AFC West: Soctt Pioli

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This has been a foregone conclusion for months, so the cheering from Chiefs fans in Kansas City may be somewhat muted.

But make no mistake; this is not a sad day in Kansas City. Matt Cassel is officially a former Chief as the team cut him Thursday morning. Again, no surprise here. The Chiefs agreed to trade for Alex Smith to be the new starter weeks ago. But Cassel’s time in Kansas City actually expired last season when he was replaced by Brady Quinn.

The once-hopeful franchise quarterback bottomed out in 2012, and his failure to become the Chiefs' answer was a primary reason general manager Scott Pioli was jettisoned after the season.

Cassel was Pioli’s first big pickup in 2009. The two had success together in New England. Cassel became hot when he played well in 2008 as an injury replacement for Tom Brady. Cassel did play well in Kansas City in 2010 as he led the team to the AFC West title, but he did little to progress following that season. In 2012, he was a turnover machine (12 interceptions) and he seemed to lose his teammates' confidence.

A nice guy off the field (he once alerted a Kansas City neighbor to escape her burning home), Cassel just didn’t seem like he could lead his team, and he became the center of the fans' disdain. It was a national story when right tackle Eric Winston (who was cut last week) passionately ripped some fans who he accused of cheering when Cassel went down with a concussion. All the negative attention was nothing new for Cassel, as he once was booed at a Major league Baseball All-Star event in Kansas City last summer.

The new Kansas City regime truly had no intention of keeping Cassel, but he was kept around in a futile attempt to get a late-round draft pick for him. When that dream ended, Cassel was cut.

He will get some looks as a backup with Minnesota, Tampa Bay and Arizona, all teams who have been mentioned as possible destinations.

As for Kansas City, Cassel's tenure will be nothing but memories of a failed experiment.
On Monday, hours after firing yet another unsuccessful head coach, Clark Hunt reached out to season-ticket holders of the Kansas City Chiefs with a personalized email.

In it, Hunt expressed his sorrow and embarrassment over what has become of the franchise that his father, the legendary Lamar Hunt, made one of the most respected franchises in NFL history. The young Hunt, who has always preferred to stay in the background, promised better days ahead.

By the end of the week, the franchise's CEO gave his fan base huge reason for optimism.

By hiring Andy Reid -- arguably the biggest and best name of the available coaches -- Hunt has shown he is serious about making his team a winner.

“This is instant credibility,” said Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. “It’s much like Denver hiring John Fox and St. Louis hiring Jeff Fisher ... it’s great for the long haul.”

[+] EnlargeAndy Reid
Eric Hartline/USA TODAY SportsAndy Reid brings lots of playoff experience and professionalism to Kansas City.
It became clear early that Hunt’s plan to revive the Chiefs -- who went from an expected playoff contender to a 2-14 team that has earned the No. 1 pick in the April draft -- was to get a powerful coach.

Four years ago, Hunt tried to keep the same structure that the franchise held from 1989 to 2008 when Carl Peterson ran the organization. Hunt hired Scott Pioli as general manager, and the hire was met with high expectations because of Pioli’s success as part of the process in New England. The Chiefs parted ways with Pioli on Friday, shortly before finalizing the Reid hiring.

Pioli was the hot general manager candidate in 2009. Hiring him was a sign that Hunt was going for it. Now, after the Pioli experience didn’t work, Hunt is going with a different strategy. But he’s still going for it.

Hunt is giving the power of the team to a coach. Reid will report directly to Hunt. It is a sign to the fans that Hunt is really serious about fixing this issue. A look at Reid’s track record suggests it is a worthwhile endeavor.

He won 130 games in Philadelphia and was a fixture in the playoffs. He knows how to run a team and an organization.

Reid is known for being a good man and a fair coach. He needs to create a happier atmosphere at Arrowhead Stadium. Pioli was known for being abrasive to some employees and it wasn’t always a pleasant work atmosphere, even though recently fired coach Romeo Crennel was well-liked by players and team employees.

