Thursday, March 22, 2018

The Quarterback and Wide Receiver Projects May Be Facing an Overhaul

Nine fine running back names line the inside of Arrowhead Stadium, all proud members of the Kansas City Chiefs Hall of Fame. Nine of them. Seven linebacker names are up there (with Derrick Johnson's and Tamba Hali's to be added sometime). Five defensive linemen and eight of our quite famous defensive backs all enjoy membership in the Chiefs Hall of Fame. There are even three guys whose sole job was to kick the football around.

Thing is, the number of enshrined kicking guys is the same as the number of wide receivers who occupy that prestigious institution.

Thuh-ree. Chris Burford, Otis Taylor, and recently Carlos Carson. Tha's it.

Annnd, guess how many quarterback names are up there? If you were there at Arrowhead enjoying a splendid Chiefs victory -- go ahead, right now, just do a mental tour of the Ring of Honor -- and you were to look up at all those names that surround you as you sit in the stands, check it out, look around and find all the great Chiefs who were quarterbacks, arguably the most important position in the game of professional football, guess how many you would find?

One.

Yeah. There is one. You know who he is, he last played a game in December of 1975, 42 years ago.

Since then? At Chiefs quarterback? While there have been some fine players doing some fine things out there for a little while, we all know...

Chiefs quarterbacking has been a barren wasteland. Again, to say nothing about these players -- all fine gentlemen indeed, all extending spirited contributions to good Chiefs things in the regular season -- there has simply not been anyone at the quarterback position who has shown they can sustain the durability and level of play particularly in the postseason to merit a place on the Chiefs Ring of Honor.  Much of this is because of The Quarterback Project, the main thrust of which is you cannot get a good solid window of achieving postseason success unless you've got a drafted and developed quarterback no matter how exceptionally talented the one you have is -- Joe Montana, Rich Gannon, Trent Green, even Alex Smith among them.

A couple years ago I realized that the very same affliction has plagued the Chiefs at the wide receiver position. It may very well be that the two deficits together have aggravated the issue -- quarterbacks and wide receivers must work together with an almost transcendent mental precision, and through the years the Chiefs have just not had it, not at that consistent got-it level that gets you deep into the postseason. Again taking nothing away from those fine proud Chiefs players, I think most would agree that our winning seasons through the years have been much because of our stellar defensive play and our powerful running games (six offensive linemen, by the way, are in the Chiefs Hall).

Yes some quarterbacks and wide receivers came in and did well, but without that sustained play from those who'd eventually see their names on that Ring, the Chiefs have been doomed to slog along with extraordinarily little in the way of postseason glory.

Well guess what.

We now have our first legitimate shot at seeing that change, and right now the Chiefs Kingdom is ecstatic over the present state of affairs. Every Chiefs fan is seeing stars -- namely

Pat Mahomes. Tyreek Hill. Travis Kelce. Kareem Hunt. And now Sammy Watkins.

The truly awesome thing about this is that all but one are drafted and developed. The exception of course is Watkins, but he's only 24 years old and has an entire offseason to work himself into the Chiefs program, all led by the very experienced and widely respected head coach needed to make it happen. Even better, all have a ton of career left in front of them.

Very very exciting Chiefs Kingdom times indeed.

Here's the thing, I simply have to add. Yeah, personal note, but something I just have to keep in mind.

There was 1998.

We'd just come off a 13-win season, should've won a divisional game over Denver if it wasn't for ___ (fill in the blank any number of insanely stupid crazy-ass things that happened to us in that game), and that spring we signed Chester McGlockton.

I mention Chester because that is one of the few notable things I remember off-hand about that offseason. The Chiefs picked him up adding a thick wall to the middle of their line and I actually thought, "We are not going to lose a single game in 1998... YEAAAAH!!!" And it looked good for a while! Derrick Thomas was all over Oakland's QB Jeff George in that opener on Sunday night and we won going away. We shot out to a 4-1 record -- and then the wheels came off. We finished that year at 7-9 and, yeah.

So while this week it is excitement overload, I'm still going to temper my expectations. I'd still like to give Mahomes some time, let him grow -- it takes time to make it worthwhile. Sure he'll astound frequently enough, but he's likely to disappoint too, throwing that critically bad pick to lose a game in an especially nasty way. I so so so so so so want the Chiefs to win the Super Bowl this year, and every year after that. But I'm going to give these guys a break and let them mature through that standard five-year window. Can we win a Super Bowl in that time? Unquestionably.

And I do believe much of that is because of all that people like Brett, Andy, and even Clark are doing to overcome "Hunt."

I wanted to close this series with just some thoughts about the positives that emerge from the agony of Chiefs postseason reality. I jotted these down a couple months ago as I thought, hmm, what could the reasoning be for why we must endure this stuff? Could any of it make sense? Yes I am a spiritual individual, there are supernatural things out there having an impact on things, and I am a follower of Jesus Christ. I do believe things happen not merely "for a reason" but for God to accomplish His glorious purposes in our lives in light of what we may think is happening. No I don't believe God favors any team over the other and somehow arranges outcomes, I've elaborated on this before.

I do know He cares for us and wants good things for us. It's just a matter of us seeing things the way He does, and I do believe He does let us in on some of that. Not all of it of course, but enough.

How on earth could there be anything good coming from all that has happened at Arrowhead Stadium in January through the years? Here are some of my thoughts. Precisely...

What really is the good thing about the latest Chiefs playoff horror?

- Maybe we need to really understand what's important. Sometimes after any given Chiefs playoff heartbreak, I actually think, huh, maybe someone somewhere needed their team to win more than any of us needed the Chiefs to win. It is a tremendously difficult lesson in humility, in deference to the idea that hey, at least their team's fans are happy right now. It really isn't that much of a consolation, but it does profoundly relate to lessons learned in Job.

Yes, that book in the Bible that addresses head-on this suffering thing. We'd just finished it in our men's Bible study at work, and it is a radically faith-renovating book -- it really is. Yes, I do understand that there are quite a few things more important in life than a Chiefs win, I got that, but the fact is we still root for them, we still tune in or even shell out big bucks for tickets to Arrowhead and jerseys to wear there... It is still meaningful enough to capture some of our attention.

Job's lesson (among many more nuanced parts) is simply that God blesses us irrespective of anything we think or feel or do. Yeah I'm sure He still kind of expects us to be kind and loving and so forth. But the things He's doing far, far outdistance our thoughts about it all. Why do the Chiefs have this or that happen to them? It is much less about some ethereal thing God is doing to make things a certain way, and way more whether or not Tyreek can outrun that corner. And it isn't that God has waaay more important things to consider -- no, I think He's right there in Arrowhead, but not to do anything for or against the Chiefs on the field but to do things in our hearts irrespective of what happens there. It's not that He doesn't know or care about what happens there, but He is much more about the rich, vibrant substance of our relationship with Him and with others.

- Maybe we need to see the tremendous value of the commiseration, of the fellowship we can have with one another as Chiefs fans whatever happens. All of this really has to be about the people, win or lose. The players have it right. After a terrible on-field disappointment I keep seeing them embrace their opponents, trade jerseys, all that stuff. Some even kneel together at midfield and pray. Both team's players, in deep abiding fellowship nonetheless.

Please remember, Hunt is in no way an indictment of Lamar or Clark or anyone for that matter. Lamar was amazing and Clark is amazing -- he runs an organization that seems to me to be one people genuinely respect. I mean there've been far worse. And me? I have my own reckoning with my own intergenerational stuff to make too much hay about anyone else's. It's why I know how much I need Christ.

One of the key elements of the very good present-day Hunt is that family is emphasized -- the Chiefs Kingdom should be a place where the fellowship is rich and vibrant in spite of what happens on the field. After a Chiefs win I've been taken with looking for that one video and peeking in on the post locker room hollering and high-fiving, and the thing I like the most is when they join close, gather hands, and shout "Fam!"

I can only think of that movie Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, where everything bad happens to this kid, Alexander, as well as to just about every one of his family members. The film progresses predictably but it is engaging, and one of the themes is that the very bad things have happened so everyone can see the value of being with one another, respecting one another, actually being in the mix of conversing and interacting and courageously helping out each another through it all.

- Maybe the thinking through it all and working through it together is something quite invaluable. I have often had to tell myself this little personal aphorism: "No arriving allowed." It simply means that even after my most wonderfully fulfilling victories, there is always something else I must be seeking to achieve. Otherwise we become milquetoast people.

Believe me, it is difficult. How many times do we want some classically great victory simply to be the championship of all time, space, and dimension? This relates to the "Then what?" factor. What happens when finally the Chiefs have their world championship? I wouldn't say it wouldn't feel reeeeeally good, but you know. there's always another season. And likely another team very much not-the-Chiefs will just be better and triumphs.

