The Chiefs have no quarterback to take into the future and perhaps within a matter days will be looking for a new general manager and head coach as well. They are 2-12, and if the Chiefs lose both of their last two games, they will get the first pick in next year’s NFL draft.
The foreseeable future looks bleak, and the reality is the Chiefs have some work to do before they’re again challenging for a playoff spot.
They could use some encouragement about what’s to come and for that, they should look across the Arrowhead Stadium field at their opponents on Sunday. The Indianapolis Colts were in the same position last year as the Chiefs are now.
The Colts were 2-14, and with longtime quarterback and franchise icon Peyton Manning about to depart, their future looked grim. But after cleaning out the front office and coaching staff, some good fortune in landing Manning’s replacement, Andrew Luck, and an aggressive draft that looks better by the week, the Colts are 9-5 and would clinch a wild-card playoff berth with a victory on Sunday.
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Nobody saw it coming.
“You didn’t think they were going to turn it around this fast,” said Chiefs tackle Eric Winston, who played against the Colts in the previous six seasons as a member of the Houston Texans. “But that’s the NFL. If you hit on the right guys and you win some close games, and all of a sudden in a little bit of a down year in the AFC, now they’re the (fifth playoff) seed right now.
“They’ve done a lot of good things.”
So there’s hope for the Chiefs, but they’ll have to do a lot of things well, like the Colts did. A quick turnaround will be far more difficult in Kansas City than Indianapolis, mainly because there is no obvious potential franchise quarterback like Luck for the Chiefs to draft next year.
Still, there are lessons to be learned from the Colts.
“Every franchise, they evaluate themselves during the offseason and figure out what they need to do to improve,” Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel said, “and I think we’ll do the same thing.”
The Colts at the end of last season fired longtime general manager Bill Polian and the coaching staff. They replaced Polian with a young general manager in Ryan Grigson, then hired veteran NFL assistant Chuck Pagano as the coach.
Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians has served much of the season as head coach while Pagano battles leukemia. Even that has been a unifying cause for the Colts.
“When a team finds a cause to bond … ours obviously found that through Chuck’s illness,” Arians said, “and they decided they would put everything they had into this season and extending this season until he could come back.”
The Chiefs may decide to make changes in their football administration after the season, firing general manager Scott Pioli and Crennel. But they won’t as easily find a quarterback like Luck, the first pick in this year’s draft.
Luck is tied for the league lead in interceptions with 18 and is completing only 55 percent of his passes. But he usually thrives late in games, one reason the Colts are 6-0 in games decided by four points or less in overtime.
“They have this young quarterback, and he’s pretty good,” Crennel said. “He’s been able to make some plays and do some things. That’s been very helpful to them.”
The Colts drafted several other players to fill the other offensive skill positions, and all are helping out. Tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen have combined for 64 catches and four touchdowns. Wide receivers T.Y. Hilton and Lavon Brazill have combined for 55 receptions and seven touchdowns. Running back Vick Ballard leads the Colts in rushing.
Last week, rookies accounted for 82 percent of the Colts’ yardage and both of their touchdowns.
“We were drafting starters,” Arians said. “The two tight ends are playing extremely well. The young wide receivers are chipping in. Vick Ballard had his first 100-yard game last week. They’re playing up to their skill level. They’ve gotten so many snaps now we don’t even consider them rookies anymore.
“The thing was to get two receivers ready hopefully by Thanksgiving, and they’re at a pace now where they’re contributing heavily. The two tight ends, they had to start. We didn’t have anybody else.”
It’s been enough to push the Colts to the brink of the playoffs, seemingly well before their time.
“It’s definitely been impressive, especially with all the turnover they’ve had on that team,” Winston said. “They’ve done it in kind of a strange way. They’ve won a ton of close games this year. You’ve got to tip your cap to Luck for coming in and producing. He’s got some turnovers, which you can expect from rookies, but I think he’s producing also. He’s thrown a lot of touchdowns and doing a lot of good things, especially late in the games.”