By Frank Boal
This is the Holiday Season. It’s that time of year when the Chiefs fans start writing letters to Santa begging for a few oversized gifts under the tree. This one is from Chiefs General Manager Scott Pioli..
I hate to bug you, but can I get a new head coach, franchise quarterback and a brand new offensive line to go along with them? How about a healthy tight end? Everyone seems to have one!
The defense has been playing great, but can I exchange some of the players that weren’t really as cool as they seemed on draft day? Please? I think they were broken when I got them out of Indianapolis and started to play with them. They just can’t do anything right.
Oh, I have to thank you for the inside tip on Justin Huston, I got him before anyone else because of the drug rumors you started and now everyone in the league thinks I’m a genius. Whew, I was starting to lose my moxie and I’ll need it if you don’t give everything else I want on this list!! Hint, hint!! Huston’s one of the “Right 53” now Santa.
I’m not sure what I was thinking when I signed Kyle Orton. Now I’ve really got a problem. Any inside info? The three I’ve got ain’t getting it done anytime soon and if I want to save my job I need a Tom Brady type guy. Have any of those laying around up there?
Look, the bottom line is this, we stink and I’m responsible. Can you help a fella out? I don’t want to start over. I know, I know, you warned me not to leave my warm, snuggly nest in New England with my buddy Bill, but you know how egos are.
All the best,
By Frank Boal
It was setting up to be perfect home opener for the Chiefs. The weather was perfect, the pre-game 9/11 remembrance was both solemn and patriotic. The full throated Chiefs fans even belted out the word ‘brave’ a little louder than the traditional ‘Chiefs’ at the end of the National Anthem, bright and sunny with temps in the 80’s and the Buffalo Bills, coming off a four-win season, were in town to become the sacrificial lambs, one of the few ‘sure wins’ on the schedule. The Chiefs even won the toss and elected to start the game on offense. It coming together as a perfect day.
Then the Bill’s kicked off.
So much for that trick!! The Chiefs embarrassed themselves and after just one game, the entire season looks like a lost cause. Hey, look at it this way, this franchise has never had the #1 overall pick in the NFL Draft, Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck would look mighty good in a Chiefs uniform.
] No, I don’t think the Chiefs are going to go 0-16 or even 1-15 or 2-14, but they still won’t win more than five games this season. That’s not good, but it’s not bad enough to get the #1 pick. You can probably expect the networks to “flex’ them out of those late season ‘Prime Time’ slots if they start to swirl the drain.
Head Coach Todd Haley made a major mistake. His approach to training camp is coming back to bite him and his team. They were not ready for the season opener and I don’t expect them to recover. Instead of getting physical up in St. Joe, Haley ran the team through conditioning drills, figuring they’d ease into the season against the Bills and Lions and then take it from there before the games get really hard later in the season. Nice try!! I won’t be surprised at all if this team ends up 1-5 after their first six games. Who are they going to beat? Maybe the Manning-less Colts?
A lot of the blame also falls on General Manager Scott Pioli. Why didn’t he get a little deeper into the free agent market, picking up some beef to shore up the offensive and defensive fronts?
And everyone at Arrowhead is going to feel the heat if a bunch of the upcoming games are blacked out because of fan apathy. Don’t expect owner Clark Hunt to buy up the extras, he won’t do it unless this team is in contention for a playoff spot and that looks highly unlikely. The opening day crowd was a paltry 68,755, that’s almost 8,000 below capacity!! People were abandoning the Chiefs sinking ship with over seven minutes to go in the third quarter!! We’re headed for some ‘blackouts’ and soon!!
Everyone gets a share of the blame for this if it all falls apart, but the only guy to get axed for it will be the head coach. The clock is already ticking on Todd Haley’s head coaching tenure with the Chiefs. That was a quick honeymoon!!
By Frank Boal
I’ve got some random thoughts concerning the upcoming NFL season, the Chiefs and the Royals.
Let’s start with the NFL. The worthless pre-season is upon us and this pre-season will be even more worthless than in the past. Teams and players are not ready for this either mentally or physically. Already this pre-season we are seeing a lot of players go down with serious injuries, especially season ending torn Achilles tendons. The coaches and players all around the league don’t want to talk about it but they are collectively worried about the impact it’s going to have on the season and more importantly, their careers. I think it was a big mistake to go right from the end of the lockout, into summer camp and then a few practices later, the pre-season. This is a recipe for disaster. Expect teams to be even more vanilla than usual and don’t expect to see teams front line players in harm’s way early in the pre-season. Remember, the Chiefs will have just one, full padded practice before the pre-season opener against Tampa Bay. This also means sloppy play early during the regular season, so thank goodness the Chiefs open with the woeful Bill’s at Arrowhead on September 11th.