I even wrote about this idea, the "Winning is a curse" idea in a post a while back. No no no it doesn't mean I never want the Chiefs to win it all, again it only counts if we do really want it! Otherwise all of this is nothingness! But it is having the perspective, and it is sharing it with others along the way.

- Maybe this is the impetus needed for the most valiant crusaders in the Chiefs Kingdom to give it just one more push to get us where we need to be. One of the best evidences of this extra effort is in the phenomenally industrious work of Brett Veach to work the cap and pull in the really good players we need to make this thing happen. I've been reading The Great Good Thing by Andrew Klavan -- the great good thing being Jesus Christ. Klavan writes so splendidly about what it is like to let your imagination roam a bit, revel in the stories (Hemingway in particular) and thrill to the intrepid things one may do in life to triumph magnificently.

Really, the Chiefs on the gridiron battlefield is a wonderful thing in that the story is unfolding right in front of you, the story every red-blooded boy wants to live out every moment of his life. Look again at Brett's press conference after he went to the mat and got bruised and bloodied to get Sammy Watkins and Anthony Hitchens into the Chiefs Kingdom. Pro football allows us to behold our fighting crusaders duking it out for the honor of our tribal community -- so valuable when today's real world is caked in the worst ennui.

- Maybe there will be greater joy when we do win. There are guys on this team who know nothing about Hunt or the Chiefs travails of postseason pasts, and that's a very good thing. I was buoyed when I heard young lineman Chris Jones, a solidly potential got-it guy for sure, joyfully enthuse right after the Titans loss, "We'll be here winning this thing next year!" This is what we need coursing through the Chiefs Kingdom.

Maybe it isn't better that we have the wildly successful postseason success of a Patriots. Maybe all this is this way because when we do win it will be glorious -- it's axiomatic: when you already have everything getting something new isn't that great, but when you've been in the pit of hell for some time, finding a nice meal and warm pillow to lay your head is the most astounding blessing. It is biblical: Check out the second verse in the 13th chapter of Nehemiah: "...Our God, however, turned a curse into a blessing." Then there is the 21st verse of Luke's sixth chapter: "Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied."

- Maybe our focus should be on being a true servant - giving it up to gain something much greater. I've wondered often if I am being told that maybe we shouldn't be too into the NFL. Maybe we do need to focus on more of the other things in life and maybe the pro football thing is capturing too much of our attention. I'm often sure I take Chiefs stuff to heart way more than anyone else does. Here I am writing a ton about it. I don't apologize for being a Chiefs fan by any means, after all this thing Chiefs does have some genuinely worthwhile things about it. I've written about it frequently here.

Life is a lot like that worship song from the David Crowder Band, How He Loves Us. Here're some lyrics: He is jealous for me / Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree / Bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy / When all of a sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory / And I realize just how beautiful You are / And how great Your affections are for me.

Yeah Chiefs stuff makes up a lot of very positive things. The most positive is that through the Kingdom is an opportunity to give and sow into people's lives by worshipping and serving Him no matter the afflictions we endure. He is the One with the ultimate victory.

Please know in all of this that I'm not trying to rationalize anything away -- I'm just doing therapy for the perspective. That's all. Really, I don't want the Chiefs to lose another game just so we can experience all these relatively positive things. Perish the thought! As much as we reach some level of maturity out of the trials, it all only works if we're on track to be winning!

Also know that I don't mean to make this some grand theological treatise. Some may take issue with something I wrote about God, but please, no worries. I'm just blogging. Yes I do want people to know Christ, that's cool, but I'm really just talking here about the Chiefs and other things, in many ways just to talk. All of us do that -- I want to talk until I know what I want to say. That's having relationship with others, and this is just how I do it in the Chiefs Kingdom.

As you know I live in Southern California and there aren't a whole lot of Chiefs fans out here -- there are a few, I know, but I mostly interact with family about Chiefs items. In that light I want to close all this with a very personal anecdote, just something that impacted me quite viscerally, just for a moment. I'll just share with you the transcript from my journal entry of January 28, 2008. I describe it best here.

5:30 pm. Driving home from work, January 8 just three weeks ago.

I’m coming off Kellogg hill going east on the 10 and around the 57 interchange I notice a red F150 Ford Truck, big ol’ truck, in the lane to my left. There was some traffic so it goes ahead of me, I go ahead of it a bit, back and forth. All the while I’m trying to remember the license plate because, yes, you guessed it, the guy had a big ol’ Chiefs emblem on the window behind the cab, and a Chiefs license plate frame.

We’re both driving on down the 10 a bit further, and at about Fairplex Ghost in You comes on the radio. Now this song puts me away anyway most times, but hey, I’ll just listen to it since I’m feeling good, and…

I come up closer to this red truck, feeling real good that he’s a Chiefs fan, and I notice at about White that there is some smaller writing he’s got on that cab window just to the left of the emblem. It’s big enough to read, but you gotta be where I was at that point to actually read it. I got the chance to. It read:

“Proud father of a Special Olympics swimmer.”

Already I’m wanting to cry again just as I write about it. Needless to say, my car was just about flooded with my tears. It was as if somebody squeezed the fluid from by chest and it streamed out of my eyes.

The Chiefs supremely sucked this year, football-wise. This was a yet-again they-sucked kind of thing, I’d been resigned a bit about just how sucky through their history my favorite team of all-time has been.

But just seeing that there was this Chiefs fan, and there was this one who has the most compassionate connection with his child in this way, and that I can relate and know that God has this kind of love for us, and that I can be a part of this “family…”

Oh my.
___

Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Devastating Hunt, Episode VI

It's about time to make this a wrap. I agree I've gone a bit crazy analyzing Chiefs things especially with regards to the whatever-it-is Hunt, in February and March even! This is the time we're supposed to have downtime from the far-too-often crushing vicissitudes of Chiefs game day activities, but, well, the NFL wants to keep you in a state of year-round optimism about your team's chances.

In fact this is free agency week, with the Chiefs joining every other team scrambling to fill holes. As much as I've lamented the dangers of free agency with particular disdain for the salary cap, the Chiefs have had a chance to pick up a key player or two. Oh I'd so rather keep the good players we already have (has the NFL made its decision to overrule the ridiculous Marcus Peters trade yet? No? ::Sigh::...) But well, here we've truly taken advantage of our shot at getting reasonably decent replacements, so yeah -- there ya go.

We left off last week's post with mention of what I consider the most important cog in the Chiefs Kingdom machine: our brand spankin' new young GM Brett Veach. If he does a fine job of juggling the cap, convincing good players to buy into Chiefs Kingdom wonderfulness so we don't have to overpay them, and evaluating talent to draft and sign those gems to fill spots making the Chiefs a cohesive juggernaut because we'll need it to overcome -- yes I must mention it again -- Hunt.

So far it is looking really good for the Chiefs. Veach has shown that he's got a bead on how to address the current state of the NFL draft-wise and free agency-wise. Right outta the gate he's upgrading in two of the most critical areas of need, not waiting around for a draft pick that has to develop. He's snatched up free agents Sammy Watkins and Anthony Hitchens -- Watkins to give Pat Mahomes a super nice receiving target and Hitchens to fill that void left by Derrick Johnson.

Veach is taking care of business.

As a reminder for those just coming into the blog series (you can also go back and start from the beginning), in short: there are two distinct truths about Chiefs football. One, Clark Hunt leads a team, a traditionally winning team actually, born and raised through a legacy that has been phenomenally beneficial for pro football. Two, Chiefs postseason action has been an interminably excruciating hell.

What is with these two things?

Any Chiefs fan response may be any of a number of things. These are a variety of Chiefs things I think about sometimes -- yes, sometimes, not all the time, as obsessed as I seem I'm really not that bad. I do like to riff on it all in these posts, however. The therapy, you know. And I'm not kidding.

One of those responses, one I have heard once or twice: Should we really care about the Chiefs any more after what we've endured year after year after year? I've recently thought of it this way: Why go through any of this rigmarole when the the only only ONLY thing that matters at all any more is not what our leadership is like or how good our players are or what our game plan is against any particular team at an given time -- you know, the things worth thinking about and talking about and all the rest of it.

No, the only thing left for Chiefs fans is:

Will insanely stupid crazy-ass things NOT happen to the Chiefs in a playoff game?

Just looking at that question makes my innards wrench, it really does. It isn't just because it is so painful but because is it really the case that this is all we have to wait for? Just slogging through a whole regular season to see if the answer to this question isn't yet another wretched heartbreak? Last year I committed to really enjoying the regular season games, just focusing on them, not worrying about the postseason because, well... you know. This approach worked okay -- but that postseason game still arrived. Now I wonder, should I even watch any of the regular season? Nah, I will, and I must steel myself realizing I can't divorce it from what we do ultimately want.

I think the thing farthest on the edge of Chiefs fan thinking is in order to register our disapproval of any and all baaad things causing great Chiefs agony after December particularly in light of the reasonably pertinent ways Hunt or the NFL or whichever dismissive powers-that-be lend themselves to the baaad things, we should all not pay attention to NFL things -- but yeah, that means empty Arrowhead every week. Do those people who vow to just give it all up really mean it?

