A few short weeks ago, we were staring down one of the most stable organizations in the NFL. Chiefs sport a roster stuffed with young talent and a front office hemorrhaging the guys who secured said talent. Clark Hunt has gotten a lot of respect from fans, thus far, for turning the franchise around, but Reid and Dorsey was his first successful duo. Before that, his record is not so great. Andy Reid has one of the best records in the NFL, as a head coach, but he’s never won a Super Bowl. It seems clear that fans have moved from trusting the organization, to a wait-and-see attitude. If things start to go wrong, it won’t be long before the finger pointing begins and the banners start flying. Those are the kinds of distractions that destroy teams. There is only one remedy to all this uncertainty: win, and do it now.
Cap Space: The Chiefs defense is hanging onto some old players. Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali, together, will hit the Chiefs cap for almost 19m in 2018. That’s a lot of cash, but Chiefs are unlikely to cut beloved veterans loose on the cusp of a championship. If Chiefs can win the big game, it’s likely that both Hali and Johnson are ready to walk off into retirement, leaving a huge chunk of cap space behind. The cap situation may seem dire at the moment, with Chiefs projected to be over the cap already next year, but Chiefs will begin 2019 with over 80m in cap space. If they can let loose a few veterans and hang on to some key rookies, the future could offer a lot more flexibility.
Treating Mahomes Right: Most fans have mixed feelings, at best, about Alex Smith. If the Chiefs find themselves falling behind this season, the calls to put in the rookie will come quick and loud. At best, this response, from the fans, would be a distraction and an annoyance to the team. At worst, Chiefs could give in to fan pressure and throw Mahomes to the wolves. No one, who wants Mahomes to succeed, should want that. I believe he is the QBOTF for this team, but starting him this season wouldn’t be good for his long term development. Rookies who start too early tend to pick up bad habits. If Chiefs can roll into the playoffs, with Smith at the helm, it’ll be a good thing. If they can win it all with Smith, they might just be able to get a 2nd or 3rd round pick for him next year.
Maintaining a Positive Image: Chiefs might not be the biggest market, but they have a pretty good rep in the league and Clark Hunt is among the more influential owners. Chiefs have been working hard to elevate their position in the league for a while now. Hosting a draft is a major goal for Kansas City. If Chiefs want to maintain their status though, they’re going to need to win this year. The NFL bet big on Kansas City, scheduling them for six prime time games, including the all-important, season opener. If Chiefs look anything short of a playoff contender, they’ll be letting the league down and humiliating their fans on national television. Right or wrong, those fans will be quick to blame such a performance on the Dorsey firing.
At the beginning of the off-season, fans expected Chiefs to make a big push for a championship. A few months later, we really aren’t sure what to expect. That doesn’t change the fact that Chiefs need to win. Fans may have dropped their expectations for the moment, but they’re still lurking beneath the surface. Anything less than a playoff win will be considered a major let-down and an indictment of the Dorsey decision. Firing Dorsey was a huge risk, but winning solves everything, in the NFL, and Hunt better hope that’s what the Chiefs do.
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