As coaches and scouts flew back to their respective NFL ports Thursday morning, two things were for…
Chiefs' patience could pay off
While the Chiefs were busy searching for their new offensive coordinator, the Denver Broncos and now the Oakland Raiders were busy dealing with their own in-house problems created out of impatience and to be frank, incompetence.
Two weeks ago Denver fired Jim Bates from his position as defensive coordinator. Shortly thereafter, they released Mike Heimerdinger from his position as assistant head coach. And most recently, the news out of Oakland is that Al Davis is ready for head coach Lane Kiffin, after just one year on the job, to hit the bricks.
The Broncos and the Raiders are overreacting to poor seasons.
The situation in Denver is the bigger mess because of Mike Shanahan's history. Since taking over as head coach of the Broncos in 1995, Shanahan has employed four different defensive coordinators – Greg Robinson, Ray Rhodes, Larry Coyer and Bates. He has now fired all four.
Only Robinson managed to stick longer than four seasons, mostly because he rode the coattails of Shanahan's dynamic, John Elway-led offense to Super Bowl victories.
Shanahan had little patience with Robinson after those championship seasons despite the fact his team was rebuilding. Rhodes was shipped out after only two seasons and even Coyer, who actually found decent success as Denver's defensive coordinator (the Broncos were a top 10 scoring defense every year of Coyer's tenure), was given little leeway. Now Bates, a man with a resume for building successful defenses, has been unceremoniously dumped after just one year.
These men have all become scapegoats for Shanahan, whose real failure in the post-Elway era has been horrible drafting. Of course, even if his four defensive coordinators deserved to be fired (at least two of which you can argue did not), how does Shanahan escape blame for hiring so many men who apparently couldn't get the job done?
To make matters worse, the Broncos promoted Bob Slowik, Denver's defensive backs coach in 2007, to replace Bates as defensive coordinator. What?
No disrespect for David Gibbs, but can you imagine the outrage in Kansas City if the Chiefs suddenly threw Gunther Cunningham out on the street and replaced him with the defensive backs coach from the previous two seasons? Jason Whitlock would have a field day with such an event.
To make matters worse, Shanahan is replacing Bates with someone whose history as an NFL defensive coordinator is spotty, and that's being kind. In eight seasons as a coordinator, Slowik has produced one top ten defense and a litany of uninspiring units on horrible football teams. Most recently, he produced the league's 25th ranked unit in Green Bay before being replaced by none other than Jim Bates the following season (Bates immediately elevated the Packers' defense back to respectability).
Patience? Shanahan could definitely use the dose Clark Hunt has shown with his franchise and the men running it this offseason, especially considering he has just one playoff win since 1998 and has now missed the playoffs two years in a row.
The best part of Shanahan – Gary Kubiak, his long-standing offensive coordinator – just might be in Houston at the moment. If Heimerdinger, now the offensive coordinator in Tennessee, winds up making something of Vince Young next season, Shanahan will look awfully foolish.
As for the Raiders, Al Davis' impatience needs no introduction. A Norv Turner here, an Art Shell there, now Lane Kiffin. Is it any surprise Oakland hasn't posted a winning season since Rich Gannon was playing like an MVP and Bill Callahan was riding the success of Jon Gruden?
Friday the Raiders denied Kiffin was under the gun, but they did the same thing last year when Adam Schefter first reported Art Shell was on the chopping block. If Kiffin is eventually ousted as Oakland's head coach in the coming days, Chiefs fans can be secure in the knowledge that the Raiders will never be a threat to win the AFC West until Al Davis loses patience with this mortal coil and shuffles right off it.
Chiefs fans look at Carl Peterson as a roadblock to the Super Bowl, but right now Davis' meddling ways have the Raiders stuck firmly in neutral.
Yes, Kansas City was bad last season. But at least the ship has a course, and a patient captain to man the helm. You may not agree with the direction the Chiefs are taking, but at least it's a direction.
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