The scary thing is that I'm sure not-a-few of Chiefs fan have thought this. Let's really make a statement dammit. ::Sigh:: Some have! There have been a few empty seats in Arrowhead, many more this past year than in previous years -- but again I think that is mostly the result of the objections to the racialist political stuff, really.

On the other hand, I believe most in the Chiefs Kingdom are all in for next season, seeing all the great things going for this team. I know most Chiefs fans would read many of my remarks and go, "Dave, what is with you? The only thing that counts is the now. What will happen to all your fancy theorizing if the Chiefs run the table and win the Super Bowl, at any time over the next five or six years? Kaboom!"

Oh I got you. Please, right now as I write I'm making the motion of my two first fingers in a "V" pointing at my eyes then pointing at yours, back and forth. I'm so on board with that. Yeah, I do believe we'll be Super Bowl champions in one or two of these upcoming seasons, I do!

In fact I must right now issue an apology to Andy Reid. As much as I'd ripped on him I have to pull back a bit on something I wrote about in an earlier post in this series. I said that he doesn't take proper responsibility for his failures. Now, he still doesn't make the best in-game adjustments and he still isn't organic enough especially in playoff games, but I was basing my analysis of his refusal to accept his own part in Chiefs failures on a single press conference, the one after the Titans game when anyone would candidly bilge the most visceral frustration.

I'd recently read some things about Reid that I see are more accurate, that he does do a decent job of grasping, and sincerely sharing, the things he knows have to be done to win football games including his own part in that. I mention this because it is indeed one of Andy Reid's strengths, and the players do genuinely appreciate the ways he handles things in the locker room, on the practice field, and on the sideline during games.

I also mention this because I do have some measure of confidence, that because of those strengths, Reid can contribute to overcoming Hunt and join with Veach, our current players, our new players, and, yes, Clark Hunt to comprise a winning postseason team.

One of those weird advantages to having such a devastatingly horrid postseason history is that the Chiefs will be that much more motivated to do what they know they must do. With so much to overcome, there is that much more impetus to make sure things are addressed as they should. In a sense Clark has got to be sick of the postseason insanity, which is why he's solidly behind Reid, he's hired the youthful energetic Veach, and he trusts their reinvigorated decision-making skills to get the Chiefs winning deep into January.

With all this in mind (renewed optimism yay!), I am going to touch a bit on what the Kansas City Chiefs do need to be that kind of team. Here are my priorities in order -- and I made this list back in January so as the whirlwind free agency week progresses we'll see how this looks. I think most Chiefs observers' picks are like mine, but then some of them know more than I do. That's fine. What counts is what Brett and Andy think, and I know they'll get it right.

1. Pass rusher. I do believe this is the biggest priority by far. I often hear some say it is getting a defensive back, but I think getting the pressure up front first is more important. Dee Ford should have filled this need but his health has not been the most reliable. (I've heard they want to keep him around for one last chance here.) Too often this year we were beaten at the line of scrimmage, and for all the crappy things that happened in the Titans game, this was one legitimate area where Tennessee legitimately did beat us. (To add: just a shout-out to Tamba Hali who was just let go -- we all knew, but still. How great was it to have him rushing the passer for the past 12 years.)

2. Big wide receiver. I have always slavered for that strong, lanky, quick wide receiver for, well, almost forever. We had a good one in Otis Taylor, but we've really never had one since, one like, say Anquan Boldin -- that guy was amazing. We all thought we'd get that with Jonathan Baldwin, but, ughh. This need really was addressed in the just-announced acquisition of Sammy Watkins, and from what little I've seen it seems he's been pretty good. I did peek a bit at him: while he's only 6'1" he is strong, fast, gets terrific separation, and tracks well.

3. Cornerback. Losing Marcus Peters puts the hurt on us big-time here, but getting Kendall Fuller in the Alex Smith trade was terrific. I saw that we also picked up David Amerson from the Raiders, but I have no idea how good he is.

4. Strong safety. Daniel Sorensen and Ron Parker (who I learned has just been let go) showed flashes of brilliance and have been hard-working players, but they're undersized and their weaknesses have been exploited. If we can pick up a good one in the draft that would be ideal.

5. Middle linebacker. Never have I lost the desire to have a Ray Lewis-type in the middle of the defense. One of Brett Veach's first major moves last year was picking up Reggie Ragland, and the way Ragland played it has looked really good. Derrick Johnson is gone, however, so we really need someone to fill that spot. But then, recent news: We signed Anthony Hitchens, so this need is as good as fully addressed.

6. Offensive guard. We really could use shoring up the offensive line -- it played well at times but quicker stronger D-lines beat them down far too often. Is Parker Ehinger the answer here? I'm hoping so, then we don't have to burn a pick here and can use it for those defensive needs.

7. Defensive end. Another hole that desperately needs to be filled, but not high on this list because we're all hoping last year's high draft pick Tanoh Kpassagnon can take great strides to shore up the edge there. I know they may be trying to turn him into that coveted pass rusher to compliment Justin Houston, but we'll see.

A lot of this is mitigated should we see true development in players like WR Jesu Chesson and LB Ukeme Eligwe, as well as healthy seasons from Eric Berry and Chris Conley.

And with free agency always wild and woolly and the draft progression always unpredictable, all of this is in flux. There will always be some surprise in player movement -- we've already been stunned by the Peters deal, yet thrilled when Veach promptly pulled the trigger on the very necessary Alex Smith deal. Which players will be let go for cap reasons, and which ones can we then pick up?

I know I've droned on and on about this tension between how much Hunt has devastated the Chiefs in light of how much I'm (like you!) eager to see what Veach and Reid and Mahomes and every one else out there can do to win lots and lots of games (in the postseason too!) Out of that I've realized that much of the NFL/free agency/competitive equivocation stuff results in the Chiefs confronting pretty much the same financial arrangements as any other team. Draft constraints and free agency rules mean monetary offers are all about exactly the same. A player coveted by the Chiefs but also the Rams Bengals Eagles and Colts will be tendered deals that are just not a whole lot different. Yes some teams have more of a desperate need to fill one hole or another, but if five teams are seeking the same player I think we can assume they all have the same need to fill that hole and because of that are all still bound to make relatively similar offers.

My point is precisely this:

The player must then be thinking, what is it about this particular organization that would make me want to join it?

This then is the deciding factor, not the money. The money will be there, and it will be a few million dollars. The critical factor is that instead this is first and foremost in a player's mind -- and yes it is a WOW kind of truth --

Does this team I'm considering have the character and constitution and commitment to excellence that I want to be associated with?

Thing is, does any team not want to win? Of course not! The real question is, does any given team have the true genuine capacity to make that happen? This is what results in the best of the available players going to a team to the extent they have a say in that. Furthermore -- for our purposes, of course -- to what extent do players-who-could-be-Chiefs see us as that particular suitor worthy of that commitment? The only way that happens is if he genuinely likes the people, particularly those at the top.

Brett. Andy. Yes, even Pat Mahomes.

And definitely Clark Hunt.

This is what demonstrates the Chiefs are a team with the got-it. And with what Veach has been able to accomplish so far he is showing he really does want got-it guys on the field. The compilation of all of that is what goes a long way to overcoming Hunt. These are the things that make up Chiefs greatness.

Presently we're just getting the details of the latest two big deals. I did, yes, in complete violation of my robust sports celibacy I did look at what was going on with these, they are that significant. Watkins is averaging $16 million a year, Hitchens $9 mil. This has sparked all kinds of talk about what it all means.

Is my point just now about the money not really being a factor now invalid? These are huge monetary deals. The idea is that other players considering themselves the equal of Watkins and Hitchens are now going to demand as much, and the obvious implication is the Chiefs -- those ding-dongs -- have just made it harder for other teams to sign players.

Yes, in light of my concerns about the disadvantages of the smaller market Chiefs, I do believe we had to overpay for Watkins and Hitchens. This is disconcerting because as I said earlier I'd like to think they decided for the Chiefs because of the Chiefs. I don't think "the Kansas City Chiefs" was not a factor -- I mean Watkins had to salivate a bit about being a key cog in this offense, with this new cannon-armed quarterback we have. Bottom line, however, is that we had to up the ante to get 'em signed and sealed.

On the other hand, could this just as easily be an instance when Veach just managed the cap really really well. The Chiefs started with little cap space, but Veach actually maneuvered himself into a decent position and he shrewdly pounced as he could. Highly paid Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali were destined to be let go, so there's cap savings. We'd earlier traded away Alex Smith and all his money, we just let Ron Parker go, and Zach Fulton is going to Houston, Albert Wilson to Miami. There're tons of cap savings there. I really don't know all the arcane ins-and-outs of how it all breaks down so I can't say what happened to make it happen, that's Brett's job.

