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Life After Larry: Week 10 Game Review
Posted By ChiefsWarpath.com On November 17, 2009 @ 9:22 pm In Commentary | Comments Disabled
On November 6th, 2005, Larry Johnson permanently took over starting duties from Priest Holmes. He had three prior spot starts, but his field time had been limited otherwise. Johnson set the tone for the next year and a half by putting up a command performance against a struggling Oakland team, gaining 107 ground yards and another 16 on three receptions.
Today, November 15th, 2009, Jamaal Charles permanently took over starting duties from Larry Johnson. He had four prior spot starts, but his field time had been limited otherwise. Charles put up a command performance against a struggling Oakland team, gaining 103 ground yards and another 14 on four receptions.
Of course, the circumstances are different. Holmes was venerated by the Kansas City fan base. Johnson was not. Holmes was a multidimensional player who brought many elements to the game beyond his pure running skill. Johnson was not. Holmes was an inexpensive acquisition whose contract was never a hindrance to developing the team otherwise. Johnson was not.
In hindsight, Johnson’s only admirable quality was his penchant for popping linebackers in the mouth to gain an extra yard or two – a quality which faded once he moved to a higher tax bracket. Priest Holmes was never that type of back. Neither is Jamaal Charles. That’s okay. When Charles was drafted, the role for which he was envisioned was a change-of-pace back. He is exactly that. Charles probably doesn’t have the size or stamina to be an every down player for more than a few seasons, but he has the will to try. That’s a change of pace, and in the short term, that’s exactly what the Chiefs need.
By contrast, Matt Cassel’s play was anything but satisfactory. He did his first little bit of sideline quarterbacking today, consoling Dantrell Savage on a badly muffed punt return. I wonder if Savage returned the favor later in the game when Cassel put the ball on the ground twice himself. The knock on Cassel from last year is that he held on to the ball for too long on passing downs, resulting in numerous unnecessary sacks. Today he put a unique twist on that move by holding the ball too long on a running down, refusing to release the ball after putting it into Charles’s hands. In over two decades of watching football, I’ve never seen that done before.
Had Cassel looked out of sync once or twice, I could have written it off as the by-product of working with a new back, but Cassel looked lost more often than not. It’s not his decision making that brings him down. It’s his arm. He just doesn’t have a very good one. He throws slow, wobbly passes that seldom make their mark, forcing his receivers to make unreasonable adjustments. He has a Steve Bono arm with a U2 Bono paycheck, and as of right now I cannot picture him ever developing into a long term solution at quarterback.
His contract, however, dictates that he’s likely to be here for a while, regardless of success or failure. Thus, as it was with the Kyle Boller era Baltimore Ravens, winning seasons during Cassel’s tenure will require exemplary performance in all other phases of the game. The Chiefs don’t have a Ray Lewis or a Tony Siragusa. They don’t even have a B.J. Sams. They bear less resemblance to the Boller era Ravens and more to the Joey Harrington era Lions. Scott Pioli should take a long, hard look at the Lions and the career trajectory of erstwhile GM Matt Millen while determining exactly how much he intends to rope himself to a signal caller who has repeatedly demonstrated that he doesn’t have the goods.
While making that consideration, he should also consider a few other personnel moves. Like dismissing Mike Brown. Brown will likely be lauded by some for his two interceptions today, and, to his credit, I’ll go so far as to say he plainly earned the second. The first was happenstance. It was Brandon Flowers that made the play on the ball, not Brown. He just happened to be standing behind the guy.
Brown’s most significant play came much earlier, when he fluffed on a tackle at the line of scrimmage, springing Michael Bush free for a 60-yard gain. That, for him, was about on par with the rest of his season. Brown blows assignments, tackles poorly, and frequently looks gassed by the middle of the second quarter. Keeping him over Bernard Pollard was clearly a mistake, but it’s not one the team has to live with. His contract is minimal, and free agent safeties are anything but a rare commodity.
Free agent coordinators, on the other hand, are rare. That’s unfortunate, because this team needs two. Execution aside, the offensive playcalling is untenable, sometimes bordering on bewildering. The team is already bringing up the rear of the league in 3rd down conversions (20%), and today’s showing (1-15) only further demonstrates the cause: Todd Haley is overwhelmed. He could ostensibly turn to assistant coach Mo Carthon to alleviate some of the workload, but Mo has been directly responsible for some of this decade’s worst offenses (2001-’02 Lions, 2005-’06 Browns). Giving him control is akin to giving a hangman rope.
I’d say something similar here about Clancy Pendergast, but it’s nothing I haven’t said before. Lump Bill Muir in there too. Kansas City has an uncanny concentration of failed coaches right now. It’s emblematic of how and when this staff was assembled. Everybody in the organization, starting with Clark Hunt, dragged their feet when hiring their supporting cast, and consequently they ended up with a lot of leftovers.
But today isn’t about Pendergast, Carthon, Brown, and Cassel. It’s about life after Larry. Like Christmas, life after Larry means something a little different to each of us. To me it means no longer having to justify cheering on a should-be felon. To others it means never again having to watch a well-paid athlete give up on a play before making it back to the line of scrimmage. (Actually it means that to me too, but I place less cosmic and karmic significance on his failings as an athlete and more on his failings as a man, though the two are hardly mutually exclusive.) And, also like Christmas, today it meant getting the greatest gift of all: beating the Raiders in their own house.
Yes, Missouri, there is a Santa Claus, and this year he came early.
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