2004 NFL SEASON PREVIEW – AFC WEST
(Listed in order of 2003 finish)
BB: Bill Barnwell : ED: Ed Agner : PR: Phil Rippa
KANSAS CITY CHEIFS
(2003 Record: 13-3, Lost in AFC Divisional Round)
Key Additions: DC Gunther Cunningham (All Your Offenses Belong To Us?), OL Chris Bober, OL John Welbourn, DT Lionel Dalton, P Steve Cheek
Key Subtractions: T John Tait, K Morten Andersen, QB Jonathan Quinn, WR Marc Boerigter (IR)
BB: I truly believe that if Gunther Cunningham had signed on to be Joe Gibbs’ defensive coordinator, the media just would’ve handed the Lombardi Trophy to the Redskins then and there.
PR: Oh Man, that wouldn’t have been pretty. I already lived through all the Ray Rhodes – GREATEST DEFENSIVE MIND IN THE HISTORY OF GUYS PLAYING WITH A WRAPPED PORK PRODUCT era here in Washington. I imagine there would be legislation to name buildings after Cunningham being sent through Congress. Of course, it would stall behind the renaming of the nation’s capital after Ronald Reagan. BTW, has anyone checked that this might be some sort of scheme by a bitter Cunningham to take down this team as payback for canning him? Okay, I am probably reaching here.
ED: Cmon, Phil. You poop on Ray Rhodes while forgetting about Marvin Lewis: Man Who Invented Defense? Anyway, I am not certain where this Gunther Cunningham: Defensive Genius stuff came from. Sure the Chiefs had good defenses when he was there in the past. Then again, the Chiefs had good defensive players when Cunningham was there in the past. They don’t have the latter thus I can’t see them having the former. As with the aforementioned Lewis, the media shows that they have no idea how to tell cause from relation. I’ll give Cunningham this, though, I bet he punches Vermeil during one of his crying jags.
BB: The Chiefs real weapon under Dick Vermeil has been their ability to win at home. They were 8-0 last year, and won 6 of their 8 games the year before at home. There is no correlation, though, between the winning record and the desire of visiting opponents to get out of Kansas City as quickly as possible. Awww…Bill James is going to smite me now.
PR: I thought the real weapon was always the POWER OF TEARS~! I have to believe the players have side pools each week and the person who makes Vermeil cry that week wins the pot. Seriously, does Vermeil cry every time he cuts a player?
ED: He cries over everything. He is the anti-football.
BB: I’m not anywhere near as high on the Chiefs as a lot of people are – maybe because I don’t buy into the Gunther Cunningham hype – but for other reasons too. Losing John Tait was not a good thing – John Welbourn is a solid replacement, but not on the same level as Tait. Meanwhile, Will Shields is 147 years old and the attrition rate alone is way too high for old offensive linemen. And, finally, Willie Roaf is 189 years old and the odds of his knees disintegrating are high enough for me to kinda nudge you and say – maybe Priest Holmes numbers won’t be as good this year.
PR: I really like Chris Bober and the fact that he can’t crack the starting lineup with this bunch of guys leads me to believe that either he isn’t that good, the Giants lines the last few years were more woeful than I wanted to acknowledge or the Chiefs just don’t know they are doing.
ED: Yeah, losing Tait will hurt. And the rest of that line is ancient. But, c’mon, this is the AFC West. It’s a good enough line to still make Holmes the most overrated back in football yet again. I mean, Holmes gets six games against the poor D-lines of the Raiders, Chargers and Broncos? Give him the rushing title now.
BB: For some reason the Chiefs love investing their time and money into retread wide receivers – it makes me think that Jim Bowden secretly is their general manager. Sure, Tony Gonzalez is essentially their #1, but wouldn’t you really want to do better than Eddie Kennison or Johnnie Morton? Are they going to sign every overhyped receiver who had one good year or hints of one? Is Germane Crowell on the phone? Could someone hook Robert Brooks up? Carl Pickens…how are you NOT a Chief yet?
