AFC West: Tyler Palko

Here are some highlights from our AFC West chat, which was held Thursday:

DENVER

Sage from Denver, Co.: Why do the Broncos have to wait on Peyton Manning if they want to sign Tolbert of Bush? It seems to me that they should get a new running back regardless of whether Manning is here or not.

Bill Williamson: Money and scheme. Everything changes if Manning is there.

KANSAS CITY

Bill Simpson from Joplin, Missouri: What are your thoughts about the Chiefs QB situation? Does it look like they will keep Palko?

BW: No, Palko is a memory. At the very least, the backup will be Stanzi, but I expect the Chiefs to sign a backup now or after cuts during the preseason or maybe draft a QB early. Kirk Cousins or Brandon Weeden in the second round perhaps.

OAKLAND

Bryan from Hayward, CA.: Backup RB for Darren McFadden

BW: Right now, Taiwan Jones if Bush bolt. But I can see them adding a vet at some point. Jackie Battle of KC is a solid, cheap option.

SAN DIEGO

Mike from Irvine, CA: Is there any status update on Wimbley? Do the Chargers still have enough cap space to make a run at him if Oakland cuts him?

BW: It might be tight, but the Chargers would be one of the teams interested. Raiders have to make a decision by Saturday. Perhaps they are waiting to cut him to see other teams spend money and take away options for him. Not saying that is the case, but it's within their right if they choose.

Chiefs to revisit Joe Montana days?

February, 28, 2012
2/28/12
9:00
AM ET
Once Peyton Manning becomes a free agent, the Kansas City Chiefs will surely be one of the teams that are interested.

If Manning does end up a Chief, it won’t be the first time a legendary quarterback coming off an injury joined the Chiefs at the end of his career. Joe Montana was traded to the Chiefs from San Francisco in 1993.

Let’s look at a quick comparison of the two situations:

Montana

Injury before signing with Chiefs: Elbow

Age in 1993 season: 37

Montana’s 1992 performance: He played one game.

Chiefs’ record in 1992: 10-6, second place in the AFC West.

Chiefs’ quarterback in 1992: Dave Krieg

Manning

Injury: Neck

Age in 2012 season: 36

Manning’s 2011 performance: He missed the entire season.

Chiefs’ record in 2011: 7-9, fourth place in AFC West.

Chiefs’ quarterbacks in 2011: Matt Cassel, Tyler Palko, Kyle Orton
The idea of getting a second chance has long driven Romeo Crennel.

Getting back in the head-coaching chair he fought so long and hard to get into in the first place, has fueled Crennel -- long respected as one of the NFL’s best defensive minds -- since he was fired as the head coach in Cleveland in 2008 after four seasons.

[+] EnlargeRomeo Crennel
Denny Medley/US PresswireRomeo Crennel completed his stint as the Chiefs' interim coach with a 2-1 record, including a win against the unbeaten Packers.
Now that he has secured that second chance, Crennel said he hasn’t had much time to reflect on the opportunity. He is too busy diving into his role as the head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs. Time spent congratulating himself on achieving his goal would be time wasted.

“I have 1,000 things to do to get this thing going,” Crennel said. “This is an opportunity that I want to take advantage of … I am happy to get that second chance and there were times I didn’t think it would happen.”

Thus, when the door opened for Crennel, his determination to earn a second chance was evident. Crennel, who took a season off after being fired in Cleveland, became the Chiefs’ defensive coordinator in 2010. When he was named the interim coach after the Chiefs fired Todd Haley with three games remaining this season, there was talk Crennel had a chance to become the permanent coach.

In Crennel’s first game as the head coach, the Chiefs knocked off the Packers. It was Green Bay’s only loss of the regular season. After losing in overtime at home to the Raiders in Week 16, the Chiefs won in Denver in a game the Broncos could have clinched the division title outright with a win. Talk about taking advantage of an opportunity.

Kansas City conducted some other interviews after the season, but the inevitable happened Jan. 9 when Crennel officially got his second chance. At the age of 64, Crennel wasn’t exactly counting on being a head coach again. He is now the second-oldest active head coach in the NFL behind the New York Giants’ Tom Coughlin, who is 65.

Now that he has received his second chance, Crennel is determined to prove he isn’t another name in the “good coordinator, bad head coach” bin.

Crennel, who was bypassed by six teams in 2003 after interviewing for head-coaching jobs when he was the Patriots' defensive coordinator, was 24-40 in Cleveland. The Browns did go 10-6 in 2007 under Crennel, but didn’t make the playoffs.

