So let me start by giving the KC defense their just due for a great game yesterday. The secondary was already without Eric Berry and then lost starters Brandon Flowers and Jon McGraw. Despite that, they held one of the best passing games in the NFL in check for most of the day. Rivers was clearly frustrated by the KC defense that picked him off a couple of times and knocked him around a lot. That was a very good sign, especially on the road and coming off back to back games where they gave up over 40 points. Needless to say, the defense was not at fault for the loss to San Diego.
That brings me to the offense.
At the risk of over-simplifying things, I think there were three clear problems yesterday (and this season in general).
1. Matt Cassel: Yes the game sealing interception was a brutal and idiotic failure of epic proportions. The real problem is that for most of this season he has refused to throw the ball down the field and has resorted to “dinking and dunking” almost every play.
2. Thomas Jones: He has looked terrible as the feature runner since Jamaal Charles went down.
3. The play calling: At times the play calling has been dumbfounding and completely ineffective. In addition to the plays being called, the actual process that they are using involving Muir, Haley, and Zorn all being involved in calling the play and getting them to Cassel has resulted in wasted time outs that really hurt KC versus the Chargers.
Now each of these things on their own are a problem, but are not fatal. However, the mixture of these three things make a lethal combination. It’s like a perfect storm of offensive futility.
I’ll explain more and give my possible solutions to the problem after the break.
So the real problem with the Chiefs offense this season is not any one of these things, it’s the combination of all three. Thomas Jones no longer has the speed or power to create his own yards. His only chance at being effective is to find big running lanes. Now the offensive line has been okay, but they simply aren’t strong enough to manhandle a defense that is crowding the line of scrimmage to stop the run. That is exactly what defenses are doing right now against the Chiefs.
Well, simply put, the Chiefs aren’t giving them any reason not to. Matt Cassel has one of the worst yards per attempt rates in the league so far this season. Even though this was his best game (in terms of YPA) he still stands at a pathetic 5.2 YPA on the season. He simply seems unwilling to throw the ball down the field. If the QB won’t even try throwing the ball over 10 yards then why would the defense not crowd the line of scrimmage to stop the run? When the Chiefs do pass, it is either a designed screen or Cassel checks down immediately to a back in the flats. Either way the LBs and safeties don’t have any reason to hesitate. They just attack the line of scrimmage. The end result is that KC has been HORRIBLE whenever they run Jones or throw to the RBs. Jones is averaging 2.6 YPC and the KC RBs have combined for only 2.7 YPR on the 24 passes they have caught.
The most frustrating part is that KC just keeps doing it over and over and OVER. It is often said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. If that’s the case, then the KC coaching staff must be insane.
So are we doomed to be horrible on offense all season?
NO!!!!! That’s what’s driving me crazy. I see the pieces in place to get the job done if we’ll just use the pieces correctly.
Let’s start with Cassel. Cassel has been horrible so far this season. Yes, he made a couple of nice long throws in the second half, but a QB shouldn’t wait until the end of the game when he literally has no choice to start throwing the ball down field. I don’t know if it’s all on Cassel or if the staff has told him not to do it unless he is 100% sure its a safe throw to avoid turnovers, but it has to change. I mentioned above that Cassel is only averaging 2.7 yards per reception when he throws to a RB. However, when he throws to a WR or TE he is averaging 12.7 yards per reception. That’s actually a really solid number. It shows that if he will throw them the ball they can get some yards out of it. They just have to do it. He seemed willing last year so I’m not sure what has changed, but I do have a theory.
