Sam Mellinger

Mellinger Minutes: Chiefs’ amazing schedule (is another fall coming?) and Odom’s future

Here is the Chiefs 2018 Schedule

The Kansas City Chiefs will play in primetime six times in 2018. Once on Thursday Night Football, three times on Sunday Night Football and twice more on Monday Night Football.
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The Kansas City Chiefs will play in primetime six times in 2018. Once on Thursday Night Football, three times on Sunday Night Football and twice more on Monday Night Football.

The second-best thing about this Chiefs season is that every game you’d want to see, you get to see.

The new-look Chiefs against the team that bullied them far too often, including out of the 2016 playoffs and out of that 5-0 start last year? Saw that Week 2.

The shiny new quarterback against the AFC West’s best defense, cocky and ready, on the road on Monday night? Week 4.

The league’s most-explosive offense against the nastiest defense, with Tyreek Hill against Jalen Ramsey? Just saw it.

Bill Belichick with 10 days to prepare, and Patrick Mahomes playing in the league’s marquee timeslot and hardest road venue? Coming up.

The Chiefs against the AFC’s only other team with fewer than two losses? That’s next week, and was just flexed to primetime.

The Chiefs against the league’s consensus best overall team, featuring the wildly talented cornerback they just traded for the equivalent of a bag of mulch? That’ll be next month, in Mexico.

This is the middle of the most interesting stretch of the schedule, and Sunday night’s game at New England is the final step of a three-week stretch in which the Chiefs are facing their toughest challenge of the season — Denver’s defense on the road and in primetime, then Jacksonville’s band of pirates, and now Bill Belichick where the phones don’t work.

Sports don’t often do this for us, so let’s enjoy this now, because the schedule turns into the NFL equivalent of 1990s Bill Snyder in the last eight games — the second-most interesting game after the Rams is, what, at Oakland? Ravens at home?

Things we’ve learned so far, five games in:

- Patrick Mahomes is a star. He’s as good right away as the Chiefs believed he could be in year three, mostly because his effectiveness in the pocket came immediately*.

*Believe it or not, Mahomes actually isn’t significantly better throwing deep than Alex Smith was last year. Using Pro Football Focus’ numbers, Mahomes is 16-for-33 for 472 yards, five touchdowns, no interceptions, and a passer rating of 134.15 when throwing deep. Last year, Smith was 23-for-45 for 1,344 yards, 12 touchdowns, one interception, and a 127.08 passer rating. The difference has been Mahomes’ ability working the pocket, and creating plays after breakdowns.

- They can move the ball on anyone, including the league’s best defenses.

- The defense is as much a problem as a lot of us thought, but the problems are a little different than expected. They’re not stopping that run, as Reggie Ragland promised, and the inside linebackers have been a mess. The corners have been fine. Sometimes even good.

- The Chiefs have a chance to boatrace the AFC West, and two more wins would go a long way toward boatracing the entire AFC. The Chiefs already have two road wins in the division, and are the only team without a loss.

- Dee Ford is playing like a star.

- All of it might not matter in the end if the defense doesn’t improve. They’ve got to figure out a way to cover backs and tight ends, and Justin Houston’s injury presents a significant challenge in the pass rush.

Things we can learn going forward:

- how well can the Chiefs adjust to life without Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, one of their top lineman and perhaps the best in space on screen passes?

- can they really keep up this pace offensively through the postseason? History tells us virtually everyone has slumps.

- will Eric Berry play?

- who wins in the postseason: Patrick Mahomes’ talent or the Chiefs’ playoff stink?

This week’s eating recommendation is the Oasis at Prime Sushi* and the reading recommendation is Mike Triplett’s retrospective on Drew Brees.

Please give me a follow on Twitter and Facebook, and as always, thanks for your help and thanks for reading.

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This is the main talking point this week, and something we’ll touch on here in one way or another with a few different answers. Here are five irrefutable facts:

- The Chiefs are the AFC’s best team through five weeks, and it’s not particularly close.

- The same was said a year ago.

- This is sort of like judging a first date by what they order for an appetizer.

- The Patriots are the king of the conference until proven otherwise.