It may just be the case that Veach was being an extraordinarily insightful, splendidly dexterous, and brazenly courageous manager of a professional football franchise. In fact among the remarks shared across the cyberworld yesterday was that Veach was doing his damn job and doing it well. In a sense he'd even pulled off quite a coup, because not only did the Cowboys want to keep Hitchens but were vigorously pursuing Watkins. Think about that, the podunk Midwest town's team schooled the highest valued franchise in North American professional sports.

Damn straight Veach is gettin' it done. Too sweet.

Furthermore it is obvious that, on paper at least, this is one friggin' potent offense, a quite pronounced thread in the commentary. Veach is paying attention, he knows what takes to get the Chiefs to the next level. Some pundits were even talking about all of this playing out with the Chiefs future in mind. It is not just that these key skill players are young and will have time to work together through the next several years, but Veach is showing he's ingeniously mastering the things he must labor through regarding all the arcane NFL constraints in order to keep the Chiefs competitive through those years.

These are truly exciting times for the Chiefs Kingdom. It has been good to blab a bit about it all here, and there will certainly be more to come -- OTA's coming soon, draft in April, more free agents signings shortly after that, camp starting in July. This post has gone for some time, however, but the events of this week have been pretty major for obvious reasons. There are a few more things I'd like to add, things related to the more meaningfully consequential, what is "beyond the Kingdom" if you will. Just a few more items but I just can't get them in here. One last post next week!
___

Thursday, March 08, 2018

The Devastating Hunt, Episode V

My son likes to play an online interactive video game called "Fortnite." It involves landing on an island that has a gradually shrinking engagement range, and strategically fighting to be the last man standing after blowing away all the others on the island. It is interesting because unlike most other games of this sort, if you die, you die, and you're out, period, thuh end, you're done. You don't just hop right back up again and keep playing, you must start all over in a brand new game.

I bring this up for a couple reasons. One, the fact that you die die DIE is one of the genuine appeals to the game. The fight itself is much more meaningful because there is so much on the line. The fact that the Chiefs have died died DIED so often right when they get into the postseason means it is that much more meaningful when we win. We've won one playoff game since 1994, that against the Texans after the 2015 season, and it was memorably exhilarating. Yeah, that was it, and while anyone could've beaten the Texans that day the fact is it was really really fun. Sure the Patriots have around 8,000 playoff wins in that same time period, but how fun was any given one of those? Don't get me wrong, I'd trade the Patriots success for the Chiefs any day, but still.

The other reason is that recently after my son had in succession a good Fortnite win then a tough loss, he asked me, "Dad, do you know what my favorite Fortnite win is? The next one. That's what we all tell each other at school." This sentiment struck me, it is much like one that has always resonated with me from a fine collegiate softball player from a few years ago, Michelle Granger, who when asked if she actually does enjoy the game replied, "It is fun while you're in it." What a simple yet extremely wise statement. Enjoy the game, but when it is done move on with the next game and other things in life.

I share this because I've spent a lot of blog space analyzing the current Chiefs situation in light of the fact that I am doing what could be considered the most ferocious naval-lint-extraction about what it could possibly be that's afflicting the Chiefs so gruesomely when it comes to trying to win a playoff game. I do this a lot for the therapy -- I've said this a number of times before, but it is true -- it is just a way to process it all. More on that later.

I also share it because it may be reasonably broached: "Why do you spend so much energy going over all this past stuff? Let's move on with what we've got and hope for the best -- it actually looks pretty good right now! What's done is done -- just like the Fortnite players say, 'The best Chiefs game ever is the next win!'" Please, don't misunderstand me -- I got you. I'm with you. I do understand. I do have extraordinarily high hopes for our team. I really actually truly do.

And I will go over some of the things that comprise Chiefs greatness, I will, with the sincerely earnest enthusiasm about our future chances, seriously. I will get to that, even a bit of it in this very post.

But I also do all of this because I have this idea, yeah, maybe it is a totally misled wayward ridiculous idea, that identifying the insane things that have afflicted the Chiefs in the past may be judiciously addressed -- my last blog post went into great detail about the specific and identifiable ways the NFL itself does indeed put the hurt on the Chiefs. Yes, maybe there is nothing that can be done about any of that. Okay...

But I'm still going to call it out. We should know about it. We should be poised to even say something about it. We should hope to see things made right. Even if nothing gets done about it we can have a stronger affection for this thing The Kansas City Chiefs, being able to appreciate the genuinely endearing things about it in spite of those unjust assaults.

And yes, I do believe one of those debilitating things is Hunt. Again, it isn't Clark or Lamar or any of what they've been about per se. Lamar was a giant in the illustrious legacy of pro football and Clark has done his difficult work above board with the Chiefs first and foremost in his heart.

As I think about the past injustices from the NFL itself, I couldn't help but think about Lamar's history with it from day one. I wondered about Hunt originating from the simple and very gracious request Lamar made to the NFL when he asked to add his team to the league. The league said "F*** off" and Lamar went and started the AFL. If you've read the history you should know.

The NFL was a major league aye-hole about the whole thing.

They really couldn't stand Lamar Hunt.

Lamar persevered. He vigorously encouraged the other owners to hold on when the AFL floundered in its early years. He introduced a number of splendid innovations to make the AFL more exciting without affecting the purity of the pro football game. He even went out of his way to abandon his beloved Dallas and move his team to Kansas City in extremely gracious deference to the NFL when it deliberately tried to undermine his efforts by putting the Cowboys franchise there right after Hunt had earlier asked to have his team there!

What was it about all of this that formed this thing Hunt? Was Lamar far too conciliatory? Yes there were a lot of other things in the mix, but Lamar's AFL enterprise in and of itself was not one of them no matter what the NFL thought about it. Was the NFL even more resentful that they were pressured into the merger? How much animosity did Tex Schramm have towards Lamar when they secretly met in a car on that airport parking lot to begin arranging the merger? I honestly believe Schramm was respectful of Hunt and all the two parties wanted to accomplish.

What was it that moved the NFL to bend? I wonder if it wasn't as much Lamar as it was someone else with the ganas to make it happen. I'm loathe to admit it but I think the seminal point in the AFL's gravitas -- and ironically in the perpetuation of Hunt -- came in the brief tenure of AFL Commissioner ::gulp:: the Raiders Al Davis.

Al Davis (on the right) pictured with 
Bills owner Ralph Wilson
At a time when the AFL needed a "got-it" guy, Al Davis was that man, charged with the responsibility of going to the mat bruised and bloodied if need be. Davis relished the challenge, and did phenomenally well, urging the AFL to be much braver about getting the best players from the NFL. It was at that time when the New York Giants stole away a Buffalo Bills kicker that Davis knew, it's on.

The tricky thing about all this was that while Davis wanted the AFL to go its own way, Hunt, Schramm, and the NFL were working out a deal behind his back. Davis was livid, but really, Davis was legitimately called on to take one for the AFL so it could have the leverage it needed to make the merger deal. In that sense, Davis sacrificed himself and his terrific leadership skills for the good of the entire pro football world, and I can't believe he wasn't aware of the value of that contribution.

(As a side note, the NFL's commissioner, Pete Rozelle, simply took over the AFL after the merger fundamentals were hammered out. For an AFL purist like Davis -- bless his heart -- it was not surprising he was constantly embroiled in conflict with Rozelle throughout the next couple of decades. The Raiders and the NFL themselves did not have the most wholesomely amicable relationship, to say the least.)

Davis was the guy with the got-it. Over the 16 years following his brief stint as pro football's game-changer, his got-it put the Raiders into four Super Bowls -- they won three of them. Davis was one of the best managers of a pro football franchise ever, deftly putting lots of players with got-it on the football field. In the early 1990's when he started making it about himself, almost to a pathological degree, he lost his "got-it" touch, and the Raiders suffered (I'd say there are a few Chiefs fans who aren't complaining a whole lot about that).

The AFL benefited from Davis' efforts tremendously, and Lamar, well, didn't. The Chiefs didn't. Yes the Chiefs won a Super Bowl shortly after that, and yes Lamar arranged the merger and did a dozen other magnificent things for pro football, but it just wasn't the same as what Al did -- as much as it pains me to say that. And to that extent, how much of all this turned itself into Hunt?...

I've only shared much of the surface stuff that may reveal things about it all, but I'm always wondering what is much deeper. I've tried to delve there but I confess I'm not the most intrepid investigative reporter in all this -- I have neither the time nor the wherewithal. As I've said there is much I don't know, and I want to presume nothing. I only want to sincerely confront that which is true. I'm also encountering 97% of Chiefs fans who insist, "Fugheddaboudit, let it go. We've lost games only because of bad bounces." I understand that.

