As if Chiefs fans didn’t know already, the gap between their team and the AFC West champion Denver Broncos was never more obvious than it was Sunday afternoon in Denver.
The gap could be defined this easily: The Broncos have Peyton Manning, while the Chiefs have Brady Quinn.
Say no more.
Manning picked apart a worn-down Chiefs defense with incredible ease, completing 23 of 29 passes for 304 yards and three touchdowns as the Broncos rolled to a 38-3 victory over the 2-14 Chiefs, who now await the No. 1 pick in next April’s draft.
The Chiefs also await the fate of head coach Romeo Crennel and general manager Scott Pioli, although there were reports surfacing that Pioli may have been spared his job by owner Clark Hunt.
Crennel was unsure of his future.
“I haven’t been told anything,” Crennel told reporters in Denver after the game.
Crennel also indicated he hasn’t been instructed, as of yet, to meet with Hunt or Pioli on Monday.
But Crennel’s dismissal almost seems a foregone conclusion. His team not only lost 14 games after being picked by many to win the AFC West, but the Chiefs were barely competitive for most of the season.
Sunday was no different in this monumental mismatch at quarterback.
Quinn, who became the starter in mid-season, was again awful, completing just 7 of 16 passes for 49 yards.
“We just couldn’t get anything done offensively,” Crennel said.
It seems unlikely that either Quinn or the previous starter, Matt Cassel, will likely return as well. Cassel is due to make over $16 million in base salary for the next two seasons and seems a probable financial cut.
The Chiefs also couldn’t sustain anything on the ground as leading rusher Jamaal Charles gained just 53 yards on 14 carries. His long run was 13 yards.
The Broncos put the game away in the second quarter with two touchdown passes from Manning to wideout Eric Decker that gave Denver a 21-3 lead.
Manning then lofted a 13-yard scoring strike to Demaryius Thomas in the third quarter to make it 28-3 as Thomas made a spectacular one-handed catch in the back of the end zone.
“Denver made the plays and we didn’t,” Crennel said.
Mostly, though, it was Manning, picking apart an overmatched Chiefs defense.
“Petyon operated pretty much any way he wanted,” Crennel said. “We couldn’t slow him down.”
Manning’s performance, not only in this game but the entire season, certainly must have had Chiefs fans pondering what-ifs. The Chiefs, after all, had wanted to bring Manning in for a visit last offseason in hopes of signing him.
But Manning did not accept the invite and wound up in Denver instead. Manning then carried the Broncos to the No. 1 seed in the AFC. Behind Manning, an obvious MVP choice, the Broncos are the present Super Bowl favorites.
The Chiefs, on the other hand, are an organization in disarray. Several key free agents, including Dwayne Bowe, might not be back next season. And the Chiefs have major problems at quarterback, and it seems likely they will either use their No. 1 pick on a quarterback or use the pick to trade for an established quarterback.
On Sunday, the Chiefs’ need for a quarterback was all too apparent as they mustered just 119 yards of total offense, matching their season low of a few weeks ago against Oakland.
The Chiefs also have issues on defense, a unit that surrendered 488 total yards on Sunday.
“It was probably our worst performance overall of the year,” Crennel conceded. “I think the effects of the season finally got to them today.”
Asked what his message was to the team after the game, Crennel said, “That was it, that it was our worst performance of the year.”
Crennel did not seem resigned to the notion that it would be his last game as the Chiefs coach.
“It depends on what you use as criteria,” Crennel said. “If it’s wins and losses, then yes, it’s not good. There’s no defense. But we played a lot of young guys this year.”
With Sunday’s loss, the Chiefs matched their worst record in franchise history, set in 2008 when they also finished 2-14. That 2008 season cost Herm Edwards his coaching job.
Edwards was fired by Pioli in his first major move as the Chiefs’ new general manager.