- Sunday’s game could prove ginormous in determining who represents the AFC in the Super Bowl, because a Patriots win effectively pulls them within a half-game of having home-field advantage over the Chiefs while a Chiefs win effectively puts them 3 1/2 games ahead with just 10 to play.

Here are five things to know before the Kansas City Chiefs travel to Foxborough, Mass. to take on the New England Patriots on Sunday Night Football.

Sports make us all dumb sometimes. They make us take stances that don’t matter, and convince us that they do. Literally, as I’m typing this, the TV in front of me has some talking heads on ESPN debating “SHOULD CHIEFS BE AFC FAVORITE?”

The answer is completely irrelevant, and impossible to define, which makes it the perfect thing for one of these shows. But, it’s worth keeping our heads when we can.

To me, a team that hasn’t made it past the division round since Joe Montana was their quarterback cannot and should not be crowned a favorite five games into the season.

But it’s also true that if the jerseys and franchise histories were switched, there would be a rush to debate whether the Chiefs were the greatest team in football history.

The part that matters is that this isn’t college football. This will be decided on the field.

I happen to believe this will be the Chiefs’ stiffest test so far — Belichick at home with extra time to prepare is as difficult as the NFL gets.

But, and this point has been made here before — the Chiefs haven’t just passed each test so far, they’ve aced it.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">I found this before yesterday’s game now it should read 2018 5-0. I truly believe this year is different, and we will be playing in afc championship game, bring me back to earth before my heart is shattered please! <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Jeff Jenkins (@jeffreyjjenkins) <a href="">October 8, 2018</a></blockquote>

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These are facts, and any Chiefs fan who tries to shrug them off knows the skepticism is fair, and that if, say, the Bengals or Jaguars or Chargers were doing this they same skepticism would exist.

We talked a little about this on the Border Patrol, and I hope you listen to the podcast, but there are some undeniable similarities and also some key differences.

I’m going to talk mostly about this year vs. last, and not just because it’s the most recent but because it’s the most relevant in terms of personnel and coaching and scheme and trends.

This is easy to forget, because of the ending, but last year’s team was the hottest in the AFC after five weeks. They manhandled the Patriots in Foxborough, and pushed around the Eagles at home. The Texans were a trendy pick, and the Chiefs beat them in Houston. If such a silly thing existed, Alex Smith would’ve been the league MVP.

That’s a lot of similarities, no? The Chiefs have beaten good teams, most notably the Jaguars on Sunday. They are the hottest team in the AFC after five weeks. If such a silly thing existed, Patrick Mahomes would likely be the league MVP.

So, sure. People should be skeptical. This is a terrific point everyone should keep in mind:

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Just to remind myself how early season news cycles work, I checked to see what the top story was this time last year: It was that Ben McAdoo wasn&#39;t on the hot seat. It&#39;s a long season, everyone.</p>&mdash; Kevin Clark (@bykevinclark) <a href="">October 7, 2018</a></blockquote>

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But some differences exist, too. The most obvious and perhaps significant is the quarterback. Alex Smith is a fine man and better than he was generally given credit for here, but he was always more about keeping the trains running on time than pushing the offense forward on his own. The ceiling of the offense was similar — fifth in yards, sixth in points — but the margin for error was tiny.

That group could score in a second if the execution was there, and it usually was. But if the defense could push them off the tracks just a bit, the whole thing tended to stall.

That’s the biggest difference with Mahomes. That’s his greatest gift.

The other major difference is that a year ago, Week 6, the Chiefs came home and lost to the Steelers in what was basically a replay of the playoff loss from the year before. Eerily similar score, eerily similar production from Le’Veon Bell, eerily similar feeling afterward.

This year, the Chiefs dropped 42 in Pittsburgh, and we all understand these Steelers aren’t exactly those Steelers, but that matters. If the Jaguars are the closest thing to those Steelers, the Chiefs just punched them in the mouth.

But we’re all adults here. If Belichick comes up with some wild gameplan where they drop eight and keep a spy on Mahomes’ right side or something, and the Patriots win 34-24, we’re all going to look at this a lot differently.

The opportunity is huge. Let’s not overstate this, because there will still be 10 games left, and we’ve seen the Chiefs lose at home in the playoffs plenty of times before.