The tone of the atmosphere is set by the man running the program, and Reid can change the feeling around the building. The importance of that cannot be underscored. In Denver (even before Peyton Manning arrived), players and employees raved about the atmosphere Fox created after the not-always fun regimes of Mike Shanahan and Josh McDaniels.

The hiring of Reid and the departure of Pioli pushes the restart button for everyone involved.

In addition to the losing, the Chiefs had to deal with a December murder-suicide. Starting linebacker Jovan Belcher killed his girlfriend, Kasandra M. Perkins, and then took his own life in front of Pioli and Crennel in the team’s parking lot.

Reid also is coming off a terribly painful season. His son, Garrett, died at the team’s training camp before a terrible on-field season commenced.

This is a fresh start for everyone. Still, there is plenty of work to be done.

Reid needs to find a quarterback and find a way to get success out of a talented but underachieving roster.

But Reid picked this job instead of talking to the Cardinals and the Chargers, for many reasons. He likes the stability of the Hunt family. He likes the roster. He likes having the No. 1 draft pick. He likes the passion of Chiefs fans. He probably also likes the fact that coaching in Kansas City will be less of a fish bowl than in Philadelphia.

He likes the idea of making Arrowhead Stadium a dreadful place for opponents to visit again.

And Hunt likes the idea of Reid's getting the job done. Will it work? That is yet to be seen. But there is no doubt Reid is equipped to handle the job, and give Hunt credit for quickly recognizing that in an attempt to end the misery in Kansas City.

Wrap-up: Chiefs 27, Panthers 21

December, 2, 2012
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A look at an emotional win for the Kansas City Chiefs.

What it means: Oh, it means so much. This has to be one of the most memorable, emotional days in franchise history. The Chiefs won their second game of the season, just a day after a horrific tragedy. Saturday, starting linebacker Jovan Belcher killed his girlfriend, Kasandra M. Perkins, and then he went to the team’s facility (adjacent to Arrowhead Stadium) and killed himself in front of general manager Scott Pioli, head coach Romeo Crennel and defensive coordinator Gary Gibbs. There was a lot of talk that the game shouldn’t be played. But the Chiefs decided they wanted to play. This is just a game and it doesn’t change anything, but for three hours, it did help in some way. It was the Chiefs’ first home win of the season after starting 0-6 there. They snapped an eight-game losing streak, which was the longest current losing streak in the league.

Charles has big game despite major sadness: The tragedy had to hit Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles especially hard. ESPN’s Ed Werder reported that Perkins was a cousin of Charles’ wife and they introduced Perkins to Belcher, who Charles was close with. Despite the incredible grief, Charles had 127 yards on 27 carries.

Quinn is effective: Kansas City quarterback Brady Quinn was 19-of-23 for 201 yards. It was perfect game management and what the team wants from him. It was Quinn’s first win as a starting quarterback in three years.

Streak is over: The Chiefs scored a touchdown on their first drive of the game Sunday. That hadn’t happened since 2010.

Touchdown party: Peyton Hillis, Tony Moeaki and Jon Baldwin all scored their first touchdowns of the season for Kansas City.

Milestone for Bowe: Kansas City receiver Dwayne Bowe passed the great Otis Taylor for third on the Chiefs’ all-time receptions list. Bowe now has 412 career catches.

What’s next: Crennel goes back to Cleveland as the Chiefs meet the Browns.

Video: Chiefs prepare to play Panthers

December, 2, 2012
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Ed Werder reports from Kansas City where the Panthers are set to take on the Chiefs.

Utter sadness in Kansas City

December, 1, 2012
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This has been on my mind all day.

Still, after traveling 1,000 miles, I have yet to reach any comprehension. I have nothing profound to say about the horrible tragedy this morning in Kansas City that has galvanized the NFL world, other than to say I have the same feeling you probably have -- utter sadness.

