Monday, January 20, 2014

2013 chiefs in review: part uno

“I was checked in by four;
Put the sign on the door.
Looked out the window
Of the seventeenth floor.

Talked to the city
That knows me by name,
And all the bad things
That I do.

I shed five bitter tears,
Into five bitter beers;
Looked at my watch and said,
“Where have the years gone?”

I’m wasting away
Like a castle of clay,
Slowly crumbling too …

Every Monday?
I get this pain.
Every Wednesday?
It hits my brain.

Every Friday I die,
‘Cause everyday?
(Boom boom boom boom boom!)
I still … think of you …”

-- “Every Monday” by Marvelous3, the single most criminitely, grousely underrated band of all time.

--------------------

Well, it's time for the saddest post of the year -- the look back at the Chiefs season that was.  This post can only be, uuh, posted, once the Chiefs season is over.  I was in Indianapolis to witness the end to one of the more amazing seasons the Chiefs have had -- certainly the best in a decade.  Which is probably why I'm still going to need a solid six months of therapy with Stevo's Site Numero Dos' Official Therapist, the right Reverend Al K. Hall, before I can possibly begin to comprehend how this season ended.

So, let's do this.  If you're familiar with the site, you know how this works.  If not, basically, I'll look back at the things both great and awful of the season that was, grade every meaningful member of the organization and roster for their job performance, and post the "Stevo Dream Schedule" for 2014, along with my draft and free agency thoughts (if I have any).

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Part I is the Dream Schedule, and Highs, Lows, and Favorites.
Part II is the Professor Stevo Report Cards.
Part III is what truly matters -- where the hell are we at, how the hell did we get here, and where do we go from here?

Oh, and to answer the obvious: yes, I am not just renewing my ticket, if the seat next to me is available, I'm re-adding my extra as well.  If only because this home schedule next year, is wickedly delicious.

In fact, let's start there.  Let's open with ...

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1. The Stevo Dream Schedule for 2014.

Preseason:

Week One: at Packers, Saturday August 9, 7pm CT (Chiefs TV Network).
Week Two: vs Eagles, Saturday August 16, 7pm CT (Chiefs TV Network).
Week Three: at Texans, Saturday, August 23, 7pm CT (Chiefs TV Network).
Week Four: vs Vikings, Thursday, August 28, 7pm CT (Chiefs TV Network).

Reasoning / Rationale: there won't be a (don criqui voice) Governor's Cup Trophy game in preseason this year, as the Chiefs and Rams do battle in the regular season.  The Chiefs routinely schedule some combination of these four squads in the preseason, and none of them appear on the regular season schedule in 2014.  Your "Double Header Day" is August 28th; the only two weeks that work for the "Double Header Day" are the first and last.  Royals host the Twins that Thursday; why not make it a true twin-bill, ala 2003.  (Royals host the Giants the first weekend of the preseason; the Chiefs and 49ers play at whatever the hell their new stadium will be named in the 2014 regular season, so the 49ers won't be on the preseason schedule.)

Also, it gives the Chiefs an opportunity for decent measurement -- two division champions, and two teams who fell back to the pack a year after making the postseason.  The third preseason game is always the most important; if the Chiefs can't give a 2-14 Texans squad that (in my opinion) just royally screwed the pooch on their coaching hire, it doesn't bode well, given the presence of seven games against 2013 playoff teams (including all four conference finalists) on the 2014 schedule.

Regular Season:

Week One: vs Jets, Sunday September 7, noon (CBS).
Week Two: at raiders, Sunday September 14, 3pm CT (CBS).
Week Three: at broncos, Sunday September 21, 3pm CT (CBS).
Week Four: vs Rams, Sunday September 28, noon CT (FOX).
Week Five: at Steelers, Monday October 6, 7:30pm CT (ESPN).
Week Six: vs Patriots, Sunday October 13, 3pm (CBS).
Week Seven: at Bills, Sunday October 20, noon (CBS).
Week Eight: bye.
Week Nine: vs Titans, Sunday November 2, noon (CBS).
Week Ten: vs Seahawks, Monday November 10, 7:30pm CT (ESPN).
Week Eleven: at "Super" Chargers, Sunday November 16, 3pm CT (CBS).
Week Twelve: at "Super" Cardinals, Sunday November 23, 3pm CT (CBS).
Week Thirteen: vs Broncos, Thursday November 27, 7:30pm CT (NBC).
Week Fourteen: at Dolphins, Sunday December 7, noon CT (CBS).
Week Fifteen: at 49ers, Sunday December 14, 3pm CT (CBS).
Week Sixteen: vs raiders, Sunday December 21, noon CT (CBS).
Week Seventeen: vs "Super" Chargers, Sunday December 28, noon CT (CBS).

