“How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on, when in your heart you begin to understand there is no going back? There are some things time cannot mend. Some hurts that go too deep, that have taken hold.”
That quote was spoken by Frodo Baggins in The Return of the King. It might be a little too dramatic for the subject of this blog entry, but it captures perfectly how I and many other fans in the Chiefs Kingdom feel about the state of the team and the current regime. At this point in the season, the Chiefs stand at 1-5, with little to no hope for making the playoffs, even though they are only two games out of first place in the mediocre AFC West. However, Peyton Manning is still Peyton Manning and the Broncos look like they’re about to hit their stride to take control of the division. But thats not what this post is about. No, Chiefs fans have a bleak future ahead of them, because we feel like we’ve been forgotten, left behind, and taken for granted by the Chiefs ownership. We feel like Clark Hunt doesn’t care about winning, he cares about filling his pocketbook with our hard earned cash. I was scrolling through Twitter today, and there was a tweet from the Kansas City Chiefs reminding me to purchase more Chiefs gear! I laughed when I saw that and thought “they really have some nerve”. The franchise is in terrible shape, the worst I’ve ever seen. We have all heard about the banner flying over Arrowhead before their last home game demanding that Scott Pioli be fired and to bench Matt Cassel. We’ve heard about Eric Winston’s rant against the fans that cheered Cassel’s injury. We’ve heard about the official Chiefs Twitter account blasting a fan and telling him to get his “facts straight“. But now there’s more, much more.
Recently, a group of fans started a Facebook page and a Twitter account, dubbed Save Our Chiefs. This group wants Scott Pioli fired, and they want a new rookie QB starting next year. They are also helping to organize protests, including having everyone wear black to the home game against the Bengals in November (to mourn the “death” of the team) and are also joining efforts to get two or three more banners flown over the stadium before the games. This group as of this writing has 103,880 followers since they started up in late September. The official Chiefs Twitter account has 116,350 followers and its been around since April 2009. And now the national media is paying attention, as the group has been mentioned by USA Today and FOX Sports columnist Jason Whitlock, and ESPN’s Bill Simmons. Somewhere at One Arrowhead Dr, owner Clark Hunt and GM Scott Pioli have to know they have a problem on their hands. The question is, what are they going to do about it? What can save this once proud franchise? Here are a few suggestions from one humble, lifelong fan:
1. It’s pretty cliché to say, but unless GM Scott Pioli goes on the record and say’s that the Chiefs management is committed to hiring the best coaches that money can buy and drafting the best QB in the draft next year, he needs to go. Pioli has turned the city of Kansas City off with the secretive state he keeps the Chiefs in and the arrogant demeanor he carries himself in. Kent Babb who was a featured columnist for the Kansas City Star before accepting a job at the Washington Post blew the lid off of Pioli’s paranoid-filled work environment earlier this summer in this excellent bit of reporting. None of that would matter if the team were winning. But since the man has led the team to a 22-33 record since he arrived in 2009, he doesn’t really earn that benefit of a doubt. Clearly, paying Matt Cassel $63 million was a mistake, but he just refuses to admit to it. Clearly, letting Romeo Crennel be the head coach and the defensive coordinator at the same time was a mistake, but he won’t admit it. Whenever he speaks to the media, you basically come away knowing as much about the team as you did before he ever opened his mouth.
2. The other number one priority this off season no matter what our record is (barring some kind of miraculous performance by Brady Quinn these last 10 games), is to draft one of the top three or four QB’s that will be available in the draft next year. In this new NFL, not only is it a passing league, but its been proven that rookie quarterbacks are more ready than ever to start their first year and even be successful or at least play well. They are playing more pro-style offense in college and being coached by prior NFL coaches, and it shows when they show up in the league and continue to play at that high level. This year there are five rookie QB’s starting, and each one of them has played better than either of KC’s has. Adam Schefter of ESPN wrote an interesting article about the Chiefs were he reveals that the Chiefs have not won a game played by a QB they’ve drafted since 1987 (Todd Blackledge). Think about that. Thats 25 years of winning games by QB’s that have been brought in by free agency. The last QB drafted by the Chiefs to start a game ended up going 0-10 (Brodie Croyle, now retired) who was drafted in 2006.
3. So you have drafted a stud QB, now you need coaches to teach him. I can’t remember a time when there were more quality coaches available than there is now, Super Bowl winning coaches like Bill Cowher, Jon Gruden, Tony Dungy, Brian Billick, and the recently unemployed Mike Holmgren who are all open to the idea of returning to coach next year. Cowher and Dungy both have coached in KC before, under Marty Schottenheimer in the late 80′s and early 90′s. They know about the Arrowhead advantage we used to have there. Whether or not they could ever work with an overbearing GM like Pioli is questionable. If one of them were willing to come but stipulated that Pioli would have to go, then I would suggest kindly showing Pioli the door. There are quality candidates available for that position as well, including Bill Polian, formerly of the Colts, and former head coach Marty Schottenheimer.
4. And last, but certainly not least, is the need to reconnect with the fans. Kansas City has amazing and loyal fans, and I was lucky enough to come around during what many have called the Golden Age of Chiefs football when Marty Schottenheimer was the head coach from 1989-1998. In those ten seasons the Chiefs were an impressive 101-58-1 and made seven trips to the playoffs. The stadium was always sold out, and the fans were LOUD (116 decibels loud). Many opposing players have said that Arrowhead Stadium was the most difficult place for a visiting team to play in. These days when you see the games on TV you can’t help but notice how empty the stadium looks. If they are on national TV it looks pretty full, but I’d be willing to bet that that wouldn’t even make a difference this season. Fan’s are just starting not to care, and the younger generation after mine is not even remotely interested in cheering for a loser year after year. And it’s not just because of the losing that they are starting to lose interest, it’s the high prices from the tickets and the parking, to the food and the beverages. Season ticket holders are not interested in renewing, and who can blame them? Why pay all that money to see a team not only lose, but look completely disinterested doing it? To quote Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star, “If this season were a meal, you’d send it back.”
Win or lose, the Chiefs are my team, and for many fans that won’t change. However, this feeling of apathy that is starting to take it’s hold on me when I watch them play horribly week after week is going to take awhile to break. I want to be excited about the Chiefs again, and feel proud to wear all the memorabilia I have accumulated over the years. I’m tired of people saying “ooh, sorry man” when I tell them who my team is. I don’t get mad any more when we blow a game, or turn the ball over, I’ve just gotten used to it. I’m numb to it. To feel excited about the Chiefs I have to read books about the great defenses fielded in the 90′s, or watch film from when Dick Vermeil and his high flying offense were the toast of the town. A win over the Raiders this week would be a small step towards recovery, even though I feel conflicted about winning this season because I really covet that number one overall draft pick almost more than a playoff spot. Heck, a lead over the Raiders would be nice, even if we end up losing (like we have the last five seasons to the Raiders at home). The Chiefs are the only team in the league to never hold a lead at any point in a game this season, and every time we get close enough to score and take one, we turn the ball over. Double heck, an offensive TD would even be acceptable, haven’t scored one of those since Sept 30th against the Chargers. That’s almost an entire month for those of you keeping track at home.
So please Mr. Hunt, please Mr. Pioli, do something, anything to get us excited again. Give us a reason to hope. Give us a reason to care, because you’re losing us fast, and it won’t be easy to get us back. The Chiefs need the fans more than the fans need the Chiefs, try and remember that as you count your dwindling piles of cash and the increasing number of empty seats this weekend.