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From the Ground Up - Offensive Line


More by Stephen Brown
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Running Back Larry Johnson officially gone. Old news, but some day some way he'd like to return. Yeah! Clark Hunt will leave the light on. What a wonderful country we live in. Run for a smidgen of yards good for a 2.7 yard average, get fired, and you're still guaranteed $2.1M for the rest of the season.

Football has been very, very good to him!

Johnson had diarrhea of the mouth, thousands signed a petition to get rid of him, nobody wanted him to set the new rushing record...but honestly, I couldn't fault his frustration.

Not with gays, women, or his "me" attitude. Not that, but with the situation in Kansas City. Johnson had an ego. In a span of three seasons (2004-2006) he went from 4,120 yards, 46 rushing touchdowns, and two Pro Bowls to 1,433 yards, eight touchdowns, and zero Pro Bowls. Did the record setting season of 416 attempts by Johnson in 2006 lead to his immediate downfall? Or was it the offensive line?

I'm not making excuses for Johnson, what he got was self inflicted, but the Chiefs lack of attention toward the offensive line has been a dissatisfaction to us all. Right guard Mike Goff went on injured reserve two days ago. He was the one offensive lineman signed in the offseason to help bolster the line. The Chiefs signed the 12-year veteran for his toughness and to show the younger players how to do it.

Now he's hurt, season over, and three-year veteran Andy Alleman acquired in a trade from Miami steps in.

Larry Johnson, like safety Bernard Pollard, is another excuse who's now gone. Sooner or later management will run out of excuses and players and will have to deal with the truth. Not since John Tait has the Chiefs drafted a real bona fide offensive lineman. Tait played five seasons with the Chiefs before parting ways and has been with the Chicago Bears ever since.

I'm willing to give Scott Pioli and Todd Haley a chance.

Why?

Looking back at history both Marty Scottenheimer and Dick Vermeil made even more changes in their second year, while only Herman Edwards chose to stand still. Was it Edwards or Carl Peterson? Not sure, but neither left Haley much to work with on the offensive line.

Marty Schottenheimer came in 1989 and drafted six defensive players, with Derrick Thomas being the big pick from that year. Nobody else from that draft really stuck or stands out. In Schottenheimer's second season he drafted four offensive lineman including center Tim Grunhard and guard Dave Szott who was drafted in the seventh round with the 15th pick. Both players had great careers for the Chiefs. In 1995 Schottenheimer drafted guard Will Shields. With tackle John Alt who played until 1996 the Chiefs boasted one of the league's best offensive lines.

Schottenheimer had to build from the basement up.

Dick Vermeil brought in center Casey Wiegmann in 2001, but in his second season made a great trade for tackle Willie Roaf. With guards Will Shields and Brian Waters the Chiefs and Larry Johnson enjoyed plenty of success.

Without Roaf and no attempt by Edwards or Peterson to keep it going we see what we have today.

It must have been a bitter pill to swallow, for Johnson, knowing that at almost 30 his best days with a great offensive line could be behind him. We all deal with things differently in our own way and his wasn't the best, but like I said...I can understand the frustration.

The challenge for Pioli and Haley will be to follow the footsteps of coaches like Schottenheimer and Vermeil, but take it further and win it all.

In the Chiefs first eight games last year under Edwards they averaged 12 points a game, while Haley has the Chiefs scoring 16 points a game in their first eight. Vermeil in his first eight games of 2001 averaged 17 points a game.

In Vermeil's second season the Chiefs averaged 32 points a game in their first eight games.

Vermeil added to what was already there on the offensive line. Haley will have to take Schottenheimer's approach, from the ground up, but the point is it can be done and it doesn't have to take forever. In Schottenheimer's first year he finished 8-7-1, but in 1990 he took the Chiefs to 11-5 and a playoff appearance. Remember, he drafted Tim Grunhard and Dave Szott that same year and they played as rookies.

The one thing that isn't comparable is experience. Both Schottenheimer and Vermeil had experience doing it their way before and proving it worked. Haley has to clear that personal hurdle himself. That's the one thing that could stop it all from going in the right direction for Haley and Pioli.

For our sakes I hope that the days of winning football come back to Kansas City and that fans can reclaim Arrowhead as they once did instead of other fans taking refuge. I'd hate to see Arrowhead become as the ancient Roman coliseum and wilt away. It would be a shame.

On a positive note...Haley is doing more with less despite his mistakes and despite the record.

Good day, Chief fans!



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