“We had a 10-win season there and I knew we did some good things there,” Crennel said. “I want to prove what we can do given this opportunity.”

Crennel said he has already applied lessons learned in Cleveland in his short time in Kansas City. Crennel’s first act as the interim coach was to replace quarterback Tyler Palko with Kyle Orton. Crennel struggled with a quarterback controversy in Cleveland between Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson. He was determined to avoid one this time.

Another reason Crennel is fueled for his second chance is he knows he is in a better situation. He acknowledged that the talented Chiefs’ roster is better than the roster he inherited in Cleveland.

“This is a passionate group of players,” Crennel said. ”We want to develop a good team chemistry and we think we have a good nucleus here.”

It starts with Crennel. Chiefs owner Clark Hunt has said one of the reasons he hired Crennel is his competitive nature. Hunt was impressed when Crennel told him he wanted to be the Chiefs’ head coach because he wanted to win the Super Bowl.

If the performance of the Chiefs' players under Crennel in the final three games of the season is any indication, they are ready to make a Super Bowl run under Crennel’s guidance.

“I represent four players on the team,” said Joe Linta, Crennel’s agent. “All four of them are thrilled that Romeo got the job. His players love him.”

Crennel is known for his genial way and his patience. Crennel is a steady hand, who is always there for an encouraging word. His four Super Bowl rings (one with the Giants and three with the Patriots) earned as an assistant coach doesn’t hurt his credibility, either.

“I’ve been very fortune to be around some great players and great coaches like Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick,” Crennel said. “I have had a long history and I wouldn’t change anything as I prepare for this job.”

There is a strong chance this will be Crennel’s final job. It has been an incredible journey for the Lynchburg, Va., native who played offensive and defensive lineman at Western Kentucky. As he begins his second chance, Crennel reflected on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday this week. Crennel was a 20-year-old college student when King was killed.

“It was an emotional time.” Crennel said. “As a minority, I was worried about the progress Dr. King made would be stopped because of his death, but the movement kept going and I’m sure he would be very proud of it. I’m pleased it kept going and I’m very appreciative of every chance I’ve gotten because of his hard work.”
For the second straight day, Kansas City quarterback Kyle Orton was limited in practice by a finger injury. Interim Kansas City coach Romeo Crennel said Orton will start Sunday against 13-0 Green Bay if he is healthy.

Orton said Wednesday he is fine. He hurt his index finger on his throwing hand while making his only throw as a Chief on Dec. 4 against Chicago. If Orton isn’t ready, rookie Ricky Stanzi will play. At this point, though, it seems Orton will get the chance to play barring a setback.

Thursday, according to the Kansas City Star, Crennel said Orton will “probably” start Sunday and that the quarterback has “weathered the storm pretty good.”

Tyler Palko is now the No. 3 quarterback. He started the past four games for Kansas City after Matt Cassel suffered a season-ending hand injury. Former coach Todd Haley, who was fired Monday, stuck with Palko despite the fact he has thrown seven interceptions compared to two touchdown passes. The switch away from Palko was made quickly after Haley was fired.

Meanwhile, receiver Jonathan Baldwin and cornerback Javier Arenas didn’t practice Thursday due to illness.

Chiefs make the right call at QB

December, 14, 2011
12/14/11
2:30
PM ET
Earlier Wednesday, we broached the Kansas City Chiefs' chances of making a move at quarterback.

Orton
Palko
The fact that the Chiefs are beginning the post-Todd Haley era without starting quarterback Tyler Palko makes perfect sense. Interim coach Romeo Crennel said Kyle Orton will start Sunday against Green Bay if he is healthy. If not, 2011 fifth-round pick Ricky Stanzi will get a shot. Thus, the Tyler Palko era appears to be over.

There were rumblings that Haley’s insistence on sticking with the struggling Palko for four starts was one of the final straws in the Chiefs’ decision to fire him Monday. Palko took over for the injured Matt Cassel, who is out for the rest of the season with a hand injury.

Palko started two games after the team claimed Orton and the remaining $2.5 million on his contract in November. Orton was in for one play -- a flea flicker -- in his second game. He injured a finger on his throwing hand and hasn’t played since. However, the Kansas City Star reported Orton was throwing the ball well in practice Wednesday.

So, expect Orton to get the nod for the rest of the season if he doesn’t suffer a setback. Stanzi will be his backup.