I awoke this morning to a text saying a Kansas City Chiefs player had killed his girlfriend and then shot himself at the team’s facility. The text said the player involved was linebacker Jovan Belcher.

Like so many at ESPN, I immediately worked the phones in search of more details of this mind-numbing event. As I traveled to Denver, I thought about what I was going to write in this story.

What could I say about this event that no one else is feeling or saying?

[+] EnlargeChiefs fans
John Rieger/US PresswireChiefs fans place a sign outside the team's practice facility, site of Jovan Belcher's suicide.
Thus, I want to join the masses, and express my thoughts and grief for the family of Belcher’s victim, Kasandra M. Perkins, who died at 22, and the couple's infant daughter. Lives were ended; others were ruined. So terrible.

I also feel bad for Scott Pioli and Romeo Crennel. The Chiefs' general manager and coach were talking to Belcher, according to police, just before the player walked away and shot himself.

What a terrible and emotional event to witness. This day will be with these men for the rest of their lives; they will never be able to shake it. Pioli and Crennel went to work Saturday morning to put the finishing touches on another game week in a miserable season. Then they were thrust into the middle of a crisis involving a young man they had grown to care for.

I know Pioli and Crennel are not popular figures in Kansas City these days because of the team’s 1-10 season. There is a strong chance Chiefs ownership will make wholesale changes in a month.

What happens professionally will take its course.

I expect Kansas City fans to loudly support their hurting team Sunday when the Chiefs host Carolina at Arrowhead Stadium. It should go without saying that I hope there are no airplane flyovers imploring that people be fired, no fan “blackouts” at the game. The voice of the understandably angry Chiefs fan has been heard, and it has been noted.

Sunday will be about beginning the healing process and honoring those left behind from this senseless crime. Be a Chiefs fan Sunday. At the core, that’s what you are.

I know some people don’t understand why or how the game can be played. But the Chiefs’ coaches and team captains reportedly played a major role in the decision to go ahead with it. If the Chiefs want to play, I think we all can support that choice.

I’ve been asked a lot Saturday about what Belcher was like. I didn’t know him. I never met him or interviewed him. I knew he was an overachieving player who ended up starting 44 career games after going undrafted.

I know his agent, Joe Linta, very well. He has a well-deserved reputation for representing solid-citizen types. He had always spoken highly of Belcher to me. Linta expressed disbelief Saturday.

Disbelief. That’s all you can feel when something so unspeakable happens.

AFC West Stock Watch

October, 9, 2012
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FALLING

The division as a whole: It was a bad weekend for the AFC West. All three teams that played lost. Oakland had the best week ... well, because it was on a bye. At some point, some team in this division is going to need to step up and show it can be a force.

The Chargers’ ability to run away: If the San Diego Chargers don’t make the playoffs -- which would likely spur the end of the Norv Turner era -- their Week 5 loss at New Orleans will be remembered. The Saints scored the final 17 points to win 31-24. Had San Diego not blown its double-digit lead, the Chargers could be leading the division by two games with the chance to lead by three games with a home win against Denver in Week 6.

Sanity in Kansas City: Brady Quinn will likely get his chance to replace Matt Cassel. Eric Winston blasted the home fans for what he said was cheering Cassel’s head injury he suffered in a 9-6 loss to the Ravens. Also, the 1-4 Chiefs had to deal with the fact some fans paid for a plane to fly over the working lot with a banner asking ownership to fire general manager Scott Pioli and bench Cassel. Things are falling apart in Kansas City.

RISING

Peyton Manning, Denver quarterback: The Broncos may be 2-3, but it’s not because Manning is struggling. He has thrown for 683 yards and six touchdowns in the past two games. He hasn’t thrown an interception in the past 15 quarters.

Jamaal Charles’ work load: There was a school of thought the Chiefs would limit Charles’ work load since he is coming off a torn ACL. But Charles has been one of the biggest workhorses in the league. He has 102 carries through five games. He had 30 carries at New Orleans in Week 3 and 30 carries Sunday against Baltimore. On one hand, it's good to see Charles being able to handle the load so soon after his injury, but it is also worrisome that he may be getting too much work.

