For the Chiefs, healthy and good beats the pants off lucky and good
JUL 02, 2014 3:50p ET
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- There are exceptions to every rule in the NFL, except this one: Healthy and good beats the pants off lucky and good any day of the week.
Looney Tunes as it sounds, the most valuable guy on the Kansas City Chiefs sideline this fall might not be Jamaal Charles at all.
Or Tamba Hali.
Or Alex Smith.
Or Bob Sutton.
Or Andy Reid.
It's Rick Burkholder, head athletic trainer.
It's his trusty assistants: Aaron Borgmann, Evan Craft, David Glover and Nick Potter.
Learn those names, Chiefs fans. There'll be a quiz later.
There is a method to this particular stream of madness, honest. According to FootballOutsiders.com, The Andy Gang ranked first in the NFL last fall -- numero uno -- in fewest "Adjusted Games Lost" (or AGL) by key players (27.6) in 2013. The site describes its AGL metric as tied to two core principles:
"1) Injuries to starters, injury replacements and important situational reserves matter more than injuries to bench warmers; and 2) Injured players who do take the field are usually playing with reduced ability, which is why Adjusted Games Lost is based not strictly on whether the player is active for the game or not, but instead is based on the player's listed status that week (IR/PUP, out, doubtful, questionable or probable)."
At any rate, the Chiefs' record last fall after all that relative health? Eleven up, five down.
In 2012, they ranked 22nd; in 2011, they ranked 19th. Two wins. Seven wins.
See the pattern?
In 2010, the Chiefs were first. Ten wins. Another playoff year.
In 2009, they ranked 27th; in 2008, they ranked 15th. Four wins. Two wins.
Oh, yeah. Definitely a pattern.
So as much as we've split hairs over the receiving corps, and lost them over the losses in the secondary and on the offensive line, it's entirely possible that what happens to The Andy Gang this fall could ultimately depend on how well key parts of the gang stay upright.
Which sounds absurdly simplistic and yet completely rational, all in the same breath. Two falls ago was a disaster in nearly every sense of the term, but what was supposed to be a promising 2011 campaign was off the rails by Week 2 when knee injuries had knocked Charles, Eric Berry and tight end Tony Moeaki -- all pivotal starters -- completely off the page.
Compare that to 2013: Injuries took the biggest bites out of the offensive line (although none of the scrapes were too serious, early on) and at tight end (hello, Sean McGrath), but most of the other position groups were not adversely hampered, week to week.
Maybe it's a Burkholder thing. Maybe it's a Barry Rubin thing. Maybe it's a Reid thing. Maybe it's an individual thing -- especially considering how many Chiefs said they went out of their way to change respective diets over the past six or seven months.
"I mean, these guys understand that their body is their livelihood and that's what's going to make them a living for 'X' number of years that they get to do this," Reid said during spring workouts. "So why not take full advantage of that?
"Between Rick and Barry, they do a great job of talking to the players about that, and we've got a couple of nutritionists on board that help us with that too. It's a joint effort. Most of all, the player has to want to do that and we've got a lot of them that do."
Then again, it's probably a luck thing, too.
Although the tie between avoiding injuries and avoiding losses isn't exclusively in the Chiefs' orbit, either: Based on FootballOutsiders' formula, the four NFL teams that finished with the fewest AGL per year from 2010-13 averaged 9.94 victories among them; the four franchises overthat same span with the largest injury losses averaged 7.69. In the NFL, a swing of two wins can mean the difference between a division title or a Wild-Card berth, playoffs or no playoffs.
On a related note: Of the aforementioned "least injured" 16 clubs since 2013, 12 reached the postseason, or 75 percent. Of the "most injured" 16, the playoff count was nine, or 56.3 percent.
The best formula for the Chiefs isn't the West Coast offense or press coverage. It's an apple a day.
Better yet, two.
And if you need further proof, well, look no further than this past January at Lucas Oil Stadium, when the Chiefs lost five starters to various -- and in some cases, fluky -- injuries over the course of only a few hours, months of good mojo gone completely belly-up. How'd that one turn out?