Reasoning / Rationale: No matter how you try to stage the schedule, this is going to be a weekly struggle.  The simple fact, gang, is that:

(a) the Chiefs play seven games against 2013 playoff squads (two each against denver and San Diego; one each against Seattle, San Francisco, and New England), all of whom figure to be in the thick of the playoff race again, and

(b) the Chiefs play four more games against teams that finished .500 or better in 2013 (one each against Miami, the Jets, Pittsburgh, and Arizona), and two of those squads (Pittsburgh and Arizona) were the "first team out" in their respective conferences.

That's eleven -- eleven! -- difficult contests on paper eight months out.  And of the remaining five games?  Three (Tennessee, St. Louis, and Buffalo) are against teams that finished within shouting distance of .500, and the other two are against our bitter rivals, the Pride N Poise Boyz by the Bay.

Here's why I set it up, as I did.  

Let's get my 1A / 1B matchup out of the way right off the bat.  Also, if you look at the first three weeks and note "wow, Stevo, we've seen this before!", then you're an astute observer.  The first three weeks are exactly as the 2005 Chiefs season (the last one that entering it, on paper, looked as brutal as this one does), only with zero prime-time games, instead of two, in that stretch.  There is no reason, none, the Chiefs should not be 2-2 at worst after the first quarter, and I'd argue anything less than 3-1 is a deep disappointment.

Your second quarter gets appreciably harder.  The Steelers game is the Chiefs first prime-time appearance, because I'm pretty sure Paul Tagliabue passed an addendum back in the early 1990s that every Chiefs / Steelers game must be played in prime time, or in the national television slot***.  Then a huge game against the Patriots on a short week, followed by a trip to The Ralph, before a bye and a very winnable game against the Titans at Arrowhead.  Again, there is no reason the Chiefs cannot be 4-4 at worst after this stretch, and I'd argue anything less than 5-3 is a very deep disappointment.  (Personally, I'd argue anything less than 6-2 is a bad sign, but 5-3 is manageable, depending on what denver and San Diego do.  Sorry, oakland fan -- your squad sucks something awful.  Another also-ran season for the red-headed stepsister of the AFC West.  As it should be!  (Cue every Chiefs, broncos, and Chargers fan nodding in agreement at the truth of that previous statement.))

The third quarter is where it gets really, really tough.  Home games against your two Super Bowl participants (including the donkeys on a short week in prime time on Thanksgiving night), and the two roadies are against well-coached rising powers.  The Chiefs have to find a way to take two in this stretch, and one of them has to be against denver or San Diego.

The last quarter sees the close of a stretch of four of five on the road, before closing with two divisional home games.  Three of four in the last four is extremely doable.

This schedule sets the Chiefs up for 10-6 barring catastrophic injuries, with a ceiling of 12-4, and a floor of 8-8.  And in case you think that's not good enough, remember this: if Ryan Succup hits the field goal as time expires in San Diego, then 8-8 gets you in this past season (the Steelers were the first out at 8-8). 

(***: in case you don't believe me, here are your Chiefs / Steelers matchups since 1992, in reverse:

2012: at Steelers, Monday Night Football.
2011: at Chiefs, Sunday Night Football.
2009: at Chiefs, no special designation.
2006: at Steelers, CBS national game.
2003: at Chiefs, no special designation.
2001: at Chiefs, CBS national game.
1999: at Chiefs, CBS Saturday game.
1998: at Chiefs, Monday Night Football.
1997: at Chiefs, Monday Night Football.
1996: at Chiefs, Monday Night Football.
1993: at Chiefs, playoff game.
1992: at Chiefs, Sunday Night Football.

