Don't Kill The Mellinger

Twitter Tuesday: Chiefs playoffs, Royals moves, Dorsey’s victory, K-State in 2014

Updated: 2013-12-31T17:19:55Z

By SAM MELLINGER

The Kansas City Star

When a team rests 20 of 22 starters … on the road … against a team it lost to at home … that is playing for its playoff existence, well, you don’t expect to find out much.

You expect to see a blowout, with both teams getting the result they really care about, and you expect to never really think about the game again.

You don’t, in other words, expect what happened between the Chiefs’ B-Teamers and the Chargers on Sunday.

Vahe wrote about this off the game, and Terez hit the broader point here, but I think it’s worth emphasizing the big takeaway from what turned out to be a 27-24 overtime loss in San Diego:

You saw as much of a symbol of the difference between these Chiefs and last year’s on Sunday as any game of what is one of the great one-year turnarounds in recent NFL history.

Scott Pioli did some good things for the Chiefs. He drafted Justin Houston, most notably. Also Eric Berry. Dexter McCluster. Dontari Poe. Locked Jamaal Charles into a ridiculously team-friendly contract. Other veteran stars, like Derrick Johnson and Brandon Flowers, the same thing.

But one of his big, obvious, stinking failures was how weak the middle and bottom of the roster became. You may have noticed that nobody waived after last season was picked up by another team. On the eve of the season starting, John Dorsey found seven players he liked better than what was left. Through waiver pickups and other avenues, the depth is especially improved on defense, with guys like Marcus Cooper and Ron Parker and Jerrell Powe and Quintin Demps and Josh Martin.

Dorsey and Andy Reid also prioritized quarterback depth, something Pioli NEVER did, and you saw the difference in Chase Daniel playing like a starter — 21 of 30, 200 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions, and 59 yards scrambling.

The Chiefs still can’t be certain whether Alex Smith is a guy they can a Super Bowl with, or how much longer some of the veteran stars (Derrick Johnson, most notably) can be at the top of their game.

But at least at the moment, the roster is deeper and better than at any point in a decade.

That can be taken as a backhanded compliment since the last decade included twice as many seasons of four wins or fewer than playoff appearances, but, hey, it’s progress.

This week’s eating recommendation is the salted caramel pecan bar at Upper Crust. The reading recommendation is a bit different this week. I’m a sucker for compilations of great writing, and the best two I’ve seen are here and here.

Happy New Year’s Eve. Be safe tonight.

I’m not supposed to say anything, but sources say they are spending the week smoking cigars, day-drinking scotch, and patting each other on the ass.

All hell is being raised on this website and others as, I assume, is happening on websites out of Pittsburgh but, before we go on, can we pause for some perpective?

First, the Chargers overloading one side of the line on a field goal that was not blocked does not excuse Ryan Succop for missing a kick that NFL kickers — especially ones on $14 million contracts — should make.

Second, the fumble … looked like a fumble to me, but that’s a close call, and that particular call is not reviewable.

Also, there are at least two things I don’t have much patience for in sports:

1. Complaining about the other team running up the score at the professional or major college level^ because, if you don’t want the other team running up the score, then stop them.

^ Some exceptions can be made for fundamental mismatches in which a team covers a 50-point spread or something.

2. Complaining about the referees. Play better. The refs aren’t perfect. It’s up to them to get better, and it sucks when they blow a call, but it’s a loser’s lament to whine and complain and blame a game on the referees. Play better and it doesn’t have to get to the officiating plus, let’s be honest, nobody EVER wins a game and says, "Hey, we totally didn’t deserve that, the refs hosed the other guys, we’re giving the win back."

Anyway, all that being said, the NFL has an officiating problem on its hands. This has been brewing for years, was exacerbated last year during the referee lockout, and has been spotlighted again this year with (what at least seems like) an unusual number of blown calls.

I don’t know what the best solution is, but my suspicion is it’s a combination of greater accountability, tweaking of the rule book^, more resources put toward training^^, and — I know this is a crazy thing to suggest for the men whose calls sometimes decide outcomes of a $10 billion industry in which careers and livelihoods often turn on a single game — making the officials full-time.

^ For instance, why CAN’T forward progress be reviewable? And it’s stupid that if you challenge a call and are proven right, that you lose a challenge. Also, it’s WAY past time to change the dumb rule where if you fumble out of the end zone the other team gets a touchback.

^^ Including more of a farm system so the worst officials can be replaced and trained back up.

I give the NFL credit for being WAY ahead of baseball on both the use of instant replay and the ridiculous notion of "human error by the officials in charge should be a cool part of the game," but by the nature of playing 16 games instead of 162, each call is vastly more important in football than baseball.

It is impossible to expect perfection, but it is imperative that the league be expected to get as close as possible.

An impossible question to answer right now, of course, because the answer will change a thousand times between now and Selection Sunday but, here we go:

They’re 9-3 at the moment, with one terrible loss (Northern Colorado at home), one neutral loss (Charlotte doesn’t sound like much, but also beat Michigan, took Davidson to overtime, and lost to Georgia Tech by three) and one good loss (Georgetown).

