These 2013 Chiefs, as much as any team coming off a rotten, no-good, wish-we-could-all-just-pretend-it-didn’t-happen season in recent NFL history, are a prime candidate for a major improvement.
Their three biggest problems last year, in no particular order: a) limp head coach, b) incompetent quarterbacks, and c) embarrassing in-fighting and obsession with irrelevant details that had nothing to do with winning football games.
In response, the Chiefs a) hired the most accomplished coach available, b) traded for the best quarterback available, and c) put that accomplished coach with a personnel man who has both an excellent resume and a tremendous working relationship with said accomplished coach.
So, sure. There should be optimism. But it might be worth a moment — as the Chiefs (sort of) open training camp Tuesday — to pause for a little inventory.
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This team, with many of the same players, including nearly all of the best players, went 2-14 last year. That’s a long way from the playoffs. And if we ran a poll last November or so, something like 93 percent of you would’ve chosen “please just give us a team that doesn’t make me feel shame and anger.”
In the 10 years from 2002 to 2011, 10 NFL teams went exactly 2-14. They averaged 5.7 wins the next year — only one making the playoffs or having a winning record. Those teams, in reverse chronological order:
The Colts went 11-5 last year after drafting a supposed once-in-a-decade quarterback and being unsustainably good in close games.
The Rams went 7-8-1 last year after upgrading from Steve Spagnuolo to Jeff Fisher.
The Panthers went 6-10 in Cam Newton’s spectacular rookie season, a year after sinking to the No. 1 pick with Jimmy Clausen, Matt Moore and Brian St. Pierre.
The Lions went 6-10 in 2010 and, statistically, should’ve even been a little better.
The Chiefs went 4-12 in 2009, doubling what Todd Haley could’ve done with 53 guys off the street and, well, let’s just move on.
The Rams went 1-15 in 2009 because the Rams.
The Raiders went 4-12 in 2007 and here’s a complete list of their starting quarterbacks that year: Josh McCown, Daunte Culpepper and JaMarcus Russell.
The Texans went 6-10 in 2006, which was Gary Kubiak’s first year as head coach and David Carr’s last as the quarterback.
The 49ers went 4-12 in 2005, which was Alex Smith’s rookie season.
The Bengals went 8-8 in 2003, including a win over the Chiefs which — if memory serves — some player of theirs guaranteed in the week leading up.
Now, if you’re a dreamer, you might ignore eight of those examples and focus on the last two because the Colts upgraded big at quarterback and the Rams upgraded big at head coach and the Chiefs appear to have done both.
But, guys. Two and fourteen.
That doesn’t have to be a permanent mark, like some tramp stamp tattoo your buddy’s girlfriend got sophomore year, but it is the starting point for this season. Much as we’d all like to pretend otherwise, last year happened.
The interesting part will be seeing how the Chiefs move on from it, now that real football is on its way.