I thought Orton should have started against Chicago in his second game with the Chiefs. He is the best quarterback on the active roster and he gives the team a chance to compete.

This is the right call.

It also sets up an intriguing revenge game for Orton. The Chiefs play at Denver in Week 17 on New Year’s Day. The Broncos, who replaced Orton with Tim Tebow after five games, may need to win that game to claim the division title. You think Orton wouldn’t be motivated that day?

Also, Orton is a free agent at the end of the season, so this three-game stretch gives him a chance to audition to both the Chiefs -- as Crennel is doing -- and other teams in the league.

If Stanzi gets a chance to play, it will further help him make a push to be the No. 2 quarterback next year. Expect Palko’s days as a Chief to be over. He threw two touchdown passes and seven interceptions this season.

Random thoughts on Kansas City

December, 14, 2011
12/14/11
8:00
AM ET
Below are some thoughts about the Kansas City Chiefs as they move on from the Todd Haley era and move forward with Romeo Crennel. Crennel was hired as the interim head coach after being promoted from defensive coordinator when Haley was fired Monday. The Chiefs host the 13-0 Green Bay Packers on Sunday:

Don’t be surprised if there is a quarterback change: Crennel said Tuesday that he wouldn’t rule out starting fifth-round pick Ricky Stanzi. I wouldn’t be shocked if Stanzi starts at some point in the final three games. The 5-8 Chiefs have nothing to lose and they like him. Tyler Palko has started the past four games since Matt Cassel was lost for the rest of the season. Haley was Palko’s biggest supporter. I believe there is sense in the building to make a move because Palko has not been impressive. If Kyle Orton wasn’t dealing with a finger injury, I think there’d be no doubt who would be starting.

Keep an eye on the offensive play calling: Haley was always vague about his involvement in the play calling, saying offensive coordinator Bill Muir had a major part in the duties. Now without Haley’s input, Muir will have full run of the offense.

Crennel likely will get a pass this week: There’s no doubt Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli will consider Crennel for the full-time job. Of course, it will help Crennel’s cause if the Chiefs play well in the final three games. But I don’t think Crennel has to beat the Packers to keep his name in consideration. I think Crennel will likely be judged more on the Chiefs’ performance in their final two games, at home against Oakland and at Denver, than in Sunday’s game against the juggernaut. However, of course, if the Chiefs somehow become the team to derail the Packers, Crennel’s candidacy will soar.

Could be bad timing on Ferentz: It’s no secret that Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz is probably at the top of Pioli’s list. The two go way back and Ferentz has been pursued by NFL teams before. However, because there is still three weeks left in the season, I’m not sure the timing is going to be right. Will Ferentz want to wade through all the rumors and answer frequent questions about it, all the while trying to get his team ready for a bowl and trying to recruit for Iowa? That could be difficult for him to deal with.

Wrap-up: Jets 37, Chiefs 10

December, 11, 2011
12/11/11
4:18
PM ET

Some quick thoughts following the Kansas City Chiefs' 37-10 loss to the New York Jets.

What it means: The Chiefs are virtually out of the playoff discussion. They are now 5-8. After going 10-6 and winning the AFC West last year, Kansas City is now looking forward to 2012.

Another blowout: This was Kansas City’s fifth loss by at least 27 points this season. For those looking for Todd Haley to lose his job, that is ammunition. However, the undermanned Chiefs had been playing fairly tough in recent games.

Palko is just OK: In his fourth NFL start, Kansas City quarterback Tyler Palko completed 16 of 32 passes for 195 yards. He threw a late touchdown and he was intercepted once.

Defense slides: Kansas City's defense had been playing very well, but it had a tough time Sunday. The Jets ran the ball down the Chiefs’ throats with 159 yards on the ground.

What’s next: It does not get any easier. The Chiefs host Green Bay in Week 15. Kansas City has the toughest remaining schedule in the NFL.

Kyle Orton is doubtful

December, 9, 2011
12/09/11
4:40
PM ET
As expected, it doesn’t look like Kyle Orton will take over as the Kansas City Chiefs' starting quarterback Sunday at the New York Jets.

Orton was listed as doubtful on the Chiefs’ injury report Friday with a finger injury. He hurt it on his only pass as a Chief on Sunday at Chicago. Orton was limited in practice all week. Tyler Palko will start again for the Chiefs for the fourth consecutive game.

Orton was claimed off waivers Nov. 23 from Denver. He didn’t play in his first game and was injured after just one play during the second. He now has, at most, three games to impress the Kansas City brass. He will be a free agent at the end of the season and Kansas City is paying him $2.5 million for the final six games of his contract.

