The Case Of The Missing Jamaal Charles


Once upon a time, in a far away land, the Kansas City Chiefs had a superstar running back named Jamaal Charles. Charles was one of the most prolific running backs in National Football League history, averaging over five yards per carry for his career and touted as one of the most dangerous non-quarterback weapons in all of football.

Then, one season in 2014, that Kansas City Chiefs lost him.

No one knew where he went. In the season prior to 2014, Charles averaged 24.2 rushing attempts plus pass targets. In those 15 games he amassed 1,980 yards of total offense and 19 total touchdowns. He did this even though the Chiefs had nothing at wide receiver, tight end, or a very good offensive line. Everyone knew he was going to get the ball yet no one could stop the great Jamaal Charles.

Heading into the 2014 season fans and pundits believe the Charles could have another spectacular year. Yes, the offensive line took a blow but Charles has never needed a good offensive line to succeed, let alone other weapons in the offense. The Chiefs had added De’Anthony Thomas to a mix with Travis Kelce, a healthy Anthony Fasano, and second year running back Knile Davis. Those four combined with Charles were supposed to help diversify the offense enough for Charles to take better advantage of his 24 carries+targets per game.

Alas, something terrible happened.

Maybe it was a curse by a wicked witch from the mountains of Denver (Peyton Manning) or maybe it was a poisonous fruit of some kind that found it’s way to head coach Andy Reid, but something happened to the way the Chiefs used Jamaal Charles.

In the 11 games in which Charles has been fully healthy – all the games except for the Miami game and the first Denver game – Jamaal has averaged only 19 carries+targets per game. His 172 carries this season put him on pace to have the fewest carries of his career in a non-injury season since carrying the ball 190 in 2009 – his second season as a professional.

What curse has befallen Reid so as to not use his best offensive player as least as much as he did a season ago?

Yes, the offensive line is horrible, and is led by the troll Mike McGlynn at left guard. His random flailing at left guard has nearly caused the death of 76 people (estimated). It would be understandable to think Charles would see a small dip in production as a result.

Instead, Charles is averaging more yards per carry (5.2 to 5.0) than he did a season ago. His reception numbers are down, yes, but that’s mostly due to a lack of targets. In 2013 Charles was target 104 times, 57 times more than he has been this season.

And even though Charles has seen fewer touches, he has scored only five fewer touchdowns than he did in 2013.

One must consider why Charles is not seeing more action in games this season. Maybe the curse placed upon Reid was the one where he attempted to save Charles for the second half of the season and then forgot to play him when it was finally time to unleash him. A plan in which Reid would save Charles in September and October in order to use him in more important games in December and January would make sense.

Alas, this has not happened.

Against Arizona, Charles was target in the passing game four times and was handed the ball another 10 times. It was the fifth time this season Charles had 14 or few carries in a game this season. Only twice this season has Charle had five or more targets in the passing game.

The Chiefs are 4-1 this season when Charles has a carries+targets number of 20 or better. They are 2-5 when that number is 19 or fewer. In those two wins in which Charles had 19 or fewer carries+targets one was a blow out win over the Rams in which Charles had 18 carries+targets in three quarters and the other was a win over the Bills in which Charles had 18 carries+targets.

Should this story have a happy ending, Reid must find a way to overcome the curse that has been placed upon him and find a way to get the ball to Jamaal Charles more frequently. Only then can the Chiefs see offensive success and a possible run to the playoffs.