But a win on Sunday means that the Chiefs would have home field advantage over the Patriots in the playoffs barring a significant backslide against a schedule that significantly softens.

Now, let’s look at the skeptical side...

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Last year the defensive breakdowns late in games portended the midseason struggles as well as the defensive collapse against Tennessee. What&#39;s to say this year is any different?</p>&mdash; Robbie Couey (@BinaryPhalanx) <a href="">October 8, 2018</a></blockquote>

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Nothing material, really. The Chiefs are, historically, a playoff paper tiger so there is nothing concrete a reasonable person can use to refute this point.

The Chiefs have to prove it. That’s the way this should be.

Now, you can find signs, if you look for them. Eric Berry missed all but the first three quarters last year, and jokes aside, the Chiefs remain optimistic he will play. Dee Ford was injured and ineffective last year; he is now playing like a star. The cornerbacks are much better than a lot of us anticipated, and whether you believe this or not, that includes Orlando Scandrick.

We’ll get more into this in a bit, but the offense helps the defense, too. The offense is so explosive it changes the decisions and approach of the opponent’s offense. We saw that when the Jaguars went for 4th and 1 inside the 5 on their second drive.

They knew they needed touchdowns, not field goals, and even if Doug Marrone made a boneheaded decision to throw it instead of run it twice there, pressure sometimes forces us all into bad decisions.

I want to be clear. This is not a case for the defense. The Jaguars game was impressive, but they have a lot more to do.

My only point here is that this defense is better equipped than last year, assuming health. Their pass rush is better, their toughness less of a problem, and if Eric Berry returns it’s a major improvement.

Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid spreads the compliments around after the team scored from both sides of the ball in 30-14 win against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday October 7, 2018 in Arrowhead Stadium.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">When do we stop having panic attacks &amp; flashbacks in the 4th quarter when anything bad happens (even if we are up 3 scores)?</p>&mdash; Andrew Brandt (@ABrandt42) <a href="">October 8, 2018</a></blockquote>

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You and I watch these games differently, and without getting into the whole how-a-sportswriter-watches thing again, let me answer directly:

I realized I’m past that in Denver.

Even against that defense, and even in that building, I lacked doubt that Mahomes would make it work. When he threw the ball left handed, instead of jumping up and finding someone to hug like I did with Terez last December, I just laughed, shook my head, and started to think that going into the Broncos locker room might make for a pretty good column.

On 2nd and 30, honestly, I was just excited to see how it would be converted because I knew we weren’t going to see the screen-pass-to-set-up-a-third-down-play-that-won’t-work that last year’s team would’ve tried.

Chiefs fans stayed long after the final whistle at Mile High Stadium to celebrate the 27-23 victory over the Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football.

This guy is different. For years and years and years, the Chiefs have been on the other side. They’ve been the team that can win on the field, but still lose on the scoreboard because their quarterback lacked that extra dimension.

Now, they’re the team that lost on the field to the Broncos, but won on the scoreboard. They’re the team that forces the other side into strange decisions. They’re the one that leaves the best defense in the league with too many threats to cover.

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I haven’t felt good about a single prediction since a prop bet had Justin Houston’s over-under at something like eight sacks for 2014.

The Chiefs opened as a 3 1/2-point underdog against the Patriots, and that feels reasonable. The defense made an important step against the Jaguars, but doing that at home against Blake Bortles is so different than doing it on the road against Tom Brady.

Of course the Chiefs can win, and one of the column ideas I’m kicking around this week will explore exactly how they might do that, but expecting it is something else entirely.

For instance, the Chiefs’ most glaring weakness has been the inability to cover running backs and tight ends. Well, the Patriots’ top receiving threat is tight end Rob Gronkowski. Their No. 2 receiving threat has been running back James White.

That seems like a problem.

The key to beating Brady has traditionally been an ability to bring pressure with four, particularly up the middle. That means Chris Jones might need the performance of his career.

The improvement would presumably need to be with the inside linebackers and safeties being better in coverage, or Bob Sutton figuring out a better way to cover the weakness. I’m interested in how they defend Josh Gordon, too, because he’s the deep threat that will challenge the safeties.

There’s a lot to pick through, in other words. A lot of challenges for the Chiefs. They’ve aced them all so far, but this one’s a little different.

