It has taken us all a few days to recover from the tough overtime loss to the New England Patriots.
I, for one, refuse to sit around and mope. This organization has a chance to be playing for the Super Bowl for the next 5-10 years with their talented quarterback and nucleus of young and hungry players.
Even though the team lost the AFC Championship it was a teachable moment for the young Chiefs players. The NFL salary structure is set up to allow a team to build around a super young quarterback for a few years without paying him huge money against the salary cap. When it comes time for Patrick Mahomes to get the big money, Kansas City will no doubt have to offer him the equivalent of both the Plaza and Crown Center to keep him in town.
But for the next two years the team will have enough money to sign key players like Tyreek Hill and Chris Jones. The future is bright. Just like the Kansas City Royals of 2014, the Chiefs can learn a lot from playing in the AFC Championship against the team who has established a dynasty under the coaching of Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady.
They do have some issues to address first. The defensive coaching situation has been a topic for the last two years and a team with a chance to go to the Super Bowl needs to have a defense that is at least in the middle of the pack in stopping the run – not the 31st-rated defense in the NFL overall. Maybe Thursday’s hiring of new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo will help.
There are some areas that need to be bolstered by new personnel in order to stay on track to the Super Bowl. A big-time correction is needed at the inside linebacker position. Reggie Ragland was ranked 59 out of 60 on inside play this year. His lack of speed prevented him from covering backs out of the backfield. The other inside linebacker, Anthony Hitchens, was ranked 11 out of 60, but he missed a lot of tackles that should have been 2-yard gains instead of the resulting 9- or 10-yard runs. When the Patriots gained 11 yards on the first run of the game, it was obvious Belichick and his staff planned to attack them all day long.
The Chiefs also need to evaluate what to do with Eric Berry. He is a great player and leader, but if he cannot play, the team cannot afford the salary cap hit for him. If he can step up to his usual level, it could shore up a huge need at the safety position.
The defensive line could use a bigger, better run stopper. We added Xavier Williams in free agency this year and he was beat out by Derrick Nnadi, a rookie from Florida State.
It will be interesting to see how the organization handles the outside linebacker situation with Dee Ford, who had a good year. His offside penalty will be cussed and discussed all over town, but, again, he had a good year. Justin Houston can still bull rush the passer, but his quickness has become limited against reverses. Bob Sutton’s defensive scheme has him drop in coverage way too much.
The team will never have enough good corners or safeties. These are the guys who make up most of the special teams, and with the pass happy NFL today, you have to have guys who can cover and fill the alley on the run.
Offensively, the Chiefs have a strong returning nucleus. They have established quality depth on the offensive line. The Williams boys look like they can handle the running back position, but do not be surprised if the team drafts a running back early in this year’s draft.
The offense also needs another young tight end. Travis Kelce will be in the last year of his contract. I hope they can sign him long term. Demetrius Harris has really improved and has been coached up, but the Chiefs can get a little more out of that position with some new blood.
The receiving corps is loaded. If they can sign Hill to a long-term contract, keep Sammy Watkins healthy and retain all the young backups who got a lot of playing time the last two years, that area of the team can be nails.
If we are honest with ourselves, during the first half of the AFC Championship, the offensive and defensive lines were whipped badly. The game plan executed by Belichick and Brady was carried out perfectly in the first half. Andy Reid and his staff did a great job with adjustments against the tight coverage and were able to come back to have a chance to win.
The entire game was a teachable moment for the entire team and will serve as a stepping stone for the future. Right moves by the coaching staff and addition of new players should position the team to compete again in 2019 in the playoffs and have the capability to advance to the Super Bowl. It is all about teachable moments.
• Can you imagine being a New Orleans Saints fan? The late pass interference by the Rams in the NFC Championship was one of the worst no-calls in the history of sports. Teams and players work too hard and sacrifice too much for an outcome like that. That was felony robbery.
• My quote of the week comes from retired NFL coach Chuck Knox: “Look for and recognize mistakes. This means being honest with yourself and if there is a doubt in any area, go back and check it.”
– Tim Crone, a William Chrisman High School graduate, is a former activities director and coach for Blue Springs High School and is a host of a weekly radio show, “Off the Wall with Tim Crone,” on KCWJ (1030 AM) 6 p.m. every Monday. He writes a weekly column for The Examiner. Reach him at email@example.com.