Chicken Little, of course, is represented by the myriads of disgruntled Chiefs fans who are fed up with Edwards after 11 straight losses, offensive stagnation and a lack of overall improvement from his young football team. Is Chicken Little reacting appropriately?
Perhaps. With the Chiefs running an offense this season that so far resembles last year’s attack in both playcalling and results, it’s not hard to see why fans have had enough. When KC’s run defense, ranked 28th a year ago, is gashed for an appalling 300 yards by a one-dimensional offense, you can understand the frustration.
Hey, I’m fed up with all of that too. It’s no fun watching the Chiefs flail around in their home opener like an expansion team, especially when they seem determined to take the path of most resistance on offense over and over again – namely, a lot of running between the tackles without much success.
Part of me is right there with Chicken Little, ready for a new head coach who might actually win a game once in a while. But the other part of me – my brain – can’t bring itself to pass too harsh a judgment just yet. Here’s why.
We have to consider what Edwards and his staff are really dealing with right now. There are certain offensive elements limiting their options and bringing down the rest of the team at the same time.
The Chiefs can’t protect the quarterback consistently, and even when they do, the quarterback screws up his end of the bargain. Last week Tyler Thigpen’s scattershot arm resulted in a half-dozen near interceptions and an overworked leg on Dustin Colquitt.
Even when the Chiefs tried to be aggressive on offense against the Raiders, it backfired. On one play in the third quarter, Thigpen had an opportunity to put his team ahead with a long touchdown pass to Devard Darling, who was open deep. Unfortunately, Thigpen’s throw was so off the mark, Darling would have needed rocket propulsion attached to his posterior to haul it in.
Much fuss has been raised over the fact that offensive coordinator Chan Gailey is seemingly addicted to running on first down. But it’s my guess Gailey is fussing quite a bit over what happens when the Chiefs actually do attempt a pass on first down. Look at the numbers.
Not counting Kansas City’s late-game desperation drives that feature pass attempts on almost every snap, Chiefs quarterbacks have attempted eight passes on first down, but completed just one for four yards with no touchdowns and one interception. Making matters worse, first-down pass calls from Gailey have also resulted in three sacks, with a fourth avoided due to a scramble.
Can you really blame the Chiefs for being conservative? Opponents obviously aren’t expecting them to be aggressive on early downs, but even when Gailey tries to shock the world and dials up a forward pass, the results are disappointing at best, disastrous at worst.
Meanwhile, Kansas City’s line can’t run block. Gailey is obviously desperate to find some kind of wrinkle that works – he ran the option with a practice-squad wide receiver last week. But essentially, KC’s offensive coaches are damned if they do, and damned if they don’t.
Expect the Chiefs’ predictable attack to continue while Thigpen is under center. He won’t be asked to throw 30 passes (unless it’s borne of desperation), and Damion McIntosh won’t be called upon to block for too many seven-step drops. You simply don’t ask players to execute something they aren’t capable of (which is why Larry Johnson now stands on the sideline in obvious passing situations).
That means more of what we’ve been seeing on offense through two games, unless holes begin to magically open up when the Chiefs attempt to run the ball. Kansas City will be truly helpless this season if the running game sputters again. Asking Thigpen, McIntosh and company to become a pass-first offense is just asking for turnovers and even shorter offensive drives.
That might sound overly negative, but it’s difficult to do much on offense when you have an inaccurate, short quarterback who’s mobile, but even manages to foul up that advantage by holding the ball too long in the face of relentless pressure from pass rushers. The bottom line is this - we have no reason to expect improvement from KC’s offense while Thigpen is starting.
Meanwhile, Kansas City’s utterly punchless offensive attack hangs Gunther Cunningham’s defense out to dry. The Chiefs have enough talent on defense to rank at least as high as they did a year ago. What they don’t have is enough talent to support an offense that generates less than 100 total yards through three quarters of play (as Kansas City’s offense did a week ago), especially when turnovers (a Damon Huard interception) and shanked punts (Colquitt’s first-quarter gaffe) gift the opposition with six unearned points.
So don’t judge the Chiefs or Herm Edwards too harshly over the next month. It’s too soon to say Edwards and the youth-centric rebuilding effort are a failure. It’s ludicrous to even suggest such a thing, to be completely frank. There are 14 games to go. Give the Chiefs plenty of rope to hang themselves, because if you do they might just lasso your respect and hope for 2009 by season’s end.