NFL

Kansas City Chiefs: Depth & flexibility key for deposed champions if Mahomes is to recapture Lombardi

By Sports Desk March 01, 2021

Even in the wake of a devastating blowout loss on the biggest stage in football, there remains utmost confidence in the Kansas City Chiefs.

The 31-9 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl LV has not shaken faith in Patrick Mahomes, Andy Reid and company.

Indeed, you would be hard-pressed to find many doubting their ability to get back to the same stage next season.

Their humbling defeat came as a combination of especially poorly timed bad luck on the injury front and the sheer dominance of a stacked Tampa Bay defense.

Being overwhelmed to that degree is not something the Chiefs have dealt with regularly.

But that does not mean they can ignore the lessons from their failure to repeat as Super Bowl champions.

Kansas City's 2020 campaign was another in which they frequently produced the spectacular, yet their tumble at the final hurdle has left the Chiefs with some obvious holes to address in the offseason.

Offense

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

That certainly was the case for Kansas City's explosive passing offense in 2020, the Chiefs continuing to shred teams through the air amid a backdrop of mostly empty stadiums.

Mahomes led the NFL in passing yards per game with 316.0, well clear of Deshaun Watson (301.4) in second.

Watson's Houston Texans were the only team in the league to produce more passing plays of 20 yards or more (70 to 69) and more touchdown throws of at least 20 yards (16 to 15).

Their efforts through the air were backed up by underrated production on the ground.

The Chiefs ranked 12th in rushing yards per attempt (4.46), but were in the top 10 for rushes of 10 yards or more with 57.

However, just 21 of those came from rookie first-round running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire.

Edwards-Helaire did not quite live up to his billing, averaging only 1.7 yards after contact with a defender per attempt.

Evading defenders and attempted tackles was an area in which he was expected to excel.

Yet the fact the Chiefs still finished fifth in offensive scoring efficiency despite his underwhelming efforts in that regard suggests Kansas City has scope to be even more potent if he makes the leap in his second season.

Defense

Going into Super Bowl week, there was plenty of chatter about Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo putting together a gameplan to stop Tom Brady, as he did twice for the New York Giants to help capture the Lombardi with wins over the New England Patriots.

Any plan Spagnuolo had did not bear fruits, with a talented and opportunistic defense failing to slow down a well-balanced Buccaneers' attack.

The fact Kansas City did not succeed in slowing down Tampa Bay is not entirely surprising.

Though they were tied-10th in takeaways with 22 and ranked ninth in opponent scoring efficiency, the Chiefs were often generous to opposing offenses in the regular season.

Kansas City's finished the year 18th in yards per play allowed with 5.61, that average inflated by their vulnerability against the run.

The Chiefs gave up 122.1 yards per game on the ground, putting them 21st in the NFL. Excluding kneeldowns, Kansas City stopped 19 run plays for negative yardage, the fewest in the league.

Reid's team does not appear to put too much emphasis on defending the run, treating giving up yardage on the ground as an occupational hazard of focusing on the pass.

But the flaws of that strategy were laid bare in the Super Bowl as they gave up 145 rushing yards, with Leonard Fournette's 27-yard touchdown scamper in the third quarter the back-breaking play of the game.

Kansas City boasts talent on the defensive front and in the secondary but, for a team with few limitations, it may be prudent for those running the show to focus on minimising the factors that have held the Chiefs back in terms of shutting down the ground game.

Offseason

The elephant that made its presence in the room felt during the Super Bowl was the offensive line, which arguably stands as Kansas City's most pressing need going into the offseason.

Those looking to counter that suggestion will point to the absence of starting tackles Mitchell Schwartz and Eric Fisher against the Bucs and the Chiefs' insistence on sticking with five-man protection, the lack of help provided to the O-Line from running backs and tight ends helping doom them to a heavy defeat as Mahomes was left to try to evade 33 pressures.

There is a case to be made, therefore, that in 2021 a more flexible approach from the coaching staff is the key rather than personnel reinforcements up front.

But the interior of the line was just as much of a problem as the tackles in the Super Bowl and, with center Austin Reiter and guard Kelechi Osemele each set for unrestricted free agency, replacements may need to be found.

And, in a year where the Chiefs are scheduled to be $18million over the salary cap at the most optimistic estimate, those replacements may have to come in the draft rather than free agency, though the return of Laurent Duvernay-Tardif from a year out fighting the pandemic in his native Canada will help fill the void.

Receivers Sammy Watkins and Demarcus Robinson look unlikely to be re-signed, meaning younger weapons to supplement Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce may be on the way.

Linebacker Damien Wilson and strong safety Daniel Sorensen are also free agents, and the events of Super Bowl may lead to the Chiefs letting them go and attempting to find faster replacements who are less exploitable in coverage and whose speed can aid Kansas City's cause in run defense.

Whether it's improving the pass protection or adding more thump against the run, the offseason of one of the NFL's most expansive teams may be defined by them adding players who can restrict the space for their opponents.