Confidence in Ryan Mathews: There has been a lot of talk about whether Mathews was even the Chargers’ primary back anymore. Sure, Jackie Battle has been ahead of him at times, but there is no doubt the Chargers want Mathews to carry the load, and they know they will be better shape if he does. Mathews had 80 yards on 12 carries Sunday at New Orleans and he had some big runs. He is digging himself out of the doghouse.

Is it time to replace Matt Cassel?

September, 30, 2012
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Matt CasselJoe Robbins/Getty ImagesMatt Cassel had three INTs Sunday, but he wasn't the only Chiefs player to be down on his luck.

KANSAS CITY -- It is officially dump Matt Cassel season in Kansas City.

Cassel has never been overly popular in Kansas City. The Chiefs’ playoff-hungry fan base has wished their team were in the hands of a more dynamic quarterback ever since Tom Brady’s injury replacement came to Kansas City along with general manager Scott Pioli in 2009.

My mailbag was flooded by Kansas City fans demanding Cassel’s benching Sunday, and I’m sure the subject will be the main course for columnists and talk radio in the Heartland in the wake of an embarrassing offensive showing by the Chiefs in a 37-20 defeat to San Diego on Sunday.

Expect pressure on Cassel to grow until he is either removed as the team’s quarterback or the team decides to move away from him after the season.

Much was expected from Kansas City this year, but with a quarter of the season over, playoff hopes are starting to fade as Cassel and the Chiefs are now 1-3. The Chiefs have been outscored 41-6 in the first quarter, they haven’t scored a touchdown on their opening drive since the 2010 season and they are the only team this season never to play with the lead.

After an inspired overtime win at New Orleans in Week 3, the Chiefs had the chance to tie San Diego for first in the AFC West. But Kansas City quickly showed themselves, the Chargers and their antsy fans that they were not ready to become a first-place team. Kansas City, which finished with six turnovers, committed three turnovers in the first quarter and trailed 17-0. Cassel threw three interceptions as the Chiefs were suffocated by a much improved, dangerous San Diego defense.

The truth is that the Chiefs' offensive line gave Cassel little time to work and Kansas City’s running backs lost three fumbles, including two by beloved running back Jamaal Charles.

Kansas City right tackle Eric Winston said Sunday's poor performance was a failure by all 11 offensive players. He also believes “a couple” of Chiefs will likely take the brunt from the media. While Winston didn’t say Cassel’s name, it's clear he's expecting to hear calls for Cassel’s removal.

Winston is right. It has already started. Kansas City coach Romeo Crennel was asked after the game if he is considering a quarterback change, and Cassel was asked about it in his media session that lasted less than 90 seconds Sunday. Crennel said he is not considering a change. He said he stuck with Charles despite his fumbles and he is sticking with his quarterback.

I spoke to former Kansas City running back Jackie Battle about Cassel, and he expects it to be a tough week for his former teammate.

“I don’t think people were always fair to Matt (in Kansas City),” Battle said. “I like Matt. He can do a lot of things. He was my leader when I was with the Chiefs.”

San Diego safety Eric Weddle said he thinks Cassel is “super athletic” and capable of winning games, but he acknowledged that falling behind 20-0 is tough on any quarterback.

“Next week, he will come out and be great and he will silence the critics,” Weddle said. “That’s the way it is with quarterbacks.”

I think Crennel believes that and that’s why he is sticking with Cassel. Here’s another reason why Crennel won’t make a move: Who would be Cassel’s replacement? The basis of any position change -- especially one as colossal as quarterback -- is the belief in the replacement.

Does anybody believe Brady Quinn would be a better option than Cassel? What about second-year third stringer Ricky Stanzi? Are either of these players capable of turning the Chiefs around?

If you think so, you’re fooling yourself, but rational thinking is often thrown out the door when a team hasn’t won a playoff game in 19 years.

