Tuesday, January 3, 2012

2011 chiefs in review part dos: individual grades

In case you failed to read part one …

(late 80s nbc announcer dude voice) “and now, part two of Hunter …” I mean, “and now, part two of the Stevo Chiefs Season in Review” …

Individual Grades, Offense:

* LT Branden Albert: B. I think he’s better on the right side, but he’s a perfectly acceptable blind side tackle. Again, I think he’s better on the right side, and I think he’s a perfectly acceptable blind side tackle. Please, please, please, remember this when I get to the “whatever you do on day two or (possibly) early day three of the draft, please, DRAFT THIS GUY!” segment of this series of posts (I’m guessing it’ll be fourth).

* LG Ryan Lilja: B. No stupid penalties, and Cassel getting hurt wasn’t the line’s fault, so other than for one glaring exception, these guys are getting passing grades. Plus Lilja’s done what he was hired to do: allowed us to transition spots on the line. Waters out, Asomoah in. Next year, Weigmann out, Hudson in. And also hopefully, Richardson out, something less than a turd burgler in*.

(*: you’re welcome, Dick Vermeil fans. Other than his “I’ve got a perfect record up there, 0 and 4” comment about playing in denver, that’s my favorite Vermeil quote ever, calling Terdell Sands a “turd burglar”. Oh I miss you sometimes coach. Not very often. But sometimes.)

* C Casey Weigmann: A. If this is it, he’s had one helluva career anchoring (in the beginning) one of the NFL’s greatest offensive lines ever, and by the end, a perfectly mediocre crew. Thanks for the memories champ.

* RG Jon Asomoah: A. I know some Chiefs fans are still irked at Brian Waters getting cut, then making a Pro Bowl, and that’s fine … but don’t ignore the job that Asomoah did, or the fact that over the next ten years, we’re going to see Asomoah in a lot more Pro Bowls than Waters will appear in. This kid has a bright, bright future in front of him.

* RT Barry Richardson: F. If it was possible to give a grade worse than F, I would. Although maybe F is appropriate, since he’s the biggest f*ck up of a tackle this team has employed since … uuh … Trezelle Jenkins? Right tackle has to be an offseason priority. If Barry Richardson is the best you can do? Then in the words of Mr. Holland, “your best is not good enough”. Earns his F for multiple holding calls, false starts, and of course for failing to block richard seymour not once, but twice, on field goal attempts against oakland.

* C Rodney Hudson: B+. Can also play guard. Likely starting center next fall. I’d still have rather had Ryan Mallett with the 50th pick last spring instead of Hudson, but I’m not going to dwell on that – Hudson has talent and potential, and if your second round pick turns into a ten year starter at center, you’ve done really well.

* WR Steve Breaston: B+. Provided a decent second / third option, took some heat off of Bowe and Baldwin, and generally caught everything thrown in his direction. Had a huge third down conversion in overtime against the Chargers to keep the game winning drive alive as well.

* WR Jonathan Baldwin: C. Everything before week 7 earned him an F. Everything after week 7 earned him an A, so I’m splitting the difference. Had a huge touchdown against the Chargers, and no major on-field issues. (Off the field? Another story. Hence the F before he saw the field.)

* WR Dwayne Bowe: D. Too many high profile drops (his drop against oakland cost us a playoff berth), he’s just not worth the money he’s going to command. The Chiefs would be far better off letting Bowe walk, franchise Carr, and pursue Reggie Wayne in free agency.

* WR Jerheme Urban: B-. Primarily a special teamer. No major gaffes. You can do worse for a fourth receiver than Urban. (See Samie Parker.)

* RB Jamaal Charles: Incomplete. Had a bad first game, but the Chiefs were driving (primarily due to his running) to take the lead early on at Detroit when he blew out his knee. If Charles can return to even 90% of what he was in 2010 next season, the Chiefs are your favorites to win the AFC West no matter what unqualified dolt we line up under center.

* RB Jackie Battle: A+. Gave everything he had, and that was asked of him. Probably the only starting running back in the league that also plays special teams. If he doesn’t return next season, I wish him nothing but the best.

* RB Thomas Jones: F. My God, where do you begin? He broke our first round pick’s hand in a stupid locker room fight. He failed to pick up 3rd and 1 at an alarming rate. If Jones is back next season, someone in the front office has failed.

