Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire
The Chiefs have not looked good. They're not even healthy. But the 2012 season is structured in such a way that hope should not be lost.
Stop drinking the (worrisome) Kool-Aid. Stop throwing your possessions overboard. Stop watching 2013 NFL Draft lists in hopes for a better tomorrow at the expense of today. Yes, the Kansas City Chiefs have looked bad this season. In some instances, they've appeared absolutely dreadful. But to write off the 2012 season after the team's first few games is to lose perspective of how that was going to play out anyway.
In fact, the Chiefs have reason to hold out rather optimistic thoughts. They can, indeed, turn the corner on the 2012 season and still make something of the mess they are in. While no one saw this start coming -- at least how bad they've looked on all sides -- this record could have been predicted. In the NFL, wins and losses are ultimately what matters.
Instead of maintaining perspective, Chiefs fans and media have bought into a sort of widespread panic that has ultimately led to calls for Scott Pioli to be fired and Matt Cassel to be benched. Star reporters are going all in on their columns asking for Clark Hunt to clean house. Banners are being flown to espouse the same ideas. Everyone is running around frantically believing that the sky over Arrowhead is falling.
It's just not true. At least not yet.
I would never say the Chiefs are a good team at this point. I wouldn't even say that the worry is unfounded. But the panic is unnecessary at this point in the season. There's still 3/4 of a season left. Every single NFL fan can remember teams that started a season undefeated after a few games only to miss the playoffs (i.e. Denver Broncos and Buffalo Bills in recent seasons). Just this week, the Arizona Cardinals came in to face the Rams at 4-0 and suddenly looked like, well, the Cardinals. Four games does not make or break a season.
So here's why I believe the Chiefs were destined to be at this point, for better or worse, coming into the season, and why I believe they could make it out in the end.
1. The Early Schedule:
We knew the early season gauntlet was going to be tough. On Chop Talk, the great Chiefs podcast started by our very own B.J. Kissel, I predicted the Chiefs would be 1-4 after the first five games simply due to the nature of the schedule. We predicted then that the Atlanta Falcons were going to be the best team the Chiefs will face all season and they certainly looked the part. The Baltimore Ravens are going to be the other. The Chargers are always a tough threat. The Saints were expected to be much better.
In short, the Buffalo Bills were the only game of the first five that seemed like a "sure thing". While the reality didn't work out that way, at least in terms of perception, the Chiefs were likely going to be 2-3 at best at this point in the season. The early schedule was simply too stacked in 2012.
2. Brian Daboll
Will any Chiefs fan ever forget the Miami Dolphins' visit to Arrowhead in 2011? The previously winless Dolphins came into KC at 0-7. It was considered an easy win for the Chiefs to help turn their season around. Instead, the Dolphins racked up four touchdowns and stifled the Chiefs offense at the same time for a 31-3 win. The key to Matt Moore's three TD throws? Brian Daboll's offense started to roll.
From that point on, the Dolphins tore through the schedule, relatively speaking, to finish on a 6-4 streak and Daboll's offense was a major part of that. Matt Moore finished with a respectable 16-9 TD-INT ratio and Reggie Bush earned his first 1,000 yard rushing season. It took some time, but Daboll figured out how to get his offense clicking.
With his sixth offensive coordinator in six seasons, Matt Cassel and the rest of the Chiefs offense have been forced to adjust to Daboll and vice versa. These things take time.
3. Injury, Rehab, Return
Eric Berry. Tony Moeaki. Jamaal Charles. Matt Cassel. Each player was returning from a season ending injury in 2012, and each was expected to be a major player on the field for the Chiefs. Even though they rehabbed all season, it's clear that everyone hasn't adjusted back to game speed and shape. Jamaal Charles is clearly the playmaker he was before the injury, but Eric Berry looked lost last week. And no one is mistaking Moeaki as the all-around emerging playmaker he was before the injury just yet.
But the Chiefs still have 12 games to play. The guys are still getting into the rhythm. Even more, they're hopefully shaking the fears that come with undergoing such a trauma as a torn ACL on the field. As their confidence builds and their faculties return, the Chiefs could return as well.
4. The Late Schedule
If nothing else, the schedule gets much easier for the Chiefs in the second half. While the team could be 1-4 after today's game against the Ravens, the team could also put on a late-season surge in their last six games. The team plays both Denver games in the last six games, and the way Peyton Manning looks makes that a toss-up. But even if they split, the Chiefs can reasonably expect to win every other game for a 5-1 run to end the season.
In other words, as bad as the early schedule has looked, the late schedule could turn out to be the exact opposite. Games in the middle against the Steelers and Bengals and Raiders will determine whether they can swing things, but the potential is there for the Chiefs to settle into a groove and run the table late.
Of course, the entire season could be the disaster that everyone is already calling it. Perhaps every Chiefs fan and analyst will look back at 2012 as the turning point that caused everyone to be fired and the Chiefs to start over once again. The team certainly hasn't performed well enough to earn the benefit of the doubt.
However, there is still reason for hope. And as long as there is reason for hope, there's no reason to cry as loudly as everyone has been. Should fans be concerned? Absolutely. Should sportswriters call out the team for their failures to perform as expected game by game? Certainly. But to call it a day on the 2012 season just four games in -- or even five after today's Ravens game -- is to lose sight of the greater perspective. There's still reason for hope, and there's no reason for panic -- at least at this stage.