After the conclusion of this summer's last minicamp, Dick Vermeil made it a point to tell the team that this was the best team he's ever been around. Obviously, his words had great effect as the team has stumbled to an oh-and-two start. Seven previous Chiefs' teams have started 0-2 and guess how many made the playoffs. The answer is none. Guess how many ended the season with a winning record. The answer is still none. Dick, I would imagine, probably wishes he had kept his mouth shut.
The 1975 and 1976 teams both started 0-4 and ended 5-9. The 1977 squad started at 0-5 and ended the season with a 2-12 mark. In 1980, the team stumbled out of the gate with an 0-4 start but finished the season at 8-8. The 1988 team started at 0-2 and finished at 4-11-1. Chiefs Y2K started 0-2 before finishing at 7-9. Last, but not least, the 2001 squad also started at 0-2 before roaring to a 6-10 record. Those fine squads turned in a combined 37-68-1 record (35.3% winning percentage). "Slow start" history seems to indicate that this "best team ever" will end up being anything but.
History would also seem to indicate that there is a curse on the 13-3 teams. The 13-3 1995 squad turned in a 9-7 record in 1996. The 1997 team went 7-9 the next season. Not surprisingly, neither the 1996 nor the 1998 editions went to the playoffs. The 2004 edition won't either.
So far, the malaise is not limited to the defense, which is just plain bad again. If it was bad under Greg Robinson and it's bad now under Gunther Cunningham, it's a pretty good bet that the players are the problem. There's an old adage that says you can't make chicken salad out of chicken doots. Unfortunately, the front office tried, figuring that a new chef was all that was needed. What the first two games have shown is that doots are doots, regardless of what the menu says. The problem is the same as it's been the past three years - the total inability to stop the run. Gunther can have his minions blitz all day but it won't accomplish anything as long as opposing teams can average 192.5 rushing yards a game. Incidentally, that works out to 3,080 yards for the year. That is uncomfortably close to the NFL record of 3,228 yards given up by the Buffalo Bills in 1978. Carolina came into the game minus its two biggest playmakers and still scored 28 points. This came one week after the team gave up 34 points to Denver. At this rate, the team will give up 496 points (NFL record is 533 points given up by the 1981 Baltimore Dolts). Some one wasn't listening to the pep talk, Dick.
The offense hasn't been doing its job either. Trent Green has looked just awful at times. So far, he's only completed 50% of his passes while throwing two interceptions and zero touchdowns. Lenny Dawson could come of retirement tomorrow and put up better figures than that. Defenses have taken Tony Gonzalez out of the picture and the wide receivers aren't good enough to take up the slack. Silly penalties are also part of the problem (158 yards so far). The last Chiefs team that self destructed with penalties was the 1998 squad (who can ever forget the Monday night meltdown against the Broncos?).
I may be over reacting. Trent Green is a much better QB than he's shown thus far. Gunther may still find enough chicken on the defense to make a salad with. The receivers may suddenly find a way to get open and actually catch the darn ball. And if you believe all that, I'd really like to sell you this prime swampland that's been in the family for generations. The problem is that the team believed Vermeil and complacency set in. Unfortunately, the "best ever" tag is going to haunt the team and Coach Vermeil all season.