By now you’ve had a few days to consider it and let it sink in: Tony Gonzalez will not be coming to Kansas City in 2013.
The Chiefs are 8-0 and doing pretty well for themselves, but some would contend that in order to make a serious playoff push, Kansas City needed an extra piece.
Many—though not all—felt that the former Chiefs great and future Hall of Fame tight end would be the perfect addition to this Chiefs team, and he could be the one to help put Kansas City’s offense on track.
Alas, Tony G won’t be riding a white horse into town anytime soon, but that’s okay Chiefs fans.
Here’s a dirty little secret. With all due respect, the Kansas City Chiefs don’t need Tony Gonzalez.
They’ve got everything they need in a tight end in Anthony Fasano.
Fasano may not be a big superstar name like Rob Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham, but he’s just as important to the Chiefs as they are to their respective teams. Most just don’t realize it right now because Fasano has been hurt for much of the season.
His true potential with this Chiefs team has yet to be shown.
It’s no secret that quarterback Alex Smith is extremely proficient with shorter check-down throws, and that’s exactly what Andy Reid and this Chiefs’ offense needs him to be.
Kansas City doesn’t need Smith to be Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady or Peyton Manning. The Chiefs need him to be Alex Smith, and Alex Smith is terrific and managing the game and getting the ball to his playmakers on short, quick and efficient routes.
It’s also no secret that Smith’s game can really be enhanced by the tight end. Look at what he and Vernon Davis were able to accomplish in San Francisco, and is it a coincidence that Sean McGrath—a third string tight end—started to emerge for Kansas City when his number was called?
Smith and the tight end go together like bread and butter, and in this offense—with Jamaal Charles in the backfield and playmakers like Donnie Avery, Dexter McCluster and of course, Dwayne Bowe, on the edges—a great tight end can be very dangerous.
Not only can the tight end be extremely effective in the intermediate passing game, but what happens when the defense starts moving its linebackers up to combat the running game? Or how about when defenses put a safety in bracket coverage over Bowe?
Fundamentally, that leaves a lot of open room for the tight end to operate, and while Gonzalez would have been nice, Fasano can be just as effective.
While he’s never been a star, the eight year veteran really came on when he was with the Miami Dolphins. The 2012 and 2011 seasons saw him grab five touchdowns each, and he notched a career high of seven touchdowns in 2008.
Fasano is a great athlete who can stretch a defense vertically from the tight end position, but he can also stay in-line and block. He has soft hands and can be a very steady target. He caught a career high 41 receptions last season in Miami.
He’s not a superstar by any stretch of the imagination, but Kansas City doesn’t need one at tight end. The Chiefs just need a player who can be a vertical threat, while also being a reliable target in the intermediate game.
Case in point, here’s Kansas City’s first offensive play against the Cleveland Browns last weekend. The Chiefs are lined up in a pro set with Fasano on the line:
The Chiefs are running a go and an out on the outside. Fasano is going to run an out as well, but instead of carrying to the sideline he’s going to sit in the window between the linebacker, and the vacating flat defender:
Smith puts it right on the money, and it may not be a huge play, but it’s an easy eight yards that puts the offense at second at short:
I don’t care how “pretty” of an offense you want to run, I don’t know a coach or good football mind anywhere who wouldn’t be giddy at the idea of second and short. That opens up the whole playbook.
Consider a two tight end set that features Fasano and McGrath and what that would mean for opposing defenses. That could set up the run with two extra players on or near the line of scrimmage, but what happens when the defense brings down a safety and leaves Smith with one high safety to read? That’s bad news for an opposing secondary.
Doing nothing at the trade deadline may not have been flashy and Fasano certainly isn’t, but now that he’s healthy, he’s without a doubt the addition that this Chiefs’ offense needs. He can be a good safety net, but he’ll also make some big plays. If he’s a good blocker that’s an added bonus, and guess what, Fasano is good at setting the edge on the line.
The Chiefs didn’t need to make a trade with Atlanta to get that. They had it all along.
Note: Film via NFL Rewind. Markings are my own.