Ole Miss and especially Gonzaga are good wins. Beating George Washington would get to 10 wins, and depending on how the rest of the league plays out, you’d have to feel good with 20 to 22 wins or so, including the conference tournament.

Get a game or two against Kansas or Oklahoma State, and it becomes even better.

We were talking earlier about how K-State’s football team improved throughout the season, and in the short non-conference, the same can be said about the basketball team.

If they follow anything close to that path — far from a sure thing, obviously — making the NCAA Tournament shouldn’t be a problem.

My sense is they’re done unless one of two things happen:

1. They are overwhelmed with a trade offer for Billy Butler. This is particularly unlikely because the Royals have already traded for a right fielder and spent $30 million on a second baseman, so I’m not sure what they’d be after in return. I guess a frontline starting pitcher, which nobody is going to give up for a slow DH with two years of club control remaining who is also coming off his worst season since 2008^.

^ This was still, I feel obligated to point out, a vastly better season than most Royals fans think.

2. A series of circumstances fall in their favor that causes Ervin Santana to go all white flag and, after floating the (silly) notion of a $100 million contract, sign a contract that fits into the plans of a Royals team that’s already gone over its original budget to a franchise record around $95 million. One of those circumstances that would have to fall in place might be to find a trade partner for Luke Hochevar, which would free up some money but weaken one of the team’s greatest strengths. There is a long list of other things that would have to happen^ that basically make this a big longshot.

^ All teams in baseball remain so terrified about giving up a draft pick that nobody jumps on the opportunity to sign a good starting pitcher at below market, Santana would need to basically sign whatever the Royals offered with very little negotiating, David Glass would have to approve another payroll hike that would likely far exceed the bump in national TV contracts and, legitimately, set him up to take a (potentially major) financial loss, etc.

I’m not saying it can’t happen. Just that it’s very unlikely.

I’m fairly certain he was drunk or high, but a Raider fan with a very raspy voice called the other day, saying something like, "Your^ Chiefs are overrated, they’re going to get killed by the Colts, and Andy Reid is going to eat a slab of beef in the offseason."

^ I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt on proper your/you’re usage here .

This went on for, no exaggeration, at least two minutes. That’s all he said.

Plus, honestly, eating a slab of beef sounds like a wonderful way to spend part of the offseason.

I was a big Geno Smith guy during the season, and leading up to the draft. Until I started hearing from people inside the game about Smith’s work ethic, his focus, the way he handled himself. There’s a reason he dropped the way he did.

Also, I feel like I say this every week here, but I like Alex Smith more than most. I think he’s better right now that Geno Smith will ever be, and, at 29, you figure he’s got at least four or five good years left.

This is a very different thing than saying I’d rather have Alex Smith than, say, Teddy Bridgewater. Or that the Chiefs shouldn’t be prioritizing a quarterback in the draft^, but yeah, I’d much rather have Alex Smith than Geno Smith. Now and in the future.

^ Other needs include wide receiver, tight end, and the secondary.

Or that the loss is somehow a good sign for the rematch. Anybody who thinks the Chiefs weren’t really trying in that game last weekend is just an apologist.

Doesn’t mean they can’t win. The Colts have flaws, too.

Just means you shouldn’t be expecting it, or surprised when it doesn’t happen.

Definitely queso, if it’s the right kind. Has to be spicy enough, and not too runny. The queso at Patron is a good model for others to follow.

Also: I had to look up what the Belk Bowl is.

Go Tar Heels!

One last point about bowl games. Can we all agree that it’s not a real bowl game if you can’t name it without a sponsor?

Even if you can name it without a sponsor, you still might be talking about the Music City Bowl or the Texas Bowl or the Heart of Dallas Bowl or other such silliness, but this is at least a good start to weed through the BBVA Compass Bowl or the AdvoCare V100 Bowl or, shamefully, the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl.

Well, they accomplished one of the great one-year turnarounds in NFL history, and restored pride to an organization that spent the last year or two embarrassing itself and establishing what sure felt like a strong mutual hatred between franchise and fan.

Other than that, not much.

Winning 11 games is enough to consider the season a success, but of course if they lose on Saturday there will be a bad taste for a lot of folks.

Also, I don’t know how to answer questions posed like this. "Do they have to win a playoff game?"

Of course they don’t have to win a playoff game. Life will go on no matter what happens on Saturday.

But if they do lose — and I think they will — the stories have already been written.

I say 2003. The comparisons to the 2010 team are easy to make, and the teams do have some similarities. But this one has a better defense (even with what’s turned into a sieve secondary), a more versatile Jamaal Charles, a better quarterback, and better coaching. The 2010 team had a better offensive line, a better Dwayne Bowe, and better cornerbacks.

Also, the 2010 team got steamrolled while trying in its last game of the season, at home against the Raiders. The 2013 team should’ve beaten a hot team on the road playing for its playoff life in the last game of the season.

The 2006 team was just not playoff-caliber, and only made it as space-filler in the bracket.

That 2003 team was legitimately good, Greg Robinson or not, and was playing at home. Should’ve won that game.

