Things move fast, and so I sit here today as the same person who said as recently as two weeks ago that any talk about Alex Smith being benched was foolish and am now saying the conversation is completely different.
Two horrendous performances in a row, against defenses that should’ve been ripped apart, in a season that’s never been about merely making the playoffs, will do that. Smith’s worst four games are his last four games, and his worst two are his last two.
If Smith played merely average the last two weeks, I believe the Chiefs would be 8-3 instead of 6-5.
Heck, if Smith just played badly the last two weeks, I believe the Chiefs would be 8-3 instead of 6-5.
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He has been terrible, the Chiefs’ worst player at the moment, and this free fall will not stop until that changes.
Here is the part where I tell you why I still believe Andy Reid — who should wear his own share of the blame here — is making the right decision by starting Smith at the Jets on Sunday. We talked about this a lot on the Border Patrol, and I do hope you’ll listen, but I’ll also try to explain here.
Switching quarterbacks cannot be an emotional decision. It cannot be because you “need a spark,” especially not in the Chiefs’ specific situation. Patrick Mahomes is not just a rookie. He’s 22 years old, less than four years removed from high school graduation.
There was near unanimous agreement when he was drafted — incredibly gifted, real potential to be a star, but also very raw, in need of at least a year of adjusting and learning.
Alex Smith is not just the starting quarterback. He’s 33 years old, in his 13th season, and has seen every bit of professional adversity imaginable. His teammates talk reverentially about him, and he was the quarterback two years ago when the team started 1-5 and then won 11 straight including a playoff game.
This is his fifth year in Kansas City, and the offense has basically been built around him, his tendencies, his strengths, and his weaknesses. There are runs that take advantage of his athleticism, and so many of the passing plays are based around timing. These are Smith’s strengths, and Mahomes did very little of this at Texas Tech.
Reid’s offense is somewhat famously complex, and he’s been stacking more layers every year in Kansas City because he’s had continuity with Smith — who really is exceptionally intelligent.
Changing quarterbacks now means much more than a different guy taking snaps. It will mean drastically cutting back on what can be called, and coming up with some new stuff that hasn’t been tried even in practice.
This is not a decision that can be made in an instant. It’s a decision that needs to be planned for, which is why I believe the Chiefs should give Mahomes some snaps in practice. Not all, not even most, but some. Smith is five years into this, and he’s a grown man. He should be OK.
If Smith is as bad against the Jets this weekend as he’s been the last two weeks, then I would make a switch if the following is all true:
▪ The coaches believe something is fundamentally broken with Smith, in a way that the very real possibility of Mahomes bombing isn’t significantly worse than the very real possibility of Smith continuing to play like this.
▪ The coaches believe Mahomes can hold up, not just against some elite pass rushers the next few weeks, but against the pressures and inevitable struggles and failures of playing quarterback in the NFL.
▪ The coaches believe the rest of the team would support the move. This is tricky, because no matter who’s playing quarterback, some will disagree. But you need some backing here, and at least a quorum with some of the most important guys — starting with Travis Kelce.
Because at that point, there isn’t much to lose. If Mahomes can’t play, maybe you figure it out sooner this way than you would otherwise. If he can, your 2018 season is ahead of where it would be otherwise.
The Chiefs can get into the playoffs with Smith. I do believe that. But this season has never been about getting into the playoffs. It’s been about advancing, at least to the AFC Championship Game.
If Smith continues to struggle this badly, who cares if you risk missing out on another early playoff loss if it means a better shot at something more?
Smith has been through enough, and overcome enough, to give him another chance. He’s still the same human who was dang near perfect the first seven weeks, and still the same human who has been through worse than this and come out better on the other side.
So I’m not there yet with benching him. But I’m closer than I ever thought I’d be this season.
Those were happy, innocent times.
Painting with broad brushes almost always means misrepresenting the truth, so I’ll only speak for myself when I say I certainly never expected the Alex Smith MVP stuff to stick, but I did expect the Chiefs to remain one of the better teams in the AFC.
This season is drunk, and the analogy actually works. The season spent the first month or so drinking socially, and everything was good, everyone was having fun. The timing on the jokes was perfect, the laughter wouldn’t stop, and it was all enough to look past the rough edges.
But nobody can drink forever, eventually you need to know your limit, so the last six weeks have been telling a horrendously offensive joke.
Postgame the last two weeks has been friends trying for an intervention, and the Chiefs nodding along that, yes, yes, we need to make changes and that starts now, but then the weekend comes and they’re making the same mistakes.
