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Balance of Season Hinges on Team


More by Ed Fulda
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It almost seems silly to point at a game played in the fourth week and state definitively that it was the turning point of the season. Unfortunately for the Chiefs, the ugly loss to Philadelphia has become that turning point. Thirty-one unanswered points can do strange things to a team's psyche. A blow-out loss - like the one the Chiefs suffered two weeks ago in Denver - can be quickly forgotten. It was, after all, one of those things that can happen to any team and the players & coaches generally rebound quickly. The loss to Philly, however, can't be forgotten. When a 28-6 lead transforms itself into a 37-31 loss, there are only two possible future outcomes; either the team (including the coaching staff) folds like a house of cards or the experience becomes a motivator and the team comes back with a singular purpose. The front office would be well advised to monitor the atmosphere in the locker room closely for the next week-and-a-half.

The really unfortunate part of the loss to the Eagles is that it was the coaching staff, not the players, who put the team in this situation. Regardless of who was at fault, however, the effects can be devastating. Case in point: remember that horrid loss to Denver in November 1998 where the Chiefs self-destructed on national TV (the infamous Monday Night Meltdown)? The players lost their collective cool during that game and the coaches were unable to get the team back on course. The results were predictable: goodbye playoffs and, after the season, goodbye Marty Schottenheimer.

I'm not implying that the team is about to self-destruct like the 1998 team did, but there are signs that all is not right in paradise. After the problems experienced during training camp, i.e. players were getting drunk and becoming abusive with the local populous, an oh-and-four record in the preseason, Eric Warfield and John Welbourne getting suspended for alcohol and steroid abuse respectively. Now it comes out that on the day of the Eagles game, Chiefs Assistant Coach Jason Verduzco, got maced after getting abusive with a security guard at the stadium. The defensive game plan used by the Chiefs against the Eagles betrayed a lack of confidence in the players. Instead of running tight man-to-man and double coverage on Terrell Owens, the coaches went with a heavy emphasis on zone. T.O. ate the Chiefs alive as a result. Trent Green obviously was not allowed to call audibles (at least in certain situations). Added together, the signs point to disconnects between the coaching staff and the players.

The bye week has come at a good time. The free week is a perfect time for the coaches and the players to talk to each other and for everyone to do some serious self-examination. With Washington and Miami coming up as the first two opponents after the bye, we should all know very quickly whether the Chiefs are truly contenders or just pretenders.






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