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Mr. Laz
08-23-2005, 10:06 AM
Posted on Tue, Aug. 23, 2005

Chiefs assemble NFL's best offense mostly from spare parts

By ADAM TEICHER

The Kansas City Star


The list of Chiefs offensive players to receive individual awards in Dick Vermeil’s four seasons is so long it could almost fill the Kansas City phone book.

Tony Gonzalez, Priest Holmes, Will Shields, Willie Roaf, Dante Hall, Tony Richardson, Casey Wiegmann and Brian Waters have been honored with some sort of All-Pro status.

There is no shortage of team offensive achievements. The Chiefs were in the top five in yardage all four seasons and led the league last year. The Chiefs led the NFL in scoring in 2002 and 2003 and were second last season.

So, as the world knows, the Chiefs have an impressive collection of offensive talent. It’s easy to say that now. But it didn’t look that way when many of these players joined the Chiefs.

Only Gonzalez and Roaf arrived as desirable players any team would have taken. Otherwise, the Chiefs have a collection of offensive players overlooked or passed up by other teams.

Holmes and Wiegmann were free agents but didn’t have many teams in the bidding. Shields, Hall, Samie Parker and Kevin Sampson were mid- or low-round draft picks.

Richardson, Waters and Eddie Kennison were “street free agents,” an NFL term for guys who had been dumped by another team and were available to all. Trent Green was a backup quarterback for St. Louis.

Compare that with other high-scoring teams from Indianapolis, Minnesota or St. Louis that were all built with high draft picks at key positions.

That makes the Chiefs’ offensive achievements all the more remarkable in comparison.

“Your players are your scheme, and you have to make sure you do what they can do best,” Chiefs offensive coordinator Al Saunders said. “Every player has some outstanding quality. What we’ve tried to do is find out what that outstanding quality is and then manufacture our system so these players can do those things.”

Saunders is the one who draws it all up and makes sure everything fits. He joined the Chiefs after two seasons with the high-flying Rams and set about building an offense capable of the same thing.

He found his new players had different strengths from those he left behind. The Chiefs had a premier pass-catching tight end in Gonzalez; the Rams didn’t. The Rams had big-time wide receivers in Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce; the Chiefs didn’t.

So Saunders tinkered with his plans and featured Gonzalez and halfback Holmes in the passing game instead.

“We have a tremendous number of things we’d like to do offensively,” Saunders said, “but we don’t do them because we don’t have guys who can do them.”

If there’s a secret to the Chiefs’ offensive success, that’s it. Fit the plays to the players rather than the other way around.

The Chiefs worked around the fact that they’ve had a marginal group of wide receivers. Of the guys to play the position for the Chiefs the last four years, only Johnnie Morton and Derrick Alexander arrived as sought-after players. Even then, Alexander was nearing the end of his career when Vermeil and Saunders joined the Chiefs, and Morton was close to the end when he came to Kansas City.

But the Chiefs turned Kennison, who had been cut by Denver, into a valuable player. He had his first 1,000-yard season last year. Marc Boerigter arrived from the Canadian Football League in 2002 and caught eight touchdown passes.

“You wouldn’t consider us to have a great receiving group,” said Lynn Stiles, the Chiefs’ vice president for football operations. “But they’ve been well utilized within the framework of our system.”

The Chiefs’ best personnel work has been done at other offensive positions. Take Holmes, for example.

Nobody predicted he would become one of the NFL’s best backs when he was a free agent in early 2001 — the Chiefs included. He was a backup on Baltimore’s Super Bowl-winning team, and because he was smallish and had an injury history, he didn’t have many teams lusting after his services.

The Chiefs saw a nifty runner who might be useful in a running game that stretched the field as opposed to the between-the-tackles offense used by the Ravens.

“He was a great fit,” Stiles said, “for what we were trying to do.”

The Chiefs now look brilliant for signing Holmes. The same could be said for Wiegmann, their center.