It’s excruciating to watch.
They’re better than this. They have better players, better coaches. This is a group that’s averaged more than 10 wins the last four years, and at least in the abstract, had its best roster of the bunch for 2017.
They were never going to keep up that pace of the first five weeks. Nobody does. But I’m not sure how anyone could’ve expected this.
The Chiefs are a legitimately bad team right now. Not flawed. Not struggling. Just rotten. This won’t make anyone feel better, but it’s sort of funny to think back to 5-0 or especially 5-2 (after the Oakland loss) when the problem was defense.
They couldn’t stop the run, and Kenneth Acker was getting his tryout because they couldn’t stop the pass much, either.
Now, they just signed Darelle Revis and it is absolutely laughable to think anyone believes that solves the problem.
We’re going to talk a lot about Alex Smith here — and I do hope you read my game column about how bad he’s been and why — and he’s the single biggest problem right now. But I’d feel a lot better about the Chiefs going forward if he was the only problem. He’s not.
The offensive line hasn’t been good enough. The play calling has not been good enough. Marcus Peters could’ve won the game on Sunday with what looked like a layup of a pick-six, but just whiffed. Travis Kelce isn’t involved enough. Tyreek Hill isn’t doing enough.
They’ve also turned remedial in some basic areas. The defense was called for 12 men on the field, which can happen, but from all appearances they had no idea they had 12 men on the field. Nobody was making an effort to get off the field. Two receivers went for the same screen pass. That’s Bad News Bears kind of stuff.
These are basic things that you shouldn’t tolerate from a team full of rookies, but it’s happening with a relatively experienced group that’s been together for a long time.
They really do stink right now.
The fatalism exists for a reason, and I did my best to explain it here. The reality of rooting for the Chiefs is that unless you are at least 55 or older and have been a fan your entire life, you know nothing more than letdown after letdown broken up only occasionally by bursts of excitement that only lead to the next letdown.
Before 2014, I used to say a lot that Royals fans expect a monster around every corner, because for the last two decades, there had been a monster around every corner.
Well, Chiefs fans expect a monster around every corner, because for the last 47 years, there has been a monster around every corner.
It is an inarguable fact that The Kicker Who Shall Not Be Named missing short kicks over and over in the cold has nothing to do with the Chiefs being unable to protect a 28-point lead in a dome. Or that Elvis Grbac making that face and failing the way he failed has nothing to do with losing a home playoff game despite not giving up a touchdown.
All of those things are unrelated, except for the costumes worn by players.
But it’s certainly not the fans’ fault for feeling like it’s all unbreakingly connected. If you have six relationships in a row that end because they cheated on you, you’re probably going to expect the seventh to cheat on you.
I do have to say this, though. You never know quite how the Chiefs will break your heart or piss you off.
You may be pretty sure what the ending will look like, but you can’t predict all the plot twists. Just in the last few years, the Chiefs have lost early playoff games after a 9-0 start and a 1-5 start. They lost one playoff game despite scoring 44 points, and another despite allowing 18.
They may yet rally this thing back. They’re 1-5 in their last six, but they were 1-5 in their first six two years ago and ended up winning a playoff game for the first time in a generation*.
* Against Brian Hoyer, but still, it’s in the record books and everything.
So I don’t think it’s accurate to say that all hope is lost. They’re still in first place, a game up in the division, after all. But it’s absolutely accurate to say the burden of proof is on the team.
1. Alex Smith. Again, I hope you read the game column if you haven’t already. He has been terrible these last few weeks in most ways that a quarterback can be terrible. He’s missing basic throws, he’s passing into coverage, he’s not creating, he’s not throwing people open, his pocket presence is gone, he’s not seeing open receivers. I don’t know how you could watch the last two games and come to any conclusion other than Smith is the biggest problem.
Not the only problem, but the biggest.
2. Andy Reid. Some of this is play calling. The Kelce read-option had no chance from the jump, and Reid appears fundamentally unable to adjust against the adjustments that the league made after five games. Kelce talked about how the Chiefs can’t beat Cover 2, and that would be an enormous problem on its own, but it’s even more than that. Defenses are stacking the box, daring Smith and the Chiefs to beat them with quick decisions and throws downfield, and they’re winning that bet over and over and over again.
The lack of adjustment is pretty stunning, really. This is what you’d expect from a coach who put all his energy and resources into defense. Reid is an offense guy. This is supposed to be what he does well.