PR: Damn, I am not going to be able to trump Carl Pickens. That is still making me giggle. I mean we already made a ton of Yancy Thigpen jokes. Probably the best I could have come up with is Jeff Graham.
ED: Ahh, I remember the Carl Pickens-era Bengals fondly. Whither Michael Westbrook? And I’m with Bill on this, that’s one craptatstic receiving corps.
BB: I always get the X-Factor commercial confused with the “We must protect this house!” commercial but my brain is still forming so you will have to give me the benefit of the doubt here. Regardless kick returning phenoms have nasty development lines that turn drastically downward…in their second season. I say Desmond Howard, you say Raghib Ismail, I say Raghib Ismail, you throw the X symbol in my face, I get served. I guess whatever makes you happy.
PR: Dante Hall being on the cover of ESPN The Magazine’s Football Preview was laugh out loud funny. (The was basically an excerise in trying to promote Utility Infielders in Football) And Bill forgot about Chad Morton, who didn’t even have a full season of phenomness. The Redskins, of course, will refuse to believe this.
ED: Aww, you crap on the MVP…of the first four games of last season….in the minds of the deluded, the stupid and the insane. I too loved the Dante Hall hype. Four games of the Chiefs getting away with every clip in the world and Hall is the new hotness. Then every punter just kicks the ball out of bounds instead of towards him and he’s…yeah, Desmond Howard without the two really great days in his life. WHEE! I hope Dante saves all that Gatorade money. And yet, the number of times Chris Berman will orgasm over Hall again this season – 8 billion. How hard would it be for ESPN to hire people with even half a brain?
BB: MLB Mike Maslowski earns my hate only because of how his name sounds so similar to the poker player. Being on injured reserve only defers it. You’ll get some.
PR: Are you going to write his name down in your little notebook?
PR: I am assuming that Scott Fujita and Shawn Barber are expected to make all the tackles again (heck an even a majority of the sacks too). The secondary showed it can pick off a pass or two (Greg Wesley and Dexter McCleon each had 6) but that is also bound to happen when you have teams throwing about 90 times a game on you.
ED: I would have no problem with Gunther Cunningham taking the genius tag if he gets the Chiefs D to give up less than…ohh…45 points a game. This is a really-really-really bad defense. Really-really bad. I might even take the Raiders defense over this and…that’s just sad. But it’s good enough to win this crappy division so…more power to ’em.
BB: I guess the way I feel is just that the offensive production is going to drop with the creakiness of that offensive line. If it does, the defensive gain that’s supposed to come out of having Cunningham as defensive coordinator will be, in the best case, equaled, and this team will do no better than it did last year. Worst-case scenario, they drop back to 8-8 again.
PR: Looking at their schedule, I don’t think there is a game that KC will absolutely win until Week 11 when they play the Chargers for the first time. You could probably say Week 3 against Houston but I like the Texans. Still, they have a brutal schedule that is only easy thanks to the games against the Chargers and Raiders.
ED: I can see the Chiefs running the table on the entire AFC West. That’s not to say the Chiefs are great, it just says that none of the other three teams can stop the run. So there’s 6 wins. Shoot, they can win this division with 6 wins even if it makes Vermeil cry. BAH. God I hate football.
(2003 Record: 10-6, missed playoffs)
Key Additions: DE Marco Coleman, DE Raylee Johnson, S John Lynch, DT Luther Elliss, RB Garrison Hearst, T Cornell Green, FS John Lynch, TE OJ Santiago, SHUTDOWN CORNER!!!! Champ Bailey
Key Subtractions: RB Clinton Portis, WR Ed McCaffrey, TE Shannon Sharpe, DE Bertrand Berry, OL Ephraim Salaam, WR Chris Cole, QB Steve Beuerlein, LB John Mobley, LB Ian Gold, CB Jimmy Spencer, TE Jed Weaver, TE Byron Chamberlain, RB Mike Anderson (IR)
BB: What are the Broncos good at? Finding, selecting, and then producing running backs who run for gaudy numbers behind a very good offensive line and an excellent running scheme. What are the Broncos not good at? Well, lots of things – but number one is drafting cornerbacks who can actually play. Instead of signing Clinton Portis, a young, excellent running back to an expensive, long-term deal, they realized Portis’ relative expendability and dealt him for something they haven’t been able to acquire – an excellent cornerback in Champ Bailey. It doesn’t particularly matter how good Portis does in Washington – if Bailey remains healthy, this is an easy win for the Broncos and probably the best thing Mike Shanahan’s ever done.
