"Signs, signs, everywhere there's signs," goes the old Tesla tune and around these parts, they all read "Help Needed." The Chiefs roster plays like a billiards table with holes in every corner. And the wisdom of the ages would tell us to address some core needs first: pass rusher, offensive line and perhaps even wide receiver. But while some might point to running back now that Larry Johnson did his thing, I'd like to point out that perhaps that's our biggest need all along.
I would never say that our offensive line is set. In fact, my personal hope is that two of our first three draft choices directly address the line. But with that other draft choice (seeing as how we have three choices in the first two rounds), my hope is for the Chiefs to address the need for a top flight back.
There's a lot of evidence to support this, but let's start with the most damning:
The Chiefs are the only team in the NFL to not have a single rushing touchdown in 2009.
More after the jump:How does this happen? How does a team with the running tradition of the Chiefs fail to put one through on the ground? How does a team with a supposed star back like LJ (think of your opinions before the season) not even get one score? What about a promising youngster like Jamaal Charles?
This list is anemic. The other teams that low on the rushing TDs list: St. Louis Rams, Seattle Seahawks, Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns, Washington Redskins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Including the Chiefs, then, the overall won-loss record for the seven worst rushing teams in football are 10-42. Ten and forty-two.
Sometimes it's the line that makes the back and certainly that's been proven before, especially in Denver where, for a while, it seemed my own grandmother could rush for 100 yards/game. But most of the time, a team needs the breakout star in the backfield who's a threat to take it through the hole each and every time. And, let's face it, the Chiefs don't have a single player on their roster who can account for that kind of threat.
Think of it this way: Todd Haley, his coaching staff and the front office have taken the first several months of training camp, the pre-season and regular season to figure out what we have on this team. If they had the answer on this team, they would have started to use it. If Charles were the Messiah, then you think he wouldn't out there taking carries from Larry Johnson. Remember, just a few days ago, we disclosed the stats that show LJ is currently enjoying the single worst season by a starting running back in NFL history. No single RB in league history has averaged a total so low as 2.7 yards so far into a season.
Unless Haley's the worst coach in the NFL and is willing to keep throwing LJ out there no matter what he does, you have to assume they ride Johnson out because the in-house options really aren't the answer either. As much as we hate losing, how much more the coaches and players involved? So if Charles was the regular workhorse, we'd know by now, plain and simple.
The reality is that grabbing the next great running back is key for the Chiefs. It not only develops a much-needed option for Matt Cassel on-the-field, but helps to reestablish the Chiefs legacy that includes former running champions like Christian Okoye, Marcus Allen, Priest Holmes, Ed Podolak, Mike Garrett and company. The teams without a legitimate runner are the teams occupying the basement positions in both conferences.
So while it's not the only thing that needs fixed, it becomes one of the first things. And if we can fix a couple key spots on the line while grabbing our next great back, the Chiefs will look much better headed into 2010.