3. Offensive line. They are overmatched up front, and not all of that is their fault. This group was put together to be athletic, which means the Chiefs were prioritizing mobility over strength at the point of attack. It was never going to be a great run block unit, but they’ve been worse than should be expected. There are also protection issues. Eric Fisher really had an awful game against the Bills. At times, Smith is making the problem up front worse by ruining angles and breaking out too early, but he’s had reason to be distracted by the rush.
4. Travis Kelce isn’t involved enough. Time and time again on Sunday, he was open, in crucial spots, and Smith just didn’t see him. Smith threw short of the sticks to Wilson on a third down when Kelce had broken open across the field on a really nice play call by Reid against zone coverage. Kelce was also open on the failed fourth down to Hill, and open on the game-ending interception. He had just four targets. That’s absurd. He’s their best offensive player, and the one guy Smith should have the most trust in.
5. Inexperience and lack of continuity with the other receivers. Chris Conley’s injury is showing up. He was developing into a nice option, talented and smart and reliable particularly in big spots. Albert Wilson was also injured, and in his first game back was part of that comedy routine when he and Hill went for the same screen pass.
6. Harrison Butker. Just kidding. He’s been amazing.
As for Peters, he was bad against the Bills. Their touchdown was against his coverage, and he absolutely could have won the game with that pick-six. That was as easy as you could expect it, the ball floating, Peters making the read, open field in front of him. I have no idea what happened, and he left the locker room before anyone could ask. That’s a play that just has to be made, and I can’t imagine Peters would argue the point.
I also want to say here that Peters is not the problem. He hasn’t been as good as we’ve come to expect, that’s true. Even with the other corners struggling, teams aren’t avoiding him. According to Pro Football Focus, he’s given up four touchdowns on 54 targets after allowing three in 91 targets last year.
So, the very long list of Chiefs employees who need to get better includes Peters.
But he’s still the best they have, and particularly with Eric Berry injured and Justin Houston slowed for a lot of reasons, the defense’s best playmaker.
I’ll never tell anyone how to live their life, and especially won’t tell anyone how to be a fan, and ESPECIALLY won’t tell a fan they’re making a mistake by tuning out from this garbage*.
* Just please continue to follow kansascity.com!
The Chiefs are in the entertainment business, and right now they are not entertaining. That’s their fault, and their problem to fix. Fans don’t owe them time. The team owes it to fans to make it worth their time.
I’m not going to make the point passionately, but if you want hope, I’d just point out that the last season that included a 1-5 stretch also included a playoff win. The Chiefs are in first place now, despite themselves, and that certainly doesn’t mean another miracle is coming but it does suggest possibility.
Sports are supposed to be fun. Sports are supposed to grab us and make us watch, so when the opposite is happening, and sports are pushing us away, who would blame you for finding something else to do?
But, seriously. Please continue to follow kansascity.com.
My kids gotta eat!
This is a true story. The Super Bowl is Feb. 4. My wife’s birthday is Feb. 3. For a while there, I was in a sort of sportswriter-husband purgatory, because the team I cover was good enough that I didn’t feel like I could make any real plans.
Well, last night, I was looking at beaches, and I have to tell you, I like what I saw.
I am fully on Team Marriott and Southwest, so I’m trying to figure out a place where that intersects, where the travel wouldn’t take too long, so we could spend three nights or so with clear minds and then get back to be with the kids.
If you know a place, please reach out to email@example.com.
For the spirit of your question, I assume you’re including places like UCLA and Florida that have already hired coaches. I’m taking your question as the best of the programs to hire new coaches, and the worst.
Best: UCLA. Most people would say Florida, and I get it. Lots of money, major brand in a state that produces a ton of talent. The SEC East is doable at the moment, and resources will never be an issue. That’s all great. But I happen to believe the SEC is crazy, and not in a good way. It Just Means More is often bad for the coaching soul. Jim McElwain won 19 games his first two seasons and didn’t get a fourth, and I’m not here arguing that he should’ve.
To me, UCLA is a little more reasonable, the Pac-12 is a lot more doable, and Los Angeles is full of recruits. I understand the downsides. You’re second to USC in the city, and further down the ladder if you include pro teams. But you should be able to build a little momentum, and if you win there, you’re a hero instead of the guy who merely fulfilled your fans’ God-given right to win a championship.
Worst: Tennessee. My goodness, who would want to walk into that pile of hot garbage?
10. Elf. My ranking here is sort of the inverse of Big 12 football: a big gap between No. 9 and 10, and a much smaller gap between No. 9 and No. 1. If you want to go Batman Returns, or Lethal Weapon, or a few others here, you’ll get no static from me. Matter of fact, the rest get quotes, not just a disclaimer.