Meanwhile, Kansas City linebackers Demorrio Williams (groin) and Jovan Belcher (shoulder) are questionable.

The Raiders have declared receivers Jacoby Ford (foot) and Denarius Moore (foot) out for the Green Bay game on Sunday. It will be Ford’s fourth missed game and Moore’s third. The pair did do some running on Friday, so perhaps they will be ready to play Dec. 18 against visiting Detroit.

Running back Taiwan Jones (hamstring) is also out. Star running back Darren McFadden (foot) would miss his sixth straight game as expected. The Raiders, 7-5 and tied with Denver for first place in the AFC West, will have to try to beat the 12-0 Packers without their speedy skill-position players.

Oakland defensive tackle John Henderson did not practice Friday with a knee issue and is questionable to play Sunday.

San Diego linebackers Shaun Phillips (foot) and Donald Butler (foot) returned to practice Friday and should be able to play Sunday against Buffalo.

Looks like another delay for Orton

December, 7, 2011
12/07/11
2:05
PM ET
Kansas City coach Todd Haley told reporters Wednesday that it is unlikely quarterback Kyle Orton would practice later in the day. Orton suffered a finger injury in his only pass as a Chief.

The fact that Orton is not expected to practice Wednesday doesn’t automatically take him out of the mix to play Sunday at the New York Jets. But it is an indication Tyler Palko could be on his way to a fourth straight start. Palko improved some last week in a win at Chicago.

If Orton doesn’t play this week, you have to wonder how much he will play the rest of the season. Orton is a free agent at the end of the season. Kansas City claimed the remaining $2.5 million off his contract off waivers from Denver Nov. 23, but we've barely seen him.

In other AFC West nuggets:

ESPN Stats & Information has put together an impressive interactive look at the many offensive sets the Broncos have used with Tim Tebow at quarterback. Check it out. It’s well done. Meanwhile, Tebow leads off our QB Watch. ESPN.com's Rick Reilly credits John Fox for buying into Tebow and for leading the Broncos’ resurgence.

Denver linebacker Von Miler remains atop ESPN.com’s Rookie Watch,

The season of Kansas City linebacker Derrick Johnson impressed one of the best players at his position in the NFL.

The Chargers placed defensive end Luis Castillo on the injured reserve. He suffered a broken leg early in the season and he not improved. The team signed defensive end Damik Scafe to the practice squad and linebacker Nate Triplett to the 53-man roster.

Rivers has best QBR of Week 13

December, 6, 2011
12/06/11
4:00
PM ET
Let's look at how the AFC West’s four starting quarterbacks rated in ESPN Stats & Information’s Total QBR after Week 13:

Philip Rivers, San Diego
  • Week 13 QBR: 98.1
  • Weekly NFL ranking: 1
  • Season QBR: 55.9
  • Season NFL ranking: 16
  • Comment: This is the Philip Rivers we know.
Carson Palmer, Oakland
  • Week 13 QBR: 31.3
  • Weekly NFL ranking: 26
  • Season QBR: 55.1
  • Season NFL ranking: 19
  • Comment: It’s time for Palmer to be the player Oakland thinks he can be.
Tim Tebow, Denver
  • Week 13 QBR: 49.9
  • Weekly NFL ranking: 18
  • Season QBR: 36.3
  • Season NFL ranking: 3o
  • Comment: Tebow is making strides as a passer.
Tyler Palko, Kansas City
  • Week 13 QBR: 50.9
  • Weekly NFL ranking: 17
  • Season QBR: NA
  • Season NFL ranking: NA
  • Comment: Palko improved, and with Kyle Orton hurt, expect Palko to stay on the field.

Report: No cast for Kyle Orton

December, 5, 2011
12/05/11
7:10
PM ET
The Kansas City Star reported that Kyle Orton did not have a cast on the index finger of his throwing hand Monday a day after he was injured on his only pass as a Chief.

Kansas City coach Todd Haley didn’t give much information on Orton’s status Monday. The Kansas City Star believes Tyler Palko will likely remain the Chiefs’ starter for the time being.

Orton was claimed off waivers two weeks ago. He is a free agent at the end of the season. Kansas City picked up the final $2.5 million of his Denver contract.

In other AFC West nuggets:

The San Diego Union Tribune reports that injured offensive linemen Kris Dielman (concussion) and Marcus McNeill (neck) have long-term health concerns. The paper reports Dielman has considered retirement. Both players are out for the year.

