Carlos Hyde deserves a regular season chance with the Chiefs
By Matt Conner
Fans of the Kansas City Chiefs are ready to dump Carlos Hyde before he ever got started for the franchise. It’s unfair since he’s never shown what he can do under Andy Reid.
If you polled the Chiefs Kingdom on social media, you’d likely walk away with the perception that this year’s version of David Amerson is Carlos Hyde.
Last year, general manager Brett Veach signed Amerson as a free agent cornerback to the Kansas City Chiefs only to see him perform poorly in training camp and the preseason. He was dropped before the regular season ever began, and the collective sigh of relief from fans everywhere made an audible noise.
Earlier this spring, the Chiefs added Carlos Hyde to the mix at running back. The move came several weeks after the team extended Damien Williams for an additional two seasons after seeing what he could do down the stretch and into the postseason in the aftermath of Kareem Hunt‘s surprise release from the team. Between the two of them, Veach had given out $3.1 million guaranteed for three years of production. That’s a nice find.
Together, the Chiefs suddenly had a cheap, two-headed backfield with the draft still to come. Darrel Williams also loomed in the background, a rookie free agent who impressed enough to make the team’s active roster come September (and remain in town through another offseason).
Fast forward a few months and Hyde has become some sort of pariah. It makes little sense. There are some odd forces at work here that need to be identified and ironed out. Perhaps Hyde won’t make the final roster—and if so, that’s fine—but he definitely deserves a better opportunity and more credit than what he’s receiving at this point from Chiefs Kingdom.
Let’s take a closer look at Hyde’s place on the roster, the arguments made, and the conflicting ideas at work to sort out what’s true and what’s not.
POTENTIAL V. PRODUCTION
This is the most nebulous force at work here, but it’s definitely in play.
The sexiest player is the one who has yet to show what he can do. Every year, every rookie pick is filled with limitless potential. Every player taken in the third round and beyond is labeled a “steal” by some draft analyst or fervent fan base. Never mind the tremendous bust rates of most of those players. Ignore the reality that dozens of these players in camp right now will never amount to anything on the professional level.
Reality, be damned.
Carlos Hyde had his chance. He came into the league, showed what he can do, and now he seems to be stumbling forward. He’s older. He’s suffered some injuries. He had his chance with a trio of teams.
On the other hand, those same fans will point to Darrel Williams and say that he deserves the roster spot over Carlos Hyde. Williams was a rookie last season and surprised us all by making the team. It’s always exciting to see guys like him and Ben Niemann beat the odds and impress coaches enough to make the final active roster. It’s the underdog story and it’s nice.
But, look, there’s zero room to believe that Darrel Williams could put together a body of work that even Hyde has put together if given the chance. It’s the allure of the unknown at work. We’re inevitably drawn to the question mark over the real thing. It’s why you went for Deebo Samuel over Mohamed Sanu in your fantasy draft. The grass is always greener, even in professional sports.
This is just a quick note to acknowledge that some people are pitting Hyde against Darrel Williams, in particular, as if the Chiefs have to make a difficult choice between the two.
The reality is that the Chiefs have gone with four backs on the active roster for each of the last three years along with Anthony Sherman at fullback. The only stretch where they went down to three was in 2017 for a while when Spencer Ware was on injured reserve.
That doesn’t mean that Hyde is safe. The Chiefs have gone thin with three players before. It’s just a note that they’re unafraid to keep four if that’s what the talent requires.
The clamor to release Carlos Hyde often includes something about saving money. That feels a bit like cutting my Netflix subscription because I’m overdrafting my bank account on a regular basis.
Basically, if you need serious financial savings, cutting Hyde is a minimal step to take.
But these aren’t last year’s Chiefs that we’re talking about. Veach took a sledgehammer to the team’s financial commitments. Justin Houston was released. Eric Berry was shown the door. Dee Ford was traded. He’s the anti-Dorsey, letting guys go even if they could have quite a bit left (versus signing the likes of Tamba Hali to a three-year deal when he should clearly have been year to year).
He’s Belichick-esque in that way.
Back to Hyde. The former Ohio State star was given $1.5 million guaranteed which becomes dead cap money if you release him. The actual savings is $1.237 million, to be precise. For a team with well over $22 million in free space, that seems silly to pay Hyde more to leave than to stay.
THE ANDY REID EFFECT
Let’s take a quick trip back in time.
Before Damien Williams landed with the Chiefs in the first place, this was his rushing resume:
- 2014 – 3.4 yards/carry, 0 touchdowns
- 2015 – 3.7 yards/carry, 0 touchdowns
- 2016 – 3.3 yards/carry, 3 touchdowns
- 2017 – 3.9 yards/carry, 0 touchdowns
One year with Andy Reid raised his career average to 4.0 yards/carry. That is the Andy Reid effect.
Every offensive acquisition coming into Kansas City is going to see a similar bump to his numbers. Travis Kelce is the league’s best tight end, but it would also be an interesting exercise to see him on another roster. Same with Tyreek Hill. Would their numbers be very good? Excellent? Record-setting? With the Chiefs, there’s no question (and no ceiling).
Carlos Hyde’s body of work is much more impressive on paper than anyone currently on the Chiefs (that likely says a bit more about the state of the roster more than Hyde, to be fair). He’s motivated on a one-year deal playing for a Super Bowl contender. Why not give him a chance to see what he can really do under Andy Reid?
THE SUPER BOWL MENTALITY
Earlier this week, we were reminded that the Chiefs have one thing in mind: a Super Bowl.
Brett Veach signed offensive lineman Jeff Allen on a roster that has promising young talent. Now instead of allowing Nick Allegretti or Jimmy Murray or Kahlil McKenzie to grow into a role on the roster, Veach has seemingly stunted their growth.
The next move Veach made was to sign De’Anthony Thomas on a team that also has Byron Pringle, Cody Thompson, Gehrig Dieter, Jamal Custis and several others hoping to make the active roster.
In both instances, the Chiefs were making a simple statement: we are going to feel secure with a veteran at every spot until someone younger can prove without a doubt that he’s ready to be an improvement at that spot. Then and only then will we make a move.
For all the people fretting about Hyde being in someone’s way, there’s precious little vitriol to be found regarding Allen or DAT.
Here’s the thing: if Carlos Hyde’s injury history was too problematic, if his speed was too questionable, if his style was a poor fit, Brett Veach wouldn’t have signed him (and done so for quite a bit more than Damien Williams was scheduled to make).
Hyde has carried the ball a total of 7 times in 2 preseason games—apparently enough time to light the torches and grab the pitchforks in the name of ousting him from the roster.
At the very least, fans should be glad that the Chiefs have plenty of options in the backfield. If Hyde sits behind younger guys, there’s nothing wrong with that. If Hyde emerges and makes one of them sit, that’s great, too. Competition brings out the best and there’s simply no good reason to get rid of that element just yet.