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The Most Important Chiefs of 2010

Training camp starts on Friday…training camp starts on Friday…training camp starts on Friday…

(Can you tell I’m excited?)

While I’m very happy that the Kansas City good guys are going to be holding training camp closer to home, I am a little bummed I never got to to travel to River Falls for a few days to see the team practice up in Wisconsin. Oh well – live in the now, and all that.

With the opening of training camp come the questions, both legitimate and made up by writers, talking heads and bloggers who need something write about. This is why you read headline stories about the Cowboys (one of ESPN’s Mount Rushmore teams) not carrying each other’s pads or some other invented crap. Trust me, if this was happening at the Rams or Browns camp, you wouldn’t be hearing about it.

But there are some questions that every Chiefs fan should have on their mind as the team prepares for the infamous conditioning test (just hearing those words make Glenn Dorsey involuntarily shudder) on Friday. Over the next few days (mostly so I can draw it out), I will list the most important Chiefs of 2010 – and not just easy ones like Matt Cassel – but other players and coaches who need to bring their best for this team to succeed in 2010. Batting leadoff…

Matt Cassel – quarterback

Ha!  You don’t think I would let a softball like Cassel go by this easy, did you?

Cassel is the man, for better or worse.  For all you Brodie Croyle backers out there (and my God, there are a TON of you), Cassel is going to take the snaps until he gets hurt or the game is out of reach.  Croyle is a perfect backup – he knows the playbook, he can make some throws, he looks good wearing a ballcap and holding a clipboard, and his wife is steamy.  The ideal recipe for a backup QB.

So – Cassel comes into year two of his Kansas City experience -and he’s going to be better.  I promise you, he will be better (barring injury, of course).  Let me tell you why.

More weapons – quick – name the Chiefs’ #2 wide receiver going into the 2009 season.  Name two tight ends. And name our starting offensive line on opening day.  Ready?

 #2 wide receiver – it’s a tie between Bobby Engram and Terrance Copper.  Kill me.

Two tight ends – Sean Ryan and Brad Cottam. 

Starting offensive line (left to right) – Branden Albert, Brian Waters, Rudy Niswanger, Mike Goff (!) and Damion McIntosh. 

That’s not an offensive line.  That’s a crime scene.  PETA was monitoring the right side of the line to make sure those dogs on the weak side were not harmed in any way.  Matt Cassel should have sued for non-support. 

Don’t forget that Larry Johnson was still prominently involved in the offense, too.  Take his 2.1 yards per carry, his matador blocking style (Ole!), and the general lack of male genetalia, and you had a $8 million chair moistener who bitched and moan and slapped any bit@#eswho got in his way at Westport.

In 2010, the Chiefs have upgraded.  Well, that’s a minor understatement.  They have gone from McDonald’s to Five Guys Burgers and Fries.   Chris Chambers is here for the entire year.  Rookies Tony Moeaki and Dexter McCluster will provide some catches and play-making ability across the middle and on the edge.  Ryan Lilja and Ryan O’Callaghan are manning the right side of the line.  Mike Goff has been bound and gagged and tossed into Charlie Weis’ basement.  Damion McIntosh is begging for change on the sidewalk in Miami somewhere.  These are all massive improvements.

Charlie Weis – Having someone call the plays will be a huge asset to Matt Cassel.  Having someone like Charlie Weis – someone that knows Cassel, and can design a playbook to match his strengths and hide his deficiencies – will be an enormous upgrade.  Don’t discount this new addition to the team.

Familiarity –Here’s another underrated aspect of Cassel’s performance last year: he was new to Kansas City.  Now, this isn’t like moving to a huge coast city or anything, but it’s still a big deal.  Cassel moved his wife and came to a strange part of the country.  He had to find a house, a doctor, new insurance agents, all that stuff.  This may sound trivial, especially for a professional athlete, but it’s a huge deal. 

I lived in Oregon for about three years, and moved from Kansas City to Portland.  I was nearly comatose with culture shock at first – and my job performance suffered.  I was slightly overwhelmed with trying to find a good apartment, a decent grocery store, the quickest way to the office , and a million other things to consider.  It was a burden. It was pressure.  It also took time to get used to a new location – and once I settled in, my routine became more normalized, and my job performance took off.  I think this affected Cassel more than he’s letting on last year.  Let’s hope being a new daddy doesn’t throw him off this season.

So now the pressure is on Cassel – not once (publicly, at least) did he bitch about the lack of playmakers around him.  Not once did he say something like “Don’t blame me for all the sacks – it’s McIntosh who’s acting like the other team’s players have contagious STD’s”.  Never did he stare down LJ like LJ stared down his linemen for lack of production.  Cassel made delicious chicken salad out of the foulest chicken @#$% imaginable.  The results may not have been pretty, but they probably should have been atrocious.

Now – Jamaal Charles is cemented as the starter in the backfield.  Thomas Jones and Thomas Jones’s biceps are there to complement him and rest him.  Charlie Weis is calling the plays (kudos to Haley for eliminating a huge hole in the offensive game plan by taking himself out of the equation – much like Roger Dorn retiring in “Major League II).  The offense will be a ton better – and so will Cassel.  Just watch.

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