A deeper and more complete look at the Chiefs’ win over the Jets is coming, but before we get to that, I wanted to point out a few plays that show the tantalizing talent and frustrating rough edges of Tyreek Hill.
First, the talent. The Chiefs had second and long, near midfield, always a good spot to try a deep pass. Hill lined up in the backfield, split with Spencer Ware, but went in motion to the left side. The Jets were in man defense, and when cornerback Marcus Williams left tight end Ross Travis to line up opposite Hill with single-high coverage, the Chiefs had the look they wanted.
Smith took the snap, looked the safety off, and threw deep without hesitation. Williams is a good corner, but Hill had at least a step or two on him down the sideline. Hill made a nice catch on the ball, but it was thrown just a few feet too close to the sideline, and he couldn’t get his second foot in bounds. If he had, the gain would’ve been more than 30 yards.
Last week, I’d wondered if the Chiefs would try this, to be more aggressive in isolating Hill’s jetpack speed on a go route. Particularly with how much they like to use tight ends and running backs in the mid-range passing game, this seems like a potentially game-changing option. More of this.
Never miss a local story.
Of course, there are a lot of rough edges, too, and even if they generally come from a good place — Hill desperately wants to make a big play — the Chiefs need to smooth some things out.
The most obvious here was the opening kickoff of the second half, when Hill took the kick at the 5 yard line, got as far as the 16, but ran backward until he fell — rather than be tackled — at the 9. It was, without fumbling, just about the worst return possible.
The Chiefs and Hill need to find a balance between looking to make big plays, and not making big bad plays. Returning kicks is hard, and it takes split-second decision-making, guts, confidence in the blocking, and a dozen other things that have little or nothing to do with speed.
If Hill is given the full season, he will almost certainly break a few punt or kick returns for touchdowns — he was, maybe, a half-step from a big return in the second quarter and a 50-50 call from a touchdown last week against the Texans — but at some point the hoped reward isn’t worth the experienced downside of pinning yourself inside your own 10.
It wouldn’t be shocking to see Knile Davis returning kickoffs this weekend.
* Yes, of course this always makes me think of Constanza.
And, as always, thanks for your help, and thanks for reading.
All of it.
The sunroof open during the day, the windows of the house open at night. It’s warm enough to grill, but cool enough for a sweatshirt. On the good days, you make chili, and on the great nights you make a fire. I love events like the Plaza Art Fair, the leaves changing at Loose Park, the neighborhood barbecue contest, and the PA at the high school down the street on Friday nights.
I love the sports overlap. Saturday is the first of October, a month that brings us playoff baseball, college and professional football, the beginning of both the NBA and NHL. The tailgating weather is perfect — not too hot, like it can be in September, and not too cold, like it can be in November.
I love all of it.
This is a very well-executed question. Take a bow, sir.
The Chiefs have been good enough for the biggest comeback in franchise history, bad enough to lose to a team that was then blow’d out by the Patriots’ third-string quarterback, and then good enough for a win that apparently has more people upset than pleased.
Nobody knows nothing, but I haven’t seen anything to make me think any differently than what I thought before the season — 9-7, maybe a little better, a talented but flawed team.
The offense is about timing and communication and exploiting mismatches — Travis Kelce’s 42-yard catch-and-truck is a good example of when it works — which is exactly the kind of offense that looks terrible when the trains aren’t moving exactly on time. The Chiefs are talented, but they do not have the kind of elite talent to cover poor execution.
I don’t know what to think of the Steelers. They can’t be that bad, can they? If they are, the Chiefs have enough to pick apart in front of a national audience on Sunday. But if they aren’t, they’re going to be angry, and tuned, and the perfect candidate for a major bounce back performance.
It’s a weird thing, watching the Chiefs win 24-3, emasculating a quarterback who most recently threw for 375 yards in a nationally televised prime-time win, and mostly hearing complaints.
What’s even weirder is understanding where it comes from.
The Chiefs are way past the point of getting credit for small progress, or of weaknesses being excused or ignored. This team has Super Bowl hopes, maybe even expectations, and they’re at the point where they need to be on point more times than not.
The offense, other than the biggest comeback in franchise history, has mostly stunk. That’s a problem. The Chiefs are too far along, and have invested too much into Alex Smith and Jeremy Maclin and Travis Kelce and Mitch Schwartz and Eric Fisher and the rest of the offense to have these sputters.
But, if we can only have one prevailing takeaway from Sunday, mine is decidedly positive.