I still can't help but think. What if I did go deep? What if I did ask around -- are there any people somewhere somewhat in the organization, in the arena -- perceptive, insightful, authentic, observant, holding the truth about things in the highest regard and eminently respected for it. Those who see this, who'd talk about it articulately, meaningfully...

I've thought about this kind of thing before, written about it in this blog: What would we find out if we asked the playoff opponent players about what it was like playing really good Chiefs teams and the beating them? There are so many of them. What would they tell us about what they saw in the Chiefs, what happened with the Chiefs on the field that was just not like it was during the regular season?

What would we find out? What would we find out if we heard from those who know about Hunt?

Could it be nothing much? Yeah, maybe.

I just don't think so, however. I think there's something.

So what does it take to overcome Hunt?

Much of it means addressing all the things I've talked about already, especially that stuff with the NFL. With that in mind I'd like to add another thing I'd do as commissioner, something I hadn't thought about adding, but now I think is just as important. Related to it is a key component of Chiefs success, one which gives great meaning to the whole "The best Chiefs game ever is the next win" attitude.

First, that important NFL dynamic I would comprehensively address as commissioner:

- Radically modify what happens with free agency. I have been reluctant to bring up the whole free agency thing because for one, I am fully on board with players making as much money as they can. I share this disclaimer because for years I have raged against what free agency does to competitive integrity. It may then seem I'm against the players, but I am not.

I am only against what these kinds of things do to my team.

I've also held back because -- at least from what we see on the surface -- the NFL actually works to be fair and above board with the draft and strict rules about player movement. It is far better than what major league baseball allows, which results in teams like the Yankees and Dodgers having far more success than the other teams. (Don't think the Yankees and Dodgers have had far more success than other teams in light of the fact neither team has appeared in many World Series recently? Just look at the number of winning seasons or instances they've qualified for postseason play over the past several years. They far outdistance any other major league team.)

Yes, some will revile parity and enthusiastically appreciate when these kinds of teams experience much more success -- it is indeed no different than favoring a New York-New England Super Bowl matchup happening more often than not. As I shared in my last blog post, this philosophy is a slap in the face of every other team's fans. And yes, far too many people have this "larger market team success is best" mentality, especially powerful people who are always seeking ways to make it more likely to happen.

Thing is, the NFL does do a decent job of at least working to make sure every team has equal footing, and I genuinely appreciate that. They've also done a number of things to mitigate the debilitating impact of free agency on teams like the Chiefs -- offered compensatory picks, allowed franchise tags -- I think the NBA has something called a "mid-level exception," I don't know if the NFL does -- any of a number of rules and restrictions related to how teams may use free agency to take advantage of their large market status.

What I don't like is the salary cap. It isn't as much that it limits what players may earn -- as I've said it is no big deal to me that players make millions, that's cool. The problem is the cap hampers teams particularly when they want to retain their own fine players.

This is why if I had my way, I'd get rid of free agency all together. After a player is drafted by a team and the team spends a gob of time and energy developing him, they should be able to keep him if they want -- and pay him as much as he should get. I know some will say this "reserve clause" makes it so teams won't pay them, but a natural monopsony model where the teams and the union together work out salaries for players on whichever team they are on goes a long way to solving this.

This then means the teams that do the best drafting and developing will be the most successful -- and this is the way it should be. Who cares if a given team is full of superstars getting paid a lot of money simply because the team did a fine job of drafting and developing them? I agree there'd have to be certain rules and restrictions in place so teams don't take advantage of this, such as a team preventing a fine player from being on the field when he could be with another team out there showing his abilities -- I'm great with those kinds of things.

Bottom line here? Before the last season why did the Chiefs have to choose between Dontari Poe and Eric Berry? Why? It was only about the money. We drafted both, we developed both, we committed to both, why couldn't the Chiefs just pay both? We let Poe go and to replace him we picked up Bennie Logan as a free agent. Good try, but I'm sorry, Dontari was way better.

We just watched Marcus Peters get dealt away -- for several reasons but what was one of the most prominent ones? It was that in a couple years Peters was likely to ask for $20 million a year and we didn't want to mess with that. Let's get something for him now was the thinking. Why? Why can't we pay him? He is indeed one of the most talented and fiercely competitive players in the league, and we got squat for him much because of this salary cap crap.

There are other examples of the decisions the Chiefs have to make simply because of the money -- simply because we must "manage the cap." That stinks.

Why does any team have to get rid of its good players under these conditions? I do believe much of it comes from this benighted idea: Should a team like the Chiefs become dominant it simply would not be good for the NFL. The Chiefs would be getting all that money to pay all its terrific players from the broadcasting contracts of the media world led by execs always hoping for much more success from the New Yorks and Los Angeleses and Chicagos. What? they'd cry, All that money going to the Chiefs? Look at that, what a revenue-stream KILLER: that podunk Midwest town's team has just appeared in four straight Super Bowls! What's with that?

So in a very real sense, this thing parity is sustained not as much to make sure the small market Chiefs have a little boost and can at least compete a little, but to make sure a phenomenally good Chiefs team doesn't keep a Patriots or Giants or Rams or Cowboys from appearing in Super Bowls often enough.

Yeah, more complicity even in the apparent "fairness" of it all.

Okay, I know, this is what we've got. Moaning and groaning about it won't change that. Deal with it. The Chiefs have a challenge, greater than many other teams. So what must happen in this environment? What do you need to navigate through it?

You need a skilled navigator.

This then is the transition into one of the most critical elements to overcoming Hunt. Yes there are a lot of factors involved in this, but this is one of the most important. You can say it in two words.

Brett Veach.

Over the past few years I raved about the work that John Dorsey had done in drafting and assembling the present Chiefs team, which is indeed actually looking pretty good. Clark summarily fired him just before the season started last year, stunning us all. He then elevated Veach to GM and we all wondered, hmm, how will he do?

We're finding out that Veach has a wealth of football experience under his belt, being with Andy Reid for years, cutting his teeth with John Dorsey. It's fun to watch him work right now, watch him take advantage of the opportunity -- and so far he's been looking pretty good. He's been boldly moving on important matters, taking care of business -- unloading Peters (controversial move), dealing Alex Smith (outstanding move), and doing everything he can with little room under that abhorrent cap as well as within the confines of the NFL's soft disdain for his small market Chiefs.

The most important factor of all, and we just have to see...

Does Brett have enough got-it to translate into Chiefs postseason wins?

Really, let's cut to the chase. Will Brett bring those things to the football field that overcome Hunt? I know it is a tall order. There are certainly a dozen other things Brett is doing as a high-energy very youthful GM. That may seem like a liability, having little experience, but again he does have the experience. There must be a reason a 39 year-old is our GM.

I'd like to think his got-it becomes Chiefs got-it.

We will definitely need a lot of it to get going on richly enjoying some magnificently delightful postseason winning.
___

Thursday, March 01, 2018

The Devastating Hunt, Episode IV

Clark Hunt definitely doesn't like what Marcus Peters did this past season to sabotage team spirit.

And Clark definitely likes the NFL way more than he should.

In this ongoing series on the entity Hunt which I am convinced is a critical factor in the interminable and excruciating inexplicable failures of the postseason Kansas City Chiefs, I want to focus on how much the entity NFL also contributes to this wholly execrable state of affairs. And because Clark likes the NFL so much, much because he is such a respected power player in the thing, the incestuous relationship between the two is a factor.

I've written before quite often about this monolith The National Football League. I must say that I really like pro football, and I really like the Kansas City Chiefs' participation in it. In one of these posts I'm thinking I'll elaborate a bit on my own visceral connection to it -- why indeed I spend so much time blogging about it. That's for later.

For now, the NFL.

There are indeed a number of things I legitimately like about the NFL. It is very well organized, and it does a very good job of standardizing the product. There is an appealing consistency that runs through the process and is woven though its history. For instance the 16-game schedule is just about right, and the number of playoff teams and the way the playoffs are arranged is terrific. Lamar Hunt desperately wanted more playoff teams qualifying to have more action and, of course, revenue, but this was one of Lamar's lamest ideas and I hope the current NFL doesn't do it.

The NFL is also well-marketed, simply from an aesthetics perspective. The team names, the colors, the vibrant history, the whole NFL Films thing have all been extraordinary contributions to the game's appeal. I like some of the advances regarding the coordination of the scouting, the combine, and the draft, including making sure a team gets a compensatory pick for lost free agents. And pro football itself is just a really fun game to watch.

But that's it. I'm a fan of the Kansas City Chiefs, and well, Chiefs success has been nonexistent even in times when they've had a pretty damn good team. How often do you see a great postseason Chiefs game from over the past 50 years replayed on the NFL Network? Ha. There are some features showcasing some Chiefs things, every once in a while, like our great linebacker crew of the late 60's or our great defensive backfield of the 80's and early 90's.

The really infuriating thing is the number of times during a Chiefs postseason game you see this: "The Chiefs are the only NFL team in history to ___ [some agonizingly wretched thing]"? How many times do you see this, mostly in the midst of a typically pathetic 4th quarter collapse? Almost all the time. I am sure the Chiefs have some two dozen records for postseason rottenness, seriously.

