Have you ever been watching your favorite team and caught yourself wondering why you even like this team? The uniforms are still familiar, but the performance of the men wearing them nears the point of turning your stomach, or the coach plays a style that is counter to the way you believe the game should be played. This happened to me earlier this summer. My cable company here in central Iowa "treated" me to a rare televised Royals game. The Royals I grew up watching were fast, played great defense, and made every pitch and at bat count. I can still close my eyes and see Willie Wilson moving around the bases so fast that you expected to see contrails. Needless to say the 2010 Royals are none of these things. Watching recently castoff Jose Guillen run the bases made you look for a slimy trail behind him, and the hope that nobody poured salt on him to see if he would melt.
That is baseball, and this column is about football so let's talk about the Herman Edwards version of the Chiefs. There are many complaints that can be leveled at the Edwards led football club in the middle of the past decade, but personally, the biggest gripe I had was using the Cover 2 style defense that Edwards favored. The Cover 2 runs counter to my personal beliefs about how you win at the game of football. Tony Dungy successfully won an NFL championship using an Edward's style defense, but something tells me that Peyton Manning had more to do with that Championship than his defense.
I really didn't have a football philosophy until Marty Schottenheimer came to Kansas City. With him he brought an idea that was elegant in its simplicity – never let the other quarterback finish the game with a clean uniform. Martyball was more than 260 pound running backs going off tackle; it was about keeping the opposing passer uncomfortable in his surroundings. It was about letting a nervous signal caller make mistakes. It would be a misnomer to call any blitz from a Schottenheimer defense exotic because it was routine for him to send just about anybody on his defense after the quarterback. Ask Steve Young or Jim Kelley, both in the Hall of Fame, if this was effective. Marty laid the foundation for my basic football tenets.
If there was any uncertainty on my part, the Marty beliefs were cemented by Dick Vermiel of all people. Dicky V west didn't know much about defense, but he did develop an offensive line so dominant that he was able to obtain quality backup players like Trent Green and Priest Holmes and turn them into All Pros by keeping defensive pressure away from Green who would stand tall in the pocket, uniform perfectly clean, while having to time to read all of his progressions and the entire opinion page of the Wall Street Journal.
Now this is not an indictment of Herman Edwards. This is about a personal preference for seeing my favorite team's defense disrupting the opponent's offense by being in their backfield.
I am pleased to say that Romeo Crennel's defense was in Charlie Weis' backfield at last Saturday's scrimmage. Several defenders distinguished themselves in being a disruptive force during this time. Maybe just maybe, we finally have a defensive coordinator that knows how to cause chaos. Could it be that the offense would have protection issues not knowing which defender or defenders would be bursting through the pocket? I was happy. We have finally returned to quarterback crunching.
However, a nagging doubt began to creep into the back of my mind. There was no doubt that the defense won the day, but could it be that it was the competition that they were facing? Is the offensive line so bad that they could not keep the newly minted defensive heroes from getting to the passer? Was our new nickelback / slot defender, Javier Arenas so good that Dexter McCluster could not get space to operate, or was having Wallace Gilberry in his face keeping Matt Cassel from finding the small wide receiver? Or is this just a case of Romeo throwing the kitchen sink at the offense, while Charlie was playing a very vanilla flavor designed to see his new toys in various situations? In a scrimmage, it's hard to tell who was really dominating.
This Friday we will begin to see what we have in the 2010 Chiefs as they travel to Atlanta for their first preseason game. I hope that our defense can cause the pressure they need to have to return to respectability. I hope the offensive line gives Matt Cassel and Brody Croyle time to find their receivers.
We will probably see the top players for two or three series before they begin to give way to the guys just hoping to find their way on the team. In their short seasonal debut here are some things to watch Friday night...
The biggest storyline will be the performance of the rookies.
Eric Berry will start and he will face a huge challenge in Tony Gonzalez. As we all know Tony G is a mismatch for any defender. Berry will give up size and a whole lot of subtle offensive pass interference there is not called most of the time (age has its privilege.) Berry is going to play against some excellent tight ends this year; he might as well be broken in by the best.
Will the offense be saying, "Say hello to my little friend?" Will Dexter McCluster bring the same sort of fireworks that Tony Montana's assault weapon did in Scarface. It is imperative that Weis' crew put the ball DMC's hands.
How soon will Kendrick Lewis get into the game? Some are saying that he can make plays that Jon McGraw can't. I put McGraw's chances of starting Friday at 98%. Look for Lewis in tandem with DeJuan Morgan in the second half.
Watch the offensive line for their cohesiveness. Now that Brian Waters is back four or the starters played together last year, so there should be a minimum a fair amount of familiarity within the group. There will be times when Rudy Niswanger is overmatched, and Ryan O'Callaghan is not quick enough on a speed rush, but we should not see blow assignments and missed blitzes.
The mystery men, Dewayne Bowe and Derrick Johnson, need to play like men possessed on Friday. They need to use the first preseason game as a springboard to doing big things in 2010.
Aristotle left the world with this bit of wisdom; "A job well begun is half done." Let's hope that the season is well begun against Atlanta – even if it doesn't count in the standings.