PR: I am not a fan of Bailey but this was a really good deal for the Broncos. Of course, if Dusty is right, Champ can’t handle the cold so come late Oct. look out.
ED: On paper, I too am a fan of the Portis for Bailey deal. While I’m not sold on either player, the Broncos needed Bailey more than they needed Portis, so advantage Broncos. Of course, there’s the whole Broncos CB’s don’t suck anywhere but in Denver fact, but who am IIIII to poop on the Broncos? How I see the deal through the a board room discussion at Broncos HQ…
Broncos GM – Gee, we realy don’t want to pony up the cash to Portis since we know we could run the ball even with a Penn State RB. Let’s trade him.
Toadies – Good idea! You are a genius. But a genius to a lesser extent than Mike Shanahan.
Broncos GM – Indeed. Mike Shanahan has more geniusosity than anyone in the NFL. So what do you think? We DO need a shutdown corner after that hurting the Colts put on us in the playoffs. So lets trade Portis to the Skins for Champ Bailey. What do you think?
Toadies – Good idea! You are a genius. But a genius to a lesser extent than Mike Shanahan.
You or me or anyone with half a brain – Umm, is a shutdown corner necessary in this division since no one can throw the ball? Would it not be better to get a run stopper or two to shut down the Chiefs and give us a better shot in the playoffs?
Toadies – Hiss! Run stoppers are not sexy! Champ Bailey is sexy! But sexy to a lesser extent than Mike Shanahan.
Broncos GM – Right. How soon can you pack your stuff ’cause you’re out of here. I’ll give Danny boy a call back then.
Toadies – Good idea! You are a genius. But a genius to a lesser extent than Mike Shanahan.
BB: I know the Broncos are one of the trendy picks to go to the Super Bowl – as they are every year – but I’m not feeling it. Offensively, while they’ll get 90% of Portis’ production from the Bell/Griffin/Portis troika (guess which one of those RBs I’m hoping is getting most of the carries by the way I ordered them).
PR: Man, Garrison Hearst is going to be amazingly pissed that you confused him with Clinton Portis. Still, it does drive home the point about interchangeable parts. Losing Mike Anderson for the season, will probably gum up the works a bit. Reuben Droughns is now the starting fullback and he at least fits in with the interesting names theme.
ED: Well, there’s the doubt about the Broncos running game now that offensive line genius (Man, talk about specialization!) Alex Gibbs has moved to Atlanta. Of course, that’s supposedly a red herring given that Gibbs did little of the offensive line coaching over the past three years. I’m just throwing that out there, gimme a break. The real key to the Broncos running game – 6 games against the Raiders, Chiefs and Chargers. Yeah.
BB: I’m skeptical of their passing game. Rod Smith is 804 years old and gimpy and that doesn’t go over well for mere mortals in Denver. Ed McCaffrey is being replaced by Ashley Lelie, who is going to need to be this team’s #1 receiver (both for Denver and for my fantasy team – anyone want to spot me $30?). And if one of them can’t stay healthy…there’s no depth behind them. Unless you have a serious crush on Darius Watts. Or you have some hidden WILLIE JACKSON love! How is Willie Jackson not a Chief?
PR: I really, really, really am going to miss Ed McCaffrey. I never did nor will forgive the Giants for giving up on him. He wasn’t really the same since breaking his leg in Game 1 of the 2001 season (forgotten by many since certain events happened less than 12 hours later). Yup, depressed again.