12 matchups, 10 of them nationally televised.  Unreal.)

OK, with fantasy and conjecture and wishful thinking dispensed with, I guess now it's time to look back at ...

2. The Bests and Worsts of the 2013 Season.

Best Game (Performance): at Redskins, week fourteen.  A 45-10 ass whipping in the snow, that felt more like 503 to negative 2.  The only way this game could have gone better, is if mike shanarat had been poop canned immediately afterwards (instead of three weeks later).

Worst Game (Performance): vs Colts, week sixteen.  Do you realize this is the only game all season, the Chiefs did not have the ball with under eight minutes to play, where they either (a) were already leading, or (b) driving to tie or take the lead?  The other five losses (at broncos, vs Chargers, vs broncos, at Chargers, at Colts), the Chiefs controlled the outcome of the game, ball in hand, midway through the fourth quarter.  This season was like the Bizarro World version of last year's Chiefs, only in a good way.

Favorite Game (Overall): vs Texans, week seven.  As someone who'd much rather watch a 17-16 chess match than a 45-44 shootout where the last team to have the ball wins, this game was a throwback to the glory days of the 1990s.  A brilliantly coached game on both sides, with the difference being that fourth quarter by the Chiefs defense.  Sixteen Texans plays in the fourth quarter.  One first down.  Negative two yards.  Zero points.  "Dayum nature!  You scary!"

Best Performance (Player): Alex Smith, at Colts, wildcard weekend.  This one will no doubt get lost in the shuffle for eternity, given the ending and outcome of the game.  But folks?  Folks?  Alex Smith's stat line that day?  30/46, 378 yards, 4 TD / 0 INT, Rating 119.7.  And that doesn't even account for his rushing stat line that day -- 8 carries, 57 yards, including two critical first down conversions on 3rd and long.

And he did all this, despite not having Jamaal Charles for the final 55 minutes, despite not having Donnie Avery for most of the second half, and despite not having his starting left tackle (Eric Fisher), who didn't even make the trip to Lucas Oil, and it showed -- poor Alex was sprinting for his life on nearly every snap he dropped back to throw (and literally on eight snaps, seven of which he did drop back to throw on).

Worst Performance (Player): Quintin Demps, vs Chargers week twelve.  My God.  I honestly don't know where to begin on his p*ss poor afternoon that frigid November afternoon.  Was it refusing to take a knee on every single kickoff, even though Nick Novak was booting them to damned near the back line of the end zone?  Was it allowing some Chargers WR I cannot pronounce the name for, on a play when everyone in the stadium knew Phyllis Rivers was going deep, to get open and score the game winning points?  Was it missing so many tackles in the open field, I started calling him "Chuck", after Charles "Chuck" Mincy -- the second worst defensive back in Chiefs franchise history -- and NOBODY was laughing, because EVERYONE around me knew who I was referring to, and why?  Sorry "Chuck" -- you turned in the worst individual day this season, and really, outside of your "effort" in Indy in the wildcard game, nobody else is even in the running for this honor.

Favorite Performance (Player): Knile Davis, at Colts, wildcard weekend.  Mr. Davis stepped into an impossible situation.  Asking a rookie -- any rookie -- to carry the load, on the road, in as bat sh*t crazy with fan noise as Lucas Oil Stadium is, is nearly asking the impossible.  Asking him to do it given (a) his history of fumbling throughout the season, (b) the utter inability of the offensive line to blow a hole open for him, and (c) that he literally had no backup, no support, with Jamaal Charles' out due to being concussed, was asking the absurd.

Davis delivered.  18 carries for 67 yards and a touchdown.  7 receptions for 33 yards and a touchdown.  And he and Sir Alex had the Chiefs moving into range for what might have saved the victory from the ensuing jaws of defeat, before he tragically blew out his knee with about six minutes to play, and the Chiefs driving for what might have been the clinching points of the contest.

Oh, and zero turnovers.  He didn't even put the ball on the ground on the play he was injured.  Here's hoping for a speedy, Jamaal Charles' like recovery, because I cannot wait to see these two lined up in the backfield together next fall, and watch the league's various defensive minds, try to account for the weapons the Chiefs will hopefully throw at you on every single play.

