Kansas City Chiefs: 2016 Review

Last year’s model…..

On paper the loss of Jamaal Charles in week 3 should have been Curtains for Kansas City, and you would have been forgiven for completely writing them off after their 1-5 start (unless of course you are Simon, who knew better than all of us and predicted they would be a sneaky bet to make postseason after all.)
What followed was a dizzying streak of 10 consecutive regular season wins that demonstrated that there is no substitution for great coaching.

That’s no veiled insult to the personnel on either side of the ball; I don’t think it’s possible to coach people beyond their capabilities as some detractors do. I simply think that Reid and Co are that rare breed of coaches who can make those players properly achieve their full potential.
Obviously defensively they were a pretty scary proposition with a pass rush that was most certainly not to be trifled with, and a secondary that seemed to be vastly better than expected. in fact at one point Dan called them “the best defence in the AFC West” and even as a Broncos fan of 27 years I couldn’t completely dismiss his assertion, because, at times they really were THAT good.

What made them so good is that not one single player in the team had more than 8 sacks but as a collective the team racked up 46 of them. It became patently obvious that the scheme and personnel on defence were more than good enough to get pressure to smother teams with or without Houston and Hali on the field, that’s not a knock on either player, it’s a testament to their talent in depth, in fact I shudder to think how incredible the pass rush would have been with both guys healthy all year. Add to that 22 interceptions and 6 defensive TD’s and you see a unit that could easily have been considered top 10 in the league particularly from week 8 onwards.

Now for my biggest bugbear. The KC offense. Or rather peoples attitude to it.
People need to stop and take a good look at how this team played offense. Firstly their running game was the perfect example of an effective and diverse complimentary backfield. They got solid consistent production from Jamaal Charles, Charcandrick West, and Spencer Ware on the ground and believe me when I say that most NFL teams would kill for a group of backs that can deliver so consistently.
The Chiefs averaged 127 yards rushing with their season total yardage split pretty evenly between those 3 backs and QB Alex Smith. That kind of diversity is key to maintaining possession, staying balanced, limiting injury and being efficient, and efficiency is something Kansas City has pretty much mastered in the last 2 years. Boring yes, but it wins games down the stretch.

But people, my biggest pet peeve is the fact that people just don’t seem to “get” Alex Smith. He is called a game manager, a nickel and dime QB, he is considered to be the epitome of average. I don’t buy it one bit.
Smith didn’t light up the stat sheet with gaudy yardage totals, he didn’t throw bombs all day and he most certainly did not throw 40 passes in a game this year, but what he did do is far more impressive than that. For a start Alex Smith has recently been one of the most consistently accurate and mistake free QB’s in the league. Over the whole of last year he threw a total of 7 interceptions, and a league low int percentage of 1.5%. He only threw 20tds but he had a 4.3% td percentage. The fact is that the Chiefs simply throw it less. If you took Smiths pass attempts and scaled them up from his season total to the league average you would be looking at about 31tds to 9picks and about 3800 yards. But when you run the ball that well as a team, why bother with the risk of a balls out 70-30 passing game? Smith also runs a west coast offense. But not just any west coast offense, it’s got a bolted on running attack similar to the one Carolina use so it’s pretty diverse, also the west coast is by itself one of the most intricate and complex systems you can run. Smith runs the system with limited mistakes, is accurate, seeing him average over 7.5 yards per attempt (hardly nickel and dime numbers), furthermore he also had nearly 500 yards rushing at well over 5 yards a carry, so let’s be clear, Smith is a very good QB with an average arm, let’s not confuse the two things, on top of which he’s savvy and more than capable of running that offense with being a legitimate running threat. That he is this good with such a lack of weapons on the perimeter is something I admired greatly last year. Having said that I think that one more good receiving target and they have a very interesting offense indeed.
Looking at all facets of the game, they are one of the best coached, best prepared teams in the NFL.

 

Happy New Year

Free Agency saw the Chiefs, for the most part, shore up their defence and retain all the key pieces they had to in that front seven, and as such have kept the backbone of that teams defence and got great value. They balanced the chequebook and balanced the roster. Boring, but crucial, but it’s what winners do. They signed Mitchell Schwartz at right tackle, shoring up a spot on their line that was becoming a running sore and has become one of the top players at his position, whilst also re-signing Travis Kelce to a great value deal, and nabbing WR Rod Streater from Oakland to bolster their depth at Receiver.
However in letting CB Sean Smith walk out of the door they may have made a big mistake, their mistake being that they could have kept Smith and potentially with Marcus Peters and Philip Gaines, had a very very good trio of Corners going into 2016. Now with Gaines potentially moving into Smiths old role suddenly slot corner looks like a real weakness on that defence and in the AFC west, that is always a bad thing….but there is always the draft….

 

Draft night

The Chiefs appear to have drafted to fill specific areas of need, particularly depth at Defensive Tackle by drafting Chris Jones from Mississippi State and then gone fishing for athletic sub-package DB’s Keivarie Russell and Eric Murray in rounds 3 and 4 to fill out their depth at Corner. With later picks focussed on drafting fast dynamic deep threat receivers Demarcus Robinson and Tyreek Hill to complement the existing pieces they have and add a dynamism sorely lacking in their deep passing game.

 

So what now?

Losing Doug Pedersen to the Eagles means that an element of stability is initially lost. But ultimately that team is one of the best coached teams in the league. Andy Reid’s KC team is built on a solid foundation of tough, smart, mistake free offense and crushing pressure based defence. They have a knack for coaching players up to and, at times beyond their perceived potential with that 10 win streak last year telling everyone that there is no more resilient a team in the NFL. The key is shoring up that CB position and making the passing game a little more explosive. However I would be amazed if the Chiefs weren’t in the playoffs next year and I have a funny feeling they may just sneak winning the division at 12-4.

 

And you can quote me on that.