Here's one of those I simply have to add, just one of those nonplussitudinal things that make this all meaningful. Did you know that this past season the Tennessee Titans had a -22 point differential. Did you catch that?

Minus 22. The Chiefs had a +76 by the way, but yeah, the Chiefs lost their playoff game to a team that was outscored in the regular season by 22 points. I'd venture to say this insane anomaly (ahh, I see, Chiefs again) was pointed out sometime as that game wound down, but think about that -- how many teams with a negative differential even make the playoffs. There may have been a few, but how many have actually won a playoff game? Now yeah, I don't know, and I really don't think I want to know.

Point is, because this kind of thing afflicts the Chiefs incessantly, Hunt is a factor. Indeed, Hunt-plus-the-NFL is an even more liable culprit.

So what is it about the NFL that stinks? Well here's my take. It is my take, which means I know a lot of fans are not on the same page as I am, I understand that. But I do believe beyond my own idiosyncratic recommendations there is some truth to the rank complicity of the thing NFL. This isn't even as much about the NFL but the ways it destroys the Chiefs, and much worse compromises simple human respect and decency.

I will also share that some of these things I've addressed a number of times before, so forgive me for belaboring certain items, but some blogging is certainly about writing and writing until you know what you want to say. I'm always thinking about these things so in a sense, here's the latest Dave take.

Let's do it this way since I've seen others do it. With all due respect to a Roger Goodell who'd say "Okay smart aleck, you try out this job!"

Great. Then yeah...

What I Would Do As Commissioner of the NFL.

- Fire Roger Goodell. Oh, well, if I'm commissioner that's already been done. Thing is, Goodell should've been fired years ago. The Hunt thing involved here is that Clark has made it clear that he is fully on board with Goodell continuing to do things the things he does, things that are clearly detrimental to pro football in this country. The key to this is those are the same exact things that are detrimental to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Without question this is an instance when Clark's loyalty to a proud hard-working individual is a very bad thing.

- End the racialist browbeating. Fomented by the progressively minded media this is the now very common practice of incessantly accusing white people of being inherently guilty of "systemic racism" and urging they be held to account for it. This is racialism, and its very ripe produce is seen in the kneeling, fist-raising, or in-some-way dismissing the national anthem played at NFL games.

Please know I don't really care what the NFL does with the national anthem. The problem comes in a number of distinct areas. One is that the NFL does expect all of its players to take a moment to show respect and stand towards the flag in whatever way the rules state. One of the main reasons it does that is not only to show everyone that the NFL has some demonstrative fondness for the U.S.A. but to respect the fans because they expect it, and really they're the ones paying for it all to happen.

What fans hear NFL players saying to them is this, whether intended or not: "Hey white person you are a racist and you're too dumb to know it so I'm going to do this thing so you can start to listen to me tell you off like this, oh, and thanks for the millions of dollars you give me to say that to you." Sorry, but this is actually in a real sense what those NFL players are telling their fans.

Many fans resent it and you know because they've been leaving the NFL in droves. Who wants to be told that. The ones who stay don't care, agree with them, or simply themselves buy into the propaganda. The players may have a grievance, that's fine, they may make a statement about it, that's fine, they may feel they're being the most righteously principled people about it, that's all very good -- but there is a forum for it.

What do I do as commissioner?

I fully respect their feelings and have a vibrant interaction with as many players as I can about it, especially the ones considered the leaders of this cause. I would then hold a formal conference with those players and listen to them. I would set up an office of racial sensitivity or something similar and promise it would take action on items we can agree upon. If there is already one of these, I would ask what the NFL could do to make it better. I wouldn't announce it or make a big deal about it because I would insist it be about action and not presentation.

Another reason I would handle it that way is because I'd want the chance to go to each and every player who feels strongly about their racialist considerations and plainly ask them, "Would you commit then to stand for the national anthem?" and get an answer from them. If they say "Yes," then we're good. If they say "No," I'd ask them why and see what we can do to make things better. If they are resistant, however, to any reasonable concession or compromise, then I would very nicely and respectfully tell them that they may not play in the NFL then. They are welcome to find employment elsewhere and I would tell them that with a genuine consideration for their welfare. I would address personally each and every player that way.

Sorry, but if the commissioner did this, it is simple:

Problem solved.

What Goodell has done is leave it all to the teams to do what they will with their players. This is a terrible way to approach this. No given team wants to risk losing any of its players as a result of this racialist idiocy when other teams may not follow suit, severely weakening your team on the football field as well as in the public eye. Because of this enabling feature of the commissioner's abject failure in this area, the players have felt they could get away with it all, and it just gets worse.

This of course leads us to the latest major event directly related to the Kansas City Chiefs, and I believe the racialism factor is a critical component of it.

Marcus Peters was traded.

Oh how the Chiefs Kingdom erupted about this. For good reason -- Peters is unquestionably one of the best defensive players in pro football. What is worse is that the Chiefs only got a couple middling draft picks -- and even had to give one up! Please please please. We got totally robbed here people.

Some will say that getting anything for him was good because he was such a bad influence, what with he mercurial outbursts and all of that stuff.

We can work through the good and the bad till we can't breath anymore, just not going to do it now. I will however say this.

The fact that the Kansas City Chiefs are so disrespected by the NFL is a prominent reason we lost Marcus Peters. I will address this more when I write more about competitive duplicity later, but the racialist thing does debilitate the Chiefs in this respect.

With Peters being traded there have been murmurings that it was racially motivated, that Clark didn't like Peters' anthem protests and, well, because those NFL players are so righteous in fighting for the cause then Clark must be a racist. Yes, people have said that -- and I don't even pay much attention to the buzz! Then because of the racialist passions among the most powerful media, the reputation gets spread, and the Chiefs are a racist organization.

Look at this story headline from Arrowhead Pride, really the very best Chiefs website there is. Here's the thing -- why on earth did the site feel the need to put this there? The story itself is really not much of anything, the whole thing merely pointing out that Andy Reid insists Clark had nothing to do with it -- not necessary if there weren't the consideration that he after all did have something to do with it, and even if he did it wouldn't matter unless, of course, there was some squawking about there being some racist element involved.

Whether it is true or not is not even the point (and I don't think anyone with the scantest of brain matter thinks it is true.) The point is this makes it good for the NFL that they now have a reason to enjoy seeing the Chiefs fail -- They don't deserve it because they're racist, or if anything they are now certainly down one of the best D-backs in the league. Again, this fits more with the competitive duplicity aspect regarding the disadvantages small market non-media darling teams must endure, but here the very pronounced racialism crap adds to the factors that unjustly afflict this entity the Kansas City Chiefs.

As commissioner and now prominent member of the power broker class rubbing elbows with much of the politigencia, I may now contribute to sending out this message: Racist discrimination is despicable and if anyone is found to be doing it I wholeheartedly encourage the most proficient prosecution and appropriate penalty. But immediately dispense with the hypnotic embrace of a benighted media-pounded narrative that every white person is guilty of some crime and must be browbeat with some faux-moralistic censure that only serves to enable these wanna-be mandarins' insecurity and distended desire to spout about how virtuous they are. It is sick.

- Reject legal gambling websites clamoring for legitimacy. Another sick item that must go is any possibility that the NFL would even remotely connect in any way with these wretched fantasy football sites -- "Draft Kings" and "Fan Duel" a couple of the most prominent ones. Just being commissioner I can't make them completely against the law, but I would if I could.

So far the NFL has kept its distance from them, but there are rumblings the league may enter into an ugly relationship with them -- you know: "This is the official fantasy football wagering site of the NFL." The sites' overtures are incessantly persistent. Anytime I would be called on to do so, as commissioner I would never cease to remind them what kind of operations they are.

As far as I know, however, the NFL still does nothing to prohibit those sites from using any of the NFL's player names or anything related to the NFL. As commissioner, I would sue to keep any wagering site from doing that, fully protecting the intellectual property of the NFL from being exploited by these rackets.

I would also look into keeping any wagering activity from being used in any way. Of course this would mean Vegas would not be allowed to offer any wagering on any pro football, and the NFL doesn't dare touch Vegas simply because of the massive interest it generates. Yes, it is a truly sad fact that much of the NFL's popularity comes from people who simply want to see if their wager pays off.

The problem all of this presents, of course -- it's been around for years -- is the risk taken when any given sports organization gets in too deep and the play on the field is compromised. How much do we know that happens or doesn't happen? Sure the NFL commissioner wants to reeeally police this, I know, even to an obsessive extent, that's not a bad thing at all -- the stakes for the integrity of the game are on the line.

But if there is even the smallest bit of compromise because of any of the slightest tie to gambling, the teams that the most influential wagerers favor have the advantage. Sure that team could be the Chiefs, but that isn't any better at all. I merely want to Chiefs to win fair-and-square because they've played better football. It just isn't that hard.

