It's not as if fans and staff of the Kansas City Chiefs haven't heard concerns about Dwayne Bowe before. But it's surprising to hear someone bring them up now, as Bowe could possibly land on the free agent market as one of the top wide receivers available. Perhaps it's a flippant comment, but it brings up the question of whether Bowe still has a reputation to shake in greater NFL circles.
John Mullin of CSN Chicago wrote a surprising take on Bowe as he ran down some wide receiver options this off-season for the Chicago Bears. When he came to Bowe, he wrote, "Dwayne Bowe was Kansas City’s No. 1 receiver when Phil Emery was with Kansas City Chiefs personnel. Bowe has shown some toughness questions, which won’t play well in the meeting rooms of coach Darryl Drake and offense of Mike Tice, and his 4 catches for 49 yards didn’t include the Hail Mary this season."
That performance was against the Bears, as Mullin breaks down various wideout's performances against the team. But to just throw out the term "toughness questions" raises a flag -- not about Bowe specifically but about the perception of Bowe. And as they say, perception is reality.
That has to be frustrating for Bowe, but a quick recounting is in order for those who wonder what Mullin is talking about. When Todd Haley first entered the picture as the Chiefs' head coach in 2009, the clash was instant. Haley was praised for his work with former Arizona Cardinals like Larry Fitzgerald and thus took an instant interest in Dwayne Bowe, his impact receiver on the Chiefs -- if he had one. Haley seemed determine to keep Bowe in the spotlight and run him hard. Perhaps he saw something in him. Perhaps he was making a coaching point. Either way, the finger was pointed at Bowe, like it or not.
It turns out that 2009 was the worst year for Bowe by a country mile. After catching 156 passes for 2,017 receiving yards in his first two seasons, Bowe was generating numbers that stood among some of the best in NFL history. Only 10 receivers before Bowe had more receiving yards their rookie season, while only 13 players in NFL history had 80 catches and over 1,000 yards in their sophomore year. He was that good. But then he fell off. The final totals in 2009: 47 catches, 589 yards, 4 touchdowns. All career lows in year three. The bubble was burst.
That season, the wheels fell off for a couple of reasons. Even before the season, Haley was trying to get under Bowe's skin to prove a point. Pro Football Talk wrote, "Five Kansas City wide receivers played in the first quarter of Saturday night’s preseason game against the Texans, and Dwayne Bowe wasn’t one of them. Despite averaging over 1,000 yards in his first two seasons, Chiefs coach Todd Haley continues to try to send a message to Bowe because Haley isn’t happy with Bowe’s work habits."
The year ended on a worse note, with Bowe only starting 9 total games after being suspended for violating the league's substance abuse policy (for an unknown drug, although Bowe always claimed it was a diuretic). PFT wrote, "The specific substance for which he tested positive isn’t known, and it’s possible that the violation occurred in 2008 or earlier. It’s also possible that Bowe didn’t test positive; some players have been suspended based on evidence of possession of banned substances."
But even right after that season, Bowe was already talking positively in the off-season of 2010. He said, "It's going to give me a chance to remodel my career. I'm bigger, faster and stronger now - and I did it the right way. I really think it is going to end up saving my career."
"Saved" is not the appropriate descriptor, since Bowe was already dominant. Instead, the LSU product simply went back to being the impact receiver on the field he was before. As good as his first two years were, he's been even better since then. Perhaps it was the arrival of Matt Cassel, the coaching of Haley or the schemes of Charlie Weis (which Bowe was particularly excited about in that 2010 off-season). Either way, Bowe has been among the NFL's elite wideouts for four of his five pro seasons.
If you need the stats, over the last two seasons, he has 153 receptions for 2,321 yards and 20 touchdowns (including a league leading 15 in 2010). His yards per reception is higher than ever at 15.2.
Historically good. League leader. Yet Bowe suffers from an incredible lack of respect outside of Kansas City.
He's only been to the Pro Bowl once (in 2010). And now here's a sportswriter in Chicago questioning his toughness without revealing what exactly he means when he writes about it. One quick paragraph and Mullin is on to the next subject.
I don't write this to excoriate Mullin. He's a Chicago sportswriter putting up a quick column on some wideout options. To go into detail on Bowe is to miss the point of his column entirely. However, it does reveal one major flaw in particular: in Dwayne Bowe's reputation. Rather than being celebrated among the best wide receivers in football, Bowe is possibly thrown away under the phrase "character concerns." While that's understandable for a prospect leading up to the NFL Draft, Bowe has been an impact level lead receiver in the NFL for half decade.
This could work in the Chiefs favor if Bowe finds less money on the table from other teams that what he would desire. Then again, the Chiefs should be willing to open up the wallets for a guy who has earned a significant paycheck. Even if those outside of Arrowhead cannot appreciate Bowe's talents, the Chiefs have seen it front and center. Hopefully that's all that matters.