Nate Caminata: 1. The easy one: Is Kansas City as bad as advertised? What exactly happened in that Buffalo game that made the score so lopsided?
Nick Athan, Warpaint Illustrated: The simple answer is that Kansas City Chiefs Head Coach Todd Haley didn't have his team ready to play against the Bills. He was very soft on his players in training camp and the team spent very little time getting into game condition. In other words, the practice sessions were focused on conditioning more so than hitting. In the game versus the Bills the defense wasn't ready to hit in live action. On offense, the Chiefs still were indecisive in regards to what offense to run against Buffalo. All of it falls on the coaching staff. Haley is already on the Hot Seat and should he lose in the same manner to the Lions on Sunday as he did last week against the Bills, he'll rise to the top of the list of coaches that could be fired in 2011.
Caminata: 2. Current GM Scott Pioli was thought to have helped engineer Bill Belichick's Patriots between 2001 and 2008, where they won 3 championships and posted that 16-0 season. Yet the Patriots have continued to win, while the Chiefs haven't duplicated that success. Has Pioli been a letdown? Why has/hasn't he accomplished in Kansas City since taking the reigns?
Athan: I would NOT say that Pioli has been a let down. You aren't the highest paid General Manager in the NFL if you're not good at your job. Pioli was severely handicapped by the team he inherited from Herm Edwards and Carl Peterson. But he blundered mightily his first season. He made three huge mistakes when he began to assemble this team in 2009. One he hired an inexperienced Head Coach in Todd Haley, he drafted LSU Defensive End Tyson Jackson with the third overall pick and he signed Quarterback Matt Cassel to a long term contract. The Haley factor will play out shortly and it's clear that Pioli is already searching for his replacement. Jackson has been an absolute bust and likely will be dealt before the trade deadline for a sixth or seventh round draft pick. And Cassel, though a Pro Bowl player a year ago, might not be the long term answer. But in 2010 and 2011, Pioli did manage to draft some outstanding players that could be the core of this team for the next decade. So the jury is out if he can duplicate the success he had in New England. My guess is Kansas City might not win three Super Bowls but they'll get at least one under Pioli in the next five years.
Caminata: 3. Gunther Cunningham's popularity during his relatively odd stay in KC seems to be split, especially among fans. Some love him, some don't. Why didn't Cunningham work out in Kansas City, both as a head coach and coordinator? What should/shouldn't Lions fans appreciate about their defensive coordinator?
Athan: How can anyone in Kansas City not love Gunther Cunningham. He was a wear it on your sleeve guy who is one of the games best defensive minds. His NFL resume is second to none. True he might not have the Super Bowl hardware but as you've seen in Detroit, give him some toys, and he'll design a defense that will shut down opponents more often than not. In Kansas City, Cunningham could have written his own ticket but when Edwards was fired, he decided to jump ship and join the Lions. In retrospect, it was a good move. He and Haley would have never been able to work together. In the motor city, the Lions fans need to understand that being an old school coach sometimes means doing things the way they've been done for decades. But Gunther can change things up and honestly I've seen him adapt his philosophies a few different times in Kansas City. My guess is that at times he might frustrate the fans. But if I had the defensive weapons that the young Lions have to this point, I'd be thankful that Gunther is leading them.
Caminata: 4. During our podcast interview, you seemed to have a great perspective yourself on how the league views the Detroit Lions. I'd like for you to share your take again here, and the perception from an 'outsider' on this franchise.
Athan: There is no question that the 2011 Detroit Lions are the 2010 version of the Houston Texans. Everyone had the AFC South team as the flavor of the season a year ago. They had talent on both sides of the ball and everyone predicted they'd make the post season. Well as you know, they didn't. The same appears to be the case for the Lions this year. Everyone is on this bandwagon (including yours truly). But that doesn't mean they're ready to join the elite in the NFC North. Green Bay and Chicago are ahead of the pack right now and the Lions, because of a decade or more of losing, have to shake that stigma. Now winning will help but at some point, likely Sunday in the teams home opener, the Lions are going to feel the pressure of expectations. At some point, that's either going to fuel success or create failure. I'm not saying they won't. And I'm on the fence about what kind of season they can have in 2011 but they have enough talent, solid coaching and honestly - they're due for success. If they can stay humble and hungry, I reserve the right to believe that they can sneak into the playoffs either in 2011 or 2012.
Caminata: 5. What weaknesses do you expect the Lions will attempt to exploit, both offensively and defensively? If you were Gunther Cunningham, what is your first order of business once the team steps onto the field?
|The Lions haven't faced a running back threat like Charles. (Photo by Josh Umphrey/Getty Images)|
Athan: Offensively the Kansas City Chiefs have no identity on offense. The offensive line is weak up the middle and dating back to the end of the 2010 season, Cassel has struggled to find the rhythm that made him a Pro Bowl alternate. If the Chiefs don't find their running game, it's going to be easy pickings for the Lions front seven to shut down the Chiefs offense. If Cassel can find a way to get the ball into the hands of his receivers down the field, then the Chiefs will have the edge to create opportunities for their running game to make some plays. And Detroit has yet to face a running back like Jamaal Charles. Give him an inch and he's 80 yards down the field. But if I were Gunther, I'd blitz on every down. I'd never let up and if he can get his defense to shut the Chiefs down in the first quarter, it's likely they won't recover the rest of the game.
On the flip side, Lions Quarterback Matt Stafford should be able to throw the ball at will against the Chiefs defense. Kansas City does not posses much of an ability to pile up the sacks. Don't get me wrong it's not like they can't but right now the team only possess a pair of outside linebackers, Tamba Hali and rookie Justin Houston, that could make things difficult for Stafford. But the Lions have just too many weapons for the Chiefs to cover. So if the Chiefs defense is going to rise to the occasion on Sunday and shut down the Lions offense, they need to take a page out of Gunther's playbook. BLITZ, BLITZ, BLITZ on every snap.