Last year, I didn’t do a “midyear progress report” on the Chiefs, because how do you even grade horseshit? It would have looked something like, “oh man, is this team bad. I mean, really, REALLY bad. F’s all around. The end.” It’s hard to see the light at the end of a tunnel littered with futility, tragedy and an environment of unparalleled negativity.
But what a difference a year makes, right?
Heading into the bye week, Kansas City is 9-0, leading the AFC West, and firmly in control of their own destiny. They’ll make the playoffs for the first time since they fluked an appearance in 2010.
And it all started with the March 12th acquisition of Alex Smith.
QB Grade: B
I don’t know that I’ve ever seen such a winning quarterback catch as much flak as Smith. All he does is win. And no, it’s not always pretty—he sometimes seems incapable of throwing the ball more than say, oh, 10 yards, and he likes to flee before letting a play fully develop—but he MAKES THE RIGHT DECISIONS. Almost always. Oh, sure, I’d love to see him air it out more often (he can—see the perfectly executed pass that resulted in a Dexter McCluster soul-crushing drop last week against Buffalo), but I’d also love to get paid to stay at home, watch television, beat-off and eat Funyuns, but I’ve yet to find a way to make that happen.
Since the start of the 2011, he’s 28-5-1 (plus one playoff victory). And while this is obviously indicative of the teams he’s been surrounded with, Smith’s teams win WITH him, not in spite of him.
I liked this move from the start—before it even happened, I was pining for the pick-up—and I still like it now.
RB Grade: A
And by “running backs” I mean “Jamaal Charles.” Charles continues to prove that he is the most valuable back in football. Despite his bionic knee and blister issues, he’s still capable of snapping ankles with his cuts and breaking legs with his blocks. He’s gritty, determined and masterful at all areas of the game. He’s also being driven into the ground this season, something that will likely cause a significant production drop-off in 2014. (Provided he lives that long.)
Sure, his average yards per carry is down, and he hasn’t busted off a big one yet (his longest run this season is 24 yards—only one yard better than his QB’s best), but he HAS 14 MORE RECEPTIONS THAN DWAYNE BOWE and only seven less receiving yards than the team leader (Donnie Avery).
RIP, Jamaal. At least he’s going out with a bang, right?
WR/TE Grade: D+
And a “D+” might be a little too kind. The Chiefs wide receivers have been abysmal. Number one wide-out Bowe is more like “number two” (Jesus Christ, forgive me for that awful, schlocky joke) and despite a big early game, off season acquisition Avery has been a complete disappointment.
Perhaps the ONLY thing keeping the receivers from getting something below a D+ is the impressive scrapheap selection of Sean “Mountain Man” McGrath, who has surpassed all expectations by actually catching the ball when it’s thrown to him.
OL Grade: C+
The offensive line has been extremely hit-or-miss, and it’s largely dependent upon play selection. On running plays, they’re the best in the NFL in Adjusted Line Yards at 4.56. In pass protection, however, they’re 25th, having allowed 26 sacks (league average is 22). A lot of the sack rate falls on the receivers’ inability to get open EVER, but it’s also the sign of a line that just isn’t all that great. Branden Albert pulls a calf muscle or gets a cramp on every other play, Eric Fisher has been mostly pretty awful (I’m convinced he’ll get much better, though) and the rest of the line is mostly unremarkable.
DL Grade: A
Any conversation about the improved defensive line begins and ends with Dontari Poe. He’s has been an absolute revelation this season, demonstrating why he was taken with the Chiefs’ first pick in the 2012 draft. Described as “the ultimate boom or bust prospect” by Jonathan Bales of the New York Times, Poe has been booming in his sophomore season. Former NY Jet Mike DeVito has proven himself to be a very solid acquisition as well, and hell, even Tyson Jackson is looking decent under defensive coordinator Bob Sutton. They’ve been decent against the run, (9th in the league using Adjusted Line Yards) and outstanding in passing situations. Their 9.6% Adjusted Sack Rate (sacks [plus intentional grounding penalties] per pass attempt adjusted for down, distance, and opponent) is good for second in all of football.
LB Grade: A
Though Justin Houston and Tamba Hali aren’t sacking opposing quarterbacks 35 times per game like they were the first few weeks of the season, they’re still a fearsome, formidable duo. Derrick Johnson continues to prove that—from a consistency standpoint, at least—he is one of the finest (and certainly most underrated) linebackers in the game.
One would be hard pressed to find another active trio this perfect. Watching them crash the line and flatten the opposing quarterback is nothing short of poetry in motion, like watching the birth of your first child, or witnessing a couple of bald eagles fucking at sunrise.
DB Grade: B
Sean Smith has been a pretty decent pick-up, at times; Marcus Cooper has been an unreal discovery. And through Brandon Flowers hasn’t consistently played like the “elite” defensive back we believed him to be, he’s still an anchor in the secondary. Added bonus: Eric Berry has gotten much better at covering tight ends and is also working on his equinophobia.
ST Grade: A-
The return game has definitely left something to be desired, but there’s no denying the greatness of Dustin Colquitt and His Magical Leg. The Chiefs starting field position relative to their opponents has been ridiculously good all season long. Not surprisingly, they’re first in the NFL with an opponents’ average starting yard line of 21.68 (league average is over 27). This is of particular importance when you’re a team built on a frightful, debilitating defense and an offense that, well, is kind of on the field occasionally and might kill you with field goals. The biggest reason for their field position glory is Colquitt with his league-leading 26 punts inside of the 20 yard line, as well as a much-improved coverage team.
Colquitt could easily make a case as the Chiefs 2013 MVP, but oddly enough, this isn’t as depressing as it sounds; unlike previous years, it’s not a case of “everyone else blows,” but a situation where he’s actually just been that awesome.
Andy Reid’s biggest knock has been—and will likely always be—clock management issues. So far this season, it hasn’t been an issue. There’s nothing NOT to like about the job he has done turning 2-14 chicken-shit into a much more delicious chicken based dish.
(And I’m refraining from making a chicken-related fat joke here. Reid could be as big as six fucking walruses, and I wouldn’t care. He’s 9-0. He can eat everyone and everything I care about, so long as he keeps winning.)
Come argue with me on Twitter, @StanfordWhistle