Kansas City Chiefs General Manager Jim Schaaf says he accepts full responsibility for the worst start and longest losing streak in the history of the franchise.
"I said when I took this job in January that the ultimate responsibility for the football operation rests on my shoulders," Schaaf said in an interview published in the Kansas City Star. "That hasn't changed."
But Schaaf said there were too many forces beyond his control to avoid the Chief's 1-7 start.
"What could I have done differently? I could have figured out a way to settle the strike," he said. "Hey, you can't hit the panic button because there are a lot of things that have happened that we were unable to control."
The Chiefs began this season coming off their first playoff appearance in 15 years. They were a team so smitten with that success that there was discussion about returning to the playoffs this season.
Although there won't be a Super Bowl for the Chiefs this season, Schaaf said he's not ready to write off the year.
"Believe me, I'm not happy to be 1-7. But I see progress being made in some areas of our football team. We've regressed in other areas because of our youth and inexperience. Despite our record I don't see a downward trend on our football team or the team falling apart or anything like that.
"We've been competitive the last two weeks against the Bears and the Steelers. We played two outstanding games but came up short. Again, mistakes hurt us. That's not a cop out. That's a fact. A lot of the mistakes were made by some young, inexperienced players who needed the practice time they lost during the strike."
The Chiefs were 1-1 when the strike began. When they returned, they were 1-4.
Schaaf said that, along with the lack of skill, the Chief's problems were compounded by the late start in signing players for the strike team and their policy against guaranteed contracts.
"In retrospect, I would have gone ahead with the option agreements but not the guaranteed contracts. You can't talk out of two sides of your mouth. You can't tell your regular players that this is policy, then break that policy in your dealing with replacements. That type of bad faith would come back to haunt you."
While the replacement Chiefs were losing, the regular players were missing practice that could have benefitted the young team. The Chiefs have 23 players with less than three years NFL experience.
"Things were working out fine," Schaaf said. "Frank (Gansz) ran an outstanding training camp. He was bringing the team along at the right pace. We had the best record of anyone in the preseason and we were 1-1 when the strike hit. We haven't played as well since, and I attribute that to the fact that we lost the continuity we had built in training camp."
"Are our deficiencies more glaring now than they were back in September?" Schaaf said. "Yes, but every team in the NFL needs help. We left camp with a good feeling about our football team.
"It's easy after we lose some games to say, why didn't you do something in the meantime? But we felt good about our football team."