The problem is the quarterback.
Fair or not, most of the talk after the Chiefs' tough 19-9 loss to the Colts in Indianapolis Sunday was and will be dominated by the above theme.
It isn't fair, at least not entirely.
Sure, Matt Cassel wasn't great (16/29 for 156 yards, no touchdowns, no picks). But after being held to just nine points against a suspect Colts pass defense that was without both its starting safeties, it's apparent this team has a much bigger weakness than its current situation at quarterback.
The Chiefs simply lack the big-play wide receiver needed to consistently score points in the NFL.
This isn't a new dilemma, either. The current receiving corps is virtually the same group that (easily) led the league in dropped passes last season.
The problem had seemingly been solved until Sunday, when, after a potential turning-point interception by safety Jon McGraw, the Chiefs were set up deep in Colt territory with a chance to take the lead late in the third quarter. What ensued was possibly the worst series of former first-round pick and supposed top-receiver Dwayne Bowe's career.
On first-down, Cassel made a perfect throw to Bowe in the end zone, only to see him drop the ball during his fall to the ground. On the very next play, Cassel went right back to Bowe on a much shorter pattern, and the ball went right through his hands.
The momentum the Chiefs had gained from the interception seemed to be lost. A Ryan Succop field goal did tie it after a failed third-down conversion attempt - the team converted just one third-down the whole game - but the damage was done. The Colts would go on to score ten fourth-quarter points to seal the deal. Kansas City never got close to scoring again until the game was virtually decided.
Bowe's issues - on and off the field - are well known. This season had already been tagged a crucial year in the young wideout's career by the media and head coach Todd Haley. The results have been mixed at best thus far. While some would argue Bowe has improved his blocking, helping the success of the run-game on the outside, his receiving numbers on the year - seven catches, 119 yards, one touchdown - just do not justify him being an NFL team's number-one receiving option.
Let's put it this way: If he doesn't improve, he'll finish the year with worse numbers than what the Saints' Robert Meachem produced last year. Meachem, at best, is New Orleans' third wide receiving option.
Kansas City just cannot continue to win without more production from its most talented receiver.
The team did draft rookie receiver Dexter McCluster to help sure up the unit, and he has played well to this point. McCluster is a slot-receiver, though, and therefore is more of a catch-and-run guy than the big-play threat the Chiefs so desperately need.
Chris Chambers, a 2009 mid-season pickup from San Diego, has produced very little in four games this year after emerging as Cassel's favorite target a season ago. In turn, rookie tight end Tony Moeaki, with just 123 yards, is the team's leading receiver to this point.
So the Chiefs seem to be out of options, and that's a scary thought for a team trying to avoid letting down a fan base on the edge of rejuvenation.
Sunday we saw an offense that failed to score a touchdown for the second time in four games. If the team replicates that effort in two of the next four games, it's doubtful they'll come away winners in three of the four like they have to start the season.
The kicker, is that without a serviceable receiving group in 2010, the coaching staff will once again fail to make a judgement as to what they really have in Cassel. If we're still wondering whether he's the long-term option in Kansas City by training camp next season, then, aside from a playoff victory, 2010 will have been considered a failure.
With all this in mind as we watch the Vikings and Jets tonight, we'll just have to wonder whether Scott Pioli regrets not pursuing the league's greatest big-play receiver, recently-traded Randy Moss, who'll be catching touchdown passes from the Old Dongslinger* the rest of the season.
*More on Brett Favre in a future post.