Dec 4, 2011; Chicago, IL, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Tyler Palko (4) in the huddle during the first quarter against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. The Chiefs beat the Bears 10-3. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-US PRESSWIRE

Chiefs Team Success: Offense

“Huddle up.”

“Gather round.”

“Everybody make a circle.”

I’ve been involved in team sports for over five decades and have heard those words on and off the field of play many, many times. It’s what you do in any team sport. You gather together… usually in a circle.

The Chiefs season has finished some time ago now but, I keep attempting to understand why or how the season came out the way it did. Evaluations abound and I’ve read many since the Chiefs whipped the Broncos in their last game. However, these “evaluations” don’t seem to take the “team concept” into account.

Being the teacher that I am, I admit, I’m a bit of a charts and graphs freak. Perhaps you’ve noticed this from some of my other posts. Plus, I keep having a “circle” come to mind, to exemplify and symbolize, the idea of a team.

So, here’s my evaluation of the Chiefs in 2011 as seen through the success circle. The success circle takes the evaluation of each player and places them together in a circle. Each player must do their job for the team to be successful as a whole. The more each player contributes, the more well rounded the team becomes.

When that happens, a team can really get on a roll. However, we didn’t see much rolling this year.

Below you’ll find a circle graph with a rating for each player on offense and a separate circle graph for defense.

This week I will cover offense. Next week I’ll cover the Chiefs defense.

The circle evaluation system consists of a numerical rating from 1-10 for each player with one being the worst and 10 being the best. If a player is in the 96th percentile, or higher, of everyone playing their position in the league, then they deserve a 10. Currently, the Chiefs only have one player like that and that’s Tamba Hali.

The evaluation will rate the position and not a specific player only. For instance WR1 is Dwayne Bowe ,which is the position he occupied all season long but had anyone else stepped into that position, they would have been included in the score for that position. Such was the case with the QB position since three players played that spot during the course of the season.

What’s being asked to determine a rating is: What did the Chiefs get out of that position this season and did that player contribute positively to the overall success of the team?

I’m looking globally and specifically at a position to answer that question. For example: what did Clark Hunt get for his money at the QB position this season? What was Scott Pioli able to provide the coach not only in terms of starting players but backups as well? Or, what did an individual player like Sabby Piscitelli bring to the safety position in terms of skills or leadership or other intangibles? So, a score for a position reflects, and takes into account, an all encompassing view as well as the particulars of a players’ team contributions.

Finally, the evaluation process can come across a bit negative and while that is not the intention, I’m merely attempting to find ways to more accurately perceive what happened to the Chiefs this season. If it seems negative it’s because the Chiefs’ final results weren’t positive, overall.

Team Success Evaluation

This graphic shows a rating of each position on the Chiefs offense for the 2011 season.

WR1 - 9/10

Beginning with the best player on offense, Dwayne Bowe continued to play at a Pro Bowl level this year. Some may say Bowe didn’t progress this year but I would disagree. Consider who was throwing him the ball. Having to deal with three different QBs and one named Tyler Palko make Bowe’s accomplishments even more pronounced. Also, more than any year since Bowe arrived the other receivers have had the ball distributed to them. There weren’t a lot of catches that other receivers took away from Bowe but Bowe had nine more catches this year even though he had fewer TDs. Also, Bowe continues to be excellent after the catch and makes incredible and acrobatic grabs.

Bowe nearly gets a 10 from me because I think he has subjugated his own tendencies to dabble in the social media or express his flamboyant side. I think it could be argued that Dwayne Bowe is the most important, most valuable Chief this year. Maybe for several years. What would the running game be without Bowe forcing opponents to respect the pass? He’s worked well with Matt Cassel and with all the other QBs who he’s had to deal with because of injuries. He’s become a leader on the field by his very performance, as well as a leader at his own position in the league and his one-handed bobble and grab in the end zone for a TD should be considered one of the best catches in the NFL this season. He makes Jon Baldwin better by his example. Without Dwayne Bowe, where might the Chiefs be for the past two years? He did everything Todd Haley asked him to do, and more. That’s a team player and the Chiefs should reward him as if he’s the team’s best player on offense.