At this point I want to stop and clarify that I am not making excuses for Cassel. His play has been horrible and if he doesn’t improve, he should be replaced. If he’s awful the next two games, I will fully endorse giving Stanzi a look after the bye, even if he’s not really ready yet. I am just trying to figure out why Cassel has looked worse than when he first got here three years ago. So here’s my thought:
What if Cassel’s rib injury was worse than what anyone was led to believe? If one did have a severe rib injury what type of throw would they have the most trouble with? The answer is the longer passes of course, which was already the weakest part of Cassel’s game. Check out Cassel’s YPA numbers for the first three weeks of the season: 3.3, 6.0, and 7.3. So Cassel put up his best YPA in week three on the road against the best defense he’s faced so far, largely due to a couple big throws that he had to try with the game on the line. We all know that the “Patriot Way” can involve hiding injury information as much as possible. Cassel has always had a weak arm but it has looked far worse so far this season. A couple of his deep throws to Bowe have been horribly under thrown even by Cassel’s standards. It’s like he has less confidence (and strength) than ever before. Thanks to Scott Pioli’s decision to not sign a reliable back up, the Chiefs would have no choice but to play an injured Cassel over the likes of Tyler Palko. This is the only hope for Matt Cassel I can come up with. That he has been hurt and is slowly getting better but just doesn’t trust himself fully yet. If not, if this has all been his best effort while 100% healthy, then the Chiefs might as well try Stanzi or even Palko ASAP. I just have a hard time believing that Cassel has regressed to a point where he is a worse QB today than when he first arrived in KC back in 2009.
Next up, Thomas Jones. Let me start by saying that I think Jones’ days as a featured back in the NFL are clearly over. However, since KC’s most effective runner, Dexter McCluster at 6.6 YPC, is so undersized, they need Jones to pick up around 10 carries per game. The thing is that I think Jones could be at least average if used correctly. If KC had a passing offense that kept the opposing LBs and safeties back on their heels I think the OL is good enough to give Jones a seam where he could pick up 3-4 yards per attempt. That is only going to happen if Matt Cassel will throw the ball down field and the coaches will call up plays to make it happen. If they are going to line up in clear run formations and run Jones right into the heart of a defense that is keying in on him, it’s not going to work. My hope here is that when Baldwin returns, we can see the Chiefs spreading defenses out with combinations of Bowe, Baldwin, Breaston, McCluster, and even Pope. We have to use the limited weapons we have. If we do, then I think Jones can at least play a supporting role with some success instead of his current role of “official drive killer.”
Finally, the play calling. Todd, I’m talking directly to you now. Forget how you think an ideal team should look. Forget what Bill Parcells taught you or perhaps what Scott Pioli has told you he would prefer. This is YOUR team. YOU have the best track record as a play caller of anyone on the staff. You WILL BE FIRED if this thing doesn’t get better. So for the love of all that’s good in this world, will you PLEASE do away with this RIDICULOUS 47 person chain of command for calling plays and just call them yourself. YOU make the call. YOU talk directly to Cassel. YOU be the man. Right now its like a bad version of the “telephone” game that we used to played in elementary school. The one where a person whispers something to the person next to them and they whisper it to the next person and so on around the circle until you get back to the original person and see how much the original sentence has changed. Somehow “I really love ice cream.” turns into “Orange pigs really love toothpaste” in the course of 20 third graders whispering it to each other. Is that what’s happening right now Todd?!?!? Muir calls a play and then you chime in and then Zorn radios Cassel and by the time it gets to the huddle every single play has morphed into Jones up the middle for 2 yards or a screen pass to McCluster for 2 yards, and of course our favorite play, the ultimate defensive “fake out” the draw play. Man up Todd!!! I’ve been behind you 100% since you took over, but the preseason disaster combined with this three-ring circus of an offensive game plan even has a loyal supporter like myself wondering what in the world you’re doing.
I still have hope that this offense can be better. Maybe not great, but it certainly can be better than what we’ve seen so far. If not, Haley, Cassel, and anyone else involved deserves every bit of criticism that comes their way and eventually, it will cost them their jobs. I’m not hoping for that to happen like some are, but with every passing game it becomes a little harder to argue against that line of thinking.
Here’s to hoping that they start to earn back our trust next week against the Vikings.
Once again, thanks to the KC defense for making this game the first respectable one of the season.
As always, thanks for reading and GO CHIEFS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!