I even believe the offense wasn’t quite as bad as many are making it out to be. Blair made this point on the postgame chat, but how differently would people feel if Spencer Ware hadn’t fumbled near the goal line? Then the offense would’ve scored two touchdowns, the spread would’ve been even bigger.
I do think the eight-turnovers-but-just-one-touchdown thing is a bit out of context. Most obviously, two of those turnovers were touchdowns, one by the special teams and one by the defense. Also, the offense did turn two of the turnovers into points — one touchdown and one field goal.
So that leaves four turnovers that didn’t directly lead to points by the Chiefs, which is still a lot, but again, I believe a little misleading. Most times, turnovers give an offense good field position, but so many of the Jets’ problems came near the Chiefs’ goal line, it was like a bunch of touchbacks.
Also, the Jets’ last five possessions all ended in interceptions, and the game was secured by then. The Chiefs’ priority on most of those possessions was the clock, not the yardage.
All of that said, yes, absolutely, the offense needs to be better. I didn’t agree with going for the fourth down, but if you do that, you better get it. And when they wanted to run clock, the Chiefs went three-and-out twice in the fourth quarter. That’s not good enough.
They need to get better, and this is a point worth monitoring, and being concerned about. But I don’t have it in me to be freaked out over a 2-1 team coming off a three-touchdown win over a good team.
Especially when the secondary showed up that well against a good group of receivers.
My understanding is the Chiefs use a third party to handle parking, and without being sure if or when or how often that third party has changed, that’s my guess as to the source of the problems.
Before we say anything else, I want to make two points. First, it is absolutely impossible to get 25,000 or so cars into one parking lot in such a short period of time without problems. It cannot happen. I’ve been to NFL games in every current city except LA and Charlotte, and can tell you there are parking problems everywhere.
Foxborough is the absolute worst. Buffalo is terrible. Green Bay can be awful. Same with Pittsburgh. Chicago is a headache. Seattle. San Diego. Some are surprisingly good — Houston and Arizona, for instance — but the Chiefs are in good company among NFL teams with parking problems.
The frustration stems from, in part, the second point I want to make. Kansas City is an absurdly convenient place. It’s one of the great things about living here, and something you appreciate more and more the more you travel. You know exactly how long it will take you to get anywhere, and you know with 95 percent certainty that you will be able to park within 100 yards of wherever you’re trying to go.
So whenever there is a break in that convenience, we Kansas Citians tend to be more sensitive about it than others. You get used to the air always being light and 70 degrees, you’re going to be aggravated when it’s 77 and a little humid.
All of that said, the Chiefs are set up to be one of the league’s most convenient in-and-outs. The stadium is surrounded by acres of parking, and located at the intersection of two major interstates. There is a strong and beautiful tailgating culture that encourages many people to arrive as soon as the gates open. It shouldn’t be this difficult.
I also want to say that this past Sunday was far better than the season opener, even if there were some complaints. Some of that was the timing of the kickoff — there’s less of a “rush” for 3:30 kicks, compared to noon — but hopefully some of it was the Chiefs learning from mistakes.
The most frustrating thing is the stadium has been there more than 40 years. Same with the highways, gates, and seats. The Chiefs seem to reinvent their procedures every few years, creating new problems.
The team and fans need to meet in the middle somewhere. Fans need to expect some inconvenience, and budget in an extra 20 or 30 minutes. The team needs to do much better than the circus of the season opener, and, I would argue, offer more than just an apology for the trouble.
Well, damn. Yes. That’s exactly how sports are sometimes.
Coaches like to say that sports build character, and I think there is some truth to that at the lower levels. Kids can learn valuable lessons of teamwork, practice, how to win, how to lose, how to compete. I believe in all of that, even as sports do not have a monopoly on any of that.
But at the levels that most of us watch — professional, and the pseudo-professional of major college sports — it’s truer to say sports reveal character. Sometimes, that can be an amazing experience, and the best example of this I can think of at the moment is Pat Tillman.
There are terrible parts of sports. They motivate us to excuse the worst in people, present events that often bring out the worst in people, and give billionaire team owners the opportunity to bilk the public for billions of dollars to better profit from their private businesses while that money would be much better spent on schools, health, infrastructure or, literally, any other use.
There are amazing parts of sports, too. Forever memories, reasons to get together with friends, crutches to start conversations, and excuses to get old friendships going again. Years and years ago, I had a conversation with a reader who had a difficult relationship with her dad.