WR2 - 6/10

The Chiefs began the season with high hopes that their number two receiver would be rookie Jon Baldwin. That was before Thomas “The Rookie Slayer” Jones dropped Baldwin in the first round with a TKO. So, WR2 belonged to Steven Breaston most of the year. Breaston’s 61 catches were nice but, “nice” doesn’t get you a seven on my chart and only two TDs for the season is not going to help change that score. The Bowe and Breaston combination is a real improvement over last year and they may be the best WR combo for the Chiefs in the past decade. However, don’t let that fool you. That is only a sign of how poor the Chiefs WR corps has been since Moses turned the Nile red (Go Chiefs!). If the Chiefs can re-sign Bowe, these two (WR1 and WR2) look to do some damage next season. Especially if Baldwin can last longer than one round in his next bout.

WR3 - 5/10

Other Chiefs receivers who caught passes this season were… were … uh… oh yeah, Jon Baldwin did catch a long one for a TD. Terrance Copper had eight catches this season. Jeremy Horne didn’t have a catch this year. Jeremy Urban had four. Kerry Colbert had nine grabs but is now a free agent. Rookie Jon Baldwin played in 11 games once he healed. He averaged 1.9 catches per game finishing with a career high of 21.

Dexter McCluster is listed as a RB by the Chiefs so that’s where he’ll be evaluated. Twenty-nine percent of McCluster’s touches were receptions so it’s hard to view him as a slot receiver (WR3). However, it should be noted that McCluster had enough of his total receptions (46) come while lined up in the slot, that it made him the third wide receiver (WR3) with the most receptions.

The Chiefs WR corps is anemic when compared to some of the leagues best groups of wide receivers. Some teams go four deep, or even more. The Chiefs weren’t even two deep at certain times this season when they started out with such high hopes for their WR corps.

The reality is, for the past three years, the Chiefs have been running WR retreads through their roster like Kim Kardashian has been running boyfriends through her reality show. Five may be a bit high for WR3.

K – 8/10

Ryan Succop had a very, very good year. He made 80 percent of his kicks and boomed the ball into the end zone on a regular basis while kicking off. Since this is an evaluation of team contributions on offense, we’ll stick to his scoring which is his field goal kicking. On December 31st, Scott Pioli signed Succop to a five-year extension so the GM should be given credit for making a good team investment in locking up Succop. While Succop ranked 28th among all kickers in scoring, that is due less to Succop and more to the  Chiefs offense not being able to get into scoring position often enough.

QB - 6/10

The change in offensive coordinators, again, and the horrendous start to the season placed Matt Cassel behind the eight ball with nowhere to shoot. The lack of consistency and positive direction in the play calling hurt Cassel from the beginning and the conflicting voices in his head didn’t help. Just as the center position was a huge problem in 2009 for Cassel, the RT position posed great challenges in 2011, which I’ll go into later. Is any of that Matt Cassel’s fault? It doesn’t matter. This is an evaluation of what the Chiefs, as a team, as an organization, got out of the quarterback position.

Only once during Matt Cassel’s nine games this season, did he have three games in a row, in which his passer rating was over 72. In fact, those were the only three times (Chargers, Vikes and Colts) that he was above 72. Matt Cassel has had similar results in previous years so you have to hold the coach and GM responsible for continuing to put him on the field. Cassel had a 102.1 passer rating against the Chargers but the week before it was 44.5. Cassel had his best game of the year against the Colts (big surprise) with a passer rating of 138.9. The next week it was 38.3. Cassel’s inconsistency is only matched by the fact that he is consistent at it.

Tyler Palko made playing Chiefs QB into a Zelda video adventure but every single play was a game-over moment. The A-palko-lypse, as I like to call it brought to light the great shortcomings of the general manager in providing the team with at least one viable, experienced, option at backup QB. For Scott Pioli, this was an epic fail. There is no other way to rate it. Whether that was Todd Haley’s fault or not is now a moot point since he’s calling plays for the men of Steel, not the Chiefs. Also, the buck has to stop with Pioli on this one.

