Kansas City Chiefs

Monday, December 27, 2004

Christmas Leftovers

by Bob Gretz, from the official site of the Kansas City Chiefs
DANTE’S WORLD

While driving around last week trying to finish up the Christmas shopping I punched up a couple of the local sports talk shows. One day, the subject of discussion centered on how the Chiefs were going to improve their defense in 2005. Certainly, that’s a valid area for plenty of give and take. One of the tin-throat hosts suggested that offensive talent needs to be traded away to get defensive help. One of his suggestions was to deal away Dante Hall.

I’ve heard lame-brain ideas before, but that has to rank among the worst. First, trading player-for-player rarely happens in the NFL and it’s even more unusual for it to happen at a level where the players are considered top talents. Secondly, Dante Hall is one of the NFL’s greatest weapons as a kick and punt returner. The Chiefs can continue attempts to involve him more in the offense, but that’s really not as important as having him back returning punts and kickoffs.

In any given game, there are going to be anywhere from a half-dozen to a dozen return opportunities. On every single one of those plays, Hall could end up in the end zone. He’s a game-breaker and that’s not something every franchise has. Should you be one of those teams fortunate enough to have a guy like Dante Hall, you don’t get rid of him.

COVERING TONY G.


Sometimes, coaches out-coach themselves. That’s what the Raiders defensive staff did when it came to covering Tony Gonzalez. The first time the teams met, Oakland double teamed Gonzalez on nearly every snap. Sometimes, they did that with cornerback Charles Woodson. Always, they had bracket coverage, somebody short and somebody deep on the Chiefs tight end. That’s why he caught just three passes for 32 yards.

On Christmas Day, Woodson did not play. Also out was the other starting cornerback Philip Buchanon, so the Raiders were at a disadvantage from the start. But then they tried to cover Gonzalez with linebackers, including their hybrid defensive end-outside linebacker Tyler Brayton. That’s not ever going to work against a guy with Gonzalez’s ability, which is why he was over 100 yards receiving in the first half alone.

HERE COME THE RAIDERS

I hate to be the bearer of bad news for 2005 but understand this: Oakland will finish at best 6-10, which will give them a draft position somewhere in the top 10.

If the Raiders add a few talented players to what they already have, they are going to be a handful for everybody in the AFC West. They have gotten younger this year and taken their lumps, but they have offensive talent, with a young group of blockers and a stunning receiving group. Defensively, they have added some athletic players in recent seasons. They are solid at both kicking positions.

If Oakland finds a feature running back and some young interior defensive linemen this spring, they will not be under .500 very much longer.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

The Value of Patience

by Bob Gretz, from the official site of the Kansas City Chiefs
Patience is such a wonderful virtue. It’s tough in today’s world of immediate gratification to take time to allow something to grow and develop. When it happens, it’s a wonderful thing to see.

However, patience is no guarantee of success, especially on the football field.Teams have waited and waited for a player to develop, and years later they are still waiting.

Both ends of the patience spectrum were visible Monday night here in Nashville in a Chiefs victory that will go down as one of the most unusual in team history. A Chiefs fan had to be patient just to watch this game that lasted three hours and 42 minutes. The Titans scored 10 points in 48 seconds to tie the score and take a three-point lead, with just 99 seconds to play.

The Chiefs came back and without any timeouts scored a pair of touchdowns in 24 seconds, one on offense, the other on defense, to earn their fifth victory of the season. The Chiefs gave up 542 yards to a Tennessee offense led not by Steve McNair, Eddie George and Frank Wycheck, but Billy Volek, Chris Brown and Drew Bennett. Defensively they were awful and wore out the patience of coordinator Gunther Cunningham.

Yet in the end, the defense made several plays in the closing minutes that allowed the Chiefs to win the game.

That brings us back to our subject: patience. At one end of that spectrum for the Chiefs is running back Larry Johnson. On the other is cornerback William Bartee.

Let’s start with Johnson. The first-round draft choice has been ridiculed, called names and forgotten during his two years in a Chiefs uniform; and that’s just by the head coach and his staff. There were times when Johnson did not say or do the right things, and there’s no doubt he pretty much pouted his way through his rookie season.

But Johnson returned for this season determined to handle things differently. There were setbacks a long the way and his name was part of trade rumors in October when the NFL deadline for deals came and went.

Johnson stayed and that was because of one man: Carl Peterson. He wasn’t ready to give up on the young running back from Penn State. Despite the problems, despite the fact his coaching staff did not trust Johnson and was in no hurry to get him on the field, Peterson did not want to throw away someone he considered a talented player.

That patience is paying off. Johnson has put together consecutive 100-yard rushing games. Last week in Oakland, he showed his ability to be a power back. In Tennessee, Johnson showed he can be a speed back, scoring on TD runs of 46 and 41 yards in the second half. It’s possible to see his confidence grow from game to game, carry to carry. All he needed was opportunity.

On the other end is Bartee, who after seemingly making some progress this season, has taken steps backward in the last two games. He looks lost on the field and was continuallybartee beaten by the Titans, whether it was Bennett or Derrick Mason. He eventually was sent to the bench and replaced by veteran CB Dexter McCleon.

Bartee is in his fifth season with the team and the coaching staff has shown tremendous patience in that time, waiting for him to develop into the kind of talent that’s drafted in the second round.

That patience is not paying off and it’s one reason the Chiefs pass defense is horrid. They are now allowing an average of 270 yards per game and in 13 games they’ve given up 27 TD passes.

The cornerback position is the No. 1 spot that must be retooled in the coming off-season. Bartee has worn out the patience of everyone. Second-year man Julian Battle has fallen so far in the estimation of the coaching staff that he did not play Monday night, not even on special teams. Dexter McCleon is not the every down answer at the position this late in his career.

When it comes to the Chiefs secondary, it’s important to have patience.

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