Jonathan Daniel - Getty
By C.E. Wendler
Warpaint Illustrated Columnist
Posted Nov 20, 2007
The Chiefs played conservative offense. The Chiefs played inspiring defense. The Chiefs screwed up on special teams. The Chiefs eventually wilted in the fourth quarter.
Does any of this sound familiar?
Sunday’s 13-10 loss in Indianapolis was almost an exact carbon copy of KC’s last trip to the RCA Dome. It was like the Chiefs Xeroxed the gameplan from last January and waltzed into Peyton Manning’s house confident it couldn’t be stopped twice in a row.
All that was missing was Larry Johnson, Trent Green, Will Shields, Dante Hall and Lawrence Tynes. All that really changed this time was Adam Vinatieri’s accuracy and the color of the Chiefs’ pants.
Red this time, instead of white. Red, like the faces of Herm Edwards and his offensive coaches should be, reflecting sheer embarrassment over the way they attempted to replicate last January’s playoff debacle.
The Chiefs came out with no intentions of throwing the ball down the field, apparently so afraid of turnovers the second-and-long draw play featured more heavily in their gameplan than All-Pro tight end Tony Gonzalez. On first down, the Chiefs fell in love with throwing passes sideways to Dwayne Bowe.
OK, give them credit – it worked, a little bit. Bowe was dragging Indy’s defensive backs down the field for six and seven yards a clip in the first half. The only problem was the Chiefs went back to the well a few too many times, and made little effort to get Bowe the ball in space over the middle of the field, where he could really do some damage (ala Randy Moss two weeks ago against Indianapolis).
What was the point of starting Brodie Croyle if the Chiefs weren’t going to take advantage of his great arm strength? For nine weeks, KC’s offense was more aggressive with Damon Huard under center, a man whose talent won’t soon be compared to Cleo Lemon, let alone Croyle.
Seriously, do you remember seeing the Chiefs line up with an empty backfield in San Diego? There was little fear that day against Shawne Merriman and the Chargers’ vicious pass rush. Do you remember when they came out passing against the Green Bay Packers?
Where did the aggressiveness go? Chiefs fans aren’t asking for 40-yard bombs, but a few throws past the sticks would be nice. Judging from his comments following Sunday’s game, Tony Gonzalez feels the same way.
Why coddle your quarterback of the future? What did the Chiefs honestly have to lose by letting Croyle come out firing down the field? The game? They lost that anyway.
Sunday’s ultra-conservative gameplan was reminiscent of the 2001 season opener – but not in Kansas City. In Dallas.
As the Cowboys took on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that day, I watched from the press box at Texas Stadium (courtesy of The Dallas SportsGuide). I watched as the Cowboys, scared to death of potential mistakes from rookie quarterback Quincy Carter, coddled their quarterback en route to a 10-6 defeat.
Carter repeatedly threw quick passes to the sideline all day long to wide receiver Joey Galloway, counting on his receiver to make plays after the catch. It didn’t exactly work – Galloway caught six passes for 18 yards that day, and Carter’s longest pass went for just 11 yards.
It was appropriate for the Cowboys to handle their new quarterback with kid gloves on this day. Carter had barely played that preseason as Dallas had picked up Tony Banks to be the starter. But Banks was surprisingly cut before Week 1, and Carter was shoved into the limelight unprepared.
The situation in Kansas City is completely different with Croyle, who’s been in the NFL for a year already and even as Huard’s backup earlier this season, regularly took 40 percent of the snaps in practice every week. Croyle should be given as much freedom as Huard was allowed.
Compare Croyle’s current situation to that of Denver’s Jay Cutler, who was pushed into the starting role as a rookie last season after Jake Plummer failed to play up to par through 12 weeks. Did Mike Shanahan coddle Cutler? No – he allowed his quarterback freedom to throw the football down the field, and all Cutler did was make big plays over Denver’s final five games. The pundits were raving about his cannon arm.
The Chiefs must do the same with Croyle over this season’s final six games.
Whether that happens or not is anyone’s guess, but if it doesn’t, please refrain from piling on offensive coordinator Mike Solari. He’s the popular scapegoat at the moment, but the truth is it takes an entire coaching staff to ground an offense. No gameplan Solari conjures up sees the light of gameday without the approval of head coach Herm Edwards. Croyle’s style of play is dictated by quarterbacks coach Dick Curl.
In all likelihood, we’ll see the same mentality next week against the Raiders. Why force the issue with downfield passing when you’re facing Oakland’s 23rd-ranked offense? Why take any unnecessary risks when your defense can probably win the game for you inside Arrowhead Stadium?
Get comfortable. The Baby Brodie era has begun. Who knows when the diapers will finally come off.