I am not ready to panic. I say this despite the lackadaisical - make that pathetic - performance Sunday by the offensive tackles and the special teams against the Bengals. I say this despite the concussion suffered by Trent Green. I say this despite the fact that the Chiefs are going to have to rely on seldom-used QB Damon Huard for at least the next two games. I even say this despite the less-than-stellar performance by the coaching staff. There is an old adage that one game - especially the first game - does not a season make.
In the ship building business, a new boat goes through two sets of tests before it is delivered to the customer. The first is called the Builder's Trials and this is where the builder takes the boat out and puts it through its paces to find what problems are encountered. These trials are only for the Builder's benefit. The second set, the Acceptance Test, is the one that matters as the customer gets his opportunity to put the boat through a brutal series of tests to ensure that the builder is delivering a quality product. If you view the NFL's exhibition games as the Builder's Trials and the first regular season game as the Acceptance Test, the Chiefs now know what is wrong. Whether the problems can be fixed or not is another issue.
The communications breakdown between Herm Edwards and Mike Solari can be fixed. The problems with the offensive tackles and the special teams may be repairable. The injury to Trent Green can't be fixed; Trent will have to sit until the doctors clear him to play and the Chiefs are stuck with Huard as the starter until Green gets the green light. Maybe the old adage needs to be amended. One game may not make a season, but one game can certainly be the turning point to a season. I can point to three previous games in Chiefs history where this occurred.
The first was October 20, 1968. KC was 5-1 heading into the first game against Oakland but the Chiefs had been racked by injuries to the receiver corps. With Otis Taylor and Gloster Richardson banged up, the Chiefs were forced to revert to the old Full-House T formation (three running backs and double tight end) and run the ball down the Raiders' throats. When the dust cleared, KC was a 24-10 winner and went on to finish the season with a 12-2 record.
The second occurred during a 31-0 pasting of the then-Boston Patriots in the second game of the 1969 season. Although the Chiefs won easily, Lenny Dawson went down with a knee injury that would keep him out of the next six games. Back-up QB Jacky Lee started the next game against the Cincinnati Bengals but was quickly lost for the season with a broken ankle and the Chiefs were forced to turn to 2nd-year QB Mike Livingston. The Chiefs lost the game to the Bengals 24-19 but then reeled off five victories in a row. KC, of course, ended up the 1969 season with a 23-7 victory over the Vikings in Super Bowl IV.
Finally, there was the 40-10 loss to the Patriots in the sixth game of the 1998 season. KC was 4-1 going into the game against New England and the loss seemed to take all the wind out of the Chiefs' sails. Five more losses in a row followed, including the infamous "Monday Night Meltdown" against the Broncos. KC limped home with a 7-9 record and Marty Schottenheimer stepped down as head coach.
Although the situations in all three games were very different, the one common denominator was all-encompassing. Basically, you can boil it down to three words: desire, example, and emotion. In the first two cases, everyone in the Chiefs organization displayed these in abundance and the results were electric. In 1998, there was plenty of emotion but very little desire and absolutely no example. The result was disastrous.
While I am loath to compare this year's squad to any of the teams in the past, there is no denying that this week is the turning point to the season. Will the 2006 Chiefs show that they have the same desire, example, and emotion that propelled the '68 and '69 squads to glory, or will they melt under the pressure like the '98 team did?