* FB Le’Ron McClain: B-. Other than me, possibly “The Voice of Reason”, and maybe a mentally deranged person under care at Two Rivers over there on Raytown Road, nobody else believed this team could rally from 0-3 to being in playoff contention entering week 16 … save for Le’Ron McClain, whose Twitter account became must-read for Chiefs fans. I’m fine with him returning for a second season next year. We can do worse (See Mike Cox).

* QB Matt Cassel: B+. Wait, what?!?! Let me answer the “what the f*ck?!?! Last year he wins a division, makes a Pro Bowl, throws 27 TDs (with only 7 INTs and no lost fumbles), and you give him a D, and this year, he’s 4-4 (on the way to 4-5) when he leaves with a broken hand … and you not only give him your LEAST Valuable Player (Offense) award, you give him TWO full grades higher this year?!?!”question I know you are inevitably asking.

First, the LVP award was a group effort, the entire Chiefs QB corps failed in a pathetically epic way this fall. Second, look at the Chiefs after Cassel left. They failed to score more than 19 points in ANY game. (And somehow went 3-4. Amazing.) That tells me that at least Cassel was doing something right. Third, look at his coordinator (his 5th in 4 years, for what its worth). Would you trust Bill Muir to walk the dog to the curb to take a leak? Because I sure as hell wouldn’t. Fourth, look at what he (didn’t) have on the field – his running back, his first round pick, and a competent right tackle that didn’t have him dodging defenders on the 4th step of a 5 step drop.

Blaming Matt Cassel for this season makes little to no sense. The bottom line is that save for one amazing brain fart (the INT at San Diego … and people forget, he rallied us from down 17 to be in position to tie or win), that Cassel did a perfectly acceptable job under center. Do I want him as our long term starter? No. Do I believe he is capable of taking a team to the Super Bowl? Well, crazier things have happened, but hell no.

Would I bring Cassel back as the starter in 2012, with “draft this guy NOW!” waiting in the wings when Cassel’s contract expires after 2013? (Provided my dream “Drew Brees says yes!” scenario falls flat on its collective ass, as I anticipate it will?) Yes. Yes I would.

* QB Tyler Palko: F. In Palko’s defense, his starts were at New England (has home field advantage until the Super Bowl), vs Pittsburgh (top wild card, second best record in conference), at Chicago (was 7-3 until Cutler and Forte got hurt) and at the Jets (at the time, a shoo-in for the playoffs.) To which I say, so? Palko played so awful in all four games, that it’s a credit to the rest of the roster that we managed to win one, and nearly beat the Steelers. If Tyler Palko is on a NFL roster come Opening Day 2012, I would check the GM of that team for mental competence.

* QB Ricky Stanzi: F. If you can’t get on the field ahead of Tyler Palko … and you can’t blame the coaching change for that – Romeo refused to play him either even though the finale yesterday was meaningless – then you suck something awful. Which is why I hated this draft pick last spring, and hate him on the roster even more entering January. In the words of Gregg and I’d old doormat: “Go Away”.

* QB Kyle Orton: D. Wait, what? Yes, a D. What, pray tell, did Orton do? The offense got WORSE every week with him at the helm – 5 scoring possessions vs Packers (who, by the way, finished with the 32nd ranked defense in the league, and we only managed 19 points against them, cracked! Anyone who think the Packers are winning it all, again, 32 Defense. How well did that work out here in 2003 with a MORE prolific offense?), 3 scoring possessions against oakland, and 1 against denver. Orton accounted for three touchdowns – Battle’s run against Green Bay, Bowe’s catch against oakland, and McCluster’s run at denver yesterday. So basically Orton threw one touchdown in three weeks. Wow. Color me unimpressed.

(Cue every denver fan reading this nodding in agreement. Ditto any Bears fans. And Purdue fans. And wherever the hell Orton went to high school, junior high, and played his Pee Wee league ball at.)

Furthermore, if you’re going to blame special teams for failing to win this sh*tty division, you at least have to lay some blame on Orton as well, for his “what the hell is this jackass thinking?!?!” throw in the 2nd quarter against oakland, when he threw into triple coverage in the end zone with no Chief in sight to kill a scoring drive that would have won the game.

