KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The last few weeks, there was a sign outside the Chiefs' locker room that read, "Eliminate Bad Football." It was taken down this week and a new sign went up Thursday.
This one reads, "Play Good Football."
"You noticed that one?" Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel said blithely, when asked about the old sign. Then when told about the new placard, he replied, "OK! I'm all for that."
Crennel was behind both of them, of course. They are motivational tools not unlike those he's used at other stops during his coaching career — sometimes quotes or inspirational sayings, sometimes photographs or other depictions designed to stir emotion in his teams.
The problem was the first sign didn't work. It was posted after a season-opening loss to the Falcons, and the Chiefs still have won only once through their first six games.
Evidently, the message got lost in translation. Perhaps the Chiefs were hung up on seeing the words "bad" and "football" next to each other.
"Any time you see something, a sign or whatever it is, it causes a thought in your mind," Crennel said, "and the initial thought process was if you eliminate bad football — you get them to think about eliminating bad football — you would eliminate it.
"If it doesn't eliminate," he said, "you have to try something different. So let's put up, 'Let's play some good football,' so now that's in their mind. Hopefully that will carry over."
It certainly doesn't hurt to try.
The Chiefs have lost three straight since an overtime victory at New Orleans, blowout defeats to San Diego and Tampa Bay and a maddeningly narrow loss to Baltimore.
Now, they're heading into Sunday's game against Oakland having made a change at quarterback.
Matt Cassel has become one of the NFL's highest-paid backups after a lousy first five games, and former first-round draft pick Brady Quinn will be taking snaps for the second straight game.
"Right now, we're in a 10-game season," Quinn said. "We need to focus on one day at a time, one game at a time. This is a big one for us."
Hence, the swap of signage.
The signs that Crennel has been posting are hung on a wall just inside the doors leading to the Chiefs' practice fields. Players have little choice but to walk by them on their way to the locker room, or anytime they leave the locker room for somewhere else in the building.
With every loss that piled up, though, the initial motivational ploy turned into a running joke. And when word spread Thursday the signs had changed, the "(hashtag)ChiefsLockerRoomSigns" meme on Twitter turned into an unedited, uncensored forum for cynical fans.
"After we put that 'bad football' sign up, we didn't eliminate bad football," Crennel said. "So I thought maybe if we changed it and put up a sign that said, 'Play Good Football,' we'd play some good football, put that at the forefront of their minds."
Crennel said the idea is to give players "a buzz point to get them thinking about things."
In the past, Crennel said he's used photographs, such as one of all 11 players on defense flocking to the ball, to inspire his teams. Those kinds of images can often leave a more profound impact on a team than when the message is spelled out in words.
"That sends a statement," Crennel said. "You can put that picture up and when guys walk by there, they see 11 guys on the ball, and you have guys getting to the football. Instead of a sign that says, 'Get to the ball,' you have a picture showing it. Things like that."
It all comes down to basic psychology.
Crennel said he's trying to find ways to instill in his team a fresh attitude after its bye week by changing the status quo. If it's something as complex as changing the starting quarterback or as simple as a sign, the veteran coach is willing to give it a shot.
"We're coming back with a different attitude," Chiefs linebacker Tamba Hali said. "We just have to execute in the game and stay positive. Things are not (always) going to go well. The things that go well, we've got to build on them, and that's part of it."
What about a sign saying, "Let's Win the Super Bowl"?
"We're not ready for that yet," Crennel said.