Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014 chiefs in review: the dream schedule, professor stevo's "offensive" grades ...

“If I don’t listen to the talk of the town?
Then maybe I can fool myself!

I’ll get over you!
I know I will!
And I’ll pretend
My ship’s not sinking!

And I’ll tell myself?
I’m over you!
‘Cause I’m the
King of wishful thinking!

I am the king of wishful thinking!

I refuse to give into my blues –
That’s not how it’s gonna be!
And I deny the tears in my eyes,
I don’t wanna let you see!

That you have left a
Hole in my heart,
And now I’ve got to
Fool myself …

I’ll get over you!
I know I will!
And I’ll pretend
My ship’s not sinking!

And I’ll tell myself?
I’m over you!
‘Cause I’m the
King of Wishful Thinking! …”

-- “King of Wishful Thinking” by Go West.  (late 1980s nbc announcer voice) "And now, Part Two, of the 2014 Chiefs ... in Review."

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So, with our opponents now fully known, here is my dream schedule for the 2015 Chiefs season.

I should note up front: this upcoming season has some sick road trip potential – there are five driveable roadies on the schedule … and San Diego is always in play for a get-away, especially if it’s from Thanksgiving on.

* Preseason:

I don’t care, other than the only possible Double Header Day is Week One (August 8; the Royals host the Angels that weekend).  The Royals are out of town for Weeks Two and Three, and Week Four will be on Thursday, September 3 against the Rams, in the (don criqui voice) Governor’s Cup Trophy matchup.  I’d be lying if I said I knew where that will occur this year … just as I’d be lying if I said I gave a sh*t.

The only other thing to note, is that usually the Chiefs play the Packers and Vikings in the preseason.  Highly unlikely to happen this year, since the Chiefs travel to both locales in the 2015 regular season.  (Although in 2011, the Chiefs hosted the Packers in Week Fifteen … but played them in the preseason finale.)

Let’s hope for home games weeks one and three (since three is the only preseason game even remotely worth paying attention to).

* Regular Season:

The Royals are home on Sunday for Week Three (but not on Monday).  That’s the only schedule complication to account for (and oh hell to the mo' fo' yes, I did account for it ... in true Stevo-Style fashion.  (Pause).  Wait, should "Style" be capitalized?!?!?!)

That means the odds are good the Chiefs will open at home for the fifth time in six years (only 2013, at Jacksonville, hasn’t opened at Arrowhead since 2009 – 2010 vs Chargers, 2011 vs Bills, 2012 vs Falcons, 2014 vs Titans).

We know that the Chiefs will face the Lions in London in Week Eight (Sunday, November 1, 8:30am CT), and we know the Chiefs will get their bye week in Week Nine.  Other than that, the other fifteen slots are up for debate, between now and when the real schedule comes out in late April.

Here are the opponents for 2015:

Home: donkeys, raiders, Chargers, Steelers, Browns, Bills, Bears, Lions*.
Road: donkeys, raiders, Chargers, Bengals, Ravens, Texans, Packers, Vikings.

And here is how I’d love for the schedule to look, when it is released:

Week One: Sunday, September 13, vs Browns, noon (CBS).
Week Two: Sunday, September 20, at Vikings, noon (CBS).
Week Three: Monday, September 28, vs Steelers, 7:30pm (ESPN).
Week Four: Sunday, October 4, vs Bears, noon (FOX).
Week Five: Sunday, October 11, at donkeys, 3:25pm (CBS).
Week Six: Sunday, October 18, at Texans, noon (CBS).
Week Seven: Sunday, October 25, vs Chargers, noon (CBS).
Week Eight: Sunday, November 1, vs Lions, 8:30am (FOX).
Week Nine: bye.
Week Ten: Sunday, November 15, at Packers, 3:25pm (CBS).
Week Eleven: Sunday, November 22, at Ravens, noon (CBS).
Week Twelve: Thursday, November 26, vs broncos, 7:30pm (NBC).
Week Thirteen: Sunday, December 6, at raiders, 3:25pm (CBS).
Week Fourteen: Sunday, December 13, at Chargers, 3:25pm (CBS).
Week Fifteen: Sunday, December 20, vs Bills, noon (CBS).
Week Sixteen: Sunday, December 27, at Bengals, noon (CBS).
Week Seventeen: Sunday, January 3, vs raiders, noon (CBS).

