The great thing about watching sports is that two fans can sit and watch the same game and have completely different opinions on what they have witnessed. Most would say the Kansas City Chiefs has a successful 2010 season. They won the AFC west division and hosted a home playoff game. This is a far cry from the 4-12 season they experienced in 2009, and anyone could admit that there was progress from one season to the next. But that's where it gets interesting.
The Chiefs were beneficiaries of a fairly easy schedule in 2010 compared to some other teams in the NFL. It didn't do much to sway people off that opinion with their playoff beat down at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City.
We're going to look at both extremes in a 'optimist vs pessimist' view of three core pieces of the Kansas City Chiefs puzzle for the 2011 season. That's discussing Matt Cassel's future, Jamaal Charles' workload, and Tyson Jackson's development.
The optimists view of Matt Cassel in 2011.
There isn't a more widely discussed topic in Kansas City Chiefs fans' circles than whether or not Matt Cassel can lead this team, or a future team, to a Super Bowl victory as a Kansas City Chief. Despite poor statistics in a few areas, Matt Cassel still led this team to an AFC west championship last year. He did this by winning a crucial game against the St. Louis Rams less than two weeks removed from a surgery to remove his appendix. He threw only seven interceptions during the regular season. Three of which were in the first three weeks and three were in the last three weeks of the season. He missed the San Diego game on the road because of his surgery, but that still left nine weeks in the middle of the season in which he only threw one interception. He threw 19 touchdowns during that same stretch.
Matt Cassel still needs to improve in order to lead this team to another AFC west championship. But with the new weapons at his disposal and a new quarterbacks coach, there is no reason to believe that Cassel won't continue to get better just as he has each of his first two seasons in Kansas City thus far.
The pessimists view of Matt Cassel in 2011.
Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger (2), Eli Manning, Peyton Manning, and Tom Brady (2) are the last six quarterbacks in the NFL that have won a Super Bowl. Cassel is not at their level yet. Matt Cassel was ranked as one of the most inaccurate deep-passers in the entire NFL last season. These Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks all have the ability to drive down the field in big-game situations and put their team in a position to win the game.
In his last two games last year against the Raiders and Ravens (playoff game), Cassel combined to go 20/51 for 185 yards, 0 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. That's a completion percentage of 39%. Those quarterbacks listed as Super Bowl champions could have a higher completion percentage just by sticking it in the receiver's facemask during the game. 39% is bad, really bad. Matt Cassel could be an adequate game manager that puts up good stats against mediocre defenses thanks to a dominant run-game. But he's going to have his lunch handed to him by the defenses he plays this-coming season, especially during the brutal stretch of games in late-November to early December. Where the Chiefs take on the final four playoff teams of the 2010 season. Chicago, New York, Pittsburgh and Green Bay, and throw New England in there too for good measure.
The optimists view of Jamaal Charles workload.
Jamaal Charles signed a five-year extension with the Kansas City Chiefs during a stellar 2010 NFL season in which he finished second, behind Houston Texans' back Arian Foster, for the NFL rushing title. His 6.4 yards per carry was one of the best in NFL history as he totaled 1,467 yards on just 230 carries. He also picked up 468 yards receiving for over a 10 yards per catch average out of the backfield. He had this successful season by sharing carries with veteran running back Thomas Jones. Depsite fans' wish to get Jamaal to carry the ball more only one thing is for certain, Charles had a great year being used the way that he was.
It's not as easy to say that you can take his yards per carry average and expand that if he was to carry the ball more often. Just too many variables come into play. He was used the right way and always seemed to be fresh when he was carrying the ball. As proved a few times during the season, including the Ravens playoff game, Charles gets banged up running the ball often and the last thing the Chiefs want to do is run him so often that he becomes injured. Haley has already come out and said that Dexter McCluster will get more looks as a running back this season than he did last season, combine that with a 12-lbs lighter Thomas Jones, and a newly acquired LeRon McClain who might get a couple of looks per game, and it doesn't look as if Charles' carries will rise significantly in 2011. That's a good thing because if he can just replicate what he did in 2010, the Chiefs will be in a great spot.
The Pessimists view of Jamaal Charles workload.
There is no reason that the best player the Chiefs have on offense and one of the most dynamic players in the entire NFL is only touching the ball 12-14 times per game. He needs to have the ball in his hands as often as possible because he is the best chance the Chiefs have at moving the ball, and ultimately scoring.
Thomas Jones' last five games of the season he carried the ball 63 times for 146 yards, that's an average of 2.3 yards per carry. That's not going to help the Chiefs win any games. He may have lost some weight heading into the 2011 season but he didn't get any younger and it was his age that had him wearing down late in the season. Despite the fact that McClain and McCluster might take some of Thomas Jones carries, there is still no reason to believe that Charles shouldn't be taking as many carries as possible as the Chiefs best offensive player. Charles hasn't proven that he can't handle running the ball 25 times per game over the course of a season.
The optimists view of Tyson Jackson's development
This would be another one of the polarizing topics that Chiefs fans have discussed over the past couple of seasons. Once you get passed the 3/4 defensive end and statistics conversation, in that just because they aren't making the tackles doesn't mean they aren't doing their job, you can have a discussion about how effective he is playing at defensive end. Tyson Jackson showed flashes in 2010 of a player that was the highest rated 3/4 defensive end in the 2009 draft. The Chiefs have openly talked about the dedication that Jackson showed coming into camp this year in great shape, and ready to make his mark on the Chiefs defense this season.
The departures of Ron Edwards and Shaun Smith should give Chiefs fans a little idea on how the organization feels about Tyson Jackson. They are ready and planning on him taking over as a starter on the defensive line. The first preseason game against the Buccaneers was a positive step for Jackson, who played well in the limited action that he saw. Coming into his third season it's time for Jackson to make the same improvement that Chiefs fans saw from Glenn Dorsey from his second season to third.
The pessimists view of Tyson Jackson's development
Despite the position that the player plays on the defense, when a player is taken as the third overall pick in the draft they need to be a difference maker sooner rather than later. Tyson Jackson hasn't been a difference maker yet for the Kansas City Chiefs. But BJ Ragi, who was taken later in the first round by the 2010 Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers, he has been a difference maker on a championship defense.
The Chiefs have already found a player in Wallace Gilberry who has shown to at least have one skill that has translated well in an NFL game, and that's rushing the passer. Jackson hasn't shown to be above-average in any one thing long enough to be considered a strength of his game, let alone the entire Chiefs defense. Tyson Jackson needs to emerge as a dominant defensive end this season, or players like Gilberry and rookie Allen Bailey might just bump him out of his starting spot and leave him on the outside looking in on a defense that was set up for him to be a contributor.
Obviously most fans will fall somewhere in the middle in these scenarios. Only time will tell how the chips will fall regarding these players and their situations, but only one thing is for certain. No matter what actually happens with these players, people will see it differently and a new debate will emerge.