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The Week in Overreactions: Silver lining to Chiefs choke job

By Ryan Wilson | CBSSports.com


Despite the wild-card loss, the Chiefs' future looks bright. (USATSI)

New storylines emerge every week. Some are reasonable, most are not. "The Week in Overreactions" focuses on the latter. Those items that offer a cursory "How do you do?" as they blow past reality straight for THIS IS THE MOST AMAZING THING EVER! We're here to keep everything in perspective. Questions, comments, casserole ideas? Hit us up on Twitter at @ryanwilson_07.

'Chiefs' latest loss will haunt the franchise for years'

In the days and weeks following the Chiefs' collapse in Indy, it's perfectly reasonable to expect fans and media to characterize the loss as nothing short of a demoralizing meltdown. Probably because that's exactly what it was.

But unlike the perpetual awfulness that mark the Browns as annual failures, the Chiefs have hope. More than that, they have a plan.

A year ago, the organization was in disarray. Two wins and 14 losses, Jovan Belcher's murder-suicide looming over the team and the city, and ownership's decision to clean house in the front office and on the coaching staff. Scott Pioli and Romeo Crennel were out, replaced by general manager John Dorsey and coach Andy Reid.

Dorsey made his prescence felt immediately. The Chiefs traded two second-round picks for quarterback Alex Smith; added cornerback Sean Smith, wideout Donnie Avery, tight end Anthony Fasano and guard Geoff Scwhartz in free agency; and got production from third-round pick running back Knile Davis, as well as two players acquired via trade: fullback Anthony Sherman and wideout A.J. Jenkins.

With new faces joining old, the Chiefs began the 2013 season with nine straight wins. Putting the roster together is a credit to Dorsey and the front office while the immediacy of the turnaround speaks to the coaching staff.

But Kansas City limped into January, dropping five of their last seven regular-season games before blowing that 28-point lead in the wild-card matchup against the Colts.

So now the question becomes: What's next?

We've said for several months that Andy Reid's Chiefs won't be defined by this season. This story extends beyond 2013. It's about a team that won twice in 2012 bouncing back to go 11-6. But more than that, it's about how Reid and Dorsey have set the team up succeed in 2014 and beyond.

Left tackle Branden Albert, running back Dexter McCluster and defensive end Tyson Jackson are set to become free agents, but just about everyone else will return, including Smith who proved that he's more than a game manager, or a bridge to whomever is anointed the Chiefs' next franchise quarterback.

Of course, quick turnarounds aren't new to Chiefs fans. We saw it in 2010, when then-coach Todd Haley and quarterback Matt Cassel led the team to 10 wins, a division title ... and another one-and-done playoff experience. These Chiefs are different, primarily because Dorsey isn't Pioli, Reid isn't Haley, Smith isn't Cassel, and defensive coordinator Bob Sutton took a decidedly below-average group and had them playing at a high level for most of the season.

Skeptics might also point out that the Chiefs share the AFC West with the Broncos and Chargers, both playoff teams. We'd note that Manning, 37, can't play forever (at least we don't think he can) and the Broncos have their own defensive issues to sort through. And the Chargers were an annual disappointment before coach Mike McCoy and offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt helped resurrect Philip Rivers' career. There's a very good chance Whisenhunt will land a head-coaching job in the coming weeks, which could have an affect Rivers' game in 2014.

One more thing: This is the NFL. Winning is supposed to be hard. That said, the Chiefs have the personnel -- and more importantly, the stability -- to consistently find themselves in the playoff conversation. And, really, that's the point.

'Jay Gruden is Andy Dalton's biggest problem'


Maybe Jay Gruden isn't the problem. Maybe it's, you know, Andy Dalton. (USATSI)
There has been plenty of blame to go around since the Bengals' imploded in Sunday's wild-card matchup against the Chargers. Third-year quarterback Andy Dalton is the obvious target, followed closely by offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, coach Marvin Lewis, and even owner Mike Brown for his unwavering patience through it all.

Meanwhile, at least four teams -- the Redskins, Titans, Vikings and Lions -- have requested permission to interview Gruden, which has caused some agita among fans and media who have long been frustrated with the Bengals' inconsistent offense and can't understand why anyone would think Gruden deserved a promotion.

And maybe he doesn't.

Skepticism about Gruden's play-calling skills peaked following Dalton's Sunday meltdown, but the reality is this: A coach is only as good as his franchise quarterback. And as is stands, the Bengals don't have one. Which explains the maddening inconsistency from Dalton, even with A.J. Green, Marvin Jones, Jermaine Gresham, Giovani Bernard, Mohamed Sanu, and a talented offensive line.

Need more proof: Just ask Bill Belichick, who was run out of Cleveland without a franchise QB, and began his New England career with a 5-11 record and Drew Bledsoe under center.

We've joked in recent weeks that if Philip Rivers was the Bengals' quarterback, the team would be 16-0. Put another way: You think a healthy Robert Griffin III changes the perception about Gruden's abilities? Because a year ago, some people were talking about Kyle Shanahan as possible head-coaching candidate.

This isn't to say that Gruden deserves to be an NFL head coach. We have no idea. But the point remains: Coaching will only get you so far. We're guessing Gruden didn't tell Dalton to stare down his receivers and throw those two interceptions Sunday. Or to scramble, dive head-first untouched only to fumble as he hit the turf.

Remember when that stacked Patriots offense lost Tom Brady in Week 1 of the 2008 season and had to turn to Matt Cassel? They finished 11-5 -- just like the Bengals -- and missed the playoffs. At the time, everyone lauded offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels for the superb job he did under trying circumstances. By 2010, he was the Broncos head coach and by the middle of 2011 season he was out of a job. Partly because of some poor personnel decisions but mostly because -- you guessed it -- McDaniels didn't have a franchise quarterback in Denver.

 
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