Pacing the sideline in a bright red jacket and cap, Edwards watched the Chiefs’ season—and, perhaps, his days in charge of them—end with another dismal showing. The Cincinnati Bengals completed their late-season surge with a 16-6 victory Sunday that sent both struggling teams into an offseason of big decisions.
The Chiefs (2-14) have more to make.
The worst season in their 49-year history ended with another disjointed performance under Edwards, who urged the franchise to plunge headlong into a rebuilding mode. His rookie-filled team has lost 23 of its past 25 games, and has at least one major change ahead.
General manager Carl Peterson is leaving after 20 years with Kansas City. His successor will have a say in whether they replace Edwards, who insists that the Chiefs’ future isn’t as glum as it looks and that he’s planning to continue like he’ll be part of it.
“It’s absolutely business as usual,” Edwards said. “I’ll be in the office all week and I’ll be around. We’ll evaluate our team and go from there.”
Johnson had some advice on one of the team’s personnel decisions.
The running back who signed a five-year extension before the 2007 season decided that he no longer fits in Kansas City. He carried only 10 times for 18 yards on Sunday, finishing the season with 874 yards in Kansas City’s spread offense.
“It has everything to do with the environment,” Johnson said. “The city is tired of me, and the organization and I have run our course together. It’s time to move on for me. There could be 100 changes. It’s time for me to go.”
The Bengals (4-11-1) will most likely to stay the course after their latest losing season. Coach Marvin Lewis has two years left on his contract, and there is no general manager to replace—owner Mike Brown makes the important decisions.
The Bengals closed the season with three straight wins, two of them against teams that seemed to care less than they did. They shut out the Browns 14-0 and had little trouble with the lackluster Chiefs, who crossed midfield only once in the first three quarters.
The game served as a preview of next year’s offense for Cincinnati, which was missing both tackles and receivers Chad Ocho Cinco and T.J. Houshmandzadeh to injury. Cedric Benson, who is a free agent after the season, scored on a 2-yard run and ran for 111 yards.
“Of course there will be other organizations interested,” said Benson, who had three 100-yard games with the Bengals.
Houshmandzadeh also is a potential free agent, leaving the Bengals with their major decisions on offense. They could use their franchise tag to keep him for one more year, a move he wouldn’t like.
“I feel like I don’t mind staying here,” said Houshmandzadeh, who led the team with 92 catches for 904 yards and four touchdowns. “I would like to stay here, but I don’t want to stay here if I get franchised because it’s just a one-year deal. I know that, they know that. It’s not a long-term thing.”
The Bengals sold 63,984 tickets for the game, setting a franchise record with their 44th consecutive sellout. The crowd got so bored that it did the wave in the fourth quarter. Some of the loudest cheers came for a halftime scrimmage between a youth football team and mascots for local sports teams, including the Bengals’ mascot.
The kids won that one.
The overriding question in the Chiefs-Bengals game was which team wanted it less. Apparently, it was the Chiefs. Kansas City had the ball five times in the first half and managed only two first downs, setting a tone.
“I thought early in the football game, we didn’t have energy,” Edwards said. “And you have to play with energy. We generally play with a lot of energy, and we didn’t have that in the first half.”
The Chiefs didn’t get closer than Cincinnati’s 37-yard line until their final drive, which ended with Tony Gonzalez’s 5-yard touchdown catch with 2:20 left. Then, the speculation began.
“You look at what Atlanta, Miami and Baltimore did (this season), there’s no reason we can’t do the same,” Gonzalez said. “But if a new GM comes in and wants to start over, the last thing I want to hear is rebuild. I’m in my 13th year and I still enjoy the game.”
Gonzalez’s touchdown was his 10th, the most by an NFL tight end this season. … The Chiefs had one sack, leaving them with 10 for the season, the fewest by any team since the NFL made sacks an official statistic in 1981. … Third-round draft pick Andre Caldwell took Houshmandzadeh’s spot and had a team-high five catches for 34 yards. He also ran four times for 49 yards, with one of the runs coming after a direct snap. “I felt like I showed I can go out there and play, be a starter,” Caldwell said. … WR Chad Ocho Cinco was inactive for the second straight game because of a hamstring injury.