Archive for Saturday, September 9, 2006

Edwards era dawns in K.C.

New head coach one of several key changes in 2006

September 9, 2006


— Their 23 new players represent only a fraction of the big changes coming this season to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Gone from the NFL's most productive offense of the past five years are the head coach, offensive coordinator, left tackle, running back, fullback - and approach.

Anchored by those men, Kansas City from 2001-2005 rolled up more yards (30,470), scored more touchdowns (262) and rushed for more TDs (131) than any team in the league.

There was the year they shattered the NFL record with 398 first downs, the game they scored eight touchdowns rushing.

Priest Holmes broke the NFL's single-season record with 27 TDs - since surpassed by Seattle's Shaun Alexander. Tony Gonzalez set the reception mark for tight ends with 102.

But although they guzzled yardage and pigged out on points, Dick Vermeil's Chiefs never even caught sight of the Super Bowl. Their only playoff appearance was a 38-31 loss to the Colts.

Now it will be more ball control. When holding a 10-point lead midway through the fourth quarter, the Chiefs will no longer be chucking it Vermeil-style down the field.

"I anticipate if we're playing with a lead, we're going to run the ball more than we did last year and not worry about continuing to try and get a 17-point lead," new coach Herman Edwards said.

"You can't always go three-and-out and put your defense back on the field."

Even if Edwards were as devoted to the offense-first, defense-second philosophy as his predecessor, winds of change would still be gusting through Arrowhead Stadium.

Imaginative Al Saunders is now drawing up plays on cocktail napkins for the Washington Redskins. First-year offensive coordinator Mike Solari, promoted from line coach, admittedly lacks experience in the nuanced passing game that's been so key for KC.

Holmes is probably done. From 2001-05, he averaged more yards from scrimmage (136) than any other running back in the league. But he's now listed as physically unable to perform, and probably headed for retirement.

His absence was expected. But Willie Roaf's was not. The Chiefs were 3-3 without their 11-time Pro Bowl left tackle last year and 7-3 with him. His retirement on the eve of training camp stunned everybody.

Former Pro Bowler Kyle Turley, trying to resurrect his career after a two-year absence brought on by a back injury, was signed to compete at right tackle. But he was quickly shifted into Roaf's spot while everyone hopes for the best.

If Turley's back holds up and he performs well, it will be one of the great comeback stories of the season. But slimmed down to 275 pounds, he looks awfully light trying to beat back 325-pound defensive ends.

Another key loss could be former Pro Bowl fullback Tony Richardson, a locker room leader and one of the steadiest blocking backs in the league.

There still are stars. Trent Green is back for a sixth straight season after passing for more yards (20,117) and touchdowns (111) from 2001-05 than anybody but Peyton Manning.

And he'll be handing off to Larry Johnson, who had a brilliant nine-game spree after Holmes went out last year with neck and spinal trauma.

Johnson's 1,351 yards rushing from Nov. 1 to the end of the regular season were the most in league history. He had quarreled constantly with Vermeil, but now seems much more content playing for Edwards, and could be poised to establish himself as the league's No. 1 running back.

Gonzalez has turned 30, and needs only 15 catches to erase Ozzie Newsome's record for tight ends.

And even without Roaf, the offensive line could still be one of the best in the league with Pro Bowl guards Will Shields and Brian Waters and underrated center Casey Wiegmann.

Most of the newcomers will be asked to come to the rescue of the long-woeful defense. Rookie defensive end Tamba Hali should help shore up a major weakness by increasing pressure on the quarterback.

Free agent Ty Law will team with Patrick Surtain to form what could be Kansas City's best cornerback duo in more than a decade.

There are signs the defense will be improved, maybe significantly. So now the biggest fear is that this aging, once-wonderful offense will go into decline just as the defense begins rising up.

And the Chiefs, still stuck in the mud of mediocrity, will have wasted the most wondrous era of offense in the history of the franchise.

"I'm always optimistic," said Gonzalez. "But we're all getting a little bit older on the offensive side of the ball. I'm keeping my fingers crossed."


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.