Reasoning / Rationale: let’s take this one quarter at a time, shall we?

The first four see the Chiefs with three of four at home, and the only game they would (should?) be an underdog in, given where things stand at the moment, is set in prime time (because the Chiefs and Steelers almost always play in prime time.  Not sure why; they just do.)  That’s a very easy slate to open with, and if the Chiefs are anything less than 3-1 after that slate of games, they should be extremely disappointed.

There’s also a very doable roadie in that opening slate – at the Vikings.  You’re damned right I scheduled that one early enough in the season, that it’s doable.  I went to the game up there the last time the Chiefs played them, back in 2003.  It was late December, it was six degrees out, and we walked through a foot of snow from the car to the Metrodome and back.  The Vikings play outdoors in 2015 (before moving into the Fake Metrodome in 2016).  If we play up there anytime after Halloween, there’s no way I’m going.  Anytime before Halloween?  Load up the car, we’re goin’ streaking!  I mean, road tripping!

The second four is tougher – every game is against a team that won at least nine games in 2014, and three of them are away from Arrowhead (even if Detroit counts as a “home game”).  Like the first four, it contains at least one very doable roadie (I’d prefer Houston … but I’m fine with denver).  Unlike the first four, 3-1 would be an amazing mark in this stretch.  You hope for 2-2, with at least one of the two in the win column being against a divisional opponent.

The third four is the toughest stretch – roadies at two playoff teams, a short week prime time matchup against the donkeys, and a classic trap game by the Bay, to enter the stretch run.  Like the second quarter, you hope for 2-2, but a path to 3-1 is at least visible.  (And the drivable roadie, would be one helluva fun roadie, to Lambeau.  Expensive … but fun.)

The final four games see three games against teams that won nine or more, see two divisional games, and … whoa!  What is this!  The 2015 NFL Regular Season concludes on my 39th birthday?  Well hell, let’s close this season down with a beatable opponent, with quite possibly a “win and in” scenario on the table, and let’s schedule it against the one divisional opponent guaranteed to bring in a lot of fun friends and chosen family to boot! 

(The potential roadie?  Christmas in the Queen City.  (Pause).  Yeah, you’re right – I have spent Christmas in worse locales.)

The 2015 Chiefs schedule is going to be rough no matter how you draw it up.  Seven games against 2014 playoff teams, four more games against teams that won nine games, but didn’t make the playoffs, and a sneaky good roadie at Minnesota.  Throw in the fact that Cleveland collapsed down the stretch (but still won seven), and the Bears aren’t going to go 5-11 again, that means you’re only two layups involve a team that rarely is a layup for the Chiefs – the raiders.

It’s gonna be tough, no matter how you draw it up. 

Drawn up like my (brett voice) vivid imagination has above?  Makes it manageable.

Next up: Professor Stevo’s Grades!  This … could be highly entertaining.

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Let’s start with …

* The Offense.

* LT Eric Fisher: C.  I’d grade the first half of the season at a D-, and the second half (save for the Steelers game) at a B+.  Split the baby in two and call it a C.  Which is the problem.  When you’re the blindside tackle, and the number one pick in the draft, delivering two mediocre to disappointing seasons is a debacle.  If the Chiefs are going to take a step forward in 2015, Eric Fisher has to perform at a B+ level or higher.  Whether he’s capable of that, is one of the four or five most important things, to try to identify this offseason.

* LG Mike McGlynn: D.  A waste of free agent dollars off the field; a waste of 300 plus pound of human flesh on it.  Mr. McGlynn is an unrestricted free agent; I suggest the Chiefs move on.

* C Rodney Hudson: A.  One of the two critical free agents for the Chiefs to resign.  Also, for all the crap former GM Scott Pioli (deservedly) has to endure because of his failed tenure here, that 2011 draft looks awfully sweet in hindsight – Rodney Hudson at 55, Justin Houston at 70, and Allen Bailey at 86.  And even if you want to point out Jon Baldwin was a debacle at 26?  The Chiefs traded back from 21 to 26 … and picked up Justin Houston as a courtesy for their consideration.  Scott Pioli had his issues, but I’m not knocking his drafting acumen.  Not for a second.

* RG Zach Fulton: B-.  Had a few brutal holding calls this year, but this rookie played pretty damned solidly for most of the season.  More than held his own replacing Geoff Schwartz.

