Youth Must Lead Chiefs

There isn't anything more soothing during a bye week to know that you can take some time off to catch up on some things and ponder the future of your favorite football team. This Sunday there is no game for the Kansas City Chiefs but that doesn't mean Arrowhead will be silent.

As the season enters phase two, with quarterback Brodie Croyle back on the field, management and coaches must determine who will be part of the future. One player, tight end Tony Gonzalez, may not be, but he's likely not the last player who will end up being shipped off.

Ever since Gonzalez failed to break Shannon Sharpe's record at Arrowhead Stadium two weeks ago against the Denver Broncos, you could see this coming. After some conversations between Gonzalez, his head coach and his general manager, the conclusion was that the tight end was headed out of Kansas City. He wants out and has asked for a trade from the only team he's known in his professional NFL career.

Gonzalez is arguably the greatest tight end in the history of the game, but all he has to show for it is records, with zero playoff wins. Is that what Gonzalez really wants?

Some will argue he's only about the records, and that way of thinking was framed into his mind during the Dick Vermeil era. At that point, the Chiefs had the greatest show on grass and records were important to Vermeil and offensive coordinator Al Saunders.

If that regime was still in tact, Gonzalez would have likely set the record in front of the home crowd. The problem is that regime is no longer anywhere to be found in Kansas City, and this new era of Chiefs football isn't about personal accomplishments or records.

That's why it's probable that either before Tuesday, or in the offseason, that the Chiefs will trade their All-Pro tight end. If not to the New York Giants, then another team.

That's because it's time for the next generation of Chiefs to take root. This team is young, but has not yet learned how to win. Gonzalez is a hard worker, who never takes time off and is always in shape, but he's not what's best for this football team right now.

If you look at all of the ascending young teams in the NFL - the Tennessee Titans, Jacksonville Jaguars and the New York Giants - they all have a lot in common.

All of those teams made the tough personnel decisions. They were not reluctant to let go of high-priced veterans. That's what is at hand for the Chiefs today. They may not publicly admit it, but players such as Gonzalez, Larry Johnson, Patrick Surtain, Damon Huard, Ron Edwards, Napoleon Harris, Damion McIntosh and Donnie Edwards are likely playing their final 11 games as members of the Chiefs.

Most of those names are either great players or good guys, but collectively they're not helping their team win football games. And that's the ultimate measuring stick. This is part of the evolution of a franchise in transition, and as fans we must accept the fact some of our longtime heroes are not a part of the future.

Head Coach Herm Edwards has said all along that this football team had a lot of bad habits to break. One of them is losing, which becomes a habit. Players like Gonzalez should stop those bad habits from forming. Other than veteran guard Brian Waters, the veterans on this team are not leading the youth.

Thus, we may have reached the proverbial fork in the road for this entire franchise. There are changes coming now and in the offseason those changes will impact the way this franchise does business in the coming years.

Many fans believe this team is far away from contending. I dare say they're not, but in order to take the next step some difficult and unpopular decisions will have to be made -not in the offseason, but now, perhaps this very week.

From this point on it won't be the veterans who lead this team out of the doldrums, it'll be the youth. The entire organization from top to bottom needs to embrace that inevitable fact and nurture it. If not, we could see more of the same in the last 11 games as we saw in the first five.