They never connected the way either of them would’ve liked, the dad making mistakes, but they could always talk about the Royals. They at least had that, and it was enough to get them through a difficult time in their relationship, enough of a bridge to make it to the other side. They now — or, at least, the last time I emailed with the reader — had a strong relationship.
How can you measure something like that?
Sports are the worst, except when they’re the best. And the times they’re the best make up for everything else.
The worst rule in football, unless you count the NFL’s insistence on policing touchdown celebrations like it’s nap time at a daycare.
The rule makes no sense. Absolutely none. It disproportionately rewards the defense, and arbitrarily punishes the offense. Anywhere else on the field, if the offense fumbles out of bounds, they get the ball at the spot of the fumble. Fair enough. The defense did not recover, so they shouldn’t get the ball.
But, for some dumb reason, a fumble through the end zone means two things: 1) the team getting the ball stuffed down their throat benefits from not recovering a fumble, and 2) that team even gets to take over at the 20, so they’re not backed up against their own goal line.
In what world does this make sense?
The rule should be the same for the end zone as it is everywhere else on the field: the offense gets it at the spot of the fumble. If you want to tack on an additional punishment, make it a 5-yard penalty or something, fine, but the defense shouldn’t be rewarded for not recovering a fumble.
Man I hate this rule.
John Currie is 45 years old, with roots in the ACC (bachelor’s degree from and first job at Wake Forest) and SEC (grad school, and 12 years in or around the athletic department at Tennessee).
He is well-respected and well-connected around the country, and has reason to be proud of the fundraising, #branding and budget management he’s done at K-State. The athletic department operates on one of the Big 12’s smaller budgets, but the school has remained competitive, and clean from NCAA allegations.
He is, in other words, exactly the kind of person who will continue to receive interest from other places, particularly in and around the south, and particularly with bigger budgets and profiles than K-State.
I don’t have a strong feel for whether Currie will be gone in a year, or in Manhattan for another 10. Neither would shock me, but you asked a question, so I’d put the over-under at three more seasons. June 1, 2020.
This isn’t what you’re asking about, but one place Currie might improve is in general fan relations, particularly with younger fans. Too often, he’s either uninterested or unable to always communicate the motivations of the athletic department, and allows narratives to be built through social media or innuendo. The unforced error of Sandstorm during the basketball season is the most convenient example.
I don’t know that Currie could’ve convinced fans with better communication, but I do know he didn’t give himself enough of a chance.
That’s a relatively small detail in the bigger picture, however. Currie will be judged by fans largely by Bruce Weber’s record, and by his hire if Bill Snyder retires on his watch. But the infrastructure stuff is what other schools see, and are impressed by.
This is an excellent question.
I would rank it fourth, behind Mike Moustakas, Alex Gordon, and Lorenzo Cain, but ahead of Wade Davis.
Moose was the team’s biggest power threat, a proven big-league hitter and an irreplaceable part of the Royals’ culture and personality. Cheslor Cuthbert has been a better replacement than most of us expected, and a very good teammate. But his OPS is more than 60 points lower than Moose’s this season, and 80 points lower than Moose’s last season. He is also substantially inferior defensively, and there is no question that the Royals lost some of their juice when Moose went down.
Alex Gordon is, perhaps, the team’s most respected player, and even with a better finish here lately, he’s been mostly terrible in the first year of the biggest contract in franchise history. I know the popular thing is to call that wasted money, that Gordon is done as a productive player, but I happen to believe he’s played hurt and that the injury zapped a proven man’s strength.
From 2011 to 2015, Gordon was among baseball’s most productive corner outfielders, with a cumulative .809 OPS (not to mention the spectacular defense). That ranked 18th among 107 corner outfielders with at least 200 games, higher than Shin-Soo Choo, Yoenis Cespedes, J.D. Martinez, and Michael Brantley, among others.
I don’t know anyone who expected this kind of dropoff, or any logical way to explain 100 point drop of OPS other than the wrist injury. Gordon is 32, not 42.
Cain’s injury coincided with the Royals’ huge suck of July, and he is their best all-around player. He will have played in no more than 109 games this year, and even with good outfield depth, there is no replacing a premium defensive player (at a critical position) and the No. 3 hitter.
I know a lot of people would rank Davis’ injuries as more important than Hochevar’s, and I am not here to argue that Davis’ weren’t significant. Of course they were. He is the central piece of the backend of the bullpen, and even when he wasn’t on the DL, he resembled a very good human pitcher, which was a drop-off from the last few few years. Davis will have pitched no more than 45 very good innings instead of around 70 absurdly great innings. That’s tough to get around.