9. Christmas Carol. “Old Marley was as dead as a doornail.”
8. Gremlins. “Bright light!”
7. It’s a Wonderful Life. “No man is a failure who has friends.”
6. Trading Places. “Hey that’s the motherf....I mean, that’s the gentleman that had me busted!”
5. Die Hard. “Yippie-Ky-Yay.”
4. Christmas Vacation. “Worse? How could things get any worse? Take a look around here, Ellen. We’re at the threshold of hell!” It also works for the Chiefs.
3. Love Actually. “If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.”
2. How The Grinch Stole Christmas. “And he, himself, the Grinch, carved the roast beast.”
1. A Christmas Story. “FUUUUUUDDDDDGGGGGEEEEEE!”
Of course he does. I believe he wants to win for a lot of reasons, including profit, including ego, including glory, including because his father never won the trophy with his name on it, and including the simple idea that if you’re competing for anything you want to win.
Now, is he obsessed with winning? Do the losses eat at him the way they eat at others? I don’t know that. I’m not going to make that case. In an irrelevant hypothetical, would he rather win a Super Bowl and lose $10 million, or lose in the divisional round and make $50 million? I don’t know. The man likes money.
But, honest question, what has he done to make you think his desire to win hasn’t risen to at least a minimum level?
When Carl Peterson was effectively fired — technically, he resigned — Hunt hired the consensus hottest GM candidate in the sport and supported him with resources.
Hunt’s biggest mistake with Scott Pioli was being so out of touch with the day-to-day that he didn’t realize how bad things were until it was too late, but I understand his tendency to stay out of football, to let the football guys do the football, and respect that he corrected that mistake.
So his second go-round, he again hired the consensus best GM candidate in the sport, paired him with the consensus best available head coach, and changed the power structure so that both men answered directly to him.
Hunt has never gone cheap with football operations. Andy Reid is one of the highest paid coaches in the league, and the Chiefs are always bumping against the salary cap. There are never any complaints from football operations about a lack of resources.
Hunt’s failings, generally, are more about brand management. They’re more about sometimes allowing the Chiefs to be too corporate, and not family enough. They’re about, basically, not having the everyman quality of his father, and no matter what, he’ll always be compared to his father — fairly or otherwise.
But none of that has anything to do with the football product.
I’m just unclear what he’s doing right now that’s holding the organization back. Is he supposed to fire Andy Reid right now?
The owner is not the problem.
I wonder if he’s hurt. Not rotator-cuff-surgery hurt, but maybe sore-shoulder hurt. Something is really, really off, and it’s too much to be explained by just one thing.
There are too many basic throws being missed. Nothing complicated, nothing that requires anything other than a base level of NFL talent, and too many of those throws are just sailing or dying. To me, that looks more physical than mental.
But there’s more!
I believe that receivers aren’t always in the right spots. I’m suspicious of this for a lot of reasons, like the fact that he doesn’t have good chemistry with a lot of these guys yet.
The fourth-down pass to Tyreek Hill is a good example. It looks like Hill curls quicker than Smith expected, so the throw was more toward the middle of the field. It probably would’ve been completed in either spot — the quarterback and receiver just needed to agree on the spot.
That Kelce also appeared open on the play adds to the frustration, but the point here is that it’s not just one thing.
Some of this, I believe, is also mental. There appears to be little to no trust in the pocket. He’s backing up too far in the pocket, which ruins his blockers’ angles, hesitant to step into the pocket to buy an extra second, instead opting to break out, where his goal too often is survival and not making a play.
There is a lot going on here, and I hope we’re all agreeing that we’re all taking different degrees of guesses, but right now it looks to me like defenses are forcing Smith to beat them and he’s incapable of it.
Reid wears some of the blame here, for sure. But Smith gets too much freedom, and is missing on too many opportunities to make plays, for him not to take most of this.
Distinctions at this level aren’t worth making, so I’ll stay a little vague and say this is one of Smith’s worst stretches with the Chiefs.
This season is going nowhere if he doesn’t fix that.
I assume you’re asking about Alabama here, because if they’re left out, many will say the playoffs are lessened. I get it.
We all want to see the best teams, and I think most of us would agree that Alabama would probably beat Oklahoma and Wisconsin, but I’m also here to tell you Alabama has exactly two top 25 wins and had its chance to win its way into the playoffs.
I don’t have sympathy for that.