- Intercede in the fan-advertising nexus especially with regards to alcohol. Another ugly thing that I would summarily terminate -- any and all relationships with alcohol manufacturers. Yep, I got it, what a dangerous move to take down one of the largest revenue streams. Beer companies.

Here's the thing. People are going to drink alcohol. Okay, so? Why does the NFL have to be a part of endorsing such a destructive thing? Not only do they get truckloads of ad revenue, but they allow certain firms to be "The Official Alcoholic Beverage of the NFL." The NFL has claimed to be socially conscious, what better way to actually show that than to completely end its relationship with the entities responsible for much of the health and social ills we endure?

To those who'd say, "Ahem, it's not the companies that are to blame but the poor behavior of the drinkers," I say that's fine, I understand that, but these companies are still encouraging that behavior with ads shown during NFL games. That ad time is not bought just to provide entertainment. It is obviously intended to convince people to go drink alcohol and they pay millions to make that happen.

The whole "drinking culture" is also extraordinarily repulsive. You can see it in the simple idiotic behavior of many fans, and that is further evidenced in the mostly idiotic things shared in these new kind of sports talk television and radio shows hosted by "the fan." To be honest, I confess in my sports celibacy I've rarely watched them, but what I've seen is abominable -- which is of course one of the reasons I don't watch them. They mostly showcase boorish behavior and the talk features asinine commentary -- all arranged so they can connect with the average fan. This is the average fan? Ugh, this is what the NFL does, appeal to the lowest denominator. Maybe an inconvertible truth, but extraordinarily sad nonetheless.

- Get the officiating on track. Yes, I can't neglect to mention this one yet again. You can call me a conspiracy theorist all you want, I can take it, but I am convinced that the NFL knew the Chiefs were the only team that could actually keep the Patriots from another appearance in the Super Bowl, and really, who do you think they would've wanted in the Super Bowl? The officials' calls in the Titans game were backbreaking, even if just missing the Mariota fumble after Derrick Johnson's sack is the only one we can legitimately call out. That one was still the most critical. That one cost us the game.

Roger Goodell recently said he wants fewer and shorter replay stoppages. The idea of tightening things up is a good one, I'm with him there. But Goodell will never be about the one thing that should happen no matter what.

How about just doing what it takes to get the damn call right?

Goodell's heart may be in the right place, but since I'm now commissioner here's how you do that.

1. Stop intimating (at its best) or flat-out telling the officials (at its worst) to favor certain teams. Sorry but the Scorecasting evidence proves that the officials whether unwittingly (at best) or deliberately (at worst) make calls that favor certain teams. The Chiefs evidences are also proof that they do this. It wasn't only the Mariota non-fumble but there was the Hill non-TD-catch from the Dolphins game, and I mention it because in this post about half-way in I describe in detail this phenomena, related directly to the behavior of officials in a given game.

For those who like a little less of a conspiracy-minded take, here're several significant practical changes to clean up the officiating.

2. Expand the eligible plays to everything. Yes I understand this is challenging, but please. If a defender blatantly commits a pass interference call it should be reviewed. I do know this is really getting into the realm of interpretation by somebody, and the officials do the best they can. I do believe most times they get it right, and if it is close or questionable then I agree it should be left alone. Fine. Receiver and defender jostle a bit before the ball arrives, fine. Even with regards to the Chiefs I'm fine with calls that are borderline -- let them go, it was close enough. (Yes, those kinds of calls most times go against the Chiefs, but those aren't the ones that really kill us.)

There are several obvious one that must be called out. What is the way to do that? How about we do this next thing...

3. Have two officials in a booth with television monitors in front of them and give them initial call privileges. Now you have two sets of eyes looking at the same play. If either one sees something amiss they can blow their "whistle," simply alerting the on-field referee to stop play in order to, yeah, ahem, JUST GET THE PLAY CORRECT.

This will also allow the on-field officials to breathe easy that they don't have to wonder "Hmm did I get that call right" after working as best as they can to get it right and then going crazy wondering if they should blow the whistle and stop the offense from rushing to the line to keep a review from happening -- a really stupid part of all this that must change also.

If the two booth officials agree that there's been some poor call or discrepancy with a call then the referee's job is easy. If it is really close or controversial and they disagree, however, then the on-field referee makes the call and we're all good.

It also makes it easier in the sense that when both booth officials agree then it must be a pretty obvious call to get right. This also means, honestly, the initial booth call should not happen too often. In a sense this is the thing that will indeed result in fewer and shorter review stoppages.

Hunt clearly has control of ball, even when it touches the ground
it is still firmly in his grasp, but then after turning and lying on his back
he slightly bobbles it - apparently making it incomplete
4. Return to common sense rules. The NFL has done some really ding-dong things with rules, and there are a number of them. Two in particular I want to call out.

First, the catch rule. Everyone is up in arms about this one, and rightly so. While some more high-profile rulings against obvious catches got people's ire, the Chiefs have also been victims, this year most notably when Kareem Hunt was not allowed the TD catch (shown in the photograph) because of what the officials surmised about that ridiculous rule. (The non-catch ended up not hurting the Chiefs in this late-season game against the Chargers.)

So what catch rule should be adopted? Why is this so difficult? Catch: grab ball, a full second of possession, a football move like two steps. The end. Who cares how much the ground bats it about after there is a real-live catch made. The Dallas Cowboys receiver Butch Johnson did less with his iconic TD catch in Super Bowl XII.

Right after Johnson makes the catch he stretches his body
into the end zone, then immediately drops the ball.
Still a touchdown!
Incidentally, while I didn't watch any of the Super Bowl this year, I did see a highlight of the last touchdown the Eagles scored, one in which the receiver caught the ball, held it, and made some deliberate football move -- the whole package, what could be wrong with that? When he entered the end zone and slammed the ball into the turf, it shifted about in his hands. Sure enough, everyone's wondering if the obvious catch would actually hold up in the official's sometimes demented mind -- I mean we've seen it so often. Referee Gene Steratore actually grew a pair and after a video review wisely ruled it a completed catch and touchdown. Smart man.

It just isn't that hard, folks.

The second ding-dong rule of note is the 33-yard extra point kick. I know some will say this is a minor thing, but it really isn't, and it doesn't even have to do with the fact that it makes the point-after-touchdown harder. It actually doesn't, at least not by much. The point is it was a rule put in place simply because Roger Goodell-types wanted to spice up the game.

Please. This isn't American Idol.

The 33-yard PAT rule is also not good because it removes the possibility of faking a kick in order to try for two. Sure a team may try the fake for two from the 15, but still, you get my point.

One more rule change as I think about it, one that showed up in a fine Jon Bois piece about kickoffs. I'd consider adopting the "4th-and-15" rule for kickoffs. Kickoffs have been messed with in order to reduce the number of injuries that happen on them, which is a very good thing. But they're still there, they still result in too many injuries when a player runs it out, and the way it is touchbacks happen most times anyway.

The "4th-and-15" procedure is when the "kicking team's" offense simply takes the field with the ball at the 35 yard-line and it is as if it were 4th down and 15 yards to go. If they want to punt -- this serves as the kickoff -- they may, and will most likely do so. But if they want to do an "on-sides kick" -- which itself lays out conditions that are likely to result in more injuries -- then they can just run a play. If they get the 15 yards or more for the 1st down, they have the ball right there. What if they score a touchdown on the play? That's fine too! But if they fail to get the first down, the opposing team gets the ball there with a very short field.

I'd talk with smart people who have pro football's best interests in mind -- I do understand there are some liabilities with the 4th-and-15 kickoff. Still as commissioner I'd very much consider good rule changes like this one, and reject the very bad ones like that longer PAT kick.

- Reduce injuries. Sorry, but there are things the NFL can do to limit the number of injuries there are, especially concussions. As commissioner I would promptly implement a number of policies and introduce a number of safety features that would definitely be instrumental in keeping players' health intact for the duration of their lives yet still keep the game vibrant and exciting.

Straight away this is something that has, yes, also debilitated the Chiefs playoff chances far too often. In Indianapolis on that fateful January day in 2014 the Chiefs sideline was like a military infirmary. Most recently in the Tennessee game the momentum shifted the most when that Titans defender unnecessarily slammed into Travis Kelce's head giving him a concussion and taking him out of the game.

You know, I've seen the NFL Films highlight reel of the Chiefs' Super Bowl IV win a number of times, and the last time I watched it I noticed something in it I remember always seeing but never really considered. There was Otis Taylor getting off the turf very woozily, then having smelling salts shoved in his face. Now I don't know if that incident was before or after his iconic sideline catch and touchdown run -- it is interesting because his touchdown, as much as it was the game-clincher, occurred in the 3rd quarter. Yeah, huh, neither team scored points in the 4th quarter of that game.