Wiegmann, listed by the Chiefs at 285 pounds but probably lighter, is too small for his position to suit many teams. The Chiefs found a way to make him a useful player.

“If we asked Casey a lot to have a one-on-one situation with a big, huge nose guard, that’s probably not in our best interest,” Saunders said. “But what Casey does better than any center in the National Football League is get out on the perimeter and find the players he’s responsible for. He can play in space so well.

“If we still had (former center) Tim Grunhard, we’d be running different kinds of plays. We’d be just as successful because we’d be using his strengths.”

Left tackle Roaf and guards Shields and Waters were Pro Bowlers last season. Many observers consider Wiegmann to be as crucial a part of the offensive line as them.

“Casey is probably the most underappreciated guy on our offense,” Green said. “From a mental standpoint, he’s making all the calls and getting everyone communicated. From a physical standpoint, there aren’t many centers in the league that can snap and be able to pull around the end and lead on a screen or lead on a sweep or a reverse. What he relies on so much is his mind and his quickness.

“He’s not underappreciated by the guys on this team, but I think he goes unnoticed around the league.”

On the current line, only Shields was a starter when Vermeil and Saunders arrived. The Chiefs signed Wiegmann and promoted Waters that first year, then traded for Roaf their second year.

This year’s addition is Sampson, a seventh-round pick last year who played well in training camp before injuring a toe.

All of these line decisions worked as planned.

“They’ve been able to find players who fit,” ESPN analyst Mark Schlereth said. “Brian Waters is a great athlete. He may be one of the best athletes in the NFL pound for pound. Casey Wiegmann, same thing. The guy can move his feet, get out for screens, runs under control. Will Shields and Willie Roaf are supremely gifted athletes.

“That just goes to show you how important the play of their offensive line is. If you’ve got a dominating offensive line, you can win a lot of football games. It’s not a coincidence that offensively, they lead the league every year.”

Vermeil said: “We have a lot of guys that are such good players on our offensive line that it doesn’t matter what you ask them to do because they can do it well. Will Shields is unlimited. It doesn’t matter what you ask him to do. He will do it and do it well. That’s just like Brian Waters, just like Willie Roaf. Those guys can do anything.”

Just like all of those first-round picks in Minnesota, Indianapolis and St. Louis.

“I don’t know if what we’ve done with our offense is more significant than what those other teams have done,” Vermeil said. “But I think it’s more rewarding to all the people involved this way.”


A talent roundup

How the Chiefs acquired their top offensive players:

Pos Player How acquired
QB Trent Green trade
HB Priest Holmes unrestricted free agent
FB Tony Richardson “street” free agent
WR Eddie Kennison “street” free agent
WR Samie Parker fourth-round draft pick
WR Dante Hall fifth-round draft pick
WR Marc Boerigter Canadian Football League
WR Chris Horn Arena Football League
TE Tony Gonzalez first-round draft pick
OL Willie Roaf trade
OL Brian Waters “street” free agent
OL Casey Wiegmann unrestricted free agent
OL Will Shields third-round draft pick
OL Kevin Sampson seventh-round draft pick

CanadianChief
08-23-2005, 10:09 AM
Add Derrick Johnson and Patrick Surtain to that list of offensive talent. Johnson for returning all his fumble recoveries and Surtain for returning all his picks!!!

Chief Henry
08-23-2005, 10:14 AM
TOO FREEEEKING BAD WE DIDN"T HAVE A
&^%$#@$#%^$#@ DEFENSE to go with all this
gawd dam offense.

Here's the obligatory.........Dammit Carl

Bob Dole
08-23-2005, 10:19 AM
That makes the Chiefs’ offensive achievements all the more remarkable in comparison.

And it makes the lack of defensive achievements even more inexcusable.

kc rush
08-23-2005, 11:37 AM
It just makes you wonder where all of those early round draft picks went.