Monday, November 24, 2008

Monday Mystification II: How Bad It Is

Why not? Let's just make everything suck. Offer only Milwaukee's Best (red) poured through dirty lines and rotten, frozen-in-the-middle hot dogs. Make the guests provide their own drinking vessel and plop the franks down in their hands, sans condiments, of course. Then, make everyone share one common bathroom, mist the seats with urine before the cold games, and ask each ticket-toting guest to walk an extra quarter of a mile to the stadium entrance. And while you're at it, lose the coordinated, attractive cheerleaders; hire the NFL's only ghettotastic drill team. Oh, and cut the power sources, too. Fans like tabulating scores and stats mentally and by hand. Might as well make the entire package stink.

Former Chiefs Head Coach Dick Vermeil used to enjoy assessing the team by quarter. I always thought that was a smart idea; you can place a grade on four four-week categories and get a better bigger picture of the entire season upon its conclusion. When tonight's contest between the New Orleans Saints and the Green Bay Packers wraps up, three quarters of the 2008 NFL season will be complete. I can confidently say that neither of those clubs will finish the year worse than Kansas City, so, for the purposes of this post, we'll go ahead and put the entire week in the books. Seventy-five percent of the way through Herm Edwards' third year as head coach of the Chiefs, here's how things look across the board.


On a game-average basis, the Chiefs score 17.8 points per game for 28th in the league; they net 308.1 yards per game for a rank of 25th; 192.7 of those yards are through the air, which lands them at 23rd; and 115.4 are on the ground, putting them at 13th. If you average out those ranks, that lands them in the 69th percentile, or a strong D in overall offense. They been flagged 56 times for penalties, which have cost them a total of 434 yards, and have fumbled fifteen times, only recovering it on nine occasions. Their (five) quarterbacks have yielded a 57.5 completion percentage and been sacked 31 times. Eight of those fumbles have come in the ground game, and Chief tailbacks are averaging just over 23 carries per game.


Defensive Coordinator Gunther Cunningham knows a lot about defense. The last time he was DC under a defensive-minded head coach was in the mid- and late-90s with Marty Schottenheimer. On more than one occasion in that era, Kansas City defenses were among the best in the league. Now that Cunningham works again under a defensive-minded head coach, here's how that side of the ball has performed through three quarters. The Chiefs are giving up 29.7 points per game, leaving only the Detroit Lions and St. Louis Rams as worse. They're giving up 406.3 yards per game. That beaut' of a number leaves them at 32 of 32. Two hundred forty point four of those come via opponents' passers, a rank of 27, and 165.9 are courtesy of other clubs' ground games, a mark better only than that of the Lions. I'm not even certain how to crunch those numbers, but suffice it to say that that box gets an F--.

Opposing teams are averaging 6.3 yards per play against the Chiefs defense, while earning 20+ first downs per game. In third-down situations, offenses convert nearly 50 percent of the time, and that average is even higher on fourth-down tries. Passing percentages against the Chiefs are almost at 67, and they've surrendered 35 pass plays of 20 yards or more. And of course there are the six sacks. Ground games feature nearly 33 attempts against Kansas City; they average five yards a carry, and have successfully ripped off 16 rushes of 20 yards or more, five of 40+. While all of those numbers are amazing, it is that last one that kills me. In five specific rushing attempst, opponents have gained more than 200 yards. Five clubs have allowed three; eight have squandered two; 11 defenses have seen it happen once; and seven teams have not allowed one single carry for 40+.

Special Teams

In a word: unspecial.


In sum, Chief opponents are gaining more first downs, including third- and fourth-down attempts, gaining more yards in the ground, air, and total categories, have better passing percentages, fewer interceptions, more sacks, better field goal ratios, more touchdowns, and a larger time-of-possession margin. I'm almost positive that if you plugged all of those words into a Google search bar and pressed "return," you would get results for pages with the words "total" and "domination" in them. And if it were a Web site that popped up, the backslash would read "ineverysingleaspect.asp."

So, where does that leave this team? They're rebuilding with all of this great, young talent that, 12 weeks into a 16-week season, ranks 32 of 32 in total defense and 25th in total offense. And trust me, if it weren't for those rushing yards, they'd be at the bottom of that heap, too. I, therefore, am thoroughly confused. Last year, certain folks wanted Mike Solari fired early and often, claiming that the play-calling was predictable (Editor's Note: It was.) and atrocious. I said it was because Solari was green, hand-cuffed by his head coach. Now, the defense last year looked better in some regards, than it had in some time; they posted a lot of middle-of-the pack statistics, but still gave up the big plays, couldn't get off the field, and therefore contributed to the 12 losses.

Chan Gailey looks to be the hero of the season. His play-calling has been a tremendous improvement, but he's been in many positions not called offensive line coach for a long time. How he has wriggled free of ConservaHerm play-calling escapes me. Well, that would imply that I had it at one point, and I did not. More importantly, though, is how bad this defense is. I get it: they've had 73 guys on the roster so far; they have the youngest team in football, but for Pete's sake, show some freaking improvement. Somewhere. Anywhere. How is it that a once-heralded defensive coordinator gets a defensive-minded coach to oversee the whole operation, and the bottom literally falls out? I'm not interested in seeing a month of "that was much better football." I want to see improvement. I want to see wins, and I want to see them, like four weeks ago, and 11 weeks ago, and 51 weeks ago.

The Kansas City Chiefs have lost 19 of their last 20 football games. I never thought that was possible. Every team rebounds after stretches, right? Well, the only rebound I see possible for this team comes in the form of a changing of the guard, and it's got to happen soon, because I'm rapidly running out of negative writing energy. I guess, though, that there will still be a steady source of it from others.