If Cassel is pulled this early in the season, it will be a shame. He is the only quarterback available who gives this team a chance to win. He hasn’t been awful this season. Yes, he had a poor showing Sunday. But so did the rest of the offense. This offense was the No. 1-ranked offense in the NFL through three weeks and Cassel was a big reason why the Chiefs won at New Orleans. After Week 3, Cassel was a respectable No. 16 in ESPN’s Total QBR.

Teams bench quarterbacks when they are completely lost. Cassel is not lost. He is just not good enough right now to be the difference-maker, a reason why this could be his last season in Kansas City.

The Chiefs have the makings of a good program and they have a lot of talent. If they don’t make the playoffs and Cassel’s play doesn’t improve, I’m sure the team will seriously consider making a move and drafting a quarterback.

That is fair. If Cassel can win this year, then wait to make the change. The Chiefs decided to build around him this year. If it doesn’t work, it’s time to pull the plug on him. Just don’t do it now.

I think Pioli should have his scouts jump inside USC QB Matt Barkley’s mind. They must find out everything they can about West Virginia’s Geno Smith, Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson and Tennessee’s Tyler Bray.

It’s definitely time for the Chiefs to be thinking about a different quarterback for the future other than Cassel. But the future is not now.

 

AFC West mailbag

September, 21, 2011
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Mid-week mail call:

J.D. from Kansas City wants to know what to expect from Eric Berry next year.

Bill Williamson: I don’t expect any problems. Sadly, that injury has become pretty common around the league. Players come back from it routinely. Berry is young and strong. He should be fine.

Ken Bull from Oakland wants to know why San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers hasn’t been sharp so far.

BW: I wouldn’t say Rivers has not been sharp. But I do agree, he has missed some throws he usually makes. I don’t what the reason is. He worked out with many of his teammates during the lockout and he had a good training camp. I don’t think it is a problem, but Rivers’ may be just a shade off early in the season.

Dennis from Memphis wants to know what I think about the incident between Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew and Kansas City Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli after Sunday’s game.

BW: Mayhew reportedly shunned Pioli when Pioli tried to congratulate him after the Lions hammered the Chiefs, 48-3. The Chiefs charged the Lions with tampering (stemming from former Kansas City defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham discussing a Chiefs’ player). The Lions were found guilty. I really don’t think much of the snub. The Lions clearly played with some vengeance in mind, but the truth is, they were found guilty. I don’t think they should harbor anything against the Chiefs. Just enjoy the win and move on.
A bad week is ending on a good note for the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Kansas City Star is reporting that the Chiefs -- who were blasted, 41-7, at home by Buffalo in Week 1 -- have given a contract extension to cornerback Brandon Flowers. He is considered one of the better young cornerbacks in the NFL. He was a second-round pick in 2008 and was in the final year of his contract.

The Flowers’ extension continues strong work by general manager Scott Pioli. He believes in securing his better young talent. In the two-plus years since he has taken over in Kansas City, Pioli has done an excellent job of re-signing top talent such as running back Jamaal Charles.

Flowers is a cornerstone player for a young defense. Keeping him was essential.

Don’t be surprised if the Chiefs now turn their attention to receiver Dwayne Bowe and cornerback Brandon Carr. Both players are soon to be free agents. Knowing the way Pioli operates, I can see him jumping on these two players soon.
Will Scott Pioli make a run at former New England Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather? The Chiefs showed they had interest in a safety earlier in the week. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported last week that James Sanders was considering Kansas City but signed with the Atlanta Falcons.

Pioli was with the Patirots when they drafted Meriweather in the first round in 2007.He was cut by the Patriots on Saturday.

Meriweather has stated every NFL game he’s played in and he has made the past two Pro Bowls.

There could be a place for him in Kansas City. Pairing Eric Berry, who made the Pro Bowl as a rookie last season and Meriweather could be interesting. I wouldn’t be shocked if the Chiefs looked into it.

