After reading of Mr. Drum's (the Aiken sort, that is) superb post of the hauntingly fantastic similarities our beloved 2010 Kansas City Chiefs and those magical 2001 New England Patriots, seen here, I thought I would dig a little deeper into something that has bothered me the most about our scrappy little '10 Chiefs