The Thom Jones Conundrum
By Big Matt
When the Kansas City Chiefs signed Thomas Jones, I, like all of you, was happy. I wasn’t gushing about it or calling Scott Pioli a genius like some, but it was clearly a good signing. Jones would limit wear-and-tear on Jamaal Charles, provide a quality insurance policy, and give the Chiefs a dose of that veteran leadership they love so well. Finally, we had signed someone who wasn’t a former Cardinal, Patriot, or 35-year-old guy named Mike. This move was clearly a win for everyone.
Except now Thom Jones is starting games. I know it’s only the preseason, but I still can’t wrap my head around this. Jamaal Charles is a much, much better running back than Jones. It isn’t close. Last year, he made a bad line look good and averaged nearly six yards per carry doing it. Jones, meanwhile, locker-room-leadered his way to a paltry 4.2 yards per carry behind one of the better lines in the NFL.
JC is also eight years younger than Jones. His best is probably yet to come. It’s not an exaggeration to say that he is one of the most exciting young players in the game. No disrespect to Thom Jones, but he is just not on Jamaal Charles’s level right now.
I’ve tried looking at this from another perspective. The “old school, respect the veterans” perspective. But even that doesn’t seem to be applicable in this case. Jones may be old, but he got that way playing for other teams. Charles has been a Chief longer than Pioli or Haley. He’s been forced to rot on the bench behind inferior players the whole time, and he hasn’t once complained about it. He gave another lost season it’s only real dash of hope, and he’s been etched in all of the most loyal fans’ memories for the past eight months. If anyone is deserving of a tip-of-the-cap, appreciation start, it is Charles.
So yeah, I’m worried when I see Thom Jones with the first team. Training camp, preseason game, whatever. It just doesn’t make any sense. And I really don’t want to spend another season watching my team’s head coach make decisions that don’t make sense. God, I feel like I’ve been doing that forever. I’m not asking for Todd Haley to be a genius, but he needs to get the obvious stuff right. This falls in that category. Jamaal Charles needs to start, and he needs to get the majority of the carries. Not all of the carries, but the majority.
The most troubling of Haley’s many mistakes last season is his inability to recognize what he had in Charles. I’ve previously written that I thought Haley was a guy who could learn from his mistakes. Unfortunately, that doesn’t appear to be happening in this case. Here we are in year two and Jamaal Charles is still not the starter. But you know who is starting? Corey Mays and Demorrio Williams. Still. We all keep assuming everything will be put to rights, but it hasn’t happened yet, and I’m no longer sure it will.
Of course, our coaches could clue us in to their grand design. But for some reason that type of thing is against the rules. It’s not polite to ask why. Just sit back, relax, and trust the guys who brought you four wins last year. They know what they’re doing. Don’t believe me? Try to break into Arrowhead. Just try. The new laser beams Scott Pioli installed will have you cut to ribbons before you can say “Patriot Way.”
Coaches in all sports get attached to players that aren’t very good. Whether it be grit, hustle, intangibles, or veteran leadership, something about certain mediocre players is irresistible to their leaders. With bad coaches this problem tends to be more pronounced. Across the complex, Jason Kendall is breaking records for playing time and Willie Bloomquist is revered as a baseball saint. The Royals are bad, and that’s how bad teams do. If the Chiefs want to climb out of the cellar, distancing themselves from their perennially terrible neighbor would be a good start. I’m seeing waaaay too many similarities between the Chiefs and Royals these days. But that’s another topic for another post.
I’d like to see Jones, Mays, Williams, and even Mike Vrabel and Jon McGraw out of the starting lineup by the time the season starts. I’ve got nothing against any of those guys, but its time to look to the future. Standing pat with below-average options isn’t looking to the future, its treading water. And man, I would hate to see Haley tread water with the guys who got him to 4-12. That’s like getting a bad filet-o-fish and going right back to McDonalds the next day (when really the obvious move is to boycott the location until the McRib comes back).
It might be too early to be getting on the Chiefs about this. There is, after all, still plenty of time to tune up. But all this losing has made me paranoid. I don’t want to see Todd Haley repeating mistakes, even if it is the preseason. I keep wishing these bizarre depth charts away, and they keep coming back.
Jamaal Charles needs to start this week. And next week. And the week after that. And every week for as long as he’s a Chief. Nothing against Thom Jones, but having him in that starting lineup is a criminal misuse of talent. A team like the Chiefs simply cannot afford to mismanage what meager resources we have.
Needless to say, I’ll be keeping a close eye on the starting lineups for the rest of the preseason.