How bad is it in Kansas City these days?
It’s gotten so bad that the late-night comedians are starting to use the downtrodden and shell-shocked Chiefs as fodder for their jokes.
This from Jay Leno the other night: “Well, here’s something frightening. Scientists from NASA have said a research satellite the size of a bus will crash into the Earth on Friday. They say they have no idea where it will land, although they say it has better odds of landing in the end zone than the Kansas City Chiefs.”
Just where do you go when you get crushed by Buffalo 41-7 in your season opener at home, and follow that up by getting hammered 48-3 in Detroit the next week?
If you’re the Chiefs, you head back out on the road and find yourself in San Diego to take on the high- octane Chargers, led by quarterback Philip Rivers.
The way the Chiefs are playing — or not playing — is almost unfathomable.
Two seasons back they were a terrible team that staggered to a 4-12 record. Then, last year, they came out of nowhere to post a 10-6 record and win the AFC West.
The question the Chiefs had to face coming into this season was: Were they a mirage or truly a team on the rise.
Everybody knows the answer to that one.
Looking back on their 2010 season, it should be noted that the Chiefs played just two teams that posted winning records — the Colts and Chargers — and they went 1-2 in those three games.
Then in their lone playoff game, they were soundly whipped by Baltimore, 30-7.
Pre-season games are pretty much meaningless and all but, in their four games this summer, the Chiefs looked absolutely terrible and did not win a one.
Now it’s two games in, two humiliations and the loss of their top running back, Jamaal Charles, to a season-ending knee injury.
When a team is playing as horribly as the Chiefs, it leads the fans to call for the firing of the coach, in this case Todd Haley, and the beheading of quarterback Matt Cassel, who has a Trent Edwards fondness for throwing three-foot passes.
To say that the Chiefs need a win is an understatement. Just as important, they need to find themselves in the game, to be able to offer some sort of challenge to the Chargers and not roll over as they have in their opening two.
The heat is on in Kansas City and Haley has shot to the top of the list of the first coach most likely to get fired.
“I just want to try to refrain from really making judgments out of a lot of things right now until we get a little further down the road,” Haley said. “Everybody on this team has to play better, starting with the quarterback. He knows that.
“But it’s not just him, it’s not anybody, it’s the entire group — offence, defence, special teams — we need to play better football. And you do that by studying your opponent, working hard in practice, trusting your teammates and your coaches and then we, as coaches, need to do a good job of putting these guys in the best position to help us succeed. We have to, obviously, do a much better job of that.”
Topping the list is getting more out of Cassel.
“I think he needs to play better,” Haley said. “Right now, the onus falls on him because he has to make good decisions, he has to put throw the ball where it’s supposed to go when he’s throwing it, he needs to run the offence.
“Much like me as the head coach, he’s responsible for the offence. I’m responsible for the team, and we’ve all got to be better. But, I’m quite confident in Matt and his teammates are quite confident in him that he will do the things when needed to help us win games and be a better team.”
Going into Sunday’s game, Cassel has to battle not only the Chargers defence, but the cliche of trying to keep within himself, of not trying to do too much all by himself.
“As a quarterback, there’s a fine line between taking risks and then not playing smart,” he said the other day. “You always want to play within the offence, but you don’t want to be afraid to take chances.
“Again, there are some times where it works out great and then there are other times when you take a risk and it’s not very smart. But you always try to maintain that consistency of staying within the offence, within yourself and playing to what the coaches want you to do.”
Two games in and the Chiefs look nothing like a competent team, much less one that is playoff-bound.
On Sunday, they need to find their pride otherwise they’ll have bleaker prospects heading their way than space junk falling from the sky.