But Hochevar’s absence has exposed the underbelly of the Royals’ bullpen. They could have pieced it through if Hochevar got hurt OR if Joakim Soria was terrible, but not both, especially when Matt Strahm hasn’t always been available these last two months.
Instead, with a starting rotation that’s been hugely disappointing outside of Danny Duffy and Ian Kennedy, the Royals have found it increasingly difficult to get a lead into the late innings.
Hochevar had found a comfortable, important, productive place in the Royals’ bullpen. Middle relievers are easy to overlook, but I do think his absence has made it more obvious how good he really is.
I don’t know how to do that. You may or may not be sick of me saying that I strongly believe the impact and importance of major-league managers is vastly overstated. We can spend hours dissecting lineup construction, or bullpen decisions, but the overwhelming majority of managers do things the same way.
Also, the overwhelming majority of bullpen decisions that drive postgame shows have logical reasons that the public never hears — one guy got hot too many times the night before, or another guy’s arm is sore and the team is considering the DL.
Particularly these days, the most important work a manager does is behind the scenes. It’s in stopping problems before they surface, in understanding who really needs a day off, and who just needs to be pushed a bit to keep playing. It’s in having a feel for exactly how much to ask of guys, but not so much that they get hurt or see their production drop.
It’s a hard job, in other words, and even in a season in which most of us agree Ned made some obvious mistakes with Joakim Soria in the last few weeks, he was also the manager making decisions when the team had baseball’s longest bullpen scoreless streak in decades.
My opinion on Ned is always unsatisfying to many Royals fans, and if I wanted to play politics or think only of my column, it’d be better if I thought he was the best or the worst. The problem is I think he’s ... fine. He’s great in the clubhouse, which is the most important thing, but he also occasionally lets his loyalty and belief in players turn into a weakness.
The Royals’ rise from trash to trophies is built in part on the team overcoming some key strategic mistakes, but the foundation is a generally stubborn confidence that in no small part comes from the manager.
You can’t just focus on the negative, is what I’m saying. It’s all part of the same package. And it’s all part of the package that includes an unforgettable 2014 postseason, and a parade that will be remembered forever.
Most everything I have to say about Kansas football I said in this here column. I hope you read it, because there’s a lot there, especially the acknowledgment from athletic director Sheahon Zenger about his future and the perspective of donor Dana Anderson, who sees the consequences of the football team’s success or failure as far bigger than anyone’s job.
I do hope Beaty gets a fair shot at this. He may fail, and he may end up a victim of the circumstances he inherited, but he needs to get a fair shot. If KU ends up 1-11 this year — and, let’s be honest, anything else would be a surprise — the talk of him being fired should be ignored by smart people.
Anderson mentioned year three — 2017 — as the point when on-field progress needs to be visible, and that makes enough sense. You can’t be 1-35 and feel entitled to keep your job.
But you also can’t be cycling through new coaches every two or three years and expect to gain any traction, or hold onto any shred of credibility. The reality is that if it doesn’t work with Beaty, it’s hard to imagine it ever working, short of a program sugar daddy bankrolling KU into semi-regular bowl contention.
Somehow, I hadn’t heard about this until seeing this question and looking it up. Here is video of the statement:
If you can’t or don’t want to watch the video, some excerpts from Rose-Ivey, a Rockhurst High grad, who kneeled with two teammates during the national anthem before Nebraska’s game against Northwestern last weekend:
▪ “We did this understanding the implications of these actions, but what we didn’t expect was the enormous amount of hateful, racially-motivated comments we received from friends, peers, fans, members of the media and others about the method of protest. While you may disagree with the method, these reactions further underscore the need for this protest and gives us just a small glimpse into the persistent problem of racism in this country and the divisive mentality of some Americans.”
▪ “To make it clear, I am not anti-police, I am not anti-military, nor am I anti-American. I love my country deeply and I appreciate the freedoms it professes to afford me.”
▪ “I was still referred to (on) Facebook and Twitter as a ‘clueless, confused (N-word)’ by former high school classmates, friends, peers and even Husker fans ... some said we deserved to be lynched or shot just like the other black people that have died recently. Another believed that since we didn’t want to stand for the anthem, we should be hung before the anthem for the next game.”
▪ “My freshman year, I can remember going to a frat party and was told that ‘(N-word) are not allowed in this house.’ We were escorted out several minutes later by security officers.”
▪ “I believe we are supposed to look out for one another and call out the injustices in this world against the oppressed, even when you have nothing to gain and you have everything to lose. ... We all have an important role. We all have that responsibility.”
