While it would be tough to describe the Kansas City Chiefs in one word, there are many potential options: frustrating, flop, disappointing, waste. After winning the AFC West in 2010, their 2011 campaign was derailed by injuries. Jamaal Charles suffered a torn ACL and was placed on injured reserve in Week 2, where he was later joined by Matt Cassel, Tony Moeaki, and Eric Berry.
The 2012 season was supposed to be different story. With Romeo Crennel at the helm and the previous year’s casualties back in uniform, the Chiefs were a trendy pick to compete for, if not win, the AFC West title.
They did not win the division; in fact, they only won two games all year. Now they are faced with the privilege/curse of the first overall pick. In his latest mock-draft, ESPN’s Mel Kiper had Kansas City selecting Luke Joeckel, an offensive tackle from Texas A&M. While that is not the flashy decision many fans are probably craving, it can potentially be the smart pick.
A sound offensive line is the backbone of a good football team. Nothing can crush momentum and derail a drive like a big sack. While the offensive line is associated with the ground game, it is just as important for a passing attack. If you want a concrete demonstration of this, look no further than the Chiefs. In 2012, their quarterbacks were sacked 40 times; the Chief’s defense, on the hand, only registered 27 sacks of their own. That was at least part of the reason Kansas City had the worst passing offense in the league, only throwing for 170 yards per game.
This is even more of a necessity given the Chiefs’ new coaching staff. Andy Reid loves to throw the ball, sometimes to an absurd degree. Before you can even worry about if your quarterback can make the throws, he has to be protected. Cassel, Brady Quinn, or whoever else is calling signals in Kansas City, cannot make any plays when the majority of their time is spent running for their lives life and picking grass out of their facemasks. Combine this with the potential loss of left tackle Branden Albert, and the lack of a true star quarterback in the draft, and Joeckel could be a necessity.
With that being said, a new quarterback truly is a necessity, too. The best replacement would be Alex Smith, currently of the 49ers. While he may be criticized as more of a “game manager” than anything else, given the current state of the Chiefs ‘offense, an effective game manager wouldn’t be so bad.
In 2012, Cassel and Quinn’s main issue were that they simply did not complete enough passes. Combining for a 57.5 completion percentage, they were left with too many unmanageable, long third downs. This allowed opposing defenses to stack the line of scrimmage, forcing Charles to have to work harder for every yard. Given the big play potential the Chiefs have, even a simple three-yard pass could turn into a huge play. Only if the pass is completed, though.
Cassel was once considered a “game manager” himself. During his, and the Chief’s best season in recent memory—2010—he threw for over 3,000 yards, and connected on 27 touchdowns. He stayed out of the way on offense, handing the ball of to a then newly-discovered Charles and completing simple, smart passes. In fact, his defining stat of that season is number of turnovers: 9. In 2012, though, Cassell’s ball security disappeared and he turned the ball over 18 times in nine games.
In his 10 starts in 2012, Smith did all you could ask of him. He competed just over 70 percent of his passes for 1,700 yards and 13 touchdowns, compared to just three interceptions. While he will definitely have to throw more in the Reid system, Smith’s recent stats and eight years in the league suggest that he can handle it.
If everything works out, the Chiefs will be in comfortable shape going forward. Smith could manage the game, allowing the running game to do its job. Hopefully the promise of a new quarterback and a pass happy system can inspire Dwayne Bowe to resign. Joeckel could solidify the offensive line, allowing the offense to successfully run the plays it wants. But remember, this is still the Chiefs. There may be hope for the future, but 2012 began as an optimistic year, too.
Joe Kozlowski is an editorial intern for TDdaily. Follow him on Twitter @koz2393.