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Chiefs' draft history big reason for 1-8 record

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Chiefs' draft history big reason for 1-8 record

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli has often said free agency is a flawed way to build a team, where players available are often overpriced or on the downward side of their careers.

Sure, it's always necessary to sign a couple guys to plug holes, but Pioli would much rather draft the right guys, develop them from within the organization, and generate the kind of stability that has made franchises such as the Pittsburgh Steelers the model of NFL success.

Problems arise when you don't draft the right guys, though.

The result can be a 1-8 record.

``It's never just one thing. It's always just a combination and a total,'' said Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel, who's been a part of sustainable success with the Patriots and Giants.

``It's drafting. It's developing players. It's coaching players - it is players taking ownership. It's the whole gamut,'' Crennel said. ``When you talk about an organization being a solid, good organization, all of those things are involved in it.''

This year provides numerous examples.

The Indianapolis Colts managed to secure the No. 1 pick in April's NFL draft, spent it on former Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, and are now making a run at the playoffs after having the league's worst record. Luck is one of the favorites for offensive rookie of the year.

But just about everyone assumed Luck would be a star in the league, and that the Colts had no choice but to take him with the first overall selection.

Perhaps a better example of drafting to success is Cincinnati.

The Chiefs' opponent on Sunday was just 4-12 in 2010, the third time in four years the Bengals had a losing record. Their first two picks the following year were spent on A.J. Green, who has developed into one of the best wide receivers in the league, and Andy Dalton, the former TCU quarterback who slipped to the second round and has emerged as one of that draft's gems.

Together, the pass-catching combination helped the Bengals to a 9-7 finish and a berth in the playoffs last season. The Bengals are 4-5 after beating the Giants on Sunday, and with their next five games against teams below .500, they could make another run at the postseason.

``Guys have to mature into their jobs,'' Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. ``Basically for anything to be successful, you have to get your job done. That's the key: 11 guys believing in each other and getting their job done.''

Of course, it helps when those 11 guys have grown up together.

Seven of the Bengals' 22 starters on offense and defense have been selected in the last three drafts - Kevin Zeitler is a rookie starting at right guard this year. Two more are key backups.

``If you draft a guy, you can mold him because he's a lot younger and hasn't been exposed to as much,'' Crennel said. ``Sometimes when you go get guys from other places, they have a predetermined notion about who they are and about how they should fit, and sometimes they have to adapt and adjust to your system. Some guys can make that transition smoothly; other guys struggle with the transition. You see it all the time in the NFL.''

It's not quantity, though, so much as quality.

That's where the Chiefs have suffered.

Their best offensive players, running back Jamaal Charles and wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, were chosen in the draft. But they haven't been able to find a quarterback who can get them the ball, eschewing an early round selection on the most important player on the field in favor of sticking with Matt Cassel, who lost his starting job to Brady Quinn earlier this year.

The deficiencies are even more glaring on defense.

With the exception of end, where homegrown guy Glenn Dorsey recently landed on injured reserve, everyone on that side of the ball was signed out of college by the Chiefs. That means stars such as linebackers Tamba Hali and Derrick Johnson, who have both been to the Pro Bowl, and solid players such as safety Eric Berry and Kendrick Lewis.

Those are the hits.

The misses are obvious along the line, where Dorsey has been unspectacular in a system that doesn't necessarily suit him; fellow end Tyson Jackson has earned a fraction of the money that came with being the third overall pick in 2009; and where this year's first-round selection - defensive tackle Dontari Poe - is still trying to figure out things.

So while the Chiefs have certainly built their defense through the draft, just like Pioli wanted, they've apparently fallen short when it comes to drafting the right guy.

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More trust in Brett Connolly is leading to a career year

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More trust in Brett Connolly is leading to a career year

After all the pomp and circumstance of the Capitals’ banner raising to start the season was over, a hockey game still needed to be played. That night, Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov took their familiar spots on the top line. On their right, was Caps forward Brett Connolly who had earned a chance to compete for that top spot during Tom Wilson’s suspension.

That night was a very early indication to Connolly that things were going to be different this season. Todd Reirden is not Barry Trotz.

