I am excited about the Chiefs 2-0 record. I am not excited about how we got there.
I had a much longer introduction planned, but those two sentences do the job just fine. We’re 2-0 for the first time in five years. We have an easy schedule and the rest of our division stinks. Playoffs are starting to seem like a real possibility. I should be thrilled about this. Instead…..
I’m trying to just be happy and bask in the win. It isn’t working. I left the bar yesterday shaking my head in concern. We may have won the game, but the way we won it made me cringe. Our quarterback is bad* and our best player is riding the pine. I can’t be happy about this. And I’m really not looking forward to all the willfully ignorant bullshit I’m going to have to read defending it.
*As I’ve said before, I’m not calling for Cassel’s job, nor will I this season. We have no viable alternative. This isn’t like the running back situation.
Let’s skip the foreplay here. You all know what I’m angry about. Our coach prefers Thom Jones to Jamaal Charles. There is nowhere to hide from that fact anymore. It’s not the preseason, it wasn’t raining, and there isn’t some complex strategy at play. Haley thinks Jones is better than Charles. He thinks four yards per carry is better than six yards per carry. He thinks a 32-year-old back coming off a 330 carry season is better than one of the most exciting young offensive weapons in the game. He thinks a “ball control” offense is better than a big-play offense. In short, Todd Haley thinks ineffective is better than effective.
The other explanation is that he has a personal beef with Charles. That may well be the case. God knows Haley loves to play the Parcells hardass, and Charles isn’t nearly the company man the Chiefs would like him to be. Maybe Haley just doesn’t like Charles. That would certainly explain a lot.
The thing is, I don’t really care what wack reason Haley has for keeping our best player under lock and key. I only care that he’s doing it, and that its hurting our team. Whatever his reason, its unacceptable. Everyone always has a reason for the bad decisions they make. Reasons don’t change results. The result this week was an offense that couldn’t score.
Haley said a few weeks ago that he was going to “play the hot hand.” I wondered/worried at the time exactly what would qualify as “hot hand” for Jones. Now, unfortunately, we know. If Jones is picking up positive yards between the tackles, he is the hot hand.
That’s right gang, the power running game is back! Who says football coaches should be on the cutting edge? I say the key to the future lies in the past. The distant past. Low yards per carry, low scores, and old running backs. That’s where our bread is buttered. Maybe next year we could coax Jamal Lewis out of retirement….
To a lot of you, this column probably seems a little too bitter. I can understand your frustration. We’re finally winning again and you just want to enjoy it. I do too. But I’m not going to turn a blind eye to such obviously counterproductive behavior by the men in charge of our team. And is anyone seriously going to contend that this Thom Jones obsession isn’t counterproductive? Jamaal Charles only had 11 carries and he was still responsible for our two longest plays from scrimmage. Meanwhile Jones once again rewarded Haley’s confidence in him by averaging under four yards per carry.
I know some of you are going to say we won and that’s all that matters. You’re wrong. That mentality is easy to cling to after a gross win, but to do so is dishonest. How a team wins is extremely important. Deep down, you all know this is true. Yes, we won. But once again, we won in spite of our offense, not because of it. It won’t always be pouring rain, and Seneca Wallace won’t always be the opposing quarterback. If we’re going to sustain this success, the offense needs to play better. A lot better. Haley said it was a “grind it out” kind of game, then later added “it’s not going to be pretty. That’s about how it’s going to be most of the time.” He’s channeling the classic old-timey, outdated mindset that winning ugly is somehow noble or indicative of inner strength. It scares me to hear Haley saying these things. It should scare you, too. You know who else used to believe in this kind of football?
Granted, this year’s Chiefs have already won as many games as Herm did in his last 25 chances. But Haley is handicapping his offense in the same way Herm did, and he’s acting like its somehow necessary the same way Herm did. He’s also throwing in a healthy dash of Todd Haley 2k9 (benching Charles behind an old, inferior runner). It’s like a blast-from-our-recent-past bad coaching highlight reel. What’s next, some new motivational posters? A speech where he claims Quinten Lawrence is part of his core?
Look, I take no pleasure in criticizing Todd Haley. I really wanted to get behind this guy. If you don’t believe me, go read anything I wrote about him last year on Big Matt’s Chiefs Chat. I was a borderline homer. During training camp this year I wrote that I thought Haley would improve because he seemed like a man who could recognize and admit his mistakes. Turns out I couldn’t have been more wrong on that one. Haley looks more stubborn this year, not less. These wins are validating a flawed process, and I’m worried about where that leads.
The silver lining: Now matter how abysmal our offense, at least this year we can take solace in a surprisingly good defense. Flowers and DJ look like pro bowlers. The pass rush still isn’t there and Eric Berry has made some costly errors, but this is a really fun unit to watch. Win or lose, it will be fascinating to see what they develop into.
note to my volunteers for the Roster Familiarity Project (RFP): I want to give you guys one more game to gather data before I call for your first report. Rest assured, I have not forgotten you. You will be consulted via email after next week’s game.