While we’re on the subject of the Chiefs, this team should be very good on the offensive side of the ball. Quarterback Matt Cassel has plenty of weapons at his disposal. I expect Cassel to take another step forward in his development thanks to new quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn. The former Seattle Seahawk great is credited with current Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck’s 3-time Pro Bowl selection and last season in Baltimore he helped Joe Flacco emerge as a top flight quarterback as well. Zorn has some bizarre drills, like throwing those big pilate’s balls at the qb’s while they’re dropping back to throw to simulate being knocked off balance under a pass rush. They’re fun drills to watch up in St. Joe.
Defensively, the Chiefs will still have a major problem stopping the run. The signing of free agent nose tackle Kelly Gregg will help, but the entire defensive line rotation is too thin and too weak to make a difference. Teams will take advantage of that and run the football, which will help them because longer, sustained drives will keep the Chiefs offense off the field. But the more I see this team, the better I feel abot the upcoming season. I know the second half of the schedule is brutal, but I think they can still win more than they’ll lose. I”ll be more specific once I see how this team comes through the pre-season injury wise. They cannot afford to lose anyone on either side of the ball due to injury. They aren’t deep enough.
I know this is the time of year all we talk about is the Chiefs because our baseball franchise is an after thought, but I’m not so sure that applies this year for one reason, the youth movement. Right now, the Royals infield is set for at least four more years, Eric Hosmer at first, Johnny Giaviotella at second, Alcides Escobar at short and Matt Moustakas at third. They give you a reason to follow this team the last month and a half of the season. Plus, Alex Gordon isn’t going anywhere and the Royals could extend the contracts of centerfielder Melky Cabrera and rightfielder Jeff Francour for at least another year so in reality, 8/9ths of the starting line-up could be back in tact. Only the catching spot is still up for grabs. But there is still a major concern; the starting rotation!! Instead of bumming everyone out with that thought, maybe Luke Hochevar has found the key to turning his career around and youngsters like Danny Duffy can continue to improve and make a difference, because starting pitching is the key for any franchise to achieve any type of long term success.
The NFL lockout is all but over. Take it from Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones who said, quote, “We’re down to circumcising mosquitoes.” In other words, the owners and players are down to dotting ‘i’s’ and crossing ‘t’s’ before signing the new collective bargaining agreement.If all goes according to plan, the players will ratify the 10-year deal on Wednesday and the owners will sign it on Thursday. At that point, the owners will have 72 hours to sign the free agents on their current rosters before the open season on free agents gets underway and camps open on July 25th.This is where Chiefs G.M. Scott Pioli comes in. Hopefully he has been in contact with targeted free agents representatives and has a good idea who is interested in signing with the Chiefs and who isn’t. There will be no time to ‘wine and dine’ the free agents like in years past. There is going to be a 5-day window to get it all done.
The Chiefs need help in three critical areas; offensive line, defensive line and wide receiver. Pioli may be able to use his ‘New England’ connection and lure offensive tackle Matt Light away from the Patriots. Light could replace Barry Richardson at right tackle and Richardson could add some depth to the position.Along the defensive front, 49ers nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin is a free agent. If you can sign Franklin, you don’t have to re-sign free agents Shawn Smith or Ron Edwards.The Chiefs also need a third wide receiver. Dwayne Bowe and first round draft choice Jonathan Baldwin should be fine but there isn’t a reliable third option. How about Steve Breaston out in Arizona? He knows Chiefs head Coach Todd Haley from Haley’s days as wide receivers coach with the Cardinals.
Bottom line, the Chiefs have plenty of money to spend and they have to spend it. The Chiefs had the second lowest payroll in the league last season and the new CBA calls for teams to spend to 93% of the salary cap which is going to be about $120 million dollars. That means teams have to spend at least $108 million on salaries. I don’t want them to spend for spending’s sake but they’re in perfect position to make some noise during free agency to shore up this young team to face it’s daunting 2011 schedule.The Chiefs play the Colts, the Steelers, the AFC East and NFC South with two Monday Night Football games. One at home against the Chargers and one at New England. Then throw in a Sunday night brawl against the Steelers at Arrowhead and you’ve got everyone’s attention. Hopefully there will be more red in the building than black and gold that night. I know one thing, there will be a lot of Iron City Beer consumed in the parking lot.
By the way, once the lockout ends, things are going to be very Chiefs intense around here. Are you ready for some football??