There’s a reason why denver cut this guy. There’s a reason why the Bears said “sure!” to taking Jay Cutler over this guy. And we’ve seen it. Simply put, he can’t score. Now, maybe I should sympathize with the guy, since I too have that problem in the sexual arena, but for f*ck’s sake, I’m not making millions of dollars a year to quarterback a football team. If I have to choose between Orton or Cassel, I’m taking Cassel every time. And I’m doubling down on that bet to boot. Even if its as dumb as doubling down on a soft 3 against a 2. (Which I do 90% of the time. And 100% when I’m playing with the house’s money. Sometime, I need to post my theory on the five types of blackjack players that exist. Because I know unlike most of my theories, I’m dead on accurate on that one. And in case I ever fail to post but explain it verbally, I’m conservative / aggressive. Trust me, the theory makes sense when laid out in words.)

Individual Grades, Defense:

* DE Tyson Jackson: D. Cut him. It’s over. This experiment failed. Yes, he got “better” as the year went along, if by “better” you mean he didn’t sh*t his pants in the defensive huddle. Routinely got abused on the line. Amon Gordon is a better option, if you want to “experiment” with the d-line.

* DT Kelly Gregg: F. An abysmal failure. Although to be fair, the guy he replaced (Ron Edwards) didn’t play a down this season, so maybe I should revise this grade. OK, fine. D-. This is the fourth most important upgrade of the offseason (behind (in order) offensive coordinator, right tackle, and 3rd cornerback).

* DE Glenn Dorsey: B-. A solid run stopper. Cannot pressure the passer to save his life. That’s not a good combination for a top five pick four years into his career. Pioli’s got a tough decision to make with Dorsey, who quite honestly, should not be on the field on third down.

* DT Amon Gordon: A+. What a steal! I believe in crediting people when they excel (and ripping them when they fail), so take a bow, Scott Pioli. This might be the free agent find of the decade, and if the Chiefs steal that honor two decades in a row (Priest Holmes last decade, or Brian Waters, take your pick), that’s a good thing. Looking forward to seeing what he can do with more playing time if he replaces Gregg as the starter.

* DE Allen Bailey: C. No major screw-ups, no major contributions. Mediocrity earns a mediocre grade.

* DE Wallace Gilberry: B-. A competent backup defensive end. We can do worse (See Tyson Jackson).

* OLB Justin Houston: B. Like Rodney Hudson, I’d have preferred we spent this draft pick on Arkansas QB Ryan Mallett last spring … but like Rodney Hudson, if we get a 10 year starter who’ll make a couple Pro Bowls out of the pick, I can’t complain that much. Still, until and unless the Chiefs address the gigantic "elephant in the room” that is our quarterback disaster, this team is at best a 10-6 wildcard round loser. Houston had a solid rookie season, and should be a long-term starter here going forward. Provided, of course, he doesn’t flunk yet another drug test for enjoying the wacky tobaccy even more than I do.

* ILB Jovan Belcher: C-. Chiefs can upgrade at this position, but they certainly can do worse. (See “cut” glen cadrez.) Belcher didn’t have a ton of huge plays this year, but played competent run defense, picked off a pass, and didn’t disgrace the position (unlike “cut” glen cadrez.)

* ILB Brandon Siler: incomplete.  And HERE is the Chiefs upgrade to the position.  Of all the season-ending injuries we suffered, this one might have hurt the worst of all.  Can't wait to see this guy back on the field in August.

* ILB Derrick Johnson: A. Finally made it to Hawaii with a deserving Pro Bowl nod. With Houston, DJ, and Hali, we’ve got a solid start on a rock-star linebacking corps.

* OLB Tamba Hali: A+. If the national media gave a damn about this team (or, more specifically, if we gave them a reason to give a damn), they’d be verbally fellating Tamba Hali as the next great young ‘backer in this league. What he’s accomplished the last two years against a double team on nearly every play (since nobody else in the front seven, save for Justin Houston, can generate a pass rush), is nothing short of amazing.

* OLB Andy Studebaker: F. Total regression season. Would be stunned to see him return in 2012.

* ILB Demorrio Williams: F. Totally normal season for him. Will be apoplectic if he returns in 2012.