ED: Sure, the passing game is crap but…this is the AFC West. Six games against the Raiders, Chiefs and Chargers. Run-run-run. *sigh* I miss the old wild-wild AFC West.
BB: Shannon Sharpe, while overrated, is being replaced by the three-headed hydra of Jed Weaver, OJ Santiago, and Byron Chamberlain – which is going to bring up all kinds of other anger management issues I can’t even begin to get into right now. Well – at least, they were until they cut Weaver and Chamberlain. No sympathy whatsoever, you cost me $150 fat boy. And – I mean – Jake Plummer is quarterbacking.
PR: Jake Plummer has always struck me as the Ben Grieve of football. Just saying.
ED: I’m thinking that’s an insult. To whom, I don’t know. And I guess that says all you need to know about Liquid Plumber. I miss the Brian Griese drunken “tripping over the dog” stories.
BB: The biggest blow to this team, I think, will not be the loss of Portis – instead, it’s the decimation of the linebacking corps. While Al Wilson is still in the middle, John Mobley is all-but-retired at this point, while Ian Gold followed his injury-marred season by leaving in free agency to go to Tampa Bay, where he’s probably going to be a huge story teaming up with Derrick Brooks. They drafted DJ Williams in the first round to make up for it, but as you may have slowly begun to realize…Miami First Rounders are about as valuable as hits in the eyes of Lee Sinins. Williams is reportedly “having trouble adapting” to the complexity of the NFL and has been “losing focus.” Right.
PR: I think the Broncos even waived John Mobley, yup, they did. Hometown boy Jashon Sykes (the clubhouse leader in ridiculous spelling of a name just to be different) will be getting starts. Having attended Colorado, I am assuming Sykes knows were all the good frat parties to rape women are being held.
ED: WAIT! JOHN LYNCH IS WHITE! How do you guys not mention John Lynch’s WHITENESS? He’s WHITE! Really-really WHITE! That alone guarantees a Super Bowl, right? Look how white the Patriots are! WHITE! Of course, he’s ancient and he was never that good to begin with. But he sure is WHITE! FAN FAVORITE~! SPORTS RADIO GOD~! And you guys forgot Monsanto Pope too. I just like to point him out to illustrate my point about people needing to get licenses before they name children. Anyway, this is a horrid-horrid-horrid run stopping defense and Priest Holmes thanks them for it. But they should be able to stop the pass which…means little unless the Broncos make the playoffs. I don’t see the Broncos winning the division and I sure don’t see them getting a wild card with the schedule they got this year. But John Lynch sure is WHITE~! so Broncos fans will forgive them.
BB: Danny Kanell is still the Broncos backup QB. Ah, the simple things in life.
(2003 record: 4-12, missed the playoffs)
Key Additions: HC Norv Turner, S Marques Anderson, DT Ted Washington, G Ron Stone, CB Ike Charlton, DT Warren Sapp, WR Chris Cole, LB Dwayne Rudd (kinda), LB Danny Clark, CB Ray Buchanan, TE Roland Williams, CB Denard Walker, RB Amos Zereoue, RB Troy Hambrick (kinda), S David Terrell, DE Bobby Hamilton, QB Kerry Collins, DE Bobby Hamilton
Key Subtractions: LB Dwayne Rudd, RB Troy Hambrick, LB Bill Romanowski, DE Trace Armstrong, C Barrett Robbins, OL Matt Stinchcomb, DT Rod Coleman, LB Eric Barton, RB Charlie Garner, LB Eric Johnson, DE Lorenzo Bromell, QB Rick Mirer, TE OJ Santiago, DB Terrence Shaw
BB: That’s a LOT of Veteran Presence. A whole lot.