Wisconsin also has two top 25 wins, but, crucially, zero losses. You’re going to hold them out? An undefeated champion of a Power 5 conference (if the Badgers win the Big 10 championship game)?
Oklahoma slipped against Iowa State, but won at Ohio State, at Oklahoma State, and against TCU at home. You’re going to hold them out? Because Alabama was ranked higher in the preseason, and has better pro prospects?
The playoff has changed things for me a little. Everyone has a chance to win their way in now. Some have better chances, I get it. Some have to face stiffer competition, others get less margin for error if they slip. But the point is everyone has a chance.
It’s not the perfect system. I’d love to see an eight-team playoff, or even a six-team with the top two seeds receiving byes. But we’re not there yet. Right now, we have a system with only four spots, and I’d be bummed if those didn’t go to the most deserving teams.
I, uh ... I don’t think so.
There is a list of circumstances that would put Hosmer back in Kansas City. It would include the Red Sox signing J.D. Martinez, most likely, but also cash-capable teams like the Mets and Angels and Yankees not signing the best available first baseman and perhaps the best available free agent.
The Royals really are in a tough spot. I don’t know anyone inside the organization who believes they will sign Hosmer, but there is a hope that perhaps they could sign him, enough that they don’t want to do anything major until they know for sure.
It amounts, basically, to waiting around the phone hoping your ex’s date goes terribly. They are, in some ways, trying their best not to be Mikey in Swingers.
If they’re able to sign Hosmer, it will be for far less than Hosmer expects to sign for, and almost certainly less than his best offer. Perhaps naively, I do believe Hosmer genuinely likes Kansas City and the Royals, so there’s a chance he’s willing to do that.
It’s just not a chance I would bet on.
I’ve never turned down even one million dollars, let alone several, and will never expect anyone else to do it either.
I am well aware that I’m in the minority here, but I actually don’t have a problem with KU sticking with Beaty at this point.
The thing to be frustrated with is Bernadette Gray-Little giving AD Sheahon Zenger a gift extension on the way out the door, and Zenger giving Beaty a completely unnecessary raise and higher buyout after a 2-10 season.
And I would argue that Beaty’s single biggest mistake was unnecessarily raising expectations this season, though there’s a strong case that his insistence on pretending he didn’t raise those expectations was an even bigger mistake.
The problem with firing Beaty now is that it doesn’t save any money, and I’m not sure it gets you any closer to whatever low standard of success exists with that program. There are a lot of coaches available right now, so sure, go for it, but there are a lot of coaches available every year.
The worst outcome of giving Beaty another year is that you have to fire him in 2018, but at that point, at least you’ve given a coach a fourth year for the first time since Mangino and hopefully you’re able to offer a more attractive job because you’re a year closer to facility upgrades and have a fuller roster.
All of which is a long way of saying I don’t think of Beaty as the unmitigated disaster that most do. He took over a pile of garbage, and three years later, still has a pile of garbage. I can’t blame him for that.
Bell, actually, left the Royals in better shape than he found them, though I don’t believe big-league managers have enough impact to give him the lion’s share of credit there.
To me, Bell will always be remembered for “I’ll never say it can’t get worse.” It perfectly encapsulated everything about those Royals teams, even if it wasn’t said in the midst of a losing streak that, indeed, got much worse.
I’m realizing now that I haven’t answered your question, and if it’s OK with you I’m going to keep it that way because neither era deserves to be chosen. They should play to a 0-0 tie, a steel-cage match in which neither is able to leave.
You guys might think I’m joking here, but straight up: I would LOVE to see this. Absolutely. Would LOVE it.
Reid would be terrific, too. I don’t know that he’s ever shown it in front of a TV camera, or any formal news conference setting, but he is quick witted and can be, depending on his mood, hilarious or ruthless. In front of TV cameras, he’ll occasionally drop a joke about cheeseburgers twice a year or so, and that’s about it.
If he really wanted to let it fly, he could combine Denny Green’s passion with Jim Mora’s sarcasm with Lee Elia’s anger.
It would be beautiful, and it would be unforgettable.
My best guess:
“Look, you think you can coach this team better than I can, be my guest, because I’ve listened long enough to these dumb questions and heard from enough fans who think the fix is for me to stop calling the plays that don’t work to know I’ve got a hell of a lot of job security with this thing.
“This is the NFL, and what we do is a little more than watch YouTube highlights while eating hot dogs and then getting on Twitter and screaming about stacked boxes or missed receivers.
