that, I again say, "finally."

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