OK, now this is me again.
First, I think Nebraska, and the coaches there, should be commended for allowing Rose-Ivey the opportunity to do that. Good for them.
Good for Rose-Ivey, too, for having the courage and just as importantly the energy, interest, and depth to express how he feels so publicly. Not all college kids are capable of that, and even fewer are willing.
I think the best point he made is that there is real ugliness in the world, whether you like it or not, whether you’re aware of it or not, and whether it makes you comfortable or not. Non-violent social protest is a critical part of what makes America great. Protests aren’t supposed to be comfortable, or pretty. They’re supposed to start a conversation.
Rose-Ivey has done something that most of the professionals who also profess to be involved in the protest have so far been unwilling or unable to do. I hope more take his lead, because it’s relatively easy to raise a fist or take a knee with Colin Kaepernick as cover. It’s much harder to express exactly what is motivating you, what’s upsetting you, what you’re doing to help and what you’re asking from others.
I haven’t written or said much about any of this, mostly because I believe everyone is screaming over each other and unwilling to even listen to the other side. But I hope when men like Rose-Ivey do things like this, people at least give it a chance. One of the great ironies is when people praise the freedoms represented by the anthem while simultaneously being upset at others for exercising those freedoms.
I love America. I don’t want to live anywhere else, and if I did, I’d want to come here. My biggest frustration is the increasing fragmentation, where too many of us retreat to our bunkers, surround ourselves with people who think like we do, and close our eyes, ears and minds to anyone who disagrees.
That’s the muscle behind this push, because sports is this country’s great connector. It is the most popular form of entertainment in which left and right, gay and straight, black and white, are on the same team and watching the same shows.
This can’t be ignored, in other words, by either side, and while I understand the sentiment to keep sports as an escape, I believe there’s something more important at stake here.
The extremes of each side include a lack of reason and empathy. There’s a middle ground here that can help us all move forward, and better connect, and feel the frustrations of the other side. Enough of us just have to be willing to listen.
Except for pie. Pumpkin pie is delicious, and an important part of Americana. But all of your pumpkin spice, and everything else — especially beer — can sleep with the fishes.
I actually thought the line was OK against the Jets. The interior had some problems, but that’s a harsh judge, considering the injuries and that the interior defensive line is among the Jets’ biggest strengths.
I wondered about Smith’s confidence in the line after the Houston game, because I thought he had happy feet a little too quickly and a little more often than should be expected. But if anything, at least on first look, against the Jets I thought he held onto it too long. Needed to get rid of the ball, or break the pocket, and did neither.
Teams are defending the Chiefs a little differently now. Smith prolonged so many drives with his legs last year, it really was one of the biggest reasons for 11 consecutive victories. But teams are doing a better job of taking that away now, with what football nerds call gap integrity and, at times, using a spy to cut down running lanes.
In theory, this should mean more opportunities to pass. It should mean receivers with more space, and running backs better able to make plays with receptions out of the backfield. We’ve seen some of that, especially Spencer Ware in the passing game, but we are obviously at the point where the league has adjusted and Reid and the Chiefs need to adjust back.
I expect they will. But I also expected they would have against the Jets.
I know a lot of people want to be angry, and I get it. The Royals won’t have Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain and Wade Davis and a lot of these other very good baseball players together for much longer* and every year without a championship or even a postseason is a year wasted. Baseball fans in Kansas City have waited for decades, and they have every right to want the most of these good years.
* One more year, actually.
But I don’t have it in me to be angry. Not about this team. Not after the last two years, the greatest joyride in the history of Kansas City sports. The Royals have, literally, changed the way baseball is viewed and consumed by an entire city and region. They have turned perhaps the worst franchise in professional sports into the dang World Series champions — and, honestly, the postseason before that was more fun until the final out.
I also think it’s worth pointing something out here. We’re both using the word “eulogy,” and it fits for this year, because with one more loss or one more win by the Orioles they will be officially eliminated from the playoffs. But it’s not a eulogy for this group, because they have at least one more year together, at least before the scheduled free-agency of guys like Hosmer, Moustakas, Davis, Cain, Alcides Escobar and Danny Duffy.
That doesn’t mean the Royals can’t win in 2018 — they need some production from the farm system, but it’s possible — it just means it won’t be with this group.
But those are worries for another day. A day a year from now, actually. At the moment, let’s just call it what it is — a disappointing, but predictable falloff for a team that still has two flags and a world championship trophy and one more year with this group to make it more.