BB: In the AFC East section, Ed proposes his idea that the Mets are a lot like the Jets. I’m going to counter and say that while the history and culture of the Mets seemingly emulates the Jets, the actual running and history of the 21st century Mets is remarkably similar to the 21st century Raiders. The best version of each of the teams lost in the playoffs under bizarre circumstances – the Mets getting sold out by Kenny Rogers, the Raiders…well, you know. A slightly lesser version of each team made the finals the year after, only to be outmatched by a clearly superior team. After the following year, where the team performed significantly below the standards set by the previous few years performance, they tried to avoid the rebuilding process by signing veteran free agents and throwing their money around. Well, you can see what it got the Mets – and you can probably figure out what it will get the Raiders.
PR: Oh yeah, Norv Turner so is Bobby Valentine.
ED: Yeah. That’s apt. But the thing with the Raiders is that NEVER scrapping it all and rebuilding has ALWAYS been their M.O.. So as a Raider fan, you never even entertain the thought of a real honest-to-god youth movement. It’s ALWAYS been that way. ALWAYS. Sometimes it sorta works, mostly it doesn’t. Being a Raider fan is like being on a roller coaster constantly, just hold on and try not to puke. But, in all acutality, there WAS the influx of picks thanks to the Chucky deal AND the Gallery pick this year so…for the Raiders, this is kind of a youth movement – though none of those picks seem like much to me. You have to look at it relatively, you see. That said, Norv Turner makes me want to vomit. But only half as much as Kerry Collins.
BB: I am sure Warren Sapp will probably yell at me or cheap-shot me or something for this but does anyone envision this turning out even reasonably well? Like eight wins well? As long as Jerry Porter has a good season for my fantasy team, I will be a happy boy.
PR: Speaking of fantasy teams – somehow, someway, Tyronne Wheatley is a #1 back in the league again. I have no ill will towards Wheatley especially since he is one of the select few first round running backs picked by the Giants to pan out in the last 20 years. Still, I never thought that 10 years later, he would be the number one guy. So he better not suck. Stupid fantasy sports.
ED: I heart me some Tyrone Wheatley, but he’s no one’s #1 back anymore. Oh no.
BB: This is going to be so ugly.
PR: I am trying to pick my spots so I don’t take any thunder away from Ed who is probably going to have a very cathartic experience writing his thoughts down on paper. Still, I would again like to point out that the Raiders told Tim Brown that he was too old to play for them. Too old for the Raiders. Wow!
PR: Actually, Oakland also told this to Rod Woodson so I don’t know what has gotten in to them. At least Brown caught on with another team. Rod Woodson is spending his days trying not to punch Solomon Paige in the face on the NFL Network.
ED: I love the Raiders for millions of reasons starting with my first boyhood Raider experience of Tooz cheapshotting the hated Terry Bradshaw that won me over as a fan forever. (Oh. Right. Simmons says no one can root for any team but their home team. Thanks for making my life decisions for me, Mr. Man Who Can’t Hold Down A Job With Jimmy Kimmell. At least my voice doesn’t squeak, Prepubesco!) Now that I am ancient enough to get a shot as a Raider, I love them even more for the fact that I understand they have the same self-destructive flaws as I. Yes. See, the Raiders are, on the surface, smart enough to smell their own stink – the same as I. We are self-reflective and not ashamed of it! We see our problems with no denial! We are of the moment, with poise and understanding; we are philosophical and existential, if you will! Problem is, when addressing the issues of our failures, we understand where we went wrong and we want to fix the errors of our ways but, in the process of fixing our failures, we both miss SOOOOOOOOOOOOOO badly. Take this offseason – PLEASE! The Raiders understood the AFC West has all of a sudden become the NFC East and there was a desperate need to bring in run stoppers if there was any shot of challenging the Chiefs and Broncos (OK. Yeah. I know, no shot. But you have to put a happy face on the offseason). Fine. Hey, the Raiders understood that and the Broncos didn’t. The Broncos are geniuses, right? Right? So the Raiders are not that terribly flawed…sorta. Anyway, so when addressing the problems of the past season, what do they do? Right! Bring in NAME~! run stoppers! Whee! So what if they’re old and will fall apart before the ink gets dry on the contracts? Meh! There was a problem and it was addressed. I’ve made the same flawed decisions numerous times in my life. We are simpatico! Wait! Get rid of that coach, he lost the team and everyone hated him and the West Coast offense is soooooooo 1996! OK. Get in a coach who…I don’t know…is a good X’s and O’s man, well-respected, a football man through-and-through who isn’t opposed to returning to the glories of yesteryear, to relive our youth with the vertical offense! OK. Right. Norv Turner? Oh, I’ve made some Norv Tuner-like decisions in my life. Oh yes. I have. *sigh* Ahh, returning to the glories of yesteryear! Excuse me while I go cry. Come here, Al. We need to hug. Hey, the O-line was old and sucky and hurt. Bring in…everybody who can block a little, draft that kid who might be great or the new Mandarich. So what? We’re making changes here. Something might stick. Aww, I’ve been there too, Al! Oh, I’ve been there! I’ve even made a…I was too ashamed to admit this heretofore, but I too have made Kerry Collins-like decision when I was drunk and stupid…er. I can understand. And at this stage in my life, after all the failures and losses and humiliation, I too aspire for nothing more than the dream of .500. We are one, Al. We are one. But neither of us are getting that .500 dream anytime soon.