Connolly first signed with Washington in 2016. A cast off of the Boston Bruins as they did not offer him a qualifying offer to retain his rights as a restricted free agent, Connolly needed a team to take a chance on him. The Caps did, signing him to a one-year deal worth $850,000. Connolly responded with 15 goals and 23 points for Washington, earning him a new two-year, $3 million contract to stick around.

Despite that, however, Connolly never seemed to gain the full trust of head coach Barry Trotz. Connolly averaged just 12:00 worth of ice time per game last season over 70 games.

“Obvioulsy the last couple years you'd like to play a little more, but I knew that with the way that he was coaching and the way Barry was handling me, that was going to be my role for that,” Connolly said. “I took pride it that last year, but this year's a little different.”

Though Connolly’s stay on the top line was brief, he is averaging over two minutes more of ice time per game than last season and it is clear Reirden envisioned him having an increased role.

“I liked how he came into camp,” Reirden said. “I think we had good discussions about a plan for him going into the year. There was room for growth still in his game and he's still a young player.”

“[Reirden] has been really good with me and making sure my minutes are a little higher,” Connolly said. “Obviously, you've still got to earn that, but he's put me in situations to succeed. It's been nice to deliver on that a little bit.”

In just 29 games this season, Connolly has five goals and 18 points. His 13 assists sit just three shy of his career high set in 2015-16 over the course of 71 games. He is currently on pace for a 50-point season which would shatter his previous career high of 27.

Increased playing time should naturally result in increased production, but Connolly has not been a passenger getting carried by better teammates. He has played all through the lineup and keeps producing regardless of the situation.

“There's a lot more trust in me to play in all situations and move up and down the lineup,” Connolly said. “I've played all over the lineup which is nice. It's nice to know that when you're playing well you can be moved up at any time. It's been a really positive change for me and I'm happy that I could deliver a little bit and play well when I am given those opportunities.”

In 2017, Connolly was a healthy scratch for six of the team’s seven playoff games. Trotz elected to go with seven defensemen in the lineup, something he had not done the entire season, rather than dress Connolly.

Reirden has taken a different approach this season and it is paying dividends both for the player and the team.

“He's been really important part of us getting through these injuries because we've used him on the power play in different areas as well,” Reirden said. “I think he's had a strong season and not surprised to see that his numbers are following along, but to me it started with his commitment this summer and then to start the year, the confidence he had and the kind of belief in using him in a different way than maybe he's been used in the past that he could generate some higher numbers.”

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Jay Gruden not considering changes to his coaching staff

Jay Gruden not considering changes to his coaching staff

The Redskins gave up 40 points and more than 400 yards in a loss to the Giants last Sunday, and that was without Odell Beckham suited up for New York. 

The Redskins have lost four straight games, and five of six, while giving up more than 30 points three times. 

The Redskins surrendered more than 200 rushing yards to the Giants, and have not held an opponent under 100 yards rushing in their last six games. 

You get the idea. 

After the Washington defense got out to an impressive start to the season, things have fallen apart down the stretch.

Despite the struggles, Redskins head coach Jay Gruden has no intention of shaking up his coaching staff.

"No. Not really," Gruden said on the Redskins Talk podcast when asked about any coaching changes. 

As the Redskins struggle and lose their grip on a playoff spot, it's not unheard of to think some staff changes might be coming. The Panthers fired two defensive assistants last weekend, and as the NFL season approaches the finish line, more coaches will lose their jobs. 

In Washington though, it seems the staff is safe. Still, the Giants loss stings. 

The Redskins' offense has been decimated by injuries, particularly at quarterback and along the offensive line. There was some leeway for a loss to New York, but not when the home team got down 40-0 to a 4-8 Giants team. 

That type of deficit brings questions. Questions about the coaches, questions about effort.

On Sunday, Gruden made clear he understands his future is week to week.

"We have a game to win next week in Jacksonville," the coach said. "We have to go about trying to find a way to do it."

On Monday, he made clear his assistants are safe. As far as he is concerned anyway. 

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