Revisionist history will suggest otherwise, but the Chiefs had a terrific offense that year. They led the league in scoring, and the Colts defense gave up even more points (barely, but still) than the Chiefs. The Chiefs entered that game as a 3-point favorite.

Kansas City.

Kansas City!

I do not. I don’t think they’ll embarrass themselves like they did last weekend, but Andrew Luck is a good quarterback, and there’s enough of a track record to know that good quarterbacks are very comfortable in facing the Chiefs’ pressure^ and exploiting it.

^ I’m referring both to the pass rush, and the cornerbacks’ press coverage.

I feel like the Chiefs have about a 35 percent chance of winning.

Well, technically, there is no BCS after this season so let’s proceed like the question is asking about “BCS” more like the idea of getting into one of the bigger bowls.

Beating Auburn or losing to Auburn probably won’t have much to do with K-State’s chances, because K-State’s best chance at a major bowl will probably be to win the league.

And to answer your question, sure, absolutely, K-State could make that happen. I don’t know how many teams improved as much as the Wildcats did throughout the season, and Bill Snyder’s record with a returning quarterback is superb.

There’s so much still to be determined, of course. I haven’t taken a close look at how much each of the better Big 12 teams have back next year, or at the schedules.

But it shouldn’t be a big surprise if K-State rises up and wins the league.

I’ve actually thought a lot about this, and I don’t believe this to be true, and for a few reasons.

- I think the Royals and Chiefs have been motivated to win before Sporting’s re-branding and, even if you’re among those who think that’s ridiculous, I don’t see that Sporting’s win would create a significant shift in thinking.

- There is no bad blood between Sporting and either of the more prominent franchises, at least not that I see. There has been, at varying times and to varying degrees, some bitterness between the Royals and Chiefs over the years but from what I can tell Sporting has done a great job of pushing the envelope and doing everything it can but maintaining a respect for the bigger franchises. Last summer, I moderated a (fascinating) discussion between Sporting CEO Robb Heineman, Chiefs president Mark Donovan, and Royals VP of Business Operations Kevin Uhlich. All three were very respectful, friendly, helpful. Robb and Mark are neighbors, and personal friends.

- There are lower level employees with Sporting who take minor, private jabs at the Royals and Chiefs. It’s basic-level stuff, bratty remarks about their innovation or growth or whatever. But the same can be said of lower level employees with the Royals and Chiefs, and the more important thing is that it’s not coming from up top. Robb, for instance, talks constantly of being a Royals and Chiefs fan and a deference he has for those franchise’s success and numbers.

- If the Royals win, it will be because Sal Perez and Eric Hosmer and Danny Duffy and Kyle Zimmer and others turn into stars. They have not, and will not, scout better or increase budgets or concentrate more during games because Sporting beat Real Salt Lake in PKs.

- If the Chiefs win, it will be because Andy Reid and John Dorsey found a way to take advantage of the (closing) windows in the careers of Tamba Hali and Derrick Johnson and Jamaal Charles, and/or created a new base to move on and win a Super Bowl with a new nucleus. They have not, and will not, scout better or coach better or tackle better because Sporting beat Real Salt Lake in PKs.

- This isn’t like your neighbor buying a speed boat, is what I’m saying.

Mike Moustakas, through three seasons, 374 games and 1,493 plate appearances: .244 batting average, .296 on-base percentage, .385 slugging percentage, 85 OPS+, 78 doubles, 37 homers, 93 walks and 258 strikeouts.

Alex Gordon, through four seasons, 408 games and 1,642 plate appearances: .244 batting average, .328 on-base percentage, .405 slugging percentage, 95 OPS+, 87 doubles, 45 homers, 162 walks and 362 strikeouts.

A few things to note here. Gordon’s numbers are a little better, especially in regards to his OBP. He also dealt with some injuries, and is a much better athlete who is in MUCH better shape.

I’m not saying Moose is a bust. I still think he’s very talented, and can be a good big leaguer.

But the ceiling I see for him is much lower than three years ago.

Why stop there? Royals should trade Hochevar and Wade Davis for Clayton Kershaw.

That would be so totally awesome, but GMDM won’t like even try, you guys.

I don’t have a ballot. The votes go to BBWAA members after 10 years. Next year will be either my eighth or ninth year, I’m not certain.

Either way, if I had a vote this year, it’s a loaded ballot so I’d have gone for the maximum 10.

Keep in mind that without an actual vote, I’m not doing the homework I otherwise would, I think my 10 would be Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas, Mike Piazza, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Tom Glavine, Tim Raines, Curt Schilling, Mike Mussina, and Jeff Bagwell.

In another year, I might also vote for Edgar Martinez^, Craig Biggio, Mark McGwire, Fred McGriff, Hideo Nomo^ and Lee Smith^.

^ I don’t know how many voters share this philosophy, but I do believe in the "If you can’t tell the full history of the game without mentioning their names they should be Hall of Famers" points.

The important thing is that you’ve identified your mistake, and you’re holding yourself accountable. I, for one, am proud of you, Tyler. Don’t hold your head.

Just make sure you get some burnt ends next time you’re in town.

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