Giving Thanks In Chiefs Kingdom

As another Turkey Day passes, it may be hard for those in Chiefs Kingdom to find anything to be thankful for. It's easier to wallow in self pity and be vengeful over what we don't have - Jared Allen, Bernard Pollard, a winning record or the fruition of Lamar Hunt's desire for every NFL team to enjoy a Thanksgiving Day game. But, in light of the holiday, here are five things to be thankful for.

5. The Denver Broncos are falling off the wagon.

It's part of being a fan - you love your team, and love to hate your team's rivals. Ask any Chiefs fan of my generation, and they'll probably tell you they hate the Donkeys more than the Raiders. In the whole scope of things, Al Davis and the Raiders are Kansas City's true rival, but the images of old Horse-Teeth hoisting a Super Bowl trophy were burned in my memory as a young fan.

We can take joy from Denver's decline because of their meteoric rise early this season. This offseason, it appeared the Chiefs were ramping up for another surefire losing year, but the drama in Denver with Josh McDaniels, Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall and Kyle Orton was comforting - perhaps the Donkeys would join the Raiders in the division cellar? While that didn't happen, it helps that right around the time the Broncos are orchestrating their annual choke job, the Chiefs are turning things around.


4. Tamba Hali.


His name incites mixed emotions. His 15.5 sacks in year one and two, coupled with the success of Jared Allen, had Chiefs fans hallucinating about the return of a great defense to Arrowhead Stadium. However, Carl Peterson promptly yanked that rug out from underneath us, and Hali's first season as the top pass rusher was a flop last season.

Enter the 3-4 defense. When I first heard the Chiefs were moving Hali to outside linebacker, I was beyond skeptical. How could a player who has struggled with leg injuries be counted on to drop into coverage? How could a pass rusher who's only played with his hand on the ground learn to play upright? It didn't take long to realize that Hali's pass-rushing ability and hustle would continue to be an asset at linebacker, but no one was sure how it would truly turn out. Many talking heads tabbed him to be traded.

The truth is most 3-4 outside linebackers in the NFL started out as defensive ends. As the 3-4 scheme comes back into vogue, that will probably change, but Hali's transition to linebacker was far from revolutionary, and may turn out to be the best thing for his career. Hali has only 3.5 sacks, but he's also accounted for a safety and two forced fumbles. With Mike Vrabel aging and no other viable pass rusher on board, Hali is missing the benefit of a sidekick. Get him one this offseason, and he could go off in 2010.


3. The Tony Gonzalez trade.


There's still a compelling case to be made that keeping Gonzalez would have been the best option, but the past can't be undone, and the Chiefs now have two second-round picks to work with in the 2010 draft.

The Chiefs, though showing signs of improvement, still have room to improve talent-wise. They absolutely need an upgrade at center, right guard and/or right tackle, outside linebacker and safety. In an ideal world, they'd improve at inside linebacker, both guard and tackle, nose tackle and tight end. That's a whole lot of work to get done in free agency and the latter rounds of the draft. That second round could prove to be prime plucking grounds for several of those positions, especially the interior offensive line and linebacker.


2. The win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.


A lot has been made of KC's third win, but we won't understand its true impact right away. If Haley and his players lose every game the rest of the season, it'd be hard to say beating the Steelers had any lasting positive effects. But it does present an opportunity for this team, coaching staff, and organization to take advantage of.

If Haley can use that game as a springboard for the rest of the season, winning two, three or four more games, then it meant a lot. It affords him the chance to look at his team and say, I told you so. That win, for the time being, validates all the extra sprints, the yelling and hard work the team's put in. Of course, it also gives fans an oasis in what has been a loss-filled desert the last three seasons.

1. The Chiefs still look good compared to the Raiders.

Whenever you're feeling down on your luck as a Chiefs fan, just pull out a map and look West. While Kansas City has had plenty of drama – parts four and five of the LJ saga, Dwayne Bowe's suspension, etc – there's no owner calling the shots with one foot in the grave and Todd Haley hasn't punched Maurice Carthon.

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