It’s time to start demonizing Tony Gonzalez. Bob Gretz started it about 15 minutes after Kansas City’s win over Denver last season, penning an article for the Chiefs’ website stating that Tony wasn’t an impact player. This, of course, was contrary to everything Gretz had written about him before, but at the time Gonzalez was slated to be traded. The team needed to sell the idea to fans, and Bob is the company shill. Kevin Kietzman was on board too, but ragging on Gonzo is like chocolate cake to Kietzman’s inner fat kid.
The fact is that Tony was an impact player. Worse yet, he was the offense’s only impact player. Larry Johnson is broken, just like every other tailback is after a 400 carry season. Dwayne Bowe is talented but unpolished, and with his limited speed he’s not a Randy Moss-style deep threat. The rest of Kansas City’s wide receiver corps is unimpressive, to put it nicely. Mark Bradley, Bobby Engram, and Jeff Webb are good athletes, but hardly bastions of consistency. And Devard Darling is terrible. His reputation in Baltimore was as a receiver who did not have the discipline to stick to his routes, and nothing he has done while wearing red and gold has dissuaded me from thinking that reputation was well-deserved.
Last week Adam Tiecher wrote an article calling the Chiefs’ offense “Cassel and the question marks”. I wonder exactly how it is that Tiecher has convinced himself that Matt Cassel himself isn’t a question mark. Kansas City was criticized last season for going to the shotgun to better facilitate Tyler Thigpen, who was not accustomed to playing under center and needed more time to make decisions (even if he usually came to the same conclusion–throw it to Tony). What Chiefs fans seem blissfully unaware of is that New England did the same for Cassel. Cassel improved dramatically as a result, but Cassel was also throwing to Wes Welker and Randy Moss. It’s easy to look qualified for the job when your targets are the second and third best receivers in the league.
Cassel won’t have that luxury in Kansas City. Unless Bowe steps up his game dramatically, Cassel will have no top flight targets. He’ll have no running game to lean on either. And his blocking will be subpar, to put it nicely. If Brian Waters does not show up, the team may very well be starting Wade Smith, Eric Ghiaciuc, and Damion McIntosh, all of whom would struggle for roster spots on other teams. Cassel had better share Thigpen’s mobility, because he’s going to spend a lot of time running for his life.
This is not the same kind of offense Todd Haley had in Arizona. This is not the same kind of offense Scott Pioli had in New England. There are a lot of bad players here. There’s no cordial or gentile way to put it. This is a team of second stringers.
Tony, at his advanced age, was not the future of this team. He was, however, a FEMA trailer to shelter Cassel while Pioli and Haley designed some meaningful structure. I know Rome can’t be built in a day, but right now it looks less like building and more like burning. And somewhere in the background, I swear I hear Nero’s fiddle. Stop the violins, Scott. It’s time for a different tune.