For this week’s look back on the 2011 season, I’m bringing in a couple of graphs that seem well suited to my particular brand of speculation and conjecture. As addicted readers will recall, the 2010 Chiefs offense took them atop the AFC West into the playoffs with a 10-6 record, owning the best running game in the league, and also sending Matt Cassel, Dwayne Bowe, Brian Waters, and Jamaal Charles to the Pro Bowl– not a single defensive player among the bunch.
The 2011 Chiefs offense… not so much.
Now I will be the first to admit that we probably would not have made it to the playoffs last year without the underutilized services of Jamaal Charles (and in spite of the much-overutilized services of one Thom “Thumb” Jones) but one cannot also overlook the fact that Matt Cassel also enjoyed, statistically speaking, the best season of his career with 27 TDs and only 5 INTs over the course of only 14 games. Those numbers were achieved through a limited-attempt, high percentage, highly efficient passing game that simply supplemented a very good run game.
Below I’ve charted, courtesy Football Outsiders stats, the 2010 Chiefs week-to-week DVOA rankings (upper graph) against those of the 2011 Chiefs (lower graph).
I’m probably as guilty as anyone of this, but is it really fair to conclude that Jamaal Charles was the sole reason for the success of the 2010 Chiefs offense and his absence the reason for the failure of the 2011 Chiefs offense? If so, does that adequately explain Matt Cassel’s 2010 DVOA final ranking (16th best QB in the league) to where he ended up in 2011 (39th)? While it’s tempting to think that Jamaal Charles’ presence lifted all boats, when one then goes back and looks at Cassel’s ranking from 2009 (37th), I think it should at least leave them scratching their head just a little bit, because that was also the year in which Charles first got our attention as a major offensive force to be dealt with. In other words, Cassel’s boat didn’t seem to rise all that much in 2009.
The only real difference I can see is that Cassel probably benefited a lot from the combination of Charlie Weis’ mentoring and tailored play calling.
I think it’s also probably very reasonable to believe that the marriage between Weis and the Chiefs organization started to go sour at some point. My best guess is that the most likely reason for his late season departure was most likely because Todd Haley couldn’t resist the temptation to go ahead and “fix” some things that Weis already had working. I mean, after all, who can forget Haley’s third quarter benching of Cassel in the Tennessee game and Weis’ reported displeasure with said “coaching moment?”
Okay, so I’ll go back to the first graph above and speculate some about when Haley might have taken a little too much control presumably and initiated Weis’ winter of discontent? Argue if you like. I welcome it.
Did you find it?
Based on the week-to-week performance of the Chiefs’ 2010 offense, I’m going to go ahead and suggest that Haley’s meddling in the playcalling probably began somewhere around Week 7 or 8 and very likely started to become intolerable (for Weis) by Week 13, in which our offense could only muster 10 points at home against the nearly defenseless Broncos. In Week 14, they were kept out of the end zone completely in that 31-0 road rout against the Chargers. Week 16 is when Haley made his bizarre move to bench Cassel in a 34-14 win over the Titans. Let’s not forget that Weis also announced his resignation in the week that followed the Cassel benching. Is it too wild to think that Charlie must have said to himself at that point, “now I can really say I’ve seen it all?”
Then, of course, there was the now well-established incident of Weis “holding court” at his favorite Northland pizza parlor. But I digress.
I say things have never been the same for Cassel, nor the offense he leads, ever since Haley apparently started down the path of unplugging Weis from what was becoming a pretty efficient offense. One also has to wonder whether Brian Waters’s “mutual decision” to leave the Chiefs following the 2010 season had anything to do with the veteran lineman’s having been around the league long enough to know that he, like Weis, had also seen enough and that nothing good could ever come of Haley’s offensive (pun intended) tactics?
Enough of my wistful thoughts on Weis. Good luck to the Jayhawks, I say.
To close this out, let’s take a step back and try to get some sense of what seems to have transpired on the team development front over the last couple of years.
First off, I think it’s fair to say that our defense, even with the emergence and then subsequent loss of Eric Berry, has had its up and downs since the arrival of Romeo Crennel. In 2010, the Chiefs’ defense progressed and basically played very well through the first half of the season, but then kind of dropped off the screen in the latter half of the season. I believe the reason for this is that opposing teams knew that Brandon Flowers could cover and then came around to the fact that Brandon Carr was damn excellent in coverage as well. After that happened, the Chiefs’ inability to defend the run was fully exposed and thoroughly exploited.
In 2011, we lost Barry from the get-go, which further impaired our ability to limit the run. But week-by-week, the 2011 Chiefs defense steadily began to develop into a unit, that while not very good at collapsing the pocket or stuffing the run, could nevertheless keep teams from running all over them all day long, which, even with an impaired offense, would keep us in most games. I feel that even those 5 blow out losses were more the result of turnovers and miscues snowballing into catastrophes rather than run-first offenses having their way with the Chiefs’ defense.
Special Teams started off 2010 very impressively and went steadily downhill after that, only occasionally flashing signs of life in 2011. Steve Hoffman is no longer with the team and that’s probably for the best.
As mentioned earlier, our offense began its descent during Haley’s “3rd quarter” of the 2010 season and has really languished all through 2011. Matt Cassel only had one really outstanding appearance this year, that being against the 0-16 Colts. Yes, the Chiefs missed Jamaal Charles sorely in 2011. But I think it’s also not outside the realm of possibility to say that they also miss the talents of a guy like Charlie Weis a whole bunch too! Let’s all hope Crennel and Pioli can strike that kind of gold with their next OC hire.
That’s my Double Take.
What’s your take, Addicts?