If they win on Sunday, the Chiefs will be like Kanye — can’t tell them nothing. But the NFL has a way of humbling folks, too.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Maybe this is one week too late, but I cringed in horror when I found out that Chiefs spend MORE money on defense than on offense (they are top 10 in the league for money spent on defense, and #1 overall for linebackers). <br><br>How would you fix this?</p>&mdash; Nozzy&#39;s hair color (@ColorNozzy) <a href="">October 8, 2018</a></blockquote>

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Nearly 20 percent of their salary cap is going to Justin Houston and Eric Berry. If those guys are healthy and strong, that’s a reasonable investment. But Houston has generally dropped from elite to very good, and Berry has played three quarters since signing a contract with $40 million guaranteed.

You’re asking about how to fix it. The Chiefs can get out of or at least restructure Houston’s contract after this season — he’ll be a $21.1 million cap hit with $7.1 million in dead money.

That’s a start. The approach of whether to walk away or restructure will be largely guided by what we see going forward, not just Houston’s own health and production, but factors out of his control — Dee Ford’s performance, Tanoh Kpassagnon’s development, and who might be available both in the draft and through free agency.

The Chiefs can’t realistically do anything with Berry’s contract until after 2019, but Allen Bailey will be an unrestricted free agent, freeing $8 million of cap space.

The priority will and should be signing guys already in the building — Tyreek Hill, Chris Jones, Kendall Fuller and Mitch Morse, probably in that order.

There is always room to nip the edges in free agency, and that’s a better way than ever to improve, but the best path will always be through the draft. The Chiefs have an extra second-round pick next year, and for just the second time since 2015 will have a first-round pick.

They’ll almost certainly pick at least one defensive back, and use at least two of those first three picks on defense.

That’s probably not the answer you want to hear, because they’re likely to pick toward the end of the first round, but that’s how it will go. One more time: their best defense needs to be the offense.

Obviously I hope you read the game column, but you’re here now, so let me emphasize one of the major points.

The Chiefs probably can’t have a good defense, and may not be capable of even an average one. But they should focus on fielding a DANGEROUS defense, even at the potential expense of giving up more yards, because the upsides are obviously and the downsides are significantly diminished.

If you give up touchdowns, you’re confident your offense can keep pace.

If you give up quick touchdowns, maybe that was going to happen eventually anyway, and it’s not the worst thing to bring your offense and their defense back on the field.

Put it this way — the Chiefs can make the Super Bowl if they finish dead-last in yards surrendered but also in the top quarter of turnovers forced.

You will not be surprised to hear they are currently dead last in yards. The five turnovers from the Jags pushed the Chiefs up to 11th in turnovers.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="und" dir="ltr"> <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Josh Forge (@jforge1331) <a href="">October 8, 2018</a></blockquote>

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I have no idea why Josh sent this, but it will always make me laugh. I have nothing to add.

Thank you, Josh.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">I’m convinced Patrick Mahomes could be a Bo Jackson type 2 sport star as a flame throwing reliever, and I’m not changing my mind. (I don’t want him to try but still, would be incred.)</p>&mdash; Glenn Winkler (@WaldoGlenn) <a href="">October 8, 2018</a></blockquote>

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Well, if you’re going to beg me to link the story about Mahomes’ baseball life, sure, I’m nothing if not a servant.

This makes for less of a fun story, but it’s what I believe, so here goes. I’m actually skeptical about whether Mahomes could’ve had a lasting baseball career.

Part of that is because we should always be skeptical about any particular baseball prospect having a lasting big league career. The odds are walled up against them.

Mahomes was said to be good enough to be selected somewhere around the second or third round. Just 20 of the 63 players selected in the second and third rounds in 2014 (Mahomes’ draft year) have made the big leagues, and only one (Brian Anderson of the Marlins) has had any real success.

It’s just really, really hard to make the big leagues. Mahomes’ father had an average 11-year career, which makes him a “disappointment” when graded against his status as a one-time top prospect, but also means he was more successful than something like 98 percent of the men who’ve been drafted.

The second reason I’m skeptical is that I think Mahomes is skeptical.

