Ah, the weight of high expectations blowing up in everyone’s face. Gosh it’s nice to know this happens to other teams too. What’s going on in Kansas City right now reminds me of the 2008 Cleveland Browns, my favorite season ever.
The Chiefs are in trouble. They are 0-2 this season, skinned alive by the Detroit Lions to the tune of 48-3, and the Buffalo Bills 41-7. I love the Lions and Bills as teams on the rise like everyone else, but they just demolished the Chiefs like they are the Patriots and Packers, and they’re not the Patriots and Packers.
The combined score of Chiefs games this year? 89-10. The Chiefs are bad. They’re also injured. Torn ACLs have taken away a nice tight end, and their best players on offense and defense (in order that’s tight end Tony Moeaki, running back Jamaal Charles, and safety Eric Berry).
Kansas City’s Suck for Luck campaign is in full bloom (see, it’s not just us), and head coach Todd Haley is already on the hot seat.
All this after the Chiefs finished 10-6 last year and went to the playoffs.
KC fans should study the 2008 Browns so at least they’re ready for what’s coming.
Like the Chiefs, the 2008 Browns were coming off a surprise 10-6 year, and everyone was excited. They had six Pro Bowlers on offense, including quarterback Derek Anderson. They were handed five national TV games. Everyone thought they had finally taken a step out of the gutter…and they responded with a 4-12 record filled with many infamous footnotes:
- Braylon Edwards’ season gets off on the wrong “foot.” He is accidentally spiked by teammate Donte’ Stallworth while running around barefoot in training camp.
- Kellen Winslow, also injured, is mysteriously asked to keep quiet about a staph infection he contracted while in the hospital. He reveals this publicly of course, after rampant rumors suggest he is missing games because of a sexually transmitted disease.
- Son of C-town Joe Jurevicius also suffers a staph infection. He hasn’t played football since.
- Two of the Browns four wins happen on Monday Night Football in miraculous fashion.
- Derek Anderson is benched for Brady Quinn, who is injured and replaced by Derek Anderson, who is injured and replaced by Ken Dorsey, who is injured and replaced by Bruce Gradkowski.
- Fans cheer in Derek Anderson’s face as he leaves a game with a season-ending MCL sprain. He cries.
- The Browns go one month, from November 17 to December 15, without scoring a touchdown. A span of 15 quarters.
- Romeo Crennel is fired while traveling to the season finale against the Steelers, which the Browns lose 31-0.
- Phil Savage cusses out a fan over email and is fired too.
With that as your guide, just think how hilarious the Chiefs season is about to get.
But in all seriousness, that year taught us a lot about strength of schedule.
The Browns schedule was cake in 2007, and it made them look better than they were. They finished 2006 with a record of 4-12. The next year in 2007 they were matched up against last place teams and the NFC West, and went 10-6. In 2008, they came crashing back to Earth and finished 4-12 again.
Look at the Chiefs by comparison. They finished the 2009 season 4-12. Last year, they were matched up against last place teams and the NFC West and finished 10-6. This year, they are crashing back down to Earth just like the Browns did, and a 4-12 season certainly seems likely. Or worse.
Understanding the NFL is apparently all about the NFC West.
Last year the Chiefs defeated just one team with a winning record, and it was San Diego in the season opener at Arrowhead. Their other wins came against the Browns, 49ers, Jaguars, Bills, Cardinals, Rams, Seahawks, Broncos, and Titans––teams with a combined record of 48-82. They were 4-0 against the NFC West.
In 2007, the Browns also defeated only one team with a winning record, the 10-6 Seahawks. Their other wins came against the Bengals, Ravens (x2), Dolphins, Rams, Texans, Jets, Bills, and 49ers––teams with a combined record of 40-88. They were 3-1 against the NFC West.
Both the 2007 Browns and 2010 Chiefs took advantage of a down year from a divisional powerhouse as well. The Chiefs outfoxed the 9-7 Chargers, who were besieged early by bizarre special teams mishaps.