* OLB Cameron Sheffield: C+. There’s some talent there, but good luck getting playing time in front of Hali and Houston.

* CB Brandon Flowers: A-. Awful start to the season, but from the second half in San Diego in week three onward, was a Pro Bowl caliber cornerback, and multiple national media outlets felt he should have been in the Pro Bowl. He will be before its all said and done later this month, and he’s earned it.

* CB Brandon Carr: A-. Would be an A+ except for the meltdown against oakland, when he got burned twice, both times setting up crucial points for the raiders in the game that ultimately cost the Chiefs a return trip to the playoffs. Resigning Carr long-term should be priority two for the Chiefs this offseason (after the coaching hire), and if necessary, he should be franchised.

* CB Javier Arenas: B. Solid special teamer, mediocre corner. You can do worse than Arenas (see Mark “Mighty Mouse” McMillian.)

* CB Travis Daniels: F. Gotta be honest – I didn’t realize he was still on the roster. I figured he’d already been cut for incompetence.

* S Eric Berry: incomplete. Chiefs fans, if you need a reason to hope, it is this: as good as this defense was? Its best player was on the field for three snaps this year, two after he’d already blown out his knee.

* S Jon McGraw: C-. Shouldn’t be a full time starter, and he knows it as well as anyone, but had no choice due to injury. Performed adequately. I am fine with him returning in a backup role that he’s perfectly suited to play (as in 2010).

* S Kendrick Lewis: B+. Love this kid, love his future, and good Lord, a starting secondary of Flowers / Carr / Berry / Lewis might be the best in the league.

* S Sabby Piscatelli: F. (stevo refusing to waste the space to discuss this worthless piece of sh*t’s season).

* P Dusty Colquitt: A. The Chiefs have the third best punter in the division … and the third best punter in the entire league. The AFC West is loaded with rock-star punters – lechler in oakland, Scifres in San Diego, and Dusty C’s little brother in denver. Makes it imperative that we replace Steve Hoffman with a Pete Rodriguez-type special teams coach to maximize what we have.

* PK Ryan Succup: C. For the record, I’m fine with the contract extension, and congrats on tying the franchise record for most consecutively made field goals. Having said that, two blocked kicks against oakland, a costly miss against San Diego in week 3 – if just ONE of those three kicks goes in, I’m not typing this post for another week.

Individual Grades, Coaches and Front Office:

* Head Coach Todd Haley: C-. The training camp gamble backfired, his devotion to Tyler Palko was baffling at best … but give him this – this team didn’t quit on him at 0-2, down 17 at the half in San Diego. They nearly beat the Chargers, won four straight, and somehow upset the Bears in Chicago before the floor finally gave against the Jets. I would not have fired Haley, for what its worth. His positives outweigh his negatives in my eyes. But I understand the move. I wish him nothing but the best in his future endeavors, and thank him for putting this franchise back on the map last season with our first division championship in 8 years.

* Head Coach Romeo Crennel: D+. Note – this is my grade for him as head coach, not defensive coordinator, which will appear in a few more paragraphs. There will be those who question this grade. Certainly upsetting Green Bay was sweet, and anytime you can beat those f*ckers in blue and orange in their place, it’s a good thing. Having said that … let’s consider three things:

1. The offense, again, got WORSE every week under Romeo. 19 to 13 to 7. The odds of going 2-1 when that’s your offense, are not good. And yet …
2. Explain the oakland loss. Defend it. That was all coaching, specifically a lack of it. This team should be hosting Pittsburgh on Sunday afternoon. The entire game against oakland save for one drive is a clinic in how not to coach. And …
3. What did you see in the last three weeks to convince you Romeo isn’t, you know, Romeo? Penalties everywhere. Wasted timeouts. Pointless challenges. Chaos on offense. Retarded game plans. Crappy special teams. Complete lack of attention to detail.

If Romeo is the hire, I can stomach it, because if you can beat two playoff teams in three weeks as an interim head coach? You earn a passing grade. (Albeit barely). But hiring him is a huge mistake. Ask Dallas how hiring Wade Phillips went. Because hiring Romeo? Is hiring Wade. Its bringing Herm back. It’s going to end badly for all parties involved, especially those of us who consider ourselves to be die hard fans of this franchise.

