Who are the Kansas City Chiefs? Are they the team that won their division last year? Or are they the team that struggled mightily with injuries and consistency this year? Most importantly, how far away are they from contention for the AFC West division?
That is what Brian Daboll plans on finding out.
"Who" you ask? Daboll is perhaps the least-heralded bit of fruit from the Bill Belichick coaching tree, having coached the Patriots' wide receivers for five years in the pre-Randy Moss years. His career path took him to Cleveland and Miami before GM Scott Pioli made him the man in charge of the Chiefs offensive attack.
It's worth noting that before Moss came to New England, their offense was a much more balanced affair, with the mighty Tom Brady being asked to pass only 52% of the time from 2003-06. While the Patriots went more pass-heavy after Daboll left, he took his offenses in the other direction.
Running Cleveland's offense in 2009-10, he called for 911 runs and 921 passes, a 50.3% pass ratio. In Miami last season, he brought that ratio down to a perfectly even split, with 469 runs and 469 pass attempts. If you're a Jamaal Charles owner in fantasy dynasty leagues, your ears just perked up.
But is this a model that the Chiefs can win with? And how will it affect their offseason decisions to come?
If the Chiefs can field a healthy offensive attack, and that is a big if, they have the pieces and the potential to be a potent squad. Jamaal Charles is an elite back, Dwayne Bowe can stretch the field and Tony Moeaki is an underrated tight end. They actually have a pair of pivots who are somewhat competent in Matt Cassel and Kyle Orton, and their offensive line is growing into their shoes.
The Chiefs have some holes on their team though, but many of those could be remedied by healthy bodies. Safety Eric Berry made the Pro Bowl in his rookie year, then missed the entire 2011 season along with Charles and Moeaki. If Berry is healthy and they can resign corner Brandon Carr, then the secondary is in order.
But Daboll needs to worry about the offense that struggled mightily without the majority of their playmakers last year. Bowe is a free agent, and may go off to greener pastures. While Steve Breaston is a solid wideout, he cannot spread the field in the way that Bowe can. Jonathan Baldwin showed flashes of brilliance in his rookie season, and the Chiefs might just let Bowe walk and give the reigns to Baldwin.
Cassel and Orton have a similar style of play, and Daboll would be wise to go with the hot hand. Neither are especially mobile, but they both have the arm to get the ball down the field with reasonable accuracy. Cassel and Daboll are presumably on the same page offensively from their days in Foxboro, and he will likely get the nod in camp. If he falters, Orton is more than capable of picking up the pieces.
Then there is the running attack. Charles emerged as one of the most effective runners last season, but a torn ACL ended his year early this time around. If the Chiefs can pick up a free agent or rookie back to replace Thomas Jones and provide the missing thunder to his lightning, the rushing attack could be back in shape this year.
But no offense can compete without a decent line blocking for them, and the Chiefs line - an elite unit when Priest Holmes and company took the field a decade ago - is slowly working its way back to that level. Branden Albert was a first round pick out of Virginia in 2008, and he is becoming a solid bookend. Ryan Lilja is that veteran mauler on the inside that every team needs and Barry Richardson holds his own on the right side.
An update to the O-line would surely be welcome, and that could likely be where they go in the first round. They have the offensive pieces when healthy, they just need to give whoever is under center some time to get the ball down the field.
In Daboll's time in Cleveland and Miami, he (cough) did not exactly have the greatest success. His best year was this last one when the Fins finished 20th in the league in offensive output. Reggie Bush had a transcendent comeback year in this scheme, but it took until the season was nearly over for this approach to translate to wins. Daboll is not exactly an offensive whiz, but he could put something respectable together this year.
The weapons are there, if healthy, now is it up to Brian Daboll to put it all together for the Chiefs. They could lose some pieces to free agency, but some shrewd drafting and signings could put the KC back atop the very winnable AFC West.
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