Alex Smith failures. End game mismanagement. An Andrew Luck comeback. Eric Fisher holding penalties. Marcus Mariota’s self suck touchdown. Tom Brady converting on three consecutive 3rd and 10 situations in overtime. All of it was placed in the coffin and buried deep down with the dinosaurs after Kansas City beat San Francisco 31-20 in Super Bowl LIV to end their fifty year drought.
Great. Good for them. After watching them finish the season 9-0 with a point differential of +140 and come back from countless deficits, what did you learn most about football from their championship run, and what could the Houston Texans extrapolate from them to make their team better for 2020?
This is the question I asked the masthead. These were their responses:
I think it goes to show that the KC Chiefs have no idea how to play football.
The Chiefs’ inability to establish the run clearly costed what could have been a great team the ability to be even better. The Chiefs should have pulled Christian Okoye out of retirement, and along with him and Damien Williams, run the ball repeatedly into stacked fronts on early downs. In fact, it was their inability to establish the run, regardless of the costs associated with such a successful strategy, is what led them to facing multiple deficits in games.
There is absolutely nothing to be learned from these Kansas City Chiefs. They simply do not understand football, and there is nothing worthwhile to be gleaned here.
Unleash your quarterback. Have an elite starting offensive line. Have your fastest player not have hamstring issues. Push the ball down the field. Have a defense that can play against any scheme.
Defensively they played three teams in the playoffs with completely separate identities. The Texans are going to control the pace but spread you out with four wide receivers and a ton of options. The Titans are going to break your will or at least break your teeth. The 49ers are going to make you wrong every play with run-pass options and speed. Funny enough, they all come from the same coaching tree. Kansas City had a strong defense, but nothing overwhelming. It was nowhere near the Eagles’ Super Bowl defense. But it did it’s job when it mattered
Offensively there isn’t much to say. They have 4-7 elite-to-historic players and are currently and undeniably one of the best offenses ever. The Texans obviously have elite talent, they just have to allow it to be elite. That starts up front. They have to find a solution for the offensive line. Watson deserves better. The Chiefs struggled for three quarters against the 49ers but never stopped moving the ball and keeping their best players active. They aren’t going to have a Travis Kelce any time soon, but they can replicate some of his play with their assortment of tight ends. Kansas City’s offensive line played so well. They know how to coach those guys.
KC’s talent, gameplan, playcalling, execution... it was all dynamic.
No one was spouting off stats about how often they predictably ran up the A gap on 1st down. Or how they took the field looking totally unprepared. Or didn’t know what to do on 4th and 1...
For a brief period during the New England Patriots game the Texans had that same look, but it lasted for all of .2 seconds after the game ended before they showed up at Denver looking like they were rummaging through the lost and found for a clue.
Deshaun Watson is every bit the QB Mahomes is, but Andy Reid, Eric Bieniemy and Brett Veach are on a higher level than Bill O’Brien, Billy O’Brien and William O’Brien.
It seems self-evident that if you swapped the rosters, giving the Chiefs all the Texans players and vice versa, the outcome would be the same.
Hopefully O’Brien was paying attention to how Andy Reid approached the playoffs this year. Despite the Chiefs being down double digits in every game, they never panicked and they continued to mix things up. Now, I believe, Reid is one of the three best coaches in the NFL today, but he solidified that by how he led the team during their run. His ability to steady the team, trust his QB, and will them back into games will be remembered when people talk about this Super Bowl run. The head coach matters when it comes to the playoffs.
Second, the offensive coordinator is important. Eric Bieniemy needs to be a head coach at this point next year. For this year though, he did an excellent job in his play calling. The Chiefs had a nice ratio of run/pass, play action, and RPO’s to keep teams off balance. It helps when you have Patrick Mahomes behind center but Bieniemy kept the offense aggressive and it payed off in a big way. There is no reason the Texans can’t be just as aggressive with Deshaun Watson.
Finally, the Chiefs kept going to their best players. When they were down in each game, they found ways to go to Tyreek Hill, Damien Williams, or Travis Kelce. This shouldn’t be shocking but it makes the game easier when your best players are involved. The Texans could learn from this. For instance, instead of running Carlos Hyde up the middle when you are down for the first time in a playoff game in which you were underdogs and up 24-0, maybe you should find ways to get Deandre Hopkins the ball quickly. The Chiefs knew how to use their best players in matchups that benefited them, I didn’t see the Texans having the same level of game planning in the playoffs.
I learned that the Chiefs have a young, athletic quarterback who can make accurate throws on the run on short and intermediate routes. So having that must be a key to success in today’s NFL. So the Texans should do all they can to acquire a QB who... oh.
I learned that you don’t have to have an elite offensive line to win the Super Bowl, even against a really solid defense and pass rush.
I learned that you don’t need to have an elite defense to win a Super Bowl.
I learned that creative play-calling, smart situational football, and firing traditional cliches for winning at football into the Sun can result in - winning the Super Bowl.
Literally all of these are possible in Houston, and the pieces are all in place other than the obvious need for a talent influx on defense.
But unless Bill O’Brien changes the fundamentals of who he is as a football coach, it won’t happen (in other words, it won’t happen). Still, the Texans can go far in the playoffs if they can quickly improve the defense and ride the back of Deshaun Watson, but Bill O’Brien represents a ceiling that is lower than it should be.
The Chiefs’ ability to smash the offensive throttles at any point in the game is something we have seen brief “outlier” flashes of from the Texans when Deshaun Watson improvises, adapts and overcomes obstacles that are often the result of O’Briens’ limited game planning, play-call orchestration (LMAO), or poor play designs.
Houston has the talent, but they lack the design and execution needed to go deeper in the playoffs against the best teams who are coached better.
If I learned anything, it is that there is no doubt the ceiling for the Texans under O’Brien is cemented in place, because he isn’t going to get any better, and he isn’t going to trust anyone else and delegate the responsibilities.
Two to three years from now, when Watt is long gone and Watson and Laremy Tunsil are soaking 40% of the available cap space, Cal will put down his single malt scotch with the big ice cube and finally fire O’Brien. Then we’ll go through a 2-3 year rebuild and have hopes, jaded as they will certainly be after two decades of mediocrity, that the Texans can finally hit pay dirt with a championship before Watson’s career is fully exhausted.