If there’s one thing I’ve learned about watching the preseason, it’s never to take for granted that a player’s play will win him a starting job or even a roster spot. The first time that point was really driven home for me was in 2003, when Joe Hall clearly outplayed Omar Easy. Easy got the nod and continued to disappoint for another two seasons.
It was inconsequential in 2006 that incumbent starter Lional Dalton plainly outplayed underweight career reserve James Reed. Dalton was humiliatingly demoted by coach Herm Edwards to scout team right guard, then eventually cut. It was inconsequential again in 2007 when Casey Printers outplayed both Damon Huard and Brodie Croyle. Printers was cut in favor of Tyler Thigpen. Sometimes, as was the case with Justin Phinisee, it doesn’t even matter that there is no real competition on the squad. Phinisee was cut in favor of Detroit castaway Eddie Drummond. As we all know, if there’s any such thing as a benchmark for proof of quality, that mark is being cut by the Detroit Lions.
As a consequence of this understanding, I cannot bring myself to completely discount the rumors of a possible trade involving Dwayne Bowe, even if the source of the rumor is an individual in the press who has repeatedly proven himself to be lacking even a shred of credibility. The Tony Gonzalez trade demonstrated that nothing is sacred to Scott Pioli. That extends to every roster spot except Matt Cassel’s. I fully anticipate another move similar to Pioli’s unceremonious dismissal of Lawyer Milloy back in 2003. Kansas City fans should learn to divest themselves of emotional attachments to specific players. The new GM is void of sentimentality. Every player, including recent first round draft picks and well paid veterans, has a bulls-eye on his back, and Pioli is about to open fire into a crowded room.
Now that I’ve said that, I’ll give my real opinion: Dwayne Bowe isn’t going anywhere. His placement on the team’s official depth chart gives the appearance that his job is in danger, but it isn’t. Marcus Allen was frequently listed as a third stringer when he played for the Raiders. Coaches, GMs, and owners do this to players for different reasons. In Allen’s case, there never seemed to be any clear cut reason beyond the fact that Al Davis didn’t like him. That always struck me as an unorthodox way of communicating that particular emotion, but nobody has ever accused Al Davis of orthodoxy.
With Bowe, the message being communicated via his demotion isn’t dislike, but rather disapproval. Head coach Todd Haley doesn’t approve of Bowe’s work ethic. He doesn’t approve of Bowe’s penchant for dropping balls either. Bowe is being sent the message that he must earn his keep.
Bowe had never been held accountable before this summer. He, like all great athletes, thrived on natural ability through high school. Playing under Les Miles at LSU didn’t change that, nor did playing under Herm Edwards in Kansas City. Now, a month shy of his 25th birthday, he finds himself in a position with which he is wholly unfamiliar. For the first time in his life, his future is not guaranteed.
Sort of. Despite Haley’s present infatuation with Devard Darling and the magnificently awful Terrance Copper, Bowe will probably start September 13th against Baltimore (a team which was wise enough to divest itself of both Darling and Copper). If that is to be the case, he also needs to start tonight against the Vikings. If this team wants to be competitive, he and Matt Cassel need to be on the same page. They won’t be unless they spend time on the field together now. I know Haley wants to make his point clear to Bowe, but if making that point is ultimately detrimental to the development of his relatively inexperienced quarterback, what’s the point?
Haley declared yesterday that his starters would be playing for the duration of the first half. If we are to believe the depth chart, that means we’ll be subjected to 30 minutes of Devard Darling and Terrance Copper, being spelled by Mark Bradley and Amani Toomer. That’s not good for anybody, but for Cassel it’s potentially damning. Haley has to end Bowe’s demotion eventually, and the entire team would be better off if he did it sooner rather than later. Continuing to make an example out of one key player at the expense of team chemistry would be one hell of a rookie mistake.