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A Man Of Tin

Tyson Jackson turned in his second consecutive solid performance yesterday.  It is, as far as I can recall, the first time he has accomplished that feat in a Chiefs uniform.  Seeing him bat down that pass was a strange experience.  Like getting lobster at an Arby’s drive-through*.  But hey, it happened.  Tin Man made a good play in the passing game.

*I wanted this line to be “like getting a McRib in the Arby’s drive-through.”  But then I remembered some of you weirdos don’t like the McRib.  #Idon’tgetyou

The Man From Tin has not been a popular player in the Chiefs blogosphere these past two years.  Some of that is his fault, and some of it isn’t.  His first two years were bad, there is no disputing that.  Stiff and slow as a rookie, injured then fat in his second year.  Not the difference-maker we hoped Pioli would get with that sweet plum of a pick.  And yet, if we’re to be fair to Jackson, we have to leave our expectations out of his evaluation.  The question of “Is he good, or is he bad” has nothing to do with how good or bad we hoped he’d be.  This is a pretty hard line for our brains to draw.  Impossible, maybe.

Look, I’ll just lay my cards on the table: I hated the pick from the moment it was made, and I’ve been clowning on Tin Man ever since.  Most of the people I know felt the same way I did, and it seems like a sizable percentage of Chiefs Nation felt that way as well.

I know this has been difficult for some of you to understand.  It feels like rooting against the Chiefs.  Like ”does he want this player to be bad?”  No, I (we) don’t.  I cheer for Tin Man when he does well, even if I am a little surprised.  When he batted down that pass I think my exact words were ‘TIN MAN! INCREDIBLE!”  The problem is that up to this point, I’ve seen him do very little.  These last two games have been, by far, the best stretch of his career.  When 1 tackle + 1 batted down pass = a surprisingly good game for a third year man, its safe to say he hasn’t been a huge success.

Still, if he was drafted, say, in the third round, I’d probably be pretty encouraged right now.  Still stiff, still slow, but making his presence felt.  Looks to no longer be a liability in the running game.  This may be a player we can work with.  Forget where he was drafted, that’s good news.

more Tin Musings after le jump:

This is where things get tricky though.  We can’t really forget where he was drafted, can we?  Our GM was sold to us as a personnel genius* right from the start.  He was supposed to be an excellent drafter; that’s how he was going to turn our team around.  And with the third overall pick, this is who he delivered.  We’d be foolish to forget that.  It’s too important.  Tyson Jackson is maybe the most important data point we have when evaluating our GM (he and Cassel are neck and neck).

*Actually, the opinion on Pioli wasn’t quite as unanimous as people make it out to be.  He was certainly a big hire, but so was Josh McDaniels.  So were Eric Mangini, Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel.  All of these guys came out of NE carrying huge hype with them, and all of them wilted the second they were no longer attached to Belichick.  There were definitely voices to be heard who felt Pioli would do the same.   From Bill Simmons circa 2009:

“Worst spin-off of the decade: Joey Tribbiani getting his own show, Heidi Montag’s music career or Scott Pioli getting his own team? (Waiting.) Do you need more time? Fine, you can have more time. Just remember, my peeps back in New England always swore that Belichick made every minor/major decision for the Pats — literally, every single one — while Pioli was along for the ride like DJ Jazzy Jeff. Actually, that’s an insult to DJ Jazzy Jeff. But you get the idea.”

Our goal, it seems to me, should be to forget where Tin Man was drafted on Sunday, and remember Monday-Saturday.  On Sundays, we can cheer a role player contributing what he can.  On Mondays, we can remember that role player was selected with the highest pick we’ve had since 1988.  This is who was chosen to usher in the Scott Pioli era.  With  Mark Sanchez, BJ Raji, Michael Oher, Brian Orakpo, Clay Matthews, and Brian Cushing available, our GM chose a block eater.  All sarcasm aside, its fascinating.

According to Pioli, Jackson does everything they ask him to do.  He “plays the position the way they want it played.”  Lets assume, for the sake of argument, that what Pioli says is true.  This was the plan, then, for the third overall pick.  A guy who has to be taken out on passing plays, and who has taken three years to make himself into a decent player against the run.  That, apparently, was what Pioli wanted.  We were led to believe our GM was a homerun hitter.  Then the first pitch was a meatball right down the pipe and he laid down a sacrifice bunt.

I remember reading an internet comment after Pioli was hired about some people running into him at Big Charlie’s, the Chiefs bar in Philly.  Everyone was really excited about him at that point, obviously.  But something in this story caught my attention, even then.  Pioli, surrounded by a bunch of fans euphoric about the future, was cautioning everyone to be patient.  That struck me as odd.  Imagine doing that in the midst of a celebratory gathering.  Essentially letting these people know that you won’t be turning their team around any time soon.

This, more than anything, is what frustrates me about Pioli’s approach.  He’s content to move at a snail’s pace, and seems to think we should be content with that as well.  I’ve touched on this before, but what the Chiefs PR department wants us to believe, more than anything, is that spending less and taking things slow is, in some way, smarter.  Sure, other teams might turn things around quickly, but we’ll have the last laugh.   Those teams will be sorry they didn’t take things slower.  And at that unnamed (never, ever named) time, we’ll be competing for championships every year.  In Pioli We Trust.

The problem is that the NFL is a zero-sum game.  There is a finite amount of talent available, and everyone is competing for it.  Tyson Jackson is a living reminder that, at times, our general manager doesn’t appear to be doing everything he can for this team.  He wants to continue setting up his pieces while other teams are already playing the game.

If Jackson is really achieving his goals, we have to wonder why the bar was set so low for such a high pick.  If leaving $30 million in cap space on the table is smart, we have to wonder why the result is such a shallow roster.  These questions are related.  Tin Man isn’t just a player, he’s a symbol.  A glimpse into the thought process of a man who does everything he can to prevent such glimpses.  For this reason, Monday-Saturday, he warrants such intense scrutiny.

But on Sundays, Tin Man is a player.  A player who, without question, is a little better than last year.  Dap: awarded.

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Topics: Scott Pioli, Tyson Jackson

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