Related items

  • Kraft keen for Brady to sign one-day Patriots contract Kraft keen for Brady to sign one-day Patriots contract

    Tom Brady will retire as a New England Patriot if owner Robert Kraft gets his way.

    The seven-time Super Bowl winner announced his retirement on Wednesday, bringing an end to a 23-year career in the NFL.

    Six of those Super Bowl victories came with the Patriots, but Brady spent the final three years of his career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    However, Kraft does not want Brady to end his career with that franchise and instead hopes he will sign a one-day contract with the Patriots.

    "Not only do I want it, our fans are clamouring for it. To us, he always has been and always will be a Patriot," Kraft told CNN.

    "We will do everything in our power to bring him back, have him sign off as a Patriot and find ways to honour him for many years to come.

    "He did so much to bring life and good cheer to our community and he's a beloved figure and he's earned the respect and love that people feel for him like no other athlete in our town, and we've had some great ones."

  • Chelsea's spending spree, FFP and the real European Super League Chelsea's spending spree, FFP and the real European Super League

    The January transfer window set several records in the Premier League, with Chelsea's eye-watering spending spree sending shock waves across the football world.

    Todd Boehly's takeover last year resulted in major acquisitions ahead of the start of this season, including Raheem Sterling, Wesley Fofana and Kalidou Koulibaly, but it is the mid-season business that has really thrust the club under the spotlight.

    Chelsea's spending has split the footballing world down the middle, with some concerned by the outlay and what it means for Financial Fair Play (FFP), while others praised the club's hierarchy for their determination and ambition.

    Here, Stats Perform has broken down the Blues' activity, the controversies and FFP impact, as well as the vast differences to Europe's other top leagues.
     

    Spending spree

    Eight new faces arrived at Stamford Bridge in the mid-season window, seven of which were permanent signings, and all of whom were aged 23 or under.

    Chelsea's business shows a focus on the future, having paid a premium price for talent and potential rather than established stars – the exception perhaps being Atletico Madrid loanee Joao Felix.

    Capped 28 times by Portugal, Joao Felix was a statement addition until the end of the season with the hope he can provide the cutting edge Chelsea have lacked in the final third and push the club back into the hunt for Champions League football.

    The other seven additions, however, fit a different mould. While they will likely be utilised by Graham Potter this season, they all represent a relatively unknown quantity, despite some impressive feats.

    In the record-breaking deal to sign Enzo Fernandez from Benfica, Chelsea paid a fee higher than a British club ever has previously to bring in the Argentine, who was named young player of the tournament in his nation's World Cup-winning campaign.

    Yet he does not even have a full year of European football under his belt, with the situation similar for Mykhaylo Mudryk – a player who caught the eye with his Champions League displays, but one who has not featured in a top domestic league.

    In total, Chelsea reportedly spent more than £280million on Fernandez, Mudryk, Benoit Badiashile, Noni Madueke, Malo Gusto, Andrey Santos and David Datro Fofana.

    Only two, Badiashile and Gusto, were signed from one of Europe's top-five European leagues, and Ligue 1 is widely considered to be the weakest financially compared to the Premier League, LaLiga, Serie A and Bundesliga.

    While the figures spent have led to scrutiny, a bigger cause of controversy is the apparent exploitation of a loophole in FFP regulations by issuing long-term deals to spread the fees across several years of financial reports.

    According to reports, the Chelsea hierarchy believe they are the first to exploit a football transfer market weakness in the valuation of younger players and with the length of contracts given to signings.
     

    Chelsea controversy

    Amortisation of the fees spent in the January window has allowed Chelsea to spread the costs of their spending spree for budgetary purposes across the next eight seasons and beyond, handing out contracts with lengths that have rarely, if ever, been seen before.

    Mudryk penned an eight-and-a-half-year deal at Stamford Bridge, tying him down beyond 2030, with similar deals issued to the rest of their January additions.

    In fact, the shortest contract issued by the Blues was the six-year deal for striker Fofana, running until 2029, and even that is longer than most of the rest of the Premier League teams have handed new signings last month.

    To put how it works into context, the majority of Chelsea's spending spree in excess of £280m will be spread across eight years, resulting in an annual cost of just £35m.

    Chelsea can easily offset that cost with player sales which, unlike transfer fees for purchased players, are booked immediately into the financial records in one lump sum – and Potter has a number within his squad who could be sold at the end of the campaign.

    This approach, crucially, is not against FFP regulations but UEFA has reportedly identified the loophole and are shifting the goalposts in future by setting a five-year limit for FFP – although this would not change things hugely.

    If Chelsea's £280m spree was spread across five years, it would equate to £56m a year. Again, that is a fee the Blues can offset with player sales, TV revenue and sponsorship deals.

    On top of this, from 2023-24, the allowable loss limit in FFP will be doubled from €30m (£26.6m) to €60m (£53.2m), while clubs judged to be in good financial health will be granted a further €30m in allowable losses over a three-year period.

