I have some friends who are avid Chiefs fans, and we were out at dinner last night. There was a message that was fundamental to the nature of the NFL that we discussed. It needs to be shared here, if only because it happened to the Giants and it is happening right now to the Chiefs.
Rule #22: The Carl Banks Rule- You cannot simply turn it on and turn it off in the NFL. Play every game and maintain/improve on your high level of play.
While I have been somewhat remiss in updating and keeping the "Rules" current, this one is as current as they come. In 2007, Tom Coughlin chose to play through in Week 17 because he had no other choice. He knew his team was not good enough to go all the way, so he needed to get his team ready for the playoffs by looking for ways to get better. It worked. The Giants lost to the Patriots 38-35, but they fought hard and saw how they measured up versus the best in the NFL. It was an incredible opportunity to see where the team was and they learned that if they played 4 quarters, they could play with anybody. That was a huge breakthrough for a team that was going to get eliminated the previous week if they did not beat Buffalo (assuming that they would lose the following week to the 15-0 Pats).
Because Free Agency rips your team apart, there is scant time to take a week off. The idea of resting starters to protect them from injury is an outdated luxury from a generation ago when teams spent YEARS building the necessary chemistry for a playoff run. Quarterbacks knew their WRs' bowel movements back in the day, let alone the look they might give one another as they broke the huddle and saw the coverage. Nowadays, by the time that chemistry is there, it is ripped apart because a key player in the 11 person choreography is gone. Add the 2011 CBA, where contact in practice and limited OTAs mean even less chemistry, and you get a rare opportunity to keep practicing under game conditions to get better and know your teammates' every move.
The Chiefs lost last week. At home. To the team they will likely face next week in the wild card round. They cannot afford to do anything but play for 60 minutes and get better. The Chiefs were 9-0, and the knock was that they had yet to face any team of credible respectability. Wonder, in his assessment at that juncture, remarked:
The worst 9-0 team in the history of football. Going nowhere in 2013. I like them but they haven't beaten ANYBODY. Will lose at least 3 of the last 7.
Well, the Chiefs have lost 4. The teams the Chiefs have beaten: JAX, DAL, PHI, NYG, TEN, OAK, HOU, CLE, BUF, WAS, OAK. The teams the Chiefs have lost to: DEN, SD, DEN, IND. In other words, not yet ready for primetime. So today they face SD again. Get a win vs a somewhat credible opponent. Improve on your level of play. Come into Indianapolis with confidence and rhythm. Do not bench starters unless they have an injury. Attitude is so important. After the Giants 38-35 loss, Toomer and Strahan were pissing vinegar. They didn't like losing. But at least 45 guys fought for each other and learned a little bit about who they were. Given that this is the Chief's first season with a new coaching staff, I am certain that Chapter 16 of this year's matriculation is every bit as important, if not more so.