* RT Ryan Harris: B.  Possibly the third most important free agent to resign, given Donald Stephenson’s issues this past year.  Mr. Harris had a solid season, and definitely improved as the season went along.  I hope he returns, via a team-friendly contract, in 2015 and beyond.

* G Laurent Duvernay-Tarnif: Inc.  I don’t recall a moment of action with this guy.  Also, I’m not a fan of hyphenated last names.  Pick one or the other, for God’s sake.

* C Eric Kush: B.  Didn’t see a lot of action, because Rodney Hudson is that solid.

* G Jeff Linkenbach: C.  I wasn’t aware he was still on the roster.  I think that’s a good thing.

* T Donald Stephenson: F.  The season started with a four game suspension, and it ended with him benched for a journeyman tackle on his fourth squad in five years.  I don’t care how you polish that turd, it’s still gonna be dark brown and stink.

* WR Dwayne Bowe: B.  Yes, a solid B, and no, Professor Stevo doesn’t grade on the curve.  I know many of you would rate him at least two letter grades lower, but let’s be honest here – if Dwayne Bowe isn’t on the field this season?  How much WORSE would things have been in the passing game?  And it’s not like we’re talking about a productive unit here; they managed to cross the goalline zero times this year.

I would do everything I could to restructure Mr. Bowe’s deal, and keep him around.  Especially in light of what I think the Chiefs have found, at the other receiving slot.

* WR Albert Wilson: B+.  Circle me extremely intrigued by this rookie, who had a phenomenal closing half of the season.  Circle me extremely intrigued.

* WR Donnie Avery: F.  If there was a grade worse than a F, he’d earn it.  If there was a way someone could Gillooly him for his numerous indefensible drops this year, I’d pay for it.  (Note: that was sarcasm; Stevo’s Site Numero Dos does not condone bashing someone in the midsection – repeatedly – with a tire iron.  A bowling ball, possibly … but definitely not a tire iron.)

* WR Jason Avant: B+.  I’d be cool with resigning this guy, and seeing what you’ve got as a slot receiver.  Had a great catch in Arizona, and in the finale against San Diego, playing with a limited knowledge of the playbook.  This could wind up being Eddie Kennison 2.0 … and I’d be cool with that.

(In case you forgot, Eddie Kennison was a throw-away signing to fill out the roster late in 2001, after denver released him.  I’d say that one worked out fairly well for the Red and Gold.)

* WR Junior Hemingway: C.  His 49ers game was indefensible.  His response to us fans indefensible, uuh, response to that performance, saved him reputation with me.  All of us will fail – epically and spectacularly – at some point in our lives.  It’s how you react to that failure, that defines you.  Hope this kid sticks around for at least one more preseason; he’s earned one more shot in my book.

* WR Frankie Hammond Jr: C.  A restricted free agent that should be priority 1,032,485,687 of the offseason, in my opinion, for the Chiefs.

* WR AJ Jenkins: F.  (nsync voice) Ain’t no lie – bye bye bye (bye bye!)!!

* RB Jamaal Charles: A.  Just like Mr. Pioli’s final two drafts have left the Chiefs in far better than expected status, Mr. Peterson’s last couple drafts continue to pay dividends.  (Or, to be more accurate and specific, Bill Kuharick’s four drafts with this franchise.)  Another third round pick acquired via a draft day trade, that is arguably the cornerstone, of half of the franchise.  (The other being Justin Houston -- Jamaal Charles was the throw-away third rounder to make the points work, in the Jared Allen trade.)

There’s really nothing left to be said at this point, other than this is the best running back in franchise history in every category, save for greatness as a human being.  And that’s not a knock on Jamaal Charles – that’s the highest praise possible for the finest man and person, to ever wear the Red and Gold.

* RB Knile Davis: B+.  You know who else in this League struggled to hold onto the football his first few years in it?  Jamaal Charles.  You know who else learned how to truly maintain a grip on the ball by being shoved into kick return duties?  Jamaal Charles. 

Mr. Davis had a solid follow-up season to last year, especially considering last year ended with a ligament blown out on the turf at Indy in the wildcard game.  Circle me giddy with excitement, Bert, over what the future holds for this kid.

* RB Joe McKnight: C.  Had a sweet touchdown catch in Miami to save the season, and the game … and that’s it, before getting hurt. 