You guys, I might have mentioned this before, but before the season I went to Mahomes’ hometown and talked to everyone I could find who was important in his life and wrote a story about it. I hope you read it. I hope you read it again.

Obviously, the topic of choosing football over baseball came up, and here is part of what he said:

“It would’ve been a grind,” he said. “Football, I was learning a ton. I’m still learning to this day. Baseball, I felt like I almost already peaked.”

That’s pretty telling, no?

Now, it’s true that Mahomes went to Texas Tech believing he’d play quarterback for a few years and then go back to baseball. He was going to give it a try, and who knows, less talented players have achieved big-league success.

But it was far from a sure thing.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Mondesi and Mahomes are both 23. Similarities of career tracks going forward?</p>&mdash; Steven Davis (@StevenDavispxp) <a href="">October 8, 2018</a></blockquote>

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If you follow both the Chiefs and Royals, you’ve almost certainly thought about this.

Some will make the case for Carlos Beltran, but I would argue that Adalberto Mondesi is the Royals’ most physically gifted player since Bo Jackson. The Chiefs have plainly never had anything like Patrick Mahomes.

There are some interesting similarities. They were born less than two months apart. Both of their fathers had long big league careers. They are each blessed with enormous physical talent, and are now the centerpiece of their franchise’s hopes.

You’re asking about going forward. Well, going forward Mahomes will be a star. Already, he’s a star. He will be one of the so-called faces of the league, and the same way he and every other promising quarterback is compared to Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers, soon they’ll all be compared to him.

Maybe that’s presumptuous to say after just five meaningful starts, and I keep saying this, but it’s important — we still need to see him through adversity, still need to see how he tracks a full season, still need to see him in the postseason, etc.

But, it’s what I believe.

With Mondesi, the context is just different. The structure of baseball means there can’t really be one “face of the sport,” and the challenges in hitting the best pitchers in the world mean it’s difficult to stay on top for long.

Mondesi is, in many ways, more gifted than Francisco Lindor. But he’s only 16 months younger, and Lindor has been one of the game’s brightest stars for three years now.

Here’s one thing they both have in common — they’re each good enough to be the best player on a championship team.

That’s a hell of a thing. Quarterback is the most important position in baseball. Shortstop is, at the least, one of the most important positions in baseball.

I would bet on each finishing their career as the best to ever play the position in Kansas City.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="">@mellinger</a> - The Royals plan to keep Ned for at least another year. Given that, and the improvement of the team at the end of the year, is there a succession plan in place within the clubhouse? Is someone being groomed to take over and continue the plan?</p>&mdash; Mike Vogel (@mikvogel) <a href="">October 8, 2018</a></blockquote>

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They have a profile, I guess you’d say.

From what I can gather, the Royals would basically want Ned 2.0, an updated version of Yost for the future of a changing game.

They would prefer someone with previous managing experience, which is worth noting, because the trend elsewhere is for fresh faces. They want someone with respect, who’s a good communicator, has a feel for the game, all the typical traits you’d expect. The biggest difference might be that they’d look for someone with a little more feel for metrics, and the ways baseball is changing.

My friend Derrick Goold was first to the scene on the Royals’ interest in Mike Matheny. Not that Derrick needs it, but I can confirm the interest. There will be other names that come up, too, and they don’t necessarily have to check every box.

If someone like Raul Ibañez was interested, for instance, the Royals might look past their desire for someone with previous experience.

There was a time I wondered if Pedro Grifol or Jason Kendall were being “groomed,” and each would be interesting choices if they wanted the job, but I don’t think that’s happening.

One thing to remember is that whenever Ned retires, he’ll still be around. Not all the time, but he’ll be involved. They’ll give him a special assistant to the GM title, something like that, and his input on the next guy will be valued.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">A lot people saying lack of talent is a problem for K-state. With the exception of Thompson and Barnes, I believe this. But recruiting wasn&#39;t that great in the 90&#39;s either and they were serious contenders. Has Snyder lost his edge or has the game changed? Both?</p>&mdash; Brett Sanford (@thebsan) <a href="">October 8, 2018</a></blockquote>

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That was a really bad loss on Saturday, one that clouds the rest of the season and the future beyond. Just to get bowl eligible now will require beating at least two of Oklahoma State, Oklahoma (in Norman), TCU (in Fort Worth) and Texas Tech.

