Opinion: Poor Chiefs’ Fans

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Opinion: Poor Chiefs’ Fans

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It really sucks to be a Chiefs fan right now. They have disappointed fans, NFL experts, and journalists. Seven weeks into the 16 game season, their record is an abysmal 2-5. That record is tied for the fourth worst in the NFL.

In short, the Kansas City Chiefs have not met the expectations placed on them. At the start of the season, most people in  the NFL world expected them to be a playoff contender. Some experts were even calling them a Super Bowl contender and saying that this was the year that they could overtake the Broncos in the AFC West Division. Their record is a far cry from these expectations. These predictions beg the question, “why are they performing so poorly?”

Under-performing Alex Smith?

First, let’s clear this up. Alex Smith is not the problem. Many Chiefs fans, NFL spectators, and journalists disagree with this statement, but it is true. Looking at other journalists’ explanations for the Chiefs’ struggles, nine out of 10 (if not more) will blame Smith, but Smith is not the problem. This is understandable because the quarterback is the head of the team, so more often than not, a bad team is a result, in some way, of an underperforming quarterback. They are the easiest scapegoats because they are the most influential player on the field during the game. But, like it was stated before, Smith is not the problem.

Prior to 2013, the year that the Chiefs traded for Smith, getting him from the 49ers, all the Chiefs had to pencil in at quarterback were Matt Cassel, Brady Quinn, and Kyle Orton. Anyone who was a Chiefs fan in 2012 or earlier will tell you with confidence that while we had one of those three playing, we had the worst starting quarterback in the league (or at least in the bottom 5). The play from these quarterbacks prompted the Chiefs to trade for Smith. In 2013, the year after the Chiefs traded for Smith, the Chiefs began the season 9-0 and ended the season 11-5 with a playoff berth. Everyone was sure that Smith was the answer at quarterback because the team was successful.

Now that the Chiefs are performing poorly, fans have quickly turned against Smith, saying he is holding the Chiefs back from being a good team. Many analysts say that Smith is too reluctant to throw the ball deep downfield. There is, however, an interesting pattern regarding Smith’s stats this year, and the year that he was our “franchise quarterback.”

In 2013, Smith completed 60.6 percent of his passes for 3313 yards. He threw 23 touchdowns and only seven interceptions with 42 throws for 20 or more yards.

This year, Smith is on pace to complete a higher percent of passes (62.8) for more yards (4169). He is on pace to throw the same amount of interceptions (7) with more throws for 20 or more yards (53) while he is getting sacked more than any other quarterback in the NFL other than Russell Wilson. It can be assumed that it would be harder to throw a football when 300 pound lineman are coming at you nearly every play than if you were being protected by your linemen.

The only stat that was listed that he is not on pace to exceed is touchdowns. He is on pace to get 16 touchdowns, seven less than he got in 2013. Now, it is very arguable that the number of touchdowns is the most important stat because it directly leads to points. However, touchdowns are not always a fair way to measure a quarterback’s success. There is more pressure from the defense once teams get near the end zone because teams aren’t worried about giving up a deep play when there is less than 20 yards to go. So, a quarterback can lead his team all the way down the field but then be stopped in the final 10 yards and lose a chance at a touchdown. Also, many times when a quarterback completes a pass to the two or three yard line, teams will elect to run for a the ball into the end-zone which takes away a possible touchdown from the quarterback.

Convinced yet? Either way let’s move on. The blame, in my opinion, for the Chiefs’ poor season lies on the offensive line and the defense.

The All-But-Nonexistent Offensive Line

The Chiefs’ offensive line is among the worst in the NFL. It has allowed the second most sacks in the league. This lack of protection leads to hurried throws and a much harder running game. Smith is on pace to be sacked 57 times for a total loss of 325 yards. No quarterback playing behind this line would have enough time to make all of the necessary decisions as a quarterback. Also, the ineffective play of the offensive line indirectly led to the injury of Jamaal Charles. On the play that he was injured, he was trying to escape a defender that had been let past the line of scrimmage.

The Surprisingly Poor Defense

The biggest difference between 2013-14 and 2015, and the reason why they have played so poorly this year, lies in the defense. Last year, the Chiefs’ defense allowed the second least amount of points in the league (281), the seventh least amount of yards (5288), and the sixth least yards allowed per play (5.2). It is fair to say that a majority of the reason for the Chiefs’ success over the last two years has been the stellar play of their defense.

How are they now? Very, very average. Out of 32 teams they are 15th in points allowed (172) and 13th in yards (2576). The Chiefs have improved on their run defense this year; their defense against the pass, however, has been very poor. After earning the rank of second best against passing offense last year, they have regressed greatly. They have given up the ninth most passing yards (1852) and the 10th most yards per passing play(7.6). Their regress from a dominant force to an average-to-above-average defense has made a huge difference in wins vs. losses.

It is a significant surprise that the defense has been playing this poorly because they have five current defensive players who have been selected to the pro bowl before. Also, no major players of the defense left via free agency or injury last year (depending on your opinion of if Dontari Poe is/was injured or not). They also got starting defensive lineman Mike Devito and starting, previous pro-bowler middle linebacker Derrick Johnson back from injury. Also, they drafted one of their starting cornerbacks and a starting middle linebacker in last year’s draft. The players that they have this year look better on paper than their actual performance as well as last year.

It is possible, however not likely, that the poor defensive play is a result of playing offenses that have happened to bring their “A-game” that day. Or, maybe the defense has simply been going through a very rough period and needs to turn it around. Even if the defense does get back on track, don’t expect the Chiefs to dramatically improve throughout the rest of the season. There is one reason that will keep the Chiefs from progressing: the injury of Charles.

We Miss You, Jamaal!

Charles has hands-down been the best offensive player on the Chiefs since 2009. Excluding this 2015 season and the 2011 season, as he was/is injured for most of those seasons, Charles has rushed for over 1000 yards in every season since 2009. He has also had at least 225 reception yards each of those seasons as well.

Overall, the loss of Charles means a loss for the Chiefs’ season. Just look at the total offense yards percentage. Since 2009, Charles has accounted for 32 percent of the Chiefs’ offensive yards and has never contributed less than 26 percent for an individual season during that time. This means that Charles, at his worst, was still a quarter of all of the Chiefs’ offense and has been about a third of their offense since his sophomore year.

When a team loses a third of their offense, it is understandable that it will be hard to move the ball down the field, and subsequently, to score. Losing Charles means that an already bad team, is only three quarters as good as it was before.

If you’re a Chiefs fan, don’t expect the Chiefs to go make a push for the playoffs.

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