Whenever I start to bemoan the plight of the Raiders and their fans, I have to remind myself, it could be worse. I could be a Lions fan or a Cardinals fan, knowing that whatever moves my team makes; ultimately it will be the wrong one and whatever fleeting success we have will quickly disappear. With the Raiders struggles in recent years many are trying to shoehorn the Raiders into this clueless losser category.
“Al Davis has lost it, the team will never win as long as Al is in charge.”
Constant variations of this theme are printed in the media, and recited by message board posters. It would be enough to drive a fan insane. Between the reported Kiffen power struggle, the obscene amount of Money paid to has-been and never were free agents, and a WR who gets rolled in Vegas, it would seem like the Raiders have not yet hit rock bottom, but are continuing to spiral downward.
Well I’m not going to lie to you and claim that all is peachy in Raider land. There are issues, and some high priced gambles have been taken. But you can’t say that the team has thrown in the Towel, they are still doing everything they can to win, and win now.
Which brings us to the team in the AFC West who truly is slipping into Lion and Cardinal territory, The Kansas City Chiefs.
I can hear it now “But Brick, the Chiefs are rebuilding, and doing it the right way through the draft, and they just had what is widely regarded as the best 1st day draft of any team.“
Sorry Chief fans, but your team is not rebuilding, they are buying time by lowering expectations. In fact that should be the slogan that the Chiefs plaster all over Arrowhead, the way the Raiders plaster “Commitment to Excellence” and “Pride and Poise” around the Coliseum.
Kansas City Chiefs “Lowering Expectations Since 2003”
The Chiefs looked to be onto something just a few years back, Dick Vermeil was at the helm and the offense was explosive. But everyone knew the weakness was on the D, and the team went years without addressing it. They lead the league in points scored in 2002, but only finished 8-8, the next year they improved on their offense and went 13-3 winning the division for only the 2nd time since 1997. But they failed to force the Colts to punt once in their home playoff game, and the writing was on the Wall.
This aging team had one, maybe two years to take advantage of their aging vets on offense and make a real Super Bowl push. How did they respond, by throwing caution to the wind and going all out to get some defensive players? Nope, they hired Gunther Cunningham (loosing Greg Williams in the process).
At this point the white flag was pulled out of the pocket and kept ready. Keen observers of the Professional game knew this was not enough to get them over the hump. This was a lateral move at best meant to show the fans they were trying, but really doing nothing to improve.
Since that season, Kansas City has become the land of excuses and individual accomplishments. The Chiefs continually prop up their players as some of the best in the Game. Look at Gonzalez, Shields, and Johnson. They are some of the best in the game, and are putting up record performances for the Chiefs.
Hey we were only the 4th team to ever miss the postseason with a double-digit win total in 2005. (To which they responded, not by trying to improve their team, but by trying to change the playoffs).
It was after missing out on the 2006 playoffs following the 10 win 2005 season that the white flag was raised and waived furiously. How do we know that the Chiefs had given up, easy, they hired Herm.
Edwards is not so much a head coach, but rather a deflection machine. The Guy should run spin classes at Ballie’s, not press conferences. In Herm the Chiefs had the perfect figurehead to run their “rebuilding” process.
The Herm era got off to a ignominious start with Trent Green’s concussion week 1, and the season was truly an up and down affair with the players eventually overcoming Edwards inept coaching to make the postseason, where, unsurprisingly, they were eliminated in the 1st round.
So do the Chiefs try to build on the late season success that lead to an unlikely playoff berth? Nope, they jettison Trent Green, and start the Damon Huard/ Brody Croyle debacle. Essentially wasting the final seasons of Gonzalez’s, Shield’s and the prime of Johnson’s careers.
The Chiefs slogged through a brutal 2007 campaign, winning a total of 4 games, after which, the Chiefs proudly announced, “We are rebuilding”. Well if expectations are sufficiently lowered now, you are rebuilding and Herm Edwards is at the controls of your franchise, you are talking to one of those sycophant fans that believe that this year is the year, every year.
The 1st step of the Chief’s brilliant rebuilding Strategy, trading away their best player on defense, the 26-year-old Jared Allen. This is how you rebuild? Trading away your best defensive player as he enters the prime of his career? No, this is how you further lower fan expectations.
Next is the Draft, where the Chiefs select Glenn Dorsey, Branden Albert, and Brandon Flowers on the 1st day, causing Mel Kiper to cream his shorts. Sorry, but other than Branden Albert, this group does not impress me. Dorsey has no discipline; his technique sucks and showed no ability or desire to improve in his time at LSU. Flowers is physical and has good instincts, but he takes too many chances to excel at the cover 2 coverage that Herm loves.
So you give up your best defensive player, gain multiple picks, and get an offensive guard out of all your moves to rebuild. The other picks are lateral moves compared to existing players on the roster.
And how about the key player for any team looking to rebuild, the quarterback, the Chiefs stuck with Brody Croyle. With the plethora of draft picks at their disposal the Chiefs could have grabbed just about any QB in the draft other than Matt Ryan. Instead they choose to ignore arguably their biggest need. That is some rebuilding strategy.
The expectations for the Chiefs could not be much lower at this point. Going into the season you have to expect them to be among the early leaders in the 2009 #1 draft pick competition. But the Chiefs continue to deflect, with Herm complaining about players having deals in place before free agency opens (we lost Jeff Faine…WHAAAA). They ask you to look in the other direction and pay attention to standout sophomore Dwayne Bowe, while the rest of the offense falls apart.
And as a Raider fan looking in, I have to laugh, because as low as the expectations are, the Chiefs have set themselves up to lower them further. If Croyle performs as expected, the Chiefs will be looking for a QB next season. Herm’s job will be safe because everyone knew this was a rebuilding year. Next year they take their QB of the future in round 1. Which gives Herm another 2 years grace to develop his protégé.
You have now lowered expectations to the point of “We may be a playoff team in 4 years” in a league where seemingly every team has a realistic chance of making the playoffs if things fall right as the season opens, the Chiefs have set their expectations at, we could make the playoffs in 4 years if everything falls right.
Which means the Chiefs have set themselves up for three more years of Herm Edwards as coach, in a league where teams can turn things around in one or two season via free agency, the chiefs are working on a 5 year plan that won’t even start for another year.
A five year plan that will depend on the success of a top 5 pick on QB, a pick that has a 50% success rate. A plan that by the time it comes to fruition will require them to find another franchise back to replace Larry Johnson who is already falling apart. Will require them to replace Tony Gonzalez and a compliment Dwayne Bowe, oh and put together an entire defense.
So whenever I feel down about the prospects of my team as a Raider fan, I can always look in division and feel better that no matter how misguided my team may seem at time, at least the management isn’t working hard to lower our expectations of the team. The Raiders will do everything in their power to win games.
Have fun Chief fans; enjoy your lowered expectations and the Herm Edwards/Brody Croyle era.