Archive for Thursday, May 4, 2006

The Fly Route

May 4, 2006

I just want to thank the Kansas City Chiefs for proving yet again why they are the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Chiefs have been a middle of the road, sometimes surprising, but all too often, disappointing franchise as long as I've known them, and they showed why again with their lackluster performance in last weekend's NFL Draft.

The Denver Broncos, meanwhile, showed why they've been a constant Super Bowl contender for the last 20 years.

Stay with me here -- I'm going to do my best to set aside my anti-Chiefs bias.

Kansas City's problem is it never makes a splash. It's an organization that seems dedicated to not making a splash. From top to bottom, the Chiefs seemingly devote every waking moment to ensuring they'll be competitive every season, yet they never, ever go out of their way to make the one move that could really make a difference.

This offseason alone offers plenty of examples of that.

There were rumors of talks between Kansas City and outcast NFL receiver Terrell Owens. This is the kind of move that had KC pulled it off, would have left me shivering in my John Elway jersey.

Of course, the Chiefs didn't pull it off.

Then there was the draft this weekend. Look, it's not a good thing when the analysis of all three of your first-day picks either begins or ends with the phrase "well, it was kind of a reach at this pick."

Tamba Hali could prove to be a good defensive end for the Chiefs and at least he fills what was a need, but it's not a good thing when every single pick you make on the first day could have been made exactly one round later.

It doesn't matter what Hali's future is. If he could have been had an entire round later, or even 10 or 15 picks later, then KC didn't maximize its value.

Speaking of not maximizing value, what could possibly have been the motivation to grab Brodie Croyle, the quarterback from Alabama?

The guy hasn't even been to an NFL practice yet and there's questions about the durability of his knees. I can't imagine management views him as the future of the franchise, and if he isn't, what is he?

He could be a fine NFL backup. He could maybe even start a few games if disaster strikes, heck maybe even a season or two. But he's no future.

No. If I were a Chiefs fan, I couldn't take it, not with the way other teams in NFL make moves and improve themselves.

I loved Denver's draft. Actually, I love the way Denver's handled the off season for the last three or four years.

Why? What's so different?

What's different is that when the Broncos set out to improve themselves, they don't dink and doink around. Denver wanted a quarterback -- the future of the franchise. How'd they go about it? They didn't hem and haw and talk about it for months. Nope. They didn't say a word about it, acted like they wanted a wide receiver or perhaps simply the best available with their No. 15 pick, then traded a few picks they'd been stockpiling, jumped up the draft and nabbed highly-touted Jay Cutler.

Denver needed a wide receiver -- not nearly as bad as Kansas City does as the Broncos already have two legitimate NFL wideouts compared to KC's one. Kansas City played around in talking to Green Bay about Javon Walker, some media suggesting it offered a late second- or third-round pick.

Denver tossed out a very early second-round pick and got the deal done.

Will Cutler develop? I don't know. I can only hope. Will Walker recover from an injury that left him sidelined a year ago? Again, I can only hope.

But at least Denver is trying.

Most of what the Broncos have touched in the last four or so years has turned to gold -- grabbing Clinton Portis in the second round, swapping Portis for Champ Bailey, picking up an injured John Lynch, saving the Cleveland Browns defensive line ... basically every move not involving Maurice Clarett.

Maybe some of the bold moves will blow up at some point and it won't all look so smart, but even then I'll be glad my team tried. I'll be glad it wasn't afraid to splash into the pool, to trade away good players in the hope of getting someone great, and from time to time to stop and change everything.

Kansas City, meanwhile, will probably continue to make the "smart" moves. The Chiefs will continue to play it safe, to risk very little and to be just about average.

The Chiefs needed a wide receiver. They would have left the rest of the division needing a change of pants had they landed Owens, and they would have kept a potential star away from Denver and drastically improved their own team had they landed Walker.

If they wanted a backup quarterback, they should have packaged a deal for Joey Harrington, who would seem to be a lot more capable back up than Croyle. If they wanted the "future of the franchise," they should have reached for one of the draft's top three or waited until next season.

But no. They'll take safe picks in the draft. They'll let the potential troublemakers go to the other teams and the Chiefs will continue to be the Chiefs.

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