How should we react to this? It would be easy to dismiss the Pro Bowl as a meaningless popularity contest. But the fact of the matter is that even when the Chiefs were awful at times over the past 30 years, they still sent someone to Hawaii.
Suddenly, they are no longer worthy. The league and its fans believe there are no stars in Kansas City.
But you'd be hard-pressed to argue against the idea that there are no potential stars. Between Matt Cassel, Glenn Dorsey, Jamaal Charles, Dwayne Bowe, Branden Albert, Tamba Hali, Brandon Flowers and Tyson Jackson, the Chiefs will probably send someone to the Pro Bowl within the next two years. The problem is why none of them qualified this season.
That's the issue we should recognize from KC's 2010 Pro Bowl shutout – the Chiefs' talent lacked the coaching to maximize their results. Bowe cracked under too much pressure, Charles didn't get on the field soon enough, Cassel was armed with popguns. Coaching failed the Chiefs, and judging from the rapid hires of Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel, that issue is being addressed as quickly as possible.
Do you think the fact that Scott Pioli's first two draft picks – Matt Cassel and Tyson Jackson – bombed in their initial season had anything to do with the sudden influx of coordinators at Arrowhead this offseason? We'd be ignorant not to recognize that a key part of Weis and Crennel's job descriptions will be turning Cassel and Jackson into cornerstones, into players that qualify for the Pro Bowl.
Weis has already been credited with turning a sixth-round pick into one of the league's best quarterbacks (Tom Brady), and his work with Brady Quinn at Notre Dame only further solidifies his reputation as a quarterbacks guru. It's fairly obvious what has happened – Cassel was a huge disappointment last season and the Chiefs didn't mess around in trying to find immediate help. That's the sort of move you make when your chosen quarterback can't even beat out David Garrard and Vince Young for Pro Bowl votes.
Crennel? Nearly his entire history as a football coach is about the defensive line. The Patriots kept striking d-line gold in the draft while Crennel was in New England. Again, it's not hard to figure out what happened – Jackson was a huge disappointment and the Chiefs didn't waste time in firing Tim Krumrie and hiring both Crennel and Anthony Pleasant to coach the defensive line.
The Chiefs need Cassel and Jackson to be Pro Bowl-caliber players if The Patriot Way is to succeed in Kansas City.
Are we setting the bar too high for Cassel, a seventh-round pick with an average arm? No. Even Steve Bono made a Pro Bowl. Trent Green won trips to Hawaii in 2003 and 2005, recovering from the embarrassment of leading the league in interceptions. Cassel hasn't dug a hole nearly that deep.
Is it unrealistic to believe a 3-4 defensive end can make the Pro Bowl? No. When he was drafted last April, Pioli compared Jackson to Russell Maryland, a former first-overall pick and regular starter for Super Bowl teams in Dallas during the 90s. Maryland wasn't the NFL's flashiest defensive lineman, but even he made a Pro Bowl by his third season.
Is it wishful thinking to believe that coaching is the answer to "fixing" Cassel and Jackson? Again, no. Before Dick Vermeil arrived in Kansas City, Dante Hall was nobody. After a season or two of Vermeil's tender ways, Hall landed in the Pro Bowl.
Hey, it's not like the Chiefs are reinventing the wheel. Monday, the Bears hired Mike Martz for one reason – they need the Mike Shanahan edition of Jay Cutler instead of the version that leads the league in interceptions. The Chiefs need Cassel playing like Josh McDaniels is on the sidelines. They need Jackson playing like he's worthy of the third overall pick.
Then, maybe we can start thinking about Chiefs in the Pro Bowl again. Popularity contests aside, Super Bowl teams are full of Pro Bowlers. It falls to Weis and Crennel to produce them in Kansas City.
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