Originally posted on Fox Sports Kansas City  |  Last updated 1/1/12
So the last "Blitz" of the season is also the first of the new year. Maybe the Chiefs feel that way, too, having watched the AFC West division title slip to the toothless Broncos. If that doesn't make you want to start working toward next season, then nothing will. This week, we'll be looking at the Denver game specifically, but also how it represented the Chiefs season and what it all means for 2012. Let's do it, shall we? KANSAS CITY 7, DENVER 3 1. Sad. That's got to be the first emotion that comes to mind when you consider the Broncos as division champions. The Chiefs were dethroned by a team that lost its last three games, finished 8-8, and only avoided being shut out on the final Sunday of the season because they recovered a fumbled punt within field-goal range. Tim Tebow is not a legitimate NFL quarterback let's get that out of the way immediately. With the Broncos battling for a spot in the playoffs remember, they didn't know the hapless Raiders would lose at home to San Diego Tebow completed exactly 6 of 22 passes for 60 yards. Those sound like numbers from the turn of the century. Not the LAST centurythe one before that. And yet the Chiefs had so many awful moments during the season that they couldn't manage to match the Broncos' 8-8 record. Sure, there were injuries. But they simply threw away games against San Diego, Denver and Oakland. Even on this last Sunday, QB Kyle Orton led an offense that scored one touchdown and nothing else wrapping up the year with a streak intact of nine consecutive games without scoring more than one TD. The whole season was such a mess than a lot of Chiefs fans were rooting for a loss at Denver simply so the Chiefs could draft a few spots higher. Sad, indeed. 2. What about the coach? GM Scott Pioli is believed to be an admirer of Romeo Crennel, who was defensive coordinator when both worked in New England. Since Crennel went 2-1 in his trial run after taking over for Todd Haley, and handed Green Bay its only regular-season defeat, you'd have to conclude he didn't damage his resume over the last month. Crennel was 23-40 at Cleveland in his only NFL head coaching job, but we don't really know if he had the talent there to provide a fighting chance. The players seem to love their interim coach, or at least they say so and back it up with full-bore effort on the field. If Pioli intends to give Crennel the top job, however, he'll have to find a terrific offensive coordinator. The Chiefs were simply helpless on offense this year, and despite the injuries, a lot of it had to do with lack of imagination and poor use of personnel. Dexter McCluster didn't get a fair shot at running back until this final week, and then it only happened because Jackie Battle got hurt. It turned out that Dexter could have been legitimate weapon all along, and he proved it by whooshing past the Broncos in the first half not to mention scoring the game's only TD on a 21-yard dash. And still McCluster seemed to be put in cold storage during the second half. Maybe the offensive play-callers wanted the sure-handed (but slow-footed) Thomas Jones to get those carries because he wouldn't lose the ball. Who knows? But every week, you had the feeling there was a distinct lack of imagination on offense. Crennel can handle the other side, but the Chiefs need to find an offensive coordinator who can make an impact. 3. Adios, Kyle! Orton achieved a unique success on Sunday, becoming the first quarterback since the AFL-NFL merger to start against a team that let him go in the same season. And on that upbeat note, let's say good-bye and thanks for the memories brief though they were. Orton was 15 of 29 for 180 yards against the Broncos, and made ONE critical throw an 18-yard out pattern to Jon Baldwin in the fourth quarter that prolonged a drive, ate up clock and deprived the Broncos of field position for Tebow's last shot at a miracle. Thanks, Kyle, but if the Chiefs are searching for a quarterback who ultimately can make them a playoff winner, it has to be somebody with more in his locker. Orton is a bit like Matt Cassell, a so-so professional who can make most throws as long as he isn't hurried or asked to create something from a broken play. Neither one of them ever will be an elite player at the position so quarterback remains a critical spot where the Chiefs must find an upgrade. Orton will be a free agent, and the Chiefs would be silly to pursue him since Cassel has two more years on a hefty contract. What's the point of spending a fortune for two back-up QBs? 4. Same old, same old. In a way, this 7-3 snoozer at Denver represented the entire season. The Chiefs played hard, played tough, never quit, pressured the Denver offense and Got into a close game because they couldn't score. Outside of that shocking upset of Green Bay, the Chiefs really didn't do anything surprising all year. Yes, they got blown out a few times mostly at the beginning when that crackpot plan for preseason training cost them several weeks of inefficiency. But especially within the weak AFC West, we saw mostly low-scoring error-fests that were decided by mistakes. Even with all their injuries, the Chiefs should have repeated as division winners. Hey, Denver DID win the thing and couldn't muster a single scoring drive on Sunday. Not one. The Chiefs probably should have beaten the undisciplined Raiders twice. They went to sleep on one long pass or they'd have done the Broncos twice. And as for the underachieving Chargers, well, they're lucky Cassel threw a last-minute screen pass to the wrong team. Think about it: The Chiefs finished LAST among this absurd bunch. Everyone else was 8-8. No imagination, no gambles, no surprises, no pizzazz. You know, it's not a crime to go 7-9. To do it while being boring and charging good money to watch Ugh! 5. So what do they need? This eventually will be the subject of the longer discussion, but just to keep it simple We've already discussed the QB situation. That has to be addressed, presumably through some dramatic trade involving the draft. The Chiefs aren't going to become an elite team with Cassel or Orton taking snaps. Beyond that, the main issues as we saw again in Denver are on the line of scrimmage. The defensive line got better as the season wore on, developing some depth which really made a difference. It could be better, but slow growth up front on defense seems to be working. On offense, though, there are serious problems. Every coach will quote from the same gospel, claiming that you have to be able to run when the other team knows you're going to do it. The Chiefs never showed that power, nor could they ever guarantee safety for their quarterbacks. By the way, this issue of the O-line begs the question: Why did they simply release All Pro guard Brian Waters prior to training camp? It's not as though Waters had lost it he made the Pro Bowl again THIS year with New England. What the heck was that all about? Center Casey Wiegmann has been both good and durable forever, it seems, but he's coming to the end of the road. Right tackle Barry Richardson is average, at best. There are questions everywhere. But one way or another, the offensive line has to be better or the Chiefs will be stuck in neutral. That's Pioli's job, providing the talent that can be blended into a dominant team. At the moment, Scott's lucky that Clark Hunt likes him a lot. Let's sum it up: Find a better quarterback, improve depth everywhere, revamp the offensive line. If you watched the game at the Denver, you saw it all. There really are no secrets in the NFL.
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