It is likely these decisions will be made in the offseason, but it is clear the offensive line will be a priority in the draft and in free agency for the Chargers, who very well could have new front office and a new coaching staff making those decisions.

An ESPN Insider piece looks at the Chargers’ chances Monday night at Jacksonville.

In a radio interview, San Diego safety Eric Weddle said the locker room is not distracted by speculation that coach Norv Turner will be fired at the end of the season.

It doesn’t look like the Broncos will face Chicago star running back Matt Forte on Sunday. He has an MCL sprain in his knee.

If the season ended today -- and it doesn’t -- Denver, not Oakland would be the AFC West winner. Both teams are 7-5 heading into the final quarter of the season.

There doesn’t appear to be any clarity about the status of the injured Raiders’ standout skill-position players.

Oakland coach Hue Jackson told reporters Monday he doesn’t expect running back Darren McFadden to miss the rest of the season, but he doesn’t have a timetable on his return. The hope had been that McFadden would be able to play Sunday at Green Bay. He has missed the past five games.

Kansas City Chiefs: Moving On

December, 5, 2011
12/05/11
12:00
PM ET
Here are some areas the Kansas City Chiefs need to focus on after a 10-3 win at the Chicago Bears on Sunday:

Recap: The Chiefs broke a four-game losing streak with a win over the banged-up Bears. It was a nice win for the Chiefs in this injury-ravaged season. Kansas City is 5-7 and it trails Denver and Oakland, both teams are 7-5, but two games with four games to go.

Biggest area to fix: The Chiefs’ passing offense still needs to get better. Tyler Palko improved in his third start. With Kyle Orton dealing with a finger injury – he was injured after his first pass as a Chief, Palko may get further chances to improve. Kansas City has to score more points. They have scored a total of 22 points in the three games since Matt Cassel was lost for the season with a hand injury.

Biggest area to build on: The Chiefs had seven sacks at Chicago. Rookie Justin Houston had three sacks himself. The Chiefs’ defense has played well lately and if they can continue to rush the passer, they will stick around in games.

What to watch for: The Chiefs, who the toughest remaining schedules in the NFL, play at the New York Jets in Week 14.

Wrap-up: Chiefs 10, Bears 3

December, 4, 2011
12/04/11
6:37
PM ET
A look at an impressive 10-3 win for the Kansas City Chiefs against the Chicago Bears:

What it means: The Chiefs are now 5-7. They trail Denver and Oakland, both 7-5, by two games in the AFC West race. They lead San Diego, 4-7, by a half game. San Diego plays at Jacksonville on Monday night. The win snapped a four-game Kansas City losing streak. Maybe the Chiefs’ strange season trend will continue. The Chiefs have been a team of streaks all season. They started the season 0-3, then won four straight games and then lost four straight games.

Big play: The lone touchdown of the game was on a crazy 38-yard pass from Tyler Palko to Dexter McCluster at the end of the first half. It was deflected twice.

Palko gets first win: Palko got his first NFL win. He was 0-2 in his first two starts. Palko was 17-of-30 for 157 yards. Most importantly, he did not throw an interception. He was picked off six times in his first two NFL starts.

Short stint for Orton: Quarterback Kyle Orton spelled Palko for one play. He hurt his finger on his first and only pass as a Chief. Kansas City coach Todd Haley had no update on Orton’s injury after the game. With Orton dealing with an injury and Palko coming off a win, I could see Palko getting more time.

Houston, we don’t have a problem: Kansas City rookie Justin Houston was spectacular as he had three sacks. Kansas City had seven sacks on the day.

Good defense: The Kansas City defense has played well recently and it had another big day with three interceptions Sunday. Give defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel credit for putting together a strong group.

What’s next: The Chiefs, who entered Week 13 tied for the toughest remaining schedule in the league, play at the New York Jets on Sunday.

Tyler Palko is playing for Chiefs

December, 4, 2011
12/04/11
1:24
PM ET
Even though Kyle Orton worked some with the first team in warm-ups at Chicago on Sunday, Tyler Palko started his third straight game for Kansas City.

Kansas City coach Todd Haley said Palko would start. However, Orton, who was claimed off waivers last month from Denver, did get about 40 percent of the practice repetitions this past week.

It will be interesting to see if Orton will play some Sunday. Palko has thrown six interceptions in two starts. Kansas City starter Matt Cassel is out for the year with a broken hand.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

AFC WEST SCOREBOARD