Best Play (Player): Tamba Hali's strip sack / DJ's recovered fumble on the Texans final snap from scrimmage, week seven.  The recap of the play leads off, and closes, the recap of that contest.

Worst Play (Player): Donnie Avery's dropped bomb early on, at broncos, week eleven.  Of every "what if" that us Chiefs fans get to torture ourselves with this offseason, this one tops the list.  What if Donnie Avery holds onto the bomb and scores as he should have (and like he did at Indy in the wildcard round)?  That first matchup with denver has a whole different outlook, if the Chiefs open the field up early (as they tried to do).  Dishonorable mention to Cyrus Gray's utter lack of speed and closing ability at Indy in the wildcard round.  If Jamaal Charles is on the field for that wide, wide open wheel route, the Chiefs win the game.  If Knile Davis is on the field for that wide, wide open wheel route, the Chiefs win the game.  Unfortunately, Cyrus Gray was the last running back standing on the field, for that wide, wide open wheel route.  The Chiefs lost the game.  Hang on, I need to spent a few moments "conversing" with my good friend, the Rev. Al K. Hall, before continuing.

Favorite Play (Player): The Hali / DJ strip sack and recovery of Case Keenum, week seven.  That, ladies and gentlemen?  THAT is what Terrorhead used to mean.  And that might be my favorite play by a Chiefs player in at least five years, since Larry Johnson took that final handoff against denver that magical September Sunday in 2008, and ended 345 days of losing.

Best Play (Coach / Call): the underneath route to Dexter McCluster for a 28 yard touchdown, vs broncos, week thirteen.  This thing was a thing of beauty.  Great play call by Doug Pederson in that spot -- confusing the donkeys with a power set I formation, then sending both Dwayne Bowe and Donnie Avery end-zone bound, which opened the middle of the field wide, wide open.  Dexter could have walked in, there was so little resistance to the play.

Worst Play (Coach / Call): the entire second half on defense, at Colts, wildcard round.  Put it this way: if you can pour yourself a stiff enough Weller and Diet Coke, and watch the second half, you'll notice the Chiefs played a 5-0 cover one for damned near the entire half.  It forced zero punts, allowed five touchdowns (while earning ten points ultimately off turnovers), and is a huge, key factor as to why the Chiefs lost, because there were no linebackers in the play, to prevent Andrew Luck from simply grabbing the ball and diving forward.  There wasn't anyone there to oppose his lunge.

Favorite Play (Coach / Call): Alex Smith around right end for a critical fourth down conversion, at Colts, wildcard round.  Why, you ask, was this my favorite play of the season?  Because the Colts had just run the same damned play, right down to the fake handoff to the fullback up the center that every person in the building -- including me -- fell for, not even forty five minutes earlier.  I love coaching staffs that aren't afraid to admit the opposition's game plan is better, and steal it for themselves.  Joe Pendry wouldn't have done that.  Paul Hackett wouldn't have done that.  "Are You" Jimmy Raye wouldn't have done that.  Al Saunders never would have done that.  Chuck Weis never would have done that.  Brian Daboll wouldn't even think to do that.  And poor Mike Solari is still trying to finish coloring in the kiddie menu at whatever IHOP he's bussing tables at. 

Best Game (Weather): vs Cowboys, week one.  Anytime the t-shirt is off, and draping my shoulder, by the middle of the first quarter?  It's a damned good weather game for a football game.

Worst Game (Weather): at Colts, wildcard round.  All that damned snowstorm cost was eating one night's hotel room, a drive home from hell itself once we got to, uuh, hell itself (that would be Columbia), and an inability to properly deal with the worst Chiefs defeat of my lifetime, because we all had to keep our wits about us just to simply see ten feet in front of us for the last four hours of that trip (which usually only takes ninety minutes).


Favorite Game (Weather): at Jaguars, week one.  Because anytime you can watch your team whip another team's behind while floating in the pool, vodka tonic(s) in hand, in 104 degree temperatures, you have to do it.

Up next?  The Report Cards.

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also, apologies on the layout ...

Something went bat sh*t crazy when I tried to upload the previous post.  I'll work on fixing it Tuesday.  I didn't change a thing; t...