* RB Cyrus Gray: Inc.  Probably has played his last down as a Chief.  As someone who was there in Indy last January, he won’t be missed.

* RB/WR/KR De’Anthony Thomas: B+.  Admit it – he has a Dante Hall type feel to him, doesn’t he?  Even right down to calling the quick hitch to DAT on a one step drop, that he then turns upfield for at least eight or nine every time.

* FB Anthony Sherman: A+.  The Chiefs have a proud tradition of rock star fullbacks, none greater in my lifetime than Tony Richardson.  Mr. Sherman reminds me a lot – and I mean a lot – of Mr. Richardson.  And that is a good thing.

* TE Anthony Fasano: A.  Rock solid blocker, and delivered a play I should have noted in the previous post, catching a batted pass for a touchdown while lying on his ass in the end zone against (I think) the Rams.  It was St. Louis or the Jets.  You can do a lot worse for a sixth blocker, than Anthony “Sal” Fasano.

* TE Travis Kelce: D.  (cue hurling rotten tomatoes and/or other foul-smelling vegetables at me).  His “fumble” was the defining moment of the season.  Ten years from now, when we look back on 2014 and why the Chiefs failed to make the playoffs, that play will top everyone’s list.

Did he have some great catches?  Of course.  Did he have some lucky plays?  Absolutely – the only thing saving him from a flat-out F, is recovering D Bowe’s fumble yesterday.

Because the bottom line, is his “fumble” cost us the playoffs. 

It’s gonna take at least six weeks of counseling with Stevo’s Site Numero Dos’ Official Man of the Cloth, the Reverend Al K. Hall, before I even contemplate, revisiting this grade.

* TE Demetrius Harris: Inc.  I had no idea he was on the roster.  (He’s on injured reserve, per kcchiefs.com.)

* TE Richard Gordon: Inc.  Again – no idea who this tito is, although I’m guessing he’s a special teamer.

* QB Tyler Bray: Inc.  Hit injured reserve before the season started.  Will probably never take a meaningful snap as a Chief.  I’m not upset about that.

* QB Aaron Murray: Inc.  Sunday, September 11, 2016.  If he’s starting for the Chiefs on that day, he’s who I think he is.  If he’s not, then he’s a bust, and I whiffed spectacularly, in loving the pick of him in April.

* QB Chase Daniel: A+.  Did exactly what I want a backup QB to do: win a game when he’s pressed into duty, that doesn’t call into question the starter’s standing as the, uuh, starter.  Delivered a rock solid Week 17 start for the second straight year, which ensured the most pathetic stat in NFL history will remain intact for at least another eight months … and no, it’s not “no Chiefs WR has caught a touchdown pass since Week 14 2013”.  It’s “no Chiefs drafted QB has won a start for the Red and Gold since September 13, 1987.  Yes, Todd Blackledge, in the opening game of the Frank Gansz Error, is the last quarterback the Chiefs have drafted, who won a game for them. 

A pathetic stat, that if the 2015 Chiefs are to have the season we all hope for, has to hit its 29th anniversary, to open the 2016 season.

* QB Alex Smith: (deep sigh of frustration …)

Alex Smith is 19-11 as a starter in KC (19-12 counting playoffs).  That is perfectly acceptable football – win 2 out of every 3 games you take the field.

And yet, Steve Bono went 21-8 as a starter in 1995-1996 for the Chiefs, if you want a reference point, for why it’s also not perfectly acceptable football, in my book.

(Fine, fine, fine -- that is an abject lie.  21-8 is not only perfectly acceptable football in my book, I'm still irate nearly 20 years later, Mr. Bono was benched ... at 21-7 as a starter.  Those of you who think Alex Smith sucks?  What would you prefer -- a former 49ers quarterback who won MORE, that you ran out of town?  (End rant in four ... three ... two ...))

Here was Mr. Smith’s season:

Wins: at Miami (8-8), vs Patriots (12-4), at Chargers (9-7), vs Rams (7-9), vs Jets (4-12), at Bills (9-7), vs Seahawks (12-4), vs raiders (3-13).

And the losses: vs Titans (2-14), at donkeys (12-4), at 49ers (8-8), at raiders (3-13), vs donkeys (12-4), at Cardinals (11-5), at Steelers (11-5).

Throw out the outliers – the win over New England, the loss to Tennessee – and what do you have?

Frustration.

