Monday, November 10, 2008

Monday Miscellany: bui?

No. That headline does not stand for this. Nor is it Cedric Benson's favorite pastime. It is the title of an Asian restaurant in Berkeley, and apparently it's even the nickname for some retarded magic trick. But here, bottled up in the House of Georges, it stands for a midway(ish) point for Chiefs players, coaches, and fans to observe in the rearview mirror.

Yesterday's loss at San Diego suggests that phase two, tabbed as "bui," of the good old term "rebuild," has perhaps been completed. It seems strange, but these past three games have to be viewed as a snapshot, and I'll explain how, after the jump.

Let's call Head Coach Herman Edwards' first year in Kansas City a wash. Sure. It went down in the books that Edwards got that team to the playoffs. With that fact, should be the jotted notations that it was with (mostly) Dick Vermeil's team, and that amazing New Year's Eve trifecta that got them the unfortuneate right to play the Colts at the RCA Dome in the first round of that post-season. We all know how that contest wound up, so we'll skip to 2007. The Chiefs started off 4-3. They got smoked by the Texans to open the season, then hung in there (sort of) with a pretty good Bears team in Chicago. They proceeded to play some decent ball, and promptly quit, beginning a stretch of 18 games in which they would lose 17.

In the vortex of that stretch, this, Edwards' third year in charge, began. Much was hinged upon the (inevitably) final phase of the Brodie Croyle experiment, and that flopped. As usual, Damon Huard stepped in and managed the game under center, and the Chiefs managed to win a game. Once Huard was hurt, though, Tyler Thigpen, still semi-fresh off of a miserly performance as the starter in Atlanta, appeared to be an entirely different player. So we'll call 2006 and 2007 the "r-e." Edwards now has three drafts worth of players under his belt; he's shed much of the age of previous rosters, and his team has been given some time to gel.

"Bui" then, is the first half of this season. Technically, that occurred last Sunday, but we'll go ahead and lump yesterday in with it. Bui is like feng-shui, or the practice of creating harmonious surroundings that enhance balance, and in this case, also performance. The Kansas City Chiefs, like any football club, need balance, and if they could get healthy, and this snapshot of Coastal Carolina's first-ever quarterback isn't a fluke, then they will have achieved it.

I'll take this opportunity to acknowledge The Kansas City Star columns published today by Joe Posnanski and Jason Whitlock. Read them. There are fantastic points illustrated in both that don't need repeating. Just read them.

I'm not on the Tyler Thigpen bandwagon yet, and at this point, I still don't think I'll ever jump on Edwards'. But, it's plausible that Thigpen has demonstrated that he's capable of this kind of play on a regular basis, and for all of the flack I've thrown Herm, I'm certainly willing to admit I was wrong about him if and when the time comes. The thing about Thigpen, though, is that he's doing slightly more than what Jeff Fisher has asked Kerry Collins to do with the Titans in Tennessee: manage the game. Collins has done that. The Titans are still undefeated, but they've got a tenacious D, a steady dose of consistency from their tailbacks (though I think yesterday was an off day for both Chris Johnson and LenDale White), and minimal turnovers. Thigpen threw three touchdown passes yesterday, and no picks. That brings his season mark to eight touchdowns, four INTs, 1102 yards, and a 76.3 passer rating. Collins sits at five, three, 1525, and 78.8.

One thing to consider is that Thigpen has started exactly half of the games that Collins has. Another thing is that both coaches of these teams would prefer to win football games by running the ball and stopping the run. Still another is that Thigpen's squad has played from behind for most of the season, and had injuries, suspensions, and de-activations to its running backs. But those sets of numbers are worth comparing. For shits and giggles, Eli Manning's numbers are 14, six, 1926, and 88.8. And since we're shitting and giggling, Jay Cutler's are 18, 11, 2616, and 89.5. What does it all mean, though?

I have a suspicion that this Chiefs team really has achieved a sense of balance, even through the injuries on defense, special teams, quarterback, and with all things considered in the running game. It's possible that yesterday's one-point loss to San Diego was the final lesson they needed to learn in the curriculum of how to win football games that are played at a high level of intensity. Now, I don't know why Philip Rivers lofted a couple of granny-style free throws in the air. i don't know why the KC D was able to (more or less) contain LaDainian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles, and I really don't know why they were able to do so with such decimation at linebacker and in the secondary. The next three games for them are very winnable. This Sunday, the air attack of Drew Brees -- he sits at a 17, 10, 2985, 96.1 mark --and the New Orleans Saints poses a problem, but they should be ready for it, and hopefully they'll be a notch healthier than they were yesterday. Then the Bills come to town. Four of their five wins are against the likes of Seattle, a wishy-washy Jacksonville club, Oakland, and St. Louis.

Then the Chiefs go to Oakland. Kansas City could really have turned something around in the span of these past three games. The 'b' could be for balance; the 'u' for underdog (which they have been all year and that likely won't change; and the 'i' just might stand for identity. Like I said, I haven't yet ordered my Thigpen jersey, and I still have miniscule faith in Edwards' ability to win a championship, but perhaps this bui gone by was just the thing to keep this club afloat. Perhaps they're now ready to swim on their own.