“I’ve been doing this since most of you were in grade school, long enough to know that if there’s a coach who can fix a broken quarterback playing behind a broken line with receivers who don’t know what they’re doing, that coach isn’t taking this job, and if you want to keep pummeling me with these questions, I’m going to take all this money and go to my house on the beach and eat cheeseburgers and maybe get a fake Twitter account to harass you guys the way you’re harassing me now.
“OK. Any other dumb questions?”
Look, again, I’m not here to tell anyone how to be a fan. But I do know you’ll drive yourself crazy if you think about how close your team was to certain wins or accomplishments.
What the Royals did in 2015 covered up a lot. Can you imagine how differently you’d feel about Alex Gordon’s triple and Sal Perez’s popout if they’d have lost Game Four of the Division Series in Houston? Or if Lucas Duda — bless his heart, he’s a good bat — threw out Hosmer at the plate and the Mets went back to Kansas City with momentum and the starting-pitching advantage?
You’re a K-State fan, so aren’t you happier when you’re not thinking about Sirr Parker? Aren’t Mizzou fans happier when they’re not thinking about Tyus Edney, or Tony VanZant? Aren’t KU fans happier when they’re not thinking about Trey Burke (or Elijah Johnson for that matter) or Northern Iowa or VCU?
You’ll never get out of this, if you let yourself get into it. Don’t do it John!
I understand that rooting for K-State is a delicate matter right now. Your coach is a 78-year-old with a cancer diagnosis and succession plan that not many agree with. The last time he didn’t coach, he had to come back to save the program, and that’s a scary future to face.
Through all of this, your team now has two of the most exciting wins in the conference this year, including one of the most exciting wins anywhere last weekend.
Take the win, my man. Take the win.
That was the hardest story I’ve ever written, and I say that not to make it about me, because it clearly is not, but to make the point that I think about that story all the time. I can’t say I think about Michael’s story every day, but I doubt I’ve gone a full week without thinking about him, at least once.
I think about my own conversations with him. I think about his courageous and strong wife. I think about their little boy, who is about 7 by now. I think about Michael’s wonderful grandmother, one of my favorite people I’ve met through this job.
And, yes, inevitably, that means I think about my own boys. I guess I can’t know for sure how I’d feel if I hadn’t known Michael a little when he was alive, and hadn’t talked with Cassandra and so many others after he died.
But I think about Michael every time a football game is on in our house, and one of our boys is in the room. I think about him every time our 3 year old wants to play tackle with a friend. I think about him every time a high school story comes my way.
I hope my kids don’t want to play football. I think I would’ve felt that way without Michael’s story, but I probably feel stronger about it now. Whatever chunk of time we talk about CTE, most of it is about NFL stars, or guys who played many years in the league and made a lot of money.
Michael, to me, will always represent the undertold part of the tragedy. There was no massive trauma that took headlines. He did not die on the field, or in a hospital shortly after leaving the field. He did not play professionally, and barely played in college.
The damage to his brain was done almost entirely in high school, and before. There are so many unknowns. He was born to two drug addicts, so was there something in his brain chemistry that made him more vulnerable? Was there something about playing varsity as a freshman — my goodness, he really was talented — that made it all worse?
Did he suspect problems at any point, but feel that too much of his worth and identity were with football that he didn’t say anything?
I have no answers here, just questions. Just questions, and worries. My heart breaks for everyone who loved Michael, and it is brutally unfair that his son will never know his father.
Again, nobody has answers about this. But I do feel strongly about a few things. No kids should play tackle football before high school, and if I was in charge, there wouldn’t be tackling until sophomore year.
A greater emphasis needs to be placed on tackling technique, and a culture change is required in how we think about and deal with these things. That’s true even now, most clearly illustrated by Russell Wilson’s joke of a concussion test a few weeks ago on national TV. We’ve seen it with the Chiefs a few times, too, with Travis Kelce and Alex Smith passing the NFL’s inherently flawed protocol when they clearly should not have.
I love football. I love football for a thousand reasons, including the violence, and anyone who plays the sport now does so without any excuse of not knowing the dangers. It’s a terrific game, and valuable for lessons far beyond blocking technique or how to use leverage against the corner.
But you’re asking me how my thoughts have evolved, and I’m telling you that if there was any doubt before, hearing and helping to tell Michael’s story convinced me I don’t ever want my kids to play football. There are other sports they can learn those lessons.
This week, I’m particularly grateful for a good night’s sleep. Sometimes, you need a stubborn toddler and an absolute inability to get back to sleep to fully appreciate how amazing it is to sleep for six or seven consecutive hours.