Keeler: Give a game ball to the Chiefs' scouting department after Sunday's rout of Giants
SEP 29, 2013 7:44p ET
That's right. Arkadelphia, Ark.
"Yes, sir," said Sean McGrath, the bearded, man-mountain of a Kansas City Chiefs tight end, grinning after a 31-7 tap dance all over the face of the New York Giants. "Wherever you are out there, they're going to find you."
There was Geoff Schwartz, a free-agent import from the Minnesota Vikings, a one-time seventh-rounder out of Oregon, filling in at left guard in place of an injured Jeff Allen. And at one cornerback slot, rookie Marcus Cooper, signed off of waivers just before the start of the season, a seventh-rounder selected just this past spring from Rutgers, where he spent most of his college days as a receiver.
And, most notably, there was McGrath, a 6-foot-5 giant with a "Duck Dynasty" beard and a Madden Dynasty upside. The Chicago native did most of his heavy university lifting at Henderson State, a tiny Division II program in tiny Arkadelphia -- 68 miles southwest of Little Rock -- better known as the Reddies. Former St. Louis/Phoenix Cardinals standout Roy Green went there, ages ago; Auburn coach Guz Malzahn did, too. So did actor/playwright/singer Billy Bob Thornton, for a time.
McGrath, like Cooper, joined the party in Week 1, a casualty of the Seattle Seahawks' final roster cuts. One month and 11 receptions later, the dude's a cult icon in the Paris of the Plains.
Funny game, this.
"It's all about persistence," the big receiver said after catching a team-high five balls for 64 yards and a score Sunday. "And getting your foot in the door and making the most of your opportunity."
It's also about fit. With the Chiefs, a 4-0 record starts at the top, the laws laid down by coach Andy Reid and general manager John Dorsey -- a new culture, a new bar. It's about reshaping a culture. It's about waking a sleeping giant.
But that ship's not going to sail very far without having a rock-solid foundation, too. The G-Men are bad (0-4) and wounded, but they're bad and wounded with a Hall of Fame quarterback (Eli Manning) and a Hall of Fame coach (Tom Coughlin). The Chiefs hit the stage without their best cornerback -- Brandon Flowers sat this one out with a knee problem -- and, over the course of the contest, saw their Pro Bowl punter and rookie right tackle knocked out for a spell, too.
In the NFL, every locker room is loaded with studs. Not every locker room is loaded with chemistry.
The right guys, glue guys, are hard to find. Special-teamers, pinch-hitters, pluggers who can pick up the rope in a pinch and start pulling like there's no tomorrow.
So save a game ball for the Chiefs' scouting department, and another for Dorsey, the Chiefs' first-year personnel guru, a man who made his reputation in Green Bay as one of the league's savviest turners-up of diamonds in the rough.
"The staff has done a good job, the GM and the coach, putting together a team where we have depth," said Schwartz, who came over on a one-year deal this past winter. "We have guys -- Donald (Stephenson) comes for (Eric Fisher) in the middle of the game, and we've had some tight-end injuries and (reserve tight end Kevin) Brock had a big catch today. McGrath is playing well.
"So that's the way this team is built. They have done a good job, and guys have risen to the occasion when called upon."
Another week, another new star, shining from out of left field. Flowers sits, and nickelback Dunta Robinson gets burned on a 69-yard reception from Manning to Victor Cruz up the boundary early in the second quarter. So the Chiefs shift Robinson inside and stick Cooper on the edge against the Giants' big dogs.
In the first half, Cruz piled up 104 receiving yards on six catches; in the second, it was down to four grabs for 60.
"(They said), 'Just play your techniques and do what you do,'" said the 6-2 Cooper, who was credited with two pass breakups on the day, a kid who hit the ground running and never looked back.
"I didn't know (anything) about the program (a month ago). I had no idea. I was lost. But I'm happy I'm here."
McGrath is happy, too, especially after having hooked on with the Seattle Seahawks in the spring of 2012 as an undrafted free agent. He played the merry-go-round game that rookies with decent ceilings and small contracts often do, getting cut twice and promoted twice before finishing the season on the active roster. The third time they cut McGrath was the charm; the Chiefs claimed the lug off waivers Sept. 1.
"A lot of those guys, you can tell right away -- you get them in the huddle and some of those guys, you can tell, it can be good for them right away," quarterback Alex Smith said of McGrath. "He didn't blink, just stepped in and went and we didn't even notice, didn't skip a beat. I've been really impressed with him. And then Brock coming back, same thing, short notice, having to come in and (play) a lot of football, he's done a great job."
Stephenson: "The expectations around here are different. You've got to handle the challenge."
McGrath: "We're hungry. We want to eat."
Everybody eats. Everybody wins. McGrath is going to send the football he got for scoring his first pro touchdown, a 5-yard grab in the first quarter, to his dad. More fun with trivia: It's the first NFL touchdown scored by a Henderson State product since 2001.
"Yeah, they're undefeated right now, I'm pretty sure," McGrath said, grinning.
Sure are. Four tilts, four wins. It's damn good to be a Reddie. And even better, right about now, to be a Chief.
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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