Someday I'll watch the whole game -- it's on Youtube and I've seen parts of it, but it's there and you may watch the whole thing. Did Otis suffer a concussion before his big play? Would he have been out of the game because of the concussion protocol? I'm not saying anything about what would've been one way or another -- I am wholly in favor of an even more strict concussion protocol if you want to know.

What we do know is that there were 281 reported concussions in the NFL over the course of the 2017 season, and that is just the reported ones. We do know that players have suffered terribly from CTE, yet they're making progress in diagnosing it early. How about we do reasonable things to keep from having to make excuses for retired players' lives and livelihood being cut short, just shrugging by saying "they signed up for this gig didn't they?" Sorry but that attitude is reprehensible.

Here's what I'd do as commissioner. I'd eliminate all helmet-to-helmet hits -- yes, exactly like the one that injured Travis Kelce. I understand that helmets will still clang against helmets, I got that. But the hit against Kelce is one I'd outlaw because that specific one was completely unnecessary, but excused because "Kelce was a runner" and all that crap. We can take some time and identify the hits that could easily be avoided and still allow for authentic tackling -- much of which the players already know about.

How about redesigning the helmet? With the technology we have available and the medical advances we've made I can't understand how we can't make a helmet that does a much better job of absorbing much more of the impact of hits.

I'd also outlaw the kinds of plays that injured Odell Beckham Jr. This year he was injured for the season in a gruesome take down -- literally -- when a Chargers defender grabbed him as he went up high for a pass and yanked him down on his ankles. Another was when Aaron Rodgers injured his shoulder when after sacking him the lineman pretty much just dropped his body on top of him -- completely unnecessary. I agree injuries occur when players run over other players just doing their jobs, but the kinds of injuries that happened to Beckham and Rodgers are simply particular ones that can be expressly prohibited.

I know the NFL does things to monitor this and if an illegal hit is determined to have taken place after the game is over and all is said and done, then legitimate action can be taken against the offender. I'd just like to step up that enforcement, work on some things to function as more of a deterrence, again strictly in the interest of keeping the players healthy. My goodness when your best players are on crutches on the sideline all the time, it does impact the bottom line! I'm just as interested in them as human beings who should be afforded a future without any kind of mental impairment because of their participation in the game.

- Call out the duplicity for what it is and restore true competitive integrity. Who does the NFL really want to see in the playoffs? Really, answer that question for me honestly. Let's put it this way, do you think that powerful people in the ivory towers of pro football, not just in the executive offices but among the media, the commercial interests, and any other power broker who benefits financially from whatever it is that happens that is this thing NFL -- Do you think those people ever think to themselves or hope for or even let out that they'd like a larger market media darling team to win at a given time?

Is there even a single advertiser who brazenly expresses a genuine desire to see -- and pay more for -- a New York-Los Angeles championship matchup as opposed to a, say, Kansas City-New Orleans one? I believe the advertising rates are already set, but please. Is it possible any of them gleefully recognize the far larger audience of the former and simply wouldn't mind that much if even a few things were tweaked to try to make it that way?

Seriously, do any one of the major influencers of NFL things ever feel these things in any way to any degree?

If you say "No" you are either delusional or copping out on addressing this issue. If you say "Yes" and it is indeed true that should any of these people do that, however few it may be, then

Competitive duplicity does indeed truthfully exist.

And yes, it is a slap in the face of the Chiefs Kingdom.

Let's just cut to the chase: The NFL loathe having the Chiefs successful in the postseason. Look at it this way. What do you think these power brokers the world 'round thought about this slate of teams among those participating in the NFL playoffs this year? They were:

Atlanta. Buffalo. Carolina. Jacksonville. Kansas City. Minnesota. New Orleans. Tennessee. 

Yeah. Ee-yhee.

Fortunately for them (or in some instances I think more purposefully) when it was all done they got the New England-Philadephia Super Bowl matchup they coveted -- ::whew:: Sure most of the country (they were actually polled on this) desperately wanted the Patriots to lose for once, but that's just part of the appeal -- more people will watch just so they have a real shot at reveling in a Patriots loss on the biggest stage of sports entertainment.

The ratings for all the games involving the aforementioned teams were abysmal. Certainly the racialist stuff was a factor in pushing fans away, yes. The Kansas City-Tennessee playoff game was the least watched playoff game in five years. Two podunk Midwest teams playing at a time when people could be out and about on a fun Saturday afternoon picnicking and hiking, west coast -- Saturday early evening preparing for a nice night on the town, east coast.

Here's the slate the ivory tower dwellers salivate over (be honest -- you know it is true):

AFC: Cleveland, Los Angeles, New England, New York, Oakland/Las Vegas, Pittsburgh

NFC: Chicago, Dallas, Green Bay, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco

Wah-oww! That would just be the greatest because the entire NFL would get gazillions. (Yeah, I know: this slate isn't possible because there are no representative AFC South and NFC South teams, but the powers-that-be really cringe if any of those teams are successful.) I am convinced the NFL and whoever has the capacity to do so in whatever way that is do engage in competitive duplicity to make these teams much more likely to enter the playoffs. 

Look at the possible matchups! Cleveland-Pittsburgh. Dallas-San Francisco. Green Bay-Chicago. New York-New England. Pittsburgh-Oakland. Los Angeles-Dallas. Any combination works in some delightful (and profitable) way!

Furthermore to what degree does Clark hope for these eventualities, merely for the reason that when the NFL does well, the Chiefs do well even if the Chiefs themselves are not in the playoffs? The Giants or Jets or Cowboys or Patriots in, good for them and the NFL. The Chiefs in? Only good for the Chiefs. If he does so in even the smallest way, then Clark is part of the problem.

And this thing "Hunt" splays a bit more of its brutality over the Chiefs Kingdom.

This even relates to the Marcus Peters situation. Let me ask you this question. Was it easier for Marcus Peters to act like a total aye-hole because he knew it might eventuate in his dismissal from a team that is not one of the favored teams? In fact when this deal came around last week I came across a remark by Ian Rapaport, a top NFL beatwriter, who said something about "leveraging a small market."

What does that mean, "leveraging a small market"? I'm not sure, but I think it means the Chiefs could've enjoyed seeing another team or other teams involved who had no real interest in Peters but who'd bid in order to raise the price. Because only one team expressed interest in Peters it was much more likely the Chiefs would get diddly for him -- and they did. They should've gotten at least a No. 1 pick, but the price was artificially low because only one team was interested. My gut tells me this was not because no one else wanted him but because they didn't want to make the Chiefs any better, and the NFL just looked the other way.

Look at where Peters ended up -- in large market media darling Los Angeles, perfect for him, but terrible for the Chiefs. Who's wagging the dog here?

I really wonder about this: Do any Chiefs players chafe at the Chiefs being treated as poorly as they are in this environment, and do they have an unspoken desire to leave? Are they tired of seeing Hunt show up in every stinkin' playoff game they play? Do they even care as long as they get a nice paycheck? Or to their endearing credit do most genuinely appreciate the very good things about this thing Kansas City Chiefs?

Do they have some measure of appreciation for Clark Hunt?

I do wonder. Not saying they don't! I actually do wonder because I don't really know.

As commissioner then I'm going to ensure that each team is treated fairly and above board. Sure the NFL says it does that. Don't think the NFL is factually duplicitous now with regards to the Chiefs? How about this item, a definitive way the NFL specifically targeted the Chiefs and actually put a real hurt on their ability to improve their team.

A few years ago the Chiefs sought soon-to-be free agent Jeremy Maclin and did things in their interactions with him that were considered tampering. As a penalty the Chiefs lost a couple of draft picks. The problem is that teams do what the Chiefs did all the time. When they've done it the NFL looks the other way. Sure they should change the rules to be -- yes -- fair and above board with every team. Instead the NFL went after the Chiefs. This article explains it all. Its title is about how Clark and Andy should be furious with the NFL. Please, every single fan and member of the Chiefs Kingdom is already furious about it.

There may be other things the NFL could do to be better which I haven't covered here, I'm sure I'd think of other things and new things will arise. Ultimately in whatever I would do as commissioner I would give the highest and greatest respect to what it is that is right and true and just, even as it relates to love and mercy and grace. The current commissioner is really just sold out to the ideas he thinks will make him look good through whatever the NFL and its power brokers tell him. Regarding the Chiefs, I just want what is just and fair in the NFL front office to translate to the playing field, and it just hasn't happened. Kinda funny that I want justice -- that's all, just an honest evaluation of what's going on -- ironically much like those anthem protesters, interesting isn't it.

I don't ask for any special advantages at all, of course -- but I also don't want the things listed above to destroy the chances for my team to win football games, or even more, for the Chiefs Kingdom to thrive. Things will get better, however, only if people honestly confront those things and want the same just and righteous things.

More on all this next time, and yes, there will be more positives! They're there! We'll get to them!
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