Stretching the Field: Chiefs have some work to do
By Shawn Clarke, Contributing NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - Desire, dedication, determination.
Those were three keys to success for former NFL head coach Dennis Green. His Minnesota Vikings were able to put the troika into effect and should have won the Super Bowl back in 1998.
Romeo Crennel could take a note from Green's coaching philosophy because the Kansas City Chiefs' season so far has been scathing for fans after six weeks. Crennel and the Chiefs are on a much-needed respite with a Week 7 bye and have lost five of the first six games.
A quarterback issue has led to an anemic pass attack and a scoring famine, and running back Jamaal Charles can't do it alone. But what is Crennel supposed to do when quarterback Matt Cassel, who suffered a concussion in a home loss to Baltimore and walked off the field to a smattering of cheers, has nine interceptions to five touchdown passes and backup Brady Quinn's days of grace are still in South Bend?
General manager Scott Pioli was hoping to carry over his success with New England to the "City of Fountains" and so far the Chiefs are still waiting to grasp that elusive Vince Lombardi trophy. Pioli was recently asked about Crennel and if he has too much on his plate as head coach and defensive coordinator.
"I don't believe his plate is too full. I've watched, whether perception or reality, every head coach has a greater input into one side of the ball or the other, or even some times special teams," Pioli told the Kansas City Star. "Romeo is the coordinator, but I've seen this before, and it's worked, and it can continue to work. There are times we are playing very well on defense."
The Chiefs are decent in pass defense (13th, 224.5 ypg), but are giving up almost 400 yards (349.5) a week and sit 30th in points allowed (30.5 ppg). Only Buffalo and Tennessee have yielded more points than Kansas City. The 2010 AFC West champions suffered a 38-10 loss at Tampa Bay last weekend and have yielded at least 35 points four times already. They're not missing any vital pieces to the defense, so it all boils down to poor execution.
Crennel is counting on the extra week to improve and sounded like the polar opposite of former NBA All-Star Allen Iverson when asked how it can be done.
"Practice and practice and practice. Repetition and repetition," Crennel said. "That's what you have to do, you have to keep working at it. If I don't keep working at it then I might as well pack up my bags and go home. But I'm going to keep working at it, I'm going to try to get these guys better and then the team will be better as a result."
Some fans would love to see Crennel pack it in and let the next guy in line take a crack at running the team. The only area in which the Chiefs have been successful is running the football. Third in the NFL with 164.0 rushing yards per week, the Chiefs would probably be winless had it not been for Charles, who is first in the league with 98.5 yards per game, third with 591 total rushing yards and fifth with 115 carries. Charles is the third running back in team history with at least 100 rushing plays of 10-plus yards, but it has done nothing to improve the offense.
Charles' workload could taper off when Peyton Hillis returns from an ankle injury sustained in a win over the Saints. Hillis will be a welcome addition to a stagnant offense searching for any type of success and serve as a complement to Charles' big-play ability.
Tied with Cleveland for the worst record in the NFL, the Chiefs have been in position to make plays and aren't taking advantage. Why else would they be 1-5 and last in the division?
When Quinn, a poster boy for underachievers, is under center, the confidence factor etiolates. Quinn has been able to survive in the NFL as a backup and has worked under many head coaches and coordinators. Before the loss to the Buccaneers, Crennel said he believed Quinn would play well and make the best of his chances. Quinn threw two interceptions, had just 180 yards on 22-of-38 passing and eight passes tipped. The only positive from Sunday's loss was Quinn avoided being sacked.
Cassel, meanwhile, got his bell rung in a close loss to the Ravens. He has been cleared for non-contact drills and will be monitored closely. In the meantime, he and Quinn are expected to split reps in practice, opening the door for a quarterback controversy. Cassel, though, should get his job back for the simple fact that he knows his teammates and the playbook better. He said it was great to get back on the practice field with the team, but understands this is a business and Crennel will do what's best for the team.
"That's part of the deal," Cassel told the Kansas City Star. "Coach Crennel said in a team meeting and spoke to everybody, that everybody is going get reps this week, that this is the time to evaluate people during the bye week, to try some different things and see where we're at."
Opting to go with Quinn as the starter when Cassel is ready to return would be foolish. Quinn had his chance to make an immediate impact against the Buccaneers and blew it. Crennel knows Cassel will be cleared for contact after the bye and will make a decision then. He noted how it can be a distraction in the locker room when players are guessing who will be under center, and that some favor one over another.
The Chiefs look to bounce back when they return to action Oct. 28 versus the division-rival Oakland Raiders and will know by then who's taking snaps. If it's Cassel, hopefully he'll have ear plugs to anesthetize a possibly negative reaction from the Arrowhead faithful.
10/19 12:38:54 ET