Sports Column: Arrowheading into the 2012 season

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“Red Friday at the Memorial” – Photo illustration courtesy Jim Russell

By James Russell

Preseasons are a hard thing to use as a gauge for what will happen in the regular season. There are too many variables going on behind the scenes for us to know with any certainty how much the team we see on the field has in common with who they really are.

Players are being scrutinized by coaches and as a result we see a lot of guys in the game that will not be around in a few weeks. Offensive and defensive play-calling is usually done at the simplest of levels – no reason to show the enemy your plans before the true battles have even begun.

Players have the psychological ability to not play to their potential in games that don’t count, which can lead to blown assignments and sloppy play. While that is a negative mindset which should be fixed by the coaching staff, it can’t really serve as a reliable indicator for how they will play come week one.

That said, there is no excuse for Kansas City’s third preseason game against the Seahawks. It is the most important game of the four and the one most scrutinized by fans of all 32 teams. The start of the regular season is only days away, and in truth I am a bit nervous. What team will we see take the field on Sept. 9 against a powerful offensive squad like the Seattle Seahawks? Will it be the team that is stacked top-to-bottom with talent on both sides of the ball; that is finally capable of waging a successful war against the rest of the AFC? Or will we see an unbelievably talented team that is unable to make that talent work together – to make it click?

After much thought, I expect to see the former. I don’t believe we’ll see it in all of its glory that first game, however. The game against the Seahawks proved that something, for at least one game, was seriously off for this team.

Look at the caliber of players we have sitting on this roster: Jamaal Charles, Matt Cassel (contrary to the popular, unreasoned opinion of him, he is a huge asset to this team), Eric Berry, Dwayne Bowe, Tamba Hali, Derrick Johnson, Jonathan Baldwin, Steve Breaston, Dexter McCluster, Glen Dorsey, Eric Winston, Kevin Boss, Peyton Hillis – and this is only a handful of the quality players who currently wear the arrowhead upon their helmets.

Add to the quantity of great players, the quality of character and leadership among them, and on the side of those actually playing the game, our potential is nearly mind-boggling.

The only real question mark lies on the side of the coaching staff – and our head coach in particular.

Romeo Crennel, for all of the accolades he won in the final three games of last season, is still a variable in the formula that currently remains an unknown. His record as head honcho for the Browns is not exactly impressive at 26-40, but then again in Cleveland he was not surrounded by the level of talent he is here in Kansas City. He is a defensive genius, but should he really be at the helm of both Head Coach and Defensive Coordinator? Yes or no, I don’t believe that answer will be long in coming.

Crennel has the possibility to be great, but the truth, as yet, is that no one knows if he will be. He has to take the reins of this team, to balance being a players’ coach (Herm Edwards, anyone?) with the fact that he is the final authority for the 53 men in his charge and that he must make them respect him as such. He has to be willing, should it become necessary, to relinquish the role of Defensive Coordinator and focus solely on his HC duties.

There is no reason to believe he is not more than capable of all of the above. It is clear that the players do respect him. He brought them together in a spectacular win over the undefeated Green Bay Packers late last season.

My prediction, just before the regular season begins, is that we will see a few stumblings in our early games but these instances will be merely growing pains – some creaks and groans as the sleeping giant that is Kansas City pulls itself up from where it has lain for so long and prepares to go to war.

Those missteps, should they happen, will be worrisome when they occur. The game against the Falcons was gut wrenching, and it was only an inconsequential preseason matchup. The local media will likely pick apart every mistake and put it under a magnifying glass for the public to take as a sign of the apocalypse.

But we will get through it. The Chiefs are in a place that should allow them to grow at an exponential rate once they’ve begun to gain momentum – in strength and in speed, but just as importantly in unity as a team.

There is an invisible current running through this ball club, a current that hums quietly but powerfully beneath the surface of not merely Arrowhead, but of the entire Chief’s Kingdom. If you are quiet enough, if you can manage to drown out the naysayers and doomsday prophets that appear at the slightest provocation (not making a Super Bowl since 1969 has the ability to make some a bit cynical, I know), you can hear it. It’s that deep, nearly silent vibration that makes the helmets look just a bit brighter on game day, the grass on the field that bit greener. That makes hope just that small bit more real.

But it won’t be quiet much longer.

Contact James Russell, sports columnist, at jrusse24@jccc.edu.

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