You’re asking about the problems, and like most things, I don’t think it’s simple. You start with an undeniable if unfortunate truth — any program with a 79-year-old coach is going to be surrounded by uncertainty.

That’s true with recruiting, with retaining and motivating and getting the most out of assistants. It’s true on gameday, and it’s true during the week.

There is an interesting case to be made that Snyder hasn’t lost his edge so much as his edge has been eliminated by the changing times. When he built a power in the 1990s, there wasn’t nearly as much money in college football. Not as many other schools investing.

He could build around juco kids, because there weren’t as many fishermen in those waters, and it’s sensible to believe that finding the two- or three-star recruit who was simply overlooked by services was easier back then. If that’s what you mean by “lost his edge,” sure, I can get behind that.

Mostly, this whole thing just makes me sad. Everyone involved deserves better. Snyder deserves to be remembered for the rise, not the fall, and K-State deserves a cleaner break with a clearer future. Each has been so good for the other, and now they seem to be working against each other.

I root for good stories, so I hope this is wrong, but I’m afraid the last realistic chance at a clean ending began with winning in Waco last weekend.

Here are five things to know before the Kansas State Wildcats take on the Oklahoma State Cowboys.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Would the Adidas/FBI/Kansas story be a bigger deal locally if it happened at K-State or Missouri?</p>&mdash; Carrington Harrison (@cdotharrison) <a href="">October 8, 2018</a></blockquote>

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Meh, I don’t think so. It’d be a bigger deal locally if it involved Bill Self making payments, or it involved salacious details like the stripper party at Louisville, or — and maybe this is just me projecting here — this whole thing wasn’t farcical because players should be paid, no reasonable adult in 2018 can be surprised that they are paid under the table.

I can’t imagine having enough outrage in me to waste some of it on any of this, except to question why the FBI is essentially enforcing outdated, unfair, and dishonest NCAA amateur rules.

The only NCAA “scandal” that’s seemed like a big deal to me is the one at North Carolina, because it involved systemic and long-term diminishing of a degree from there, but even then I can see it’s as much symptom as disease in this charade of presenting a $10 billion business with $50 million coaches as amateur athletics.

I actually think it would be a smaller deal if it happened at K-State or Missouri, the same way any rule breaking in football would be seen as a smaller deal at Kansas than the other schools.

They have some of the country’s biggest programs in the investigation, but they’re struggling to prove that rules were knowingly and openly broken, and that’s assuming any of us should care whether these dumb rules are knowingly or openly broken.

If the reaction locally and more importantly nationally to all of this is a big shrug of the shoulders, I’ll take that as progress.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Pick Barry Odom&#39;s last year as Mizzou coach: 2018, 2019 or 2020.</p>&mdash; Scott Kent (@ScottKent66) <a href="">October 8, 2018</a></blockquote>

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Mizzou will be 3-3 overall and 0-3 in the SEC after Saturday’s thrashing at Alabama, but after that the schedule includes Memphis and arguably the conference’s worst three teams — Vanderbilt, Tennessee, and Arkansas.

Win those and there’s seven wins, even assuming losses to Kentucky and Florida, and it would be difficult to fire a coach with seven wins in his third season after taking over a program in disarray.

Now, all that said, after Saturday it’s hard to imagine them winning each of those games. That was the kind of loss that sticks, with blown opportunities in every corner of the locker room.

This is all speculation, and the answer will change a bit every week, but if you’re a head coach with a defensive background and small buyout and you go 6-6 with the gift of a four-year starter at quarterback who turned down the NFL draft you have some ‘splaining about why you should be the one to lead a program reset.

So, you’re asking a question, and my answer is 2018 because I think it might get worse from here.

Missouri coach Barry Odom discusses the team’s devastating loss at South Carolina on Oct. 6, 2018.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Why wasn’t VAR used in the SKC game?</p>&mdash; adlwpb (@adlwpb) <a href="">October 8, 2018</a></blockquote>

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If you’ve read this space for any length of time, you have probably heard me say that blaming the referee is the ballad of the loser.

