If the Kansas City Chiefs experience either a precipitous decline or a rapid ascent through the AFC playoff field this season, mark June 22, 2017 as a seminal date in team history.
In a matter of hours, the Chiefs drastically overhauled their upper-management structure for the foreseeable future by signing head coach Andy Reid to an extension, only to dismiss general manager John Dorsey hours later. By doing so, the Chiefs put the finishing touches on what’s been a turbulent offseason as the vaunted AFC West once again enters an uncertain arms race.
The timing of Dorsey’s dismissal – or mutual departure, as the Chiefs tried to frame it – is very curious, given the team’s consecutive playoff appearances. Kansas City also had an in-house, tailor-made successor for Dorsey waiting in the wings, as Chris Ballard was lauded for his work as the team’s director of football operations. With Dorsey ostensibly in place for the foreseeable future, Ballard was hired as the general manager of the Indianapolis Colts in January, with no contest from the Chiefs. The current regime was well-regarded, so Dorsey’s dismissal could up Pandora’s box for a team that was on stable ground ahead of the summer.
The starkly contrasting decisions to extend Reid and dismiss Dorsey likely speak to a larger divide that’s been reflected in the Chiefs’ personnel decisions this offseason. Kansas City traded up 17 spots with the Buffalo Bills to select quarterback Patrick Mahomes 10th overall in the 2017 NFL Draft, an alluring prospect who will be relegated to the bench with Alex Smith under center. Despite a veritable lack of depth at wide receiver to support Smith and Mahomes, Kansas City drafted just one receiver – fourth-round pick Jehu Chesson – and then unceremoniously released veteran Jeremy Maclin in June. It’s now difficult to tell if the Chiefs are angling for sustained playoff success, or are in the preliminary stages of disassembling a roster that couldn’t get past the divisional round.
It’s been a puzzling summer for the Chiefs, who’ve made a number of moves that ran antithetical to their once-established team philosophy. For the time being, it doesn’t seem like Reid will be in control of personnel decisions, nor does his extension appear to be a larger coup. The Chiefs are now floating into uncharted territory – a talented, unstable team drifting into the stormy waters of the vaunted AFC West this fall.
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