This year, the Kansas City Chiefs are going to make it two in a row, shocking the National Football League by making the postseason while turning the first overall pick into a lucky talisman of sorts.
The reason for this quick turnaround is simple. The Chiefs weren't really a 2-14 team, at least talent-wise. After all, this is a team that sent half a dozen players to the Pro Bowl in February.
There were two main factors that led to Kansas City's disastrous 2012 campaign. The Chiefs addressed both of those needs in the offseason, while improving the club in a number of other areas.
The first problem the Chiefs had was poor coaching. Last year Romeo Crennel demonstrated, just as he did in Cleveland, that while he's a fine defensive coordinator he's a god-awful head coach.
This is a man who, when asked after an October loss to the Oakland Raiders why star running back Jamaal Charles had only five carries in the game, replied...
Dave Skretta @APdaveskretta
Romeo Crennel on why Jamaal Charles only had 5 carries: "Now, that I'm not exactly sure either." #Chiefs10/29/2012, 12:11:20 AM
Crennel is gone now, replaced by Andy Reid. Say what you will about Reid's clock management skills and penchant for bizarre coaches' challenges (Lord knows Eagles fans have), but Reid has a .583 career winning percentage in the regular season, five division titles and a Super Bowl appearance on his head coaching resume.
That's what's called an upgrade, folks.
The second (and even more glaring) hole that the Chiefs had was at the quarterback position.
Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn combined last year for a season that set offensive football back 30 years. The pair accounted for 14 touchdowns and a staggering 34 turnovers, while "leading" the NFL's worst passing attack.
The Chiefs would have been better off with Steve DeBerg, and he's 59.
Cassel and Quinn are also gone, replaced by Alex Smith, who the Chiefs acquired from the San Francisco 49ers for a second round draft pick.
The former first overall pick completed over 70 percent of his passes last year, but unlike Cassel and Quinn, those completions actually went to Smith's teammates instead of his opponents.
The 29-year-old also had a passer rating of over 100 before a concussion and a Kaepernick cost him the starting job in San Fran. ESPN's Trent Dilfer recently told Adam Telcher of The Kansas City Star (via The Wichita Eagle) that Smith is a great fit in Reid's West Coast offense.
Andy’s a pass-first guy and he’s all about mental toughness, decision-making, getting the ball out quickly, executing the plan, He’s wanted to expand what he does at the line of scrimmage, and Alex gives you great versatility at the line of scrimmage. He’s as good as anyone in the league at seeing things before the snap and digesting the information and getting his offense into the right mode, whatever that might be. Alex is very efficient in the shorter and intermediate passing game, and that’s kind of what Andy’s offense lives by — but he also has the ability to push the ball down the field.
Upgrade number two.
The Chiefs bolstered the team in a number of other areas as well.
The addition of top overall pick Eric Fisher, paired with Branden Albert, gives Kansas City one of the better looking offensive tackle duos in the NFL, at least on paper. Combined with guard Jon Asamoah and free agent addition Geoff Schwartz, the Chiefs have the makings of a solid offensive front, especially if center Rodney Hudson returns from injury at 100%.
The defensive backfield also got an overhaul.
Kansas City added two of the top available free agent cornerbacks, signing both Dunta Robinson and Sean Smith. Smith is coming off a career season with the Miami Dolphins, while Robinson was one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL last year against the run according to Pro Football Focus.
Added to a defense that includes cornerback Brandon Flowers, young safety Eric Berry and fifth-round pick Sanders Commings (who can play cornerback or free safety), the Chiefs would appear set to field a secondary that should improve on last year's 13th-ranked pass defense.
That's not a bad thing to have in the same division as Peyton Manning.
Granted, the presence of Manning and the Denver Broncos, who were the AFC's top seed in 2012, make an AFC West title the longest of long shots.
However, this new and improved Kansas City team has a very good shot at making a run for a Wild Card spot.
Due in no small part to four games against the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers, the Kansas City Chiefs have the fifth-easiest schedule in the NFL in 2013.
Their opponents have a combined winning percentage of .473 according to ESPN. The schedule includes an opening day away date with the woeful Jacksonville Jaguars, as well as very winnable games against the Tennessee Titans, Cleveland Browns, and Buffalo Bills.
It's not all easy sailing, and a three-game stretch against the NFC East from Weeks 2-4 may well define their season. However, if Kansas City can emerge from the first quarter of the season at 2-2, then it's not hard to see this team winning nine games in 2013, just as Bleacher Report AFC West Lead Writer Christopher Hansen forecasted last month.
In fact, all it would take is a favorable break or two for the Chiefs to hit 10 wins. It's really not a stretch at all.
That would put the Chiefs in the thick of the playoff chase, and while there's a ton of football to be played between now and season's end, this is the time for optimism.
For fans in Kansas City, there's ample reason to be optimistic. If the team can avoid a major injury, the improvements to to the roster and coaching staff and a favorable schedule set up nicely for a playoff run.
That run will culminate in the Chiefs advancing to the playoffs for the first time since 2010, showing for the second consecutive season that turnarounds in today's NFL can happen on a dime.
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