I was traveling back after Mizzou’s game in South Carolina, so I did not see Sporting’s game on Saturday. My initial reaction when I saw Vermes’ rant was an eye rolling, and a little curiosity why he went back on an admirable goal of less whining about officials.

Then I saw the calls:

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="und" dir="ltr"> <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; x - Sporting KC (@SportingKC) <a href="">October 7, 2018</a></blockquote>

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Then I read Sam McDowell’s piece on the history of Sporting and referee Jair Marrufo.

And, so, well, this one is complicated for me. There are absolutely other things Sporting could have done to take all three points against the Galaxy, but it’s also true that with fair officiating they would have had no problems.

The use of VAR is an evolving issue, and nobody knows exactly where the line is between getting calls right and not putting obnoxious and unnecessary delays into every game, but here’s a start — put every call that produces a penalty kick to review, the same way every scoring play is reviewed in the NFL.

That seems pretty simple.

Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes criticized the referees after his club tied the LA Galaxy at Children’s Mercy Park.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">You like Guinness involved beer cocktails? Now that fall is here I feel like I need to go get some stout and a variety pack of cider and start half and halfing myself. You have any go-to’s?</p>&mdash; John Bostwick (@JohnB_911) <a href="">October 8, 2018</a></blockquote>

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You guys, I’ve done a complete 180 on this.

I used to be staunchly anti-seasonal drink. I liked what I liked, and that wasn’t going to change. Sometimes a lighter pilsner sounded delicious in the winter, and sometimes in the middle of July I wanted a stout.

I hereby and publicly disavow my former lifestyle.

Give me all the Oktoberfests now, and when November comes give me all the porters and old-fashioneds. Fall beers are the best seasonal beers, and it’s not close, and I am prepared to throw hands with anyone who disagrees. My dad makes this absurd cocktail with bourbon and ice cream, and the only mistake is serving it after Thanksgiving dinner because at that point I’m normally concentrating on not vomiting, but it is delicious.

Long as we’re all being honest here, I have to tell you I’m not much on the beer cocktail. The closest I’ll come is adding a little bourbon to a beer — ambers and Shiner Bocks are lights out with a little kickstart — but other than that I’m swimming in the shallow end.

If you have a suggestion that doesn’t involve cider — I know, sorry — let me know. Otherwise, I’m waiting for it to be cold enough to drink my last Rye on Rye on Rye on Rye in front of a fire.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Most angry reaction to a Sam question from a Coach? Player? Front Office Exec?</p>&mdash; Chris (@bballkansas) <a href="">October 8, 2018</a></blockquote>

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I don’t have a great answer, if we’re keeping it to the reaction from a question I asked. Once, I was basically laughed out of (I think it was) the Chargers locker room for beginning a question to a defensive lineman by calling him the wrong name.

Once, I introduced myself to Jered Weaver by calling him Jeff and, to be honest, now that I say that it may have been the other way around.

A prominent Royals player during the championship run once told me during a champagne celebration, “You know I never liked you.” He’d never been rude to me during an interview, but I could tell just the same, and I’m glad he finally said it because we ended up talking about it, laughing about it, and he became a decent source for me.

But, it’s usually not the questions that piss them off. At least, not with me. Usually it’s the stuff I write. I’ve been aired out by GMs, coaches, scouts, agents, and players. Doesn’t happen often, but enough that it’s not rare, and I’m sure that if you asked anyone in my line of work they’d have similar stories.

I always listen. Always. Sometimes they make good points, and I apologize. Sometimes they’re just frustrated, and end up apologizing. Most times, it’s just two people with different perspectives.

The quickest way to my heart: be a source, call me to scream, make some good points, and then finish the conversation with something like, “OK, anyway, how are you? Everything good? You need anything?”

Three newsmaker types in town have done that. They are my three favorite newsmaker types, to this day.

This week, I’m particularly grateful for the Cry It Out Boot Camp our 2 year old doesn’t know is coming. For reasons that stretch from Path of Least Resistance to It’s Kind of Cute to He’s Our Boss Sometimes And He Knows It, we’ve developed this habit of laying with him until he falls asleep. Sometimes it takes two minutes, sometimes it takes most of an hour, but I’m here to tell you that stops now.


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