What a week!! The block party got started Monday with the first round of the Major League Baseball Draft and wouldn’t you know it, the Royals were sitting there with the fifth overall pick and so was Gardner-Edgerton super star Bubba Starling. It was a no-brainer for the Royals and a dream come true for Starling who gets drafted by his hometown team. The euphoria was quickly replaced by pessimism from the local media that Starling will never live up to the hype. Okay, if you expect his plaque to be up along side George Brett’s in Cooperstown, Starling won’t live up to your expectations. But does he have the talent to become a solid, everyday Major League Baseball player with maybe an All-Star Game appearance or two in him? Maybe even excel enough to become a Royals Hall of Famer? We’ll see. But he’s got a chance, a real chance, to succeed, so can we give the kid a break, and let him start his journey through the minors before we write him off as a bust? I think a lot of the pessimism surrounding him has a lot more to do with the Royals than Starling. I even jumped on this bandwagon several days before the draft. I said if the Royals draft him he’ll be a bust, but if someone else drafts him, he’ll end up there on that wall next to George in Cooperstown. Good luck Bubba, prove all the doubters wrong and we’ll see you at the ‘The K” in 2015.
While we’re on the subject of Bubba and the Royals youth movement, highly touted Mike Moustakas was called up this week. He’ll replace Wilson Betemit at 3rd and will have to play his way back down to Omaha before he’s removed. But there will be high expectations for the ‘Moose’ because Eric Hosmer has set the bar so high since his arrival back in early May. I love this piece-by-piece jigsaw puzzle being put together by General Manager Dayton Moore and there is a method to his madness. The team still stinks, but moving these young kids up one-by-one keeps the fans involved and the turnstiles spinning. Everybody wants to take a peek at the future.
The one issue I’ve got right now with the Royals is how quickly Joakim Soria got his closer’s role back. The usually reliable Soria blew five straight save opportunities and was demoted to the set-up role. Rookie Aaron Crow replaced Soria as the closer, but before Crow even got one save opportunity, Soria got his job back after pitching five scoreless innings in relief. I think that was a mistake. Why not leave Soria in the set-up role until you get to see Crow in a couple of save situations? That way, you can evaluate Crow’s potential as a closer, if he looks solid, then you can replace him with Soria and dangle Soria out there as trade bait for some more prospects. I just don’t understand this game sometimes.
Okay, on to bigger and better things. How about ‘Vicious” Victor Ortiz? The Pride of Garden City Kansas just stepped into the white-hot spotlight. He’ll defend his WBC Welterweight Title Belt against the one and only Floyd Mayweather, Jr. on September 17th in either Las Vegas or the Jerry Jones Dome in Dallas Texas. I love Victor. What a great kid and he’s got a legitimate shot at beating Mayweather because by fight time, Mayweather will have gone 16 months between fights!! That’s a long, long layoff. The thinking in the Mayweather camp is to use the Ortiz fight as a tune-up for the huge money showdown against Manny Pacquiao. Ortiz fights like Pacquiao. Both are fast, high volume punchers and both are left-handed. Call me a homer, but Victor beats Mayweather and Victor will get a shot at Pacquiao. Being a realist, I don’t like Victor’s chances against Pacquiao but the pay check will set him up for life!!
Sporting KC opened their brand new home Livestrong Sporting Park. Everything was perfect, except the outcome. Sporting played the Chicago Fire to a nil-nil draw, disappointing the standing room only crowd. Look, I’m not a huge soccer fan, but I know this, no matter how beautiful that venue is, the shine will fade quickly if this team doesn’t start to win. The pressure is on this team’s Technical Director and Manager Peter Vermes. Sporting is in last place, they can’t win because they can’t score. I know everybody blames the fact they opened the season with 10 straight road games while the new stadium was completed, but unless this turns around quickly, Vermes needs to go.
And finally, the NBA Playoffs, where the Heat and the Mav’s have captivated even the casual fan. All the LeBron James haters have exited the closet for the nearest sports bar. I haven’t seen this much venom spewed since….well….since LeBron made ‘The Decision.” The Mav’s are one win away from the title with the series moving back to Miami on Sunday night. I can’t wait!! And what’s with LeBron when he gets the ball, he’s starting to treat it like a hot potato. I’ve never seen a player with his rep give up the ball so quickly without trying to create something. He never drives to the hoop to draw the foul or take the shot. What’s up with that? Just check out the Mav’s Dirk Nowitzki, he takes that ball, puts his head down, goes to basket, gets fouled, makes shots, in other words, he’s putting his team on his shoulders and trying to carry them to the title. Did someone call this guy soft? Are you kidding me? LeBron looks soft to me. I picked the Heat to win in seven games before the series began, but I’m cheering for the Mav’s, I guess I’ve just become another ‘hater!!’