    That means that Chelsea could be permitted to lose as much as €90m (£80m) over three years, triple the old limit.
     

    European impact

    The most eye-catching fact from the January window is that Chelsea spent more than the Bundesliga, Ligue 1, Serie A and LaLiga combined – as well as spending more than the other 19 clubs in the Premier League.

    Spending in England dwarfed that on the continent, with a reported outlay of over £800m from the Premier League compared to £110m in Ligue 1, £60m in the Bundesliga, £25m in Serie A and £25m in LaLiga.

    While Chelsea's spending made up the majority of the Premier League figures, the divide between English football and the other top leagues in Europe is highlighted by spending elsewhere in the league.

    Four of the bottom five clubs in the Premier League spent a reported total of £175m on new players, a figure that eclipses the total spending from any of Europe's other top five leagues.

    European clubs, to put it simply, cannot compete. Brighton and Hove Albion staved off bids in excess of £70m for Moises Caicedo and it is difficult to imagine a similar situation had such a figure been offered to a side on the continent amid the current economic climate in football.

    The biggest difference is that Premier League sides can afford to take risks and fail in the market, whereas those in Europe have no choice but to be more shrewd in their spending or suffer huge consequences – just take a look at Barcelona.

    English clubs, meanwhile, can simply cut ties if things do not work out. Chelsea spent a reported £97.5m to sign Romelu Lukaku, only to loan him to Inter just a year later, while Timo Werner arrived from RB Leipzig in 2020 for a reported £45m and returned to the Bundesliga side last year for almost half that fee.

    Chelsea are not alone in that regard. Arsenal's club-record signing Nicolas Pepe, signed for a reported £72m, is spending the season on loan at Nice, Tottenham's club-record signing Tanguy Ndombele is similarly outcast and Paul Pogba left Manchester United for nothing after the club paid a reported £89.5m to capture him from Juventus.

    Two years ago, football rallied against the creation of a European Super League but the reality is it already exists – it's just known by a different name.

  • Brady a 'good bet' to be first-ballot Hall of Famer but legendary QB will have to wait his turn Brady a 'good bet' to be first-ballot Hall of Famer but legendary QB will have to wait his turn

    Tom Brady is a "good bet" to be voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame at the first time of asking, though he will still have to wait five years.

    Brady called time on his playing career on Wednesday, a year on from retiring for the first time.

    While that stint out of the game only lasted 40 days, the legendary quarterback – a seven-time Super Bowl champion – said he was retiring "for good" this time around.

    Brady is sure to go down as one of the greatest athletes of all time, though that does not mean he will be able to skip any queue in order to become a Hall of Famer.

    Indeed, while Hall of Fame chief communications officer Rich Desrosiers believes Brady will make it into the Hall of Fame on his first ballot, the earliest that will come will be 2028.

    "Even Tom Brady has to wait, even Peyton Manning had to wait," Desrosiers told Stats Perform when asked if Brady could be fast-tracked into the Hall of Fame.

    "There's some others that we can assume will be or would have been first ballot types of people – Peyton Manning, one that I mentioned, this same conversation came up with him.

    "You've got a couple of guys out there whose clocks are running: a Larry Fitzgerald, let's say a Drew Brees.

    "I think many people assume they'd be first-ballot guys. It's just something the hall doesn't want to do, because then you've created a precedent, you've established a line, and who's making that determination?

    "It's also unfair to the people who are queued up right now to be part of the class of 2024. If Tom were to have the five-year mandatory waiting period waived, then he's really knocking someone else out of the class of 2024, who has been waiting to get in, and we have many players who are on their second, third, fourth, fifth, even 10th year of eligibility.

    "[If] all of a sudden, you're just saying, 'we're going to let somebody jump that line', you've displaced somebody else who's gone through the process. So it's not going to happen."

    Asked if Brady will be into the Hall of Fame as soon as he can, Desrosiers said: "I would think so. Right now, we have 49 selectors.

    "These are 49 mostly active journalists from around the country. They meet and consider the candidacies and each person who's up for election has a presenter who presents the case for the person under consideration.

    "The debate might last five minutes 10 minutes, 20. There's been debates on candidates that have gone into 25-30 minute range when you really are starting to weigh this person against that person in the past, and I think it may have started with Brett Farve – Brett's presenter stood up and said two words – 'Brett Farve' and sat back down.

    "It happened again with Peyton Manning, and I'm pretty sure that whoever is the presenter for Tom Brady will take a similar approach. They'll just say, 'Tom Brady', sit down.

    "Nothing can ever be assumed. But it's probably a pretty good bet."

    On Brady's illustrious career, Desrosiers added: "There's people far more talented than I am in debating those things. We'll let them debate that but it's hard to argue with seven Super Bowl championships, five Super Bowl MVPs, he's virtually passing every record, whatever number you want to throw out there.

    "He's at the top or near the top of every offensive statistical category there is and a winner, and the longevity – there's plenty of boxes, you can check on the side of the ledger that says greatest of all time for sure."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.