The Browns took advantage of an off-year for the Ravens, who spent 2007 finding out quarterback Steve McNair was out of gas and Kyle Boller was still a bust. They slipped to 5-11 and lost to the Browns twice, once on a miracle field goal. They drafted quarterback Joe Flacco the following year and haven’t looked back.
The Chiefs only have one bully in their division while the Browns have two, so they actually made it to the playoffs in their NFC West season. And what happened there? They were killed in Arrowhead by those same Ravens 30-7. Overratedness catches up to you in an evil way.
Meanwhile, the 2007 Browns did not make the playoffs despite their 10 wins. Last season, the NFC West was also matched against the NFC South, and there we saw the Tampa Bay Buccaneers also miss the playoffs despite a 10-win season. Oh yeah, they got fat on the easier schedule too, jumping from three wins in 2009, to ten in 2010.
But my favorite connection between the 2008 Browns and the 2011 Chiefs is this:
Kansas City raided the Belichick tree in 2009 when they were rebuilding their front office, much like the Browns did. If Todd Haley is shown the door, Peter King speculated his two in-house replacements could be none other than former Browns’ coaches Romeo Crennel and Maurice Carthon. That’s too funny to be true.
Now I know what you’re thinking––How does all this all add up to the Browns landing Andrew Luck next year? Speaking of funny…
In order for the circle between the 2008 Browns and the 2011 Chiefs to be complete, the Chiefs have to pull a post-debacle-draft-blunder just like the Browns did in 2009.
Enter the New York Jets. In 2007, they played a very tough schedule and finished 4-12. In 2008, they rebounded with an easy schedule against, you guessed it, the NFC West (can’t make this stuff up). They traded for Brett Favre that year and finished 9-7, but they lost four of their final five games and fell out of the playoffs. That collapse led to the firing of coach Eric Mangini, who was hired by the Browns five minutes later.
The next year, during the 2009 NFL draft, the Jets traded up from the 17th overall pick to the fifth to select franchise quarterback Mark Sanchez. As we all know, they traded with the Browns, a move that was only possible because they took advantage of a team in transition and their unprepared and overwhelmed former coach in Mangini.
So let’s say the Chiefs finish 4-12 this season or worse, clean house, and promote Romeo Crennel to head coach.
Like Eric Mangini with the Browns, Crennel would be a Belichick disciple getting his second and possibly last shot as a head coach. And like Mangini, he’s a defensive coach who has no clue how to develop a quarterback. The entire process probably scares him to death.
With that, maybe the Chiefs decide one player (Luck) won’t make the difference next year anyway. Eric Berry and Jamaal Charles getting hurt caused them to drop from 10-6 to 4-12. So they get it in their heads that giving quarterback Matt Cassel one more shot, while trading down for tons of picks, is the right way solidify their foundation. After all, Scott Pioli traded a second-round pick for Cassel and he doesn’t want to admit he was wrong yet, plus the sheepishly adorable Crennel is already comfortable with him.
Now it’s highly likely the Browns have a nice rebound season against the NFC West this year, but also lose four of their final five games just like the 2008 Jets did. Remember, the Browns play the Steelers and Ravens twice each in their final five due to a weird lockout-protected schedule.
Let’s say the Browns still like Colt McCoy at the dawn of the 2012 draft, but decide to try and hit a home run by testing the weakness of the transitioning Chiefs. Crennel is in and Pioli wants to build him a great defense while hoarding draft picks along the way, just like his mentor Belichick would do.
Radio City Music Hall is stunned to hear of the Browns’ second consecutive draft day bombshell: They’ve traded the 15th overall pick, along with Scott Fujita, Seneca Wallace, Brain Robiskie, and their second round pick, to move up to No. 1 and take you-know-who.
That trade seem silly, but it’s right in line with the no-names Mangini got in return for Sanchez: the Jets’ 17th and 57th picks, plus Brett Ratliff, Kenyon Coleman, and Abe Elam.
And the world is fair again. Go Browns.