Would Moss have fit in AFC West?

October, 6, 2010
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Randy Moss’ trade from New England to Minnesota for a third-round pick came up very quickly.

It made us wonder if any of the four AFC West teams could have gotten into the mix, or if Moss was a fit for any of the teams in the division. We examine:

Denver: There is a connection here. Moss had his best year with Denver coach Josh McDaniels as his offensive coordinator. However, the Broncos’ passing game is working well with several complementary pieces. Denver needs a running back, not a receiver at this point.

Kansas City: On the surface, this was probably the best fit in the division. Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli helped bring Moss to New England, and the Chiefs’ offense is missing a veteran receiving threat like Moss. Plus, Moss and Kansas City quarterback Matt Cassel hooked up for 11 touchdown passes in 2008 in New England. Yes, Moss would have made the young Chiefs even more dangerous. But this is one of those situations where if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. The Chiefs are 3-0 and they have a very good vibrations going on. While Moss could help in the short term, but he could be a derisive force in the future. I don’t blame Kansas City for not pursuing this deal.

Oakland: Moss proved Wednesday he can go back home again. But I don’t think the welcome mat would be at the door in Oakland. This wasn’t a good marriage in 2005-06.

San Diego: The Chargers have their own receiver issue with Vincent Jackson. San Diego has proven in four games without Jackson that its passing game is fine in its current state.

Are the Kansas City Chiefs for real?

September, 17, 2010
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Jamaal CharlesAP Photo/Ed ZurgaJamaal Charles has a chance to have a breakout year in Kansas City.
Were the Kansas City Chiefs a one-night wonder? Are they an undermanned team that caught breaks and won by the benefit of a special night? Or was the Chiefs’ 21-14 win over the San Diego Chargers a sign of things to come? Was this a coming of age for a team that hadn't played on Monday night for six years?

Now that the euphoria of Kansas City’s stunning win over four-time defending AFC West champion San Diego has subsided, it is time to examine what it all means.

Kansas City was explosive on offense and special teams and made huge plays on defense -- including a thrilling stand in the final seconds that left San Diego stranded at the 6-yard line with 39 seconds to go.

Time will tell if Kansas City, which won 10 games in the past three seasons combined, will be improved. The Chiefs, who are alone in first place in the AFC West for the first time since Week 7 of 2007, have a good chance to improve to 2-0 Sunday when they play Cleveland.

“I was really impressed with Kansas City against San Diego,” said Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. “There were some good signs.”

Here are five reasons why we think the Chiefs could show that Week 1 was not a fluke and why they can make major strides this season.

Todd Haley has them believing: The second-year coach often said during the offseason that the players have bought in and this year is much easier than last year. These are now Haley’s players. The Chiefs weeded out those who didn’t want to play for his regime and Haley has brought in key players who believe in his philosophy.

"This is a well-coached team,” rookie sparkplug Dexter McCluster said. “We want to perform well for them.”

The defense: This was a weak spot last year and not much was done to improve it during the offseason other than drafting safety Eric Berry at No. 5 and hiring former New England defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel in the same role. The unit didn’t look good until the third preseason game. But Monday night, the Kansas City defense matured.

The front three was excellent in a rotation led by 2008 No. 5 overall pick Glenn Dorsey. He was very disruptive all night long and forced San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers to make a bad pass on the Chargers’ final play. Tyson Jackson, the No. 3 overall pick in 2009 who is dealing with a knee injury, also played well. So did linebacker Derrick Johnson, who was in Haley’s doghouse last year. Johnson had a game-high 12 tackles and was all over the field. The Kansas City secondary also played very well against San Diego’s strong offense. If the Chiefs' defense can keep up this spirited play and continue to swarm in both the running and passing games, it will be much improved. If these players keep it up, the unit will be good enough to lead Kansas City to wins.

Team speed: After Monday night’s game, I had the chance to chat with Haley. I mentioned how impressive the team’s speed was.

