It Could Be Worse

Here we are in the middle of a dismal season. The Chiefs have two wins, will almost assuredly draft in the top five next April, and rank near the bottom of the league in almost every meaningful statistical category. Without question, it has been torture.

Sunday, Kansas City managed to defeat the Oakland Raiders, but the term "defeat" should be taken with a large grain of salt. Technically, yes, the Chiefs did beat the Raiders, but former President George W. Bush once celebrated a victory for the United States in Iraq with a large banner that read "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED."

If the Chiefs' goal in Oakland was to prove that they are not the worst team in football, then Scott Pioli and Todd Haley can hang their own banner over Arrowhead Stadium for the rest of the season. Chiefs 16, Raiders 10. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

Like Bush's hollow "victory" in the Middle East, the Chiefs' win Sunday was anything but a statement that they are on the right track as a football team. Kansas City started the game trying to hand it to the Raiders, allowing a 60-yard run to Michael Bush, committing penalties on offense, turning the ball over, and generally doing the things that bad football teams do. Fortunately for the Chiefs, the Raiders were kind enough to return the favor.

When Oakland passed, the passes fluttered off the mark. When the balls were thrown accurately, they were dropped. When they were caught, a penalty brought the play back. Like the Chiefs, the Raiders had plenty of turnovers, penalties and generally, spent the afternoon doing the things that bad football teams do.

The Raiders and Chiefs spent the entire afternoon trying to give each other the game. At one point, Matt Cassel was flagged for a delay of game penalty. Five-yard penalty. On the next snap, Oakland defensive tackle Tommy Kelly lined up in the neutral zone. Five-yard penalty.

Later, JaMarcus Russell threw two awful, abysmal passes in a row and the Raiders punted. The Chiefs muffed the punt, gifting Oakland with wonderful field position. But the Raiders, ever vigilant, were careful to avoid capitalizing on the short field, opting instead to throw a two-yard pass on third and seven and kick a long field goal.

At one point, the Chiefs actually did make a couple of plays – Jamaal Charles ripped off an impressive 44-yard touchdown, Dwayne Bowe and Chris Chambers caught passes down the field, and Kansas City got to the quarterback, leading to a 13-10 halftime advantage. But after that, it was back to normal. The Raiders did nothing, the Chiefs botched handoffs, the Raiders turned the ball over, and the Chiefs barely took advantage with their own long field goal.

Eventually, the team with the fewest dropped passes and least penalties – Kansas City – won the game. It was inevitable. But was it impressive? You would be hard-pressed to argue so. The Chiefs were more impressive in their Week 2 loss to the Raiders, a game that saw them outgain Oakland almost 4-to-1 in total yardage.

So if we can't take Sunday's win as a step forward, what does it mean? Is there a lesson to be learned, other than the fact that the Chiefs are terrible and will probably only beat other terrible NFL teams this season?

At this point, especially as they are both two-win football teams, we'd be fools not to notice the parallels between the Raiders and the Chiefs, especially since there now appears to be a growing contrast between those parallels.

The Raiders and Chiefs both have young, high-priced quarterbacks. But Russell can't hit the broadside of a barn, and his body language after being pulled Sunday suggests he really doesn't care. At least Cassel can hit a receiver in stride once in awhile, and actually acts like a leader, as he did after Dantrell Savage dropped a third-down pass against Oakland. Also, Cassel can run up a flight of stairs without losing his breath.

What about Darius Heyward-Bey and Dwayne Bowe, a pair of young receivers drafted in the first round? While Bowe has struggled this season, Heyward-Bey has only six catches, and the one catch he made Sunday may not have even been a catch (replays were inconclusive as to whether or not he stayed in bounds). He dropped a pass that should have set up a game winning touchdown. Sure, Bowe drops passes, but he had 91 yards against the Raiders. Heyward-Bey has 96 for the season.

The Raiders and Chiefs both have young, exciting running backs with track speed, but Oakland won't even hand the ball to Darren McFadden. He had just four carries Sunday, just 47 in his four prior games this season, and has only one career game with more than 20 carries. Why did the Raiders draft McFadden in the first round and pay him a truckload of money if they didn't plan to feed him the ball? It boggles the mind. At least the Chiefs, a week after starving Charles for touches in Jacksonville, appeared to learn their lesson, getting him the ball 22 times.

We can compare Tom Cable and Todd Haley, a pair of inexperienced head coaches. Haley screams too much, may have anger issues and makes terrible decisions. Sunday he threw deep on third and short, called a quarterback draw on third and goal from the seven-yard line, and generally did all sorts of things that make fans scratch their heads. Cable is no better, but at least Haley isn't in the habit of punching his assistants, and nor is it rumored that he may be fired soon.

If you really want to go deep, there's Al Davis and Clark Hunt, a pair of powerful, wealthy owners with history attached to their names. But Davis has become a joke for the way he has handled his head coaches and spent money over the last five years. Hunt gained incredible popularity this offseason by ridding his franchise of Carl Peterson and Herm Edwards, hired the hottest general manager candidate in Scott Pioli, and is rather frugal where signing players is concerned. Also, when he goes out in public, he does not frighten small children.

The comparison even extends beyond individuals. Arrowhead Stadium and Network Associates Coliseum are both old stadiums, but Arrowhead at least is getting a makeover. The Coliseum still features football games played on baseball diamonds, is ugly and run down, and badly in need of a wrecking ball. The most attractive feature of Oakland's venue is the costumed fans. To be frank, its nickname – The Black Hole – is appropriate, because it sucks.

So while it's obvious the Chiefs didn't accomplish much in taking what the Raiders gave them Sunday, at least this was clear:

Hey, it could be worse.