Alex Smith beat two playoff teams this year – one more than last year.  (His only win against a playoff-bound opponent in 2013 was at Philly in Week 3.)  He beat the Patriots this year, granted.  But he only threw for 200 yards in that game, and his other victory over a playoff bound opponent (Seattle), he attempted 16 passes.  I’d hardly call that “winning” a game, from the quarterback position.

Look at the choke jobs, the blown opportunities.  The fourth and goal at denver.  The failed two minute drill fiascos at San Fran and Arizona.  To say nothing of losing to the raiders.  A no-show at home against denver (although Donnie Avery and inept special teams planning owns that loss more than Mr. Smith).  Zero points produced at Pittsburgh from the quarterback position, in the biggest game of the season.

And yet?  I don’t know what to think. 

On the one hand, Alex Smith beats who he should beat.  Everyone will have an outlier – Tennessee in Week 1 was the outlier this year.  (In case you forgot or didn’t know, the raiders won their last three home games, all against team that finished .500 or better … two of which, the defeat cost the opponent the postseason (Bills, Chiefs).)  Everyone stinks up the joint at least once a year.  Even Joe Montana was shut out at home as a Chief (1994 vs Rams, 0-19).

But on the other hand, he rarely if ever can engineer an upset, or simply hold serve at home against an equitable opponent.  He’s 0-4 against denver.  He’s 1-1 against San Diego.  0-2 against Indy.  0-1 against the Steelers.  All four teams of which routinely are in the playoffs, and he’s 1-8 against them.

That?  Isn’t good.

And yet …

Isn’t he the single most competent thing we’ve had under center, since Trent Green pre-2006?  And can’t you make an argument, that he’s the most competent thing we’ve had under center, since Joe Montana 21 years ago, in that magical 1993 run to the AFC Title Game?

He doesn’t make mistakes that cost the Chiefs the game.  He might not make the plays to win the game, but he doesn’t put you in a position in which winning is an impossibility.  Are we really all that upset by that?

Honestly, I’m not.

Which I guess is why my grade for Alex … is a B+. 

He doesn’t embarrass you on the field.  He’s never going to put you in a position Matt Cassel did so often, of being down 0-14 before you even know what hit you.

Conversely, he’s never going to put you in a position that an Aaron Rodgers (still the greatest mistake of Carl Peterson’s (debatable) Hall of Fame career*), or an Andrew Luck, or a Tom Brady, or satan manning puts you in – he can win the game by himself, irregardless of what’s thrown at him.

He’s every Chiefs quarterback people my age (and I turn 38 in (gulp) 5 days) have ever known.

And that?

Is everything that is wrong, with this franchise.

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(*: don’t laugh at that suggestion.  Carl won two of the three USFL Championships available in his three years heading the Stars.  All but one coach he hired, either as GM of the Philly / Baltimore Stars, or as GM of the Chiefs, made the playoffs (Jim Mora Sr., Marty Schottenheimer, Gunther Cunningham, Dick Vermeil, Herm Edwards), and at least three of those coaches are amongst the 30 best of the last 30 years.  His first draft pick as Chiefs GM was Derrick Thomas (at a time when everyone urged him to draft a different Thomas – Broderick, from Nebraska).  He has headed the Play 60 initiative for the NFL via USA Football for four years now.

And his GM tree is very impressive: former Bears and Packers GM Mark Hatley, former Saints GM (and savior of the Chiefs drafts in the mid 2000s) Bill Kuharick, former Jets GM Terry Bradway, current Falcons GM Tom Dimitroff, current Bucs GM Mark Dominik, current Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland, and current Seahawks GM John Schneider.

The coaching tree?  Even more impressive.  Former Chiefs assistants include Tony Dungy, Bill Cowher, and Mike McCarthy, all of whom have won a Super Bowl in the last ten years.

And did I mention, he (and Marty) are the ONLY reason we still have a team, here in Kansas City?  They literally saved a franchise.  That has to count for something.

Or at least it does in my book.  As damned well it should, in yours.)

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(Possibly) coming tomorrow: the defensive grades, and the coaching grades. 

(Possibly) coming by my 38th birthday on Saturday, the ten most critical, “do this!” moves the Chiefs should make, in this coming offseason.


And at some point, I might get up the intestinal fortitude, to finish “The Annual Column”.  I guess it’s pointless to lie – without thanking “The Family” to close it down, I’m really struggling for a finish worth reading …

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