PR: The Raiders schedule could end up being a red herring as Oakland can end up appearing A LOT better than they actually are. They have a bunch of games who are “supposed” to make the leap this year but instead matchups against teams like Jacksonville and New Orleans could turn into the classic “disappointing season” vs. “surprising turnaround” game. And if the Raiders start getting pimped as having a “surprising turnaround”, I think I am going to have to drive to Ohio and take the sharp objects away from Ed.
ED: Oh, I’ve been in that supposedly up-swing state too. Oh yes, I have. It never works out. It. Never. Works. Out. I need to go cry now.
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS
(2003 record: 4-12, missed the playoffs)
Key Additions: LB Steve Foley, OL Leander Jordan, OL Mike Goff, LB Randall Godfrey, WR Kevin Dyson (for camp purposes only)
Key Subtractions: WR Kevin Dyson, DE Marcellus Wiley, C Cory Raymer, OT Vaughn Parker, DE Raylee Johnson, RB Antonieo Harris, TE Stephan Alexander, G Michael Keathley, WR Tim Baker, WR Dondre Gilliams, OT David Brandt, OT Damien McIntosh, P Darren Bennett, G Kelvin Garmon, DT Joe Salave’a, OG Bob Hallen, WR David Boston
BB: So, your team goes 4-12, and you’re generally considered the worst team in football. What do you do? Release a third of your roster and don’t replace them? Correct!
PR: I was positive one of the choices would be “keep 4 QBs on the roster to start the season”.
ED: Let the leeches suck out the bad blood! Let the leeches suck out the bad blood!
BB: The fact that they were able to extract a first rounder out of the Giants without any leverage made me and Rippa sick then and now.
PR: I shot my wad on this in the Giants preview. But believe me, I did have to visit NFL.com and double check to the language of the deal to make sure that somehow San Diego hadn’t ended up with the rights to my unborn son.
ED: Well, your son WILL be taller than Doug Flutie right out of the chute.
BB: I am a big Steve Foley fan but he isn’t going to get this defense started (or retarded, even) by himself. Fugly.
PR: But Quentin Jammer???? HE’S IN THE GAME!!!!
BB: LaDanian Tomlinson will rush for 8004 yards. Whoever’s playing quarterback will throw for 203 yards and get sacked 7,414,389 times, or roughly two-thirds as often as you or I would if we had no offensive line. Literally their best offensive lineman this year will be Lorenzo Neal. The offense and defense is absolutely terrible and I would be surprised if the Chargers won as many games this year as they did last year. Oh well, at least they got that Giants first rounder. Ugh.
PR: If it wasn’t for Doug Flutie, I would be wishing for the team to get swallowed by a sink hole or hit by a meteor or something.
ED: I love you, San Diego Chargers! I love you sooooooo much! Oh, yeah! It takes a lot to suck more than the Raiders. Yes. It does.