* Offensive Coordinator Bill Muir: D-. I can’t flunk him because every time you were ready to pull out your Rage Against the Machine voice and scream “f*ck it cut the cord!”, he’d put together an offensive drive that left you thinking “well, maybe he isn’t snoring up there in the booth”. But Muir’s offense failed to top 19 points the last 9 games of the season, and managed to top 20 only twice all year (at Indy and hosting San Diego – you can’t count oakland, the defense was 14 of our 28 in that one). If Bill Muir is calling plays next year, I’m going to submit my name to the “need a new liver” registry just to be safe.

(Update: Muir is allegedly retiring later this week. Praise Jesus!)

* Defensive Coordinator Romeo Crennel: B+. Yes, the last three weeks have been a defensive masterpiece. Especially against Green Bay. Having said that, we lost our opener by 34, game 2 by 45, lost three more by 27 plus, were down 17 at both Indy and San Diego, and suffered epic meltdowns at key moments in the game against denver (the eric decker TD) and oakland (the first play of overtime). If you want to credit Romeo for the last three weeks, please do so (although I am not one of you.) But if you want to credit him for the last three weeks, then by God, hold him accountable for the insanity of the first fourteen.

(Note: in hindsight, B+ was probably too generous. Yes, Romeo got no help from the offense, but the Chiefs lost exactly three competitive games this year (out of six) – at San Diego (when we trailed 17-0 at the half), vs Steelers (within a score the whole way), and vs oakland (when neither team ever lead by more than 7). The other six? To Buffalo by 34, Detroit by 48, Miami (winless at the time) by 28, denver by 7 (misleading – garbage time TD cut it to 7 with :06 left, and Palko threw said garbage time TD after badly, badly, BADLY pissing away the clock in the minute preceding the TD), at Patriots (by 28), at Jets (by 27). In hindsight? B+ is too generous.)

* GM Scott Pioli: B-. The roster he assembled, if healthy, would have won the division, and we would have clinched it by week 15. If healthy. The problem is that there was no depth to speak of. Having Tyler Palko as your backup QB is a fireable offense, and everyone knew that in August, let alone once it showed itself to be a fireable offense in November.

Still, there is no doubt the 2011 Chiefs are better than the 2008 team he inherited, and figure to only get better going forward. The key for Pioli is going to be the quarterback decision. If he cannot find a long-term solution to the position, either in the draft, free agency, or by having Matt Cassel turn into what I don’t believe he is, then Pioli will be gone no later than January 2014. And deservedly so. Five years is more than enough time to figure the position out.

* Owner Clark Hunt: B. Many around here want to blast Hunt for allegedly not “spending money”. What, pray tell, would you have spent it on? Worthless veterans who would have meant the difference between what, a 9-7 team getting its ass kicked on national television on Sunday, instead of a 7-9 team that has plenty of spots available for young, up and coming talent this offseason? I’ll give Hunt this, three fold: (a) you can’t judge the payroll by the cap (Chiefs are 31st in cap room, 14th in actual salaries spent for the 2011 season), (b) the Hunt family paid every cent in cost overruns on the Truman Sports Complex remodel … and note, I didn’t say “Arrowhead remodel”, I said “Sports Complex”, and (c) again, what would you have had Clark Hunt whiz away 50, 60 million on? The talent wasn’t there this offseason!

If failing to p*ss away 50 to 60 million on mediocre talent makes you a “bad owner”? Then this league needs more “bad owners”, if only to avoid another pointless five month lockout. Hunt has resigned every major young player who was about to hit free agency up until now (DJ, Hali, Charles, Flowers, overpaid badly for Cassel). If either Carr or Bowe walks, well … as long as its Bowe, that’s probably not a bad thing long-term. But if both walk? Then call him cheap. Until then, I’m fine with him as an owner. Lock up your good young talent. Preserve cap flexibility to make a splash in free agency and / or the trade market when you’re on the verge of a breakthrough. This is what smart, well run teams do, and it is EXACTLY what the Chiefs have done. Anyone who can’t see that, apparently thinks a 9-7 playoff berth is a ceiling worth preserving. And we can do better than that, Chiefs fans (see Peterson, Carl …)

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