Kyle Orton’s presence for three games was the salvation for this position in 2011, if that’s what you can call it. Let’s just say it was a salve more than it was a salvo. The QB position should probably have been a five out of 10 but, it’s hard to deny that Kyle Orton had a great game against the defending Super Bowl champions. At Arrowhead no less. When you play so well that you become King for a Day at Arrowhead, it can go a long way toward fixing what’s broken… or at least the perception that you’re fixing what’s broken. So, I’ll stick with six out of 10 for the QB position.

RB/FB - 5/10

I’d like to explain that the Chiefs don’t run enough sets in which the RB and the FB are in the backfield together to give the FB a separate rating. In other words, we don’t need the FB to hold up one whole spoke of the Chiefs wheel in order for the Chiefs to succeed.

Le’Ron McClain did not produce everything I hoped he would this season. I thought he was capable of so much more. However, I often wondered why he wasn’t on the field more, especially after JC went down. I don’t know who’s at fault for that but I don’t care. I hope new OC Brian Daboll will get more from McClain than Haley or Muir did. One thing I do like is that I didn’t hear McClain complain. Which he’s been known to do. He can be a monster. I’d like to see him do some mashing.

Jackie Battle had a couple of sweet, sweet games and he momentarily gave me some futuristic visions of thunder and lightning when JC returns. But, that was short lived. Battle is a quiet guy and works hard but I don’t know if there’s enough there for the Chiefs to bring him back. I doubt they will.

Dexter McCluster was the Chiefs’ most exciting RB this season but he only averaged seven carries per game this year. Next to Bowe, I’d say Dexter McCluster came through for the team more times than any other offensive player. Dex had more than 1400 yards when you add his rushing, receiving and return yard totals. His flexibility makes him an invaluable member of the Chiefs team going forward, especially when JC returns.

Thomas Jones was on the negative side of the ledger this year. Not only was there the incidence with Jon Baldwin but Jones only touched the ball 9.8 times per game this season. That’s rushing, receiving, everything, every touch. The problem is he averaged 3.1 yards per carry. Canceling Jon Baldwin out from five games this season is the unforgivable sin against the team concept. He’s the biggest reason that RB/FB is getting 5/10.

TE/FB - 4/10

With so many teams making use of the TE in multiple sets this season, the Chiefs simply failed to capitalize on getting anything productive from their TEs. You can blame the loss of Tony Moeaki for this problem but even if Moeaki is around, once again there’s just not any depth. That’s an issue that the coach and GM failed to address. The best catch I can recall this year was a 39-yard Leonard Pope catch against Green Bay to help win that game. Other than that, TE was a Nightmare on Elm St. as well as One Arrowhead Drive. While Pope and the other second-class TEs that management brought in were all swell team players, none of them were any good on the field. They might as well have brought in Edward Scissor Hands.

RT - 3/10

Scott Pioli came out shortly after the season and said that the Chiefs will have to fix the offensive line this offseason. The main reason for that? Barry Richardson. Scott Pioli is still used to seeing his offensive line do a great job of protecting his QB a la Brady and the Pats. Pioli is most certainly still holding out hope that Matt Cassel is a good QB but it’s easy for him to point the finger at the OL and say, “See, they can’t protect him so, we still don’t know how good he can be.” In any case, we do know how good Barry Richardson can’t be and his gaping hole in the Chiefs protection is more demoralizing to the offensive unit as a whole than any other one specific deficiency. Barry Richardson ranks 62nd amongst all tackles in the NFL in 2011 in pass blocking efficiency as defined by ProFootballFocus. The point here is not to beat a dead horse into oblivion but, when you look at the Success Circle Line Graph below you’ll understand more completely what a significant difficulty his low performances have had on the team as a whole.

RG - 6/10

Many may disagree with me here but, I see Jon Asamoah as a developing guard and someone who has a ways to go before we could even consider him a dominant player at this position. The main reason I give Asamoah a six is that I have to distinguish his contributions to the team from those of Casey Wiegmann. We’ve all heard the Wiegmann stories about him being the same person day in and day out and how he can be counted on to produce on and off the field. He’s long been recognized as a team guy. Asamoah has a ways to go before he can be that guy. However, he’s had a very good year starting for the first time.

