After a loss like this, the easy road for someone like me, only recently on the Cassel bandwagon and not yet fully committed to it, to jump right back off. It would be easy to look at the 19.1 passer rating, 33% completion rate, and two picks as an indication that my premonitions from the last two weeks were mistaken, and that Cassel is who I thought he was. I won’t, because I didn’t see a bad quarterback out there today. I saw a quarterback victimized by circumstance.
In most team sports the player/coach relationship manifests itself as that of student and teacher. In football the relationship runs deeper. Maybe it’s the fact that the game can never be won on the efforts of a single player (see: Detroit Lions, 1989-1998), thus making it more of a team sport than baseball or basketball. Maybe it’s the level of trust required to put one’s self in a position so vulnerable to physical harm. Whatever the cause is, rather than student and teacher, the relationship manifests itself much closer to that of son and father.
That said, players and coaches alike understand that this relationship can change or even disappear altogether at a moment’s notice. 10-15% of a 53-man roster changes even over the course of a single season, and coaching staffs seldom stay unchanged year to year. Good coaches move on to bigger and better things, and maligned mentors find themselves unemployed and looking for work. When a coaching change takes place mid-season, it is almost always of the latter variety. Coaches announcing intentions to move on to higher callings while games are still on the schedule isn’t unheard of, but, particularly in the pro ranks, it’s uncommon.
Uncommon, but not impossible. In the case of a failed head coach being replaced by an assistant, the change can either unify the team or pull it further apart. There is no unification, however, when on the eve of the final game before a playoff run, a coach makes known his intentions to be elsewhere the following year. Particularly when that elsewhere is, in essence, a demotion. The explanation given by analysts is that Charlie Weis is headed to Florida because he believes it will aid him in getting back a head coaching position in the college ranks. Charlie Weis, you will probably never again be the head coach of a major football program. Your final three seasons at Notre Dame were an embarrassment. The only thing accomplished here was a distraction and demoralization of the team you’re supposed to be focused on now, but clearly are not.
Was this single, albeit considerable, distraction enough to cause an offensive line graded as one of the better in the league to have by far their worst game of the season? Maybe. Maybe not. The Raiders are a solid pass rushing team. For a team to admit 20% of its sacks for the season in one afternoon, however, screams of despondency. For a Pro Bowl running back amidst a record shattering season to be held under three yards for nine of his 14 carries screams of despondency. For a game which should have been used to attempt to elevate a sturdy second string back to his sixth straight 1,000 yard season, only to have said back held to 17 yards on 10 carries, screams of despondency. If not despondency, then what? I absolutely cannot be convinced that a line that allowed two sacks per game and aided its tailbacks to a 167.4 yards per game season through its first 15 games could fall so utterly flat in so little time were it not demoralized.
Herein lies the problem. Weis should be terminated now. I earnestly believe he’s checked out already, and his situation serves as nothing but a distraction. Unfortunately, his assistant is Maurice Carthon. Mo put together one of the most futile, sack-happy offenses of the last decade when he was in Cleveland. For a team coming off a futile, sack-intensive game, I fail to see that as a prospective winning combination. Aside from Todd Haley, the only other coach on staff with any pro level coordinator experience is offensive line coach Bill Muir, who, despite having pieced together a relatively solid unit this year, has more often than not in his career been the weakest link. Maybe the line’s performance this year indicates he’s getting better. Maybe the sun shines on a dog’s ass occasionally. Either way, I’m not enthused with the idea of Muir taking over either.
That brings the team full circle back to where it stands right now: stuck with a coordinator who, for all intents and purposes, is no longer a Chief. He is, however, the guy that invented Tom Brady. He’s also the guy whose offense led the Patriots to three Super Bowl victories. Josh McDaniels, his successor, may have implemented the most productive offense in league history, but it was Weis whose offense worked when it mattered. In a former life as a professional singer, guitarist, and bandleader, I contended with a drummer whose heart was never in it. He also outplayed every other drummer I’ve worked with, not in terms of technique (though he had plenty) but in terms of musicality. It continually bit me in the ass to have him around. He bailed on each of our four projects, coming and going as he pleased. When Weis is gone he likely won’t make a Gunther-esque return to the City of Fountains, but the principle is the same. Having him around will bite the team in the ass, and having that knowledge in hand, it might be best just to cut cord.
On the other side of the ball is a coordinator whose unit didn’t play demoralized. They just demonstrated again what they’ve demonstrated all year: they have a weight threshold for opposing tailbacks. If the guy is over 235 pounds, they’re gonna struggle mightily. Michael Bush has six 90+ yard games in his career. Three have come against the Chiefs. All have come against Ron Edwards. Applaud the man for his durability (he has yet to miss a contest in his 80 games as a Chief), but recognize that he simply must be replaced. He isn’t a starter. He’s a stout, dependable backup. Likewise, recognize that Jovan Belcher falls into this category as well. Given that both are on the small side for their positions (315 pounds for Edwards, which may be a generous estimate, and 228 for Belcher), it behooves the team to look for bigger bodies. If Bush and San Diego’s Mike Tolbert re-up with their current teams, that’s a guaranteed four games a year against backs that are too hard to handle for a 3-4 defense on the small side.
Against the pass, on the other hand, it’s hard to argue with four sacks and nine QB hits. It’s hard to argue with Brandon Carr’s superlative knockdown either. The cardinal sin of the day belonged to Eric Berry. In the bigger picture it was irrelevant, as it was the offense giving up points as much as the defense (only one Oakland touchdown came with the Kansas City offense on the field, but credit them with a second off of Cassel’s first pick), and the rookie will learn from it.
In short, I don’t fault Romeo Crenel or his players for this loss. I fault six men and six alone: Branden Albert, Brian Waters, Casey Wiegmann, Ryan Lilja, Barry Richardson, and, of course, Charlie Weis. I fault Weis above the other five because bad play is so uncharacteristic for them. I’d be happy to have four of them back next season. Weis, on the other hand, I’ll be happy to see gone. He’s done more to undermine this offense’s confidence in 48 hours than Mike Solari did in 37 games. Hell, let Haley call the plays next Sunday. I’d rather see him split duties than see Weis at the helm for another week. Seldom, if ever, has a coordinator inspired this much ire from me. It is with that in mind that I say this: Forget Tyler Palko. Fire Charlie Weis.