“That was the whole idea,” Haley said. “That’s what we’ve been trying to get.”

The draft plan of general manager Scott Pioli was to find playmakers, and he succeeded.

McCluster's 94-yard punt return for a score, a team record, was impressive. Fellow second-round pick Javier Arenas is also a dynamic return man. He had two nice returns Monday night that were overshadowed by McCluster’s touchdown. These two players will drive opposing special-teams coaches crazy with their two-headed return possibilities.

“Kansas City has some guys who can move with the ball,” Williamson said. “There is some explosiveness there that wasn’t present in the past. That’s a huge difference.”

The running game: Speaking of speed, running back Jamaal Charles didn’t get cheated, either. He can do things with the ball in his hands few running backs can. Charles put two nasty cut moves on San Diego safety Eric Weddle during a 56-yard touchdown run. If he can stay healthy, Charles has potential to have a Chris Johnson-type impact on his team.

Charles had 1,120 yards last season in a limited role and he had 11 carries for 92 yards against San Diego. Expect Charles’ carries to increase as the season goes on.

Combine Charles with veteran Thomas Jones, who had 39 yards on 11 carries against San Diego, and the Chiefs have potentially one of the league’s most varied and dangerous running games. If the Chiefs run and play defense the way they did Monday night, there will be many victories in the Heartland this fall.

The schedule: The Chiefs’ upset win over San Diego could spark a run. After the playing the Browns, the Chiefs have another winnable home game against San Francisco. The Chiefs may be able to start the season 3-0. After a bye, the schedule toughens with back-to-back road games against the Colts and the Texans. But the opposition isn’t all that tough after that stretch. Nine of the Chiefs’ final 11 games are against teams that did not make the playoffs in 2009. Kansas City might make some noise in the AFC West, especially if they can continue playing the way they did Monday night.

You pick it: AFC West storylines

January, 6, 2010
1/06/10
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The candidates are:

Unrest in Denver: Denver Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall and tight end Tony Scheffler were deactivated for the season finale for what Denver coach Josh McDaniels cited as accountability reasons.

Chiefs interested in Crennel: ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the Chiefs will likely hire former Cleveland coach Romeo Crennel as their defensive coordinator. He worked with Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli in New England.

Raiders continue streak: Oakland finished 5-11 to extend its streak of seven straight seasons in which it lost at least 11 games. It is an NFL record.

Choose your story of the week and hit my mailbag with your thoughts. I will post some of your responses later in the week.

Posted by ESPN.com’s Bill Williamson


The Chiefs’ cut down to the league mandated 75-man roster Tuesday couldn’t have been any more newsworthy.

Usually, the cut down from 80 to 75 is filled with no-name free agents. Not the Chiefs’ list.

Kansas City cut veteran receiver Amani Toomer and defensive end Alfonso Boone. Toomer was signed in early August and Boone has been with the Chiefs the past two years and he was working with the first team defensive line at times this summer.

Kansas City also put receiver Devard Darling on the injured reserve after he suffered a serious knee injury Saturday against Seattle. Running back Kolby Smith was put on the reserve physically unable to perform list. He can be activated later in the season.

Rookie tackle Cameron Goldberg was also released. But he’s not the story Tuesday.

Toomer, a former standout for the Giants, was signed to bring leadership and maybe create a spark at receiver. Yet, by all accounts, he offered little on the field, so the Chiefs quickly ended that experiment.

His career is probably over. If the receiver-hungry Chiefs don't have room for Toomer, who'll turn 35 next week, not many teams likely will.

Boone’s release means the Chiefs must feel like their youngsters on the defensive front are ready to carry the load. Young players Tyson Jackson. Glenn Dorsey and Alex Magee are all going to play a lot.

Darling was going to be in the receiving rotation. The Chiefs were planning on scouring the waiver wire and free-agent list after the final 53-man rosters are announced and this will only make that a certainty. It looks like the newly-signed Ashley Lelie has a strong chance of making the team.

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