Chiefs Take Positive Steps Forward, But Still Far Away from Super Bowl

The Chiefs have won 10 games over the last three seasons — the third fewest in the league in that span — so things these days could obviously be better. To see if things are looking up in Kansas City, let's take a closer look at the Chiefs on the 17th stop of NESN.com's 32-day pilgrimage through the NFL.

2009 Record: 4-12 (missed playoffs)

2010 Schedule Difficulty: Their opponents went a combined 125-131 (.488 winning percentage) in 2009, which is tied for the 10th-easiest schedule in the NFL.

Key Additions: Running back Thomas Jones, safety Eric Berry (draft), wide receiver Dexter McCluster (draft), center Casey Wiegmann

Key Losses:
Running back Kolby Smith, wide receiver Bobby Wade, guard Mike Goff, offensive lineman Wade Smith

Burning Question: How long is Matt Cassel's leash? The quarterback who will go down in New England folklore is under some pressure in Kansas City. The Chiefs surrendered a second-round pick to acquire Cassel (and linebacker Mike Vrabel) and then signed him to a $63 million, six-year contract. Last season, Cassel completed 271-of-493 passes (55.0 percent) for 2,924 yards, 16 touchdowns and 16 interceptions in 15 games, and he only managed four wins.

Now, blaming Cassel and his big contract would be the easy — yet, irresponsible — route because the rest of the roster was filled with glorified Arena League players. The offensive line gave up 45 sacks, and the defense was ranked 29th in points (26.5 per game) and 30th in yards. Meanwhile, the Chiefs were 23rd in points scored (18.4), 25th in total offense and 25th in passing yards.

There are plenty of problems in Kansas City, but the head coach and quarterback are typically blamed first. From an outside perspective, it's easy to say Cassel was a product of the Patriots' system, and his contract will always come with bigger expectations. If things don’t get better in Kansas City in 2010, Cassel might hear it from the home crowd.

2010 Outlook: The Chiefs aren’t a playoff team, but they had a good offseason by signing Thomas Jones, drafting Eric Berry and Dexter McCluster, and hiring offensive coordinator Charlie Weis and defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel. There are some good things happening in Kansas City, but the building process will take awhile after the front office missed on so many first-round picks in the last decade. Head coach Todd Haley doesn’t seem like a patient guy, but he'll have to sell that virtue to the ticketholders.

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