C - 7/10

Casey Wiegmann is Mr. Consistency. On and off the field. It’s not until years later that I can fully appreciate what an important part of the Roaf, Waters, Wiegmann, Shields and Tait line that he was. If Wiegmann retires this offseason, I can already predict we will miss him this year. If not, it will be great to have him in whatever capacity he decides, or the Chiefs decide, that he will participate.

RG - 5/10

RG wasn’t all about Lilja this year. Rodney Hudson got some snaps there too. The RG position is the second most needy spot along the Chiefs offensive line. Neither Hudson or Lilja are very big as far as OL go and Lilja’s best days may be behind him, in Indy. ProFootballFocus rates Lilja as the 11th worst guard at protecting the passer (Pass Blocking Efficiency). Lilja can still pull and get outside on running plays but has a very difficult time with larger linemen in the league and especially bull rushes. Lilja started out as a Chief and returned to the Chiefs so his loyalty is uncommon and worth something in the team’s locker room. However, this is another position on the OL that it is critical that the Chiefs upgrade this offseason if they are serious about contending next year.

LT - 7/10

Brandon Albert hasn’t broken through yet. I keep expecting him to become one of the best LTs in the league but I’m not sure he has it in him. Do the Chiefs need Albert to be one of the best in the league for them to contend? No, but the LT position has become more important than ever as passing in the NFL becomes the number one choice of attack. Several QBs in the league this season set records that many would have thought not possible just 15 years ago. Now, for the Chiefs to keep pace, they will need to put all of the highest quality pieces in place to compete at that level. Right now, I don’t believe Brandon Albert is one of those pieces. Not at LT. Could the Chiefs move him to guard and hope to get a better performance out of him? I think that’s been hashed over in the blogosphere since Albert came into the league.

I don’t expect the Chiefs to go down this road right now with such high demands to fix the RT position this offseason. If the Chiefs were to magically end up with one of the top three LT prospects in the draft that may change. ProFootballFocus ranks Brandon Albert as the No. 10 worst pass blocking LT in the league in 2011. Since Albert played guard mostly in college I can only believe that the experiment has not been a major success and it’s perhaps time to try moving Albert back to his natural position. One plus for Albert is, he never questioned whether or not he should play guard or LT when he came to the Chiefs. He just went where he was asked to go. That makes him a very good team player. I only hope he wouldn’t object if he is asked to move again.

Success Circle Line Graph

This evaluation has been based upon a circle/wheel graph format. I would define the circle/wheel format as: for a team to get rolling, and stay rolling, through the duration of the regular season and throughout the playoffs, they must be a well-rounded team with depth. Consequently, I have applied a pie chart and a rounded line graph to best represent the concept of a circle or wheel. Below is another view of the wheel format as it applies to the Chiefs’ most recent season. This one represents the offense.

The golden mass, or blob, is made up of the scores assigned to each position player based on their performance and team value in 2011. As you can tell, the higher the scores, the more well rounded the mass becomes. This is merely another method for pointing out specific weaknesses in a unit that needs to be addressed during the off season.

Another way to look at the graph is to visually draw a line, in your mind, across the middle and then pay attention to the lower half of the circle, or upper half. However, the goal is for the golden mass to be a circle in the best of all circumstances.

Looking below midline, this confirms what we have already known about the needs at right tackle. Looking north of the midline points out equal concerns at WR, WR depth and TE depth. Scott Pioli received a lot of bad press about the lack of a quality back-up QB this season but, even if he had a good one lined up and ready to go, that QB may not have done too well when also considering the lack of depth at other key positions on offense: RT, TE, WR3 and more importantly RB.

I was going to chart the Houston Texans so you could see how well rounded an offense can become. However, you’ll just have to imagine it. It’s easy to do if you can see all the categories reaching 7, 8, 9 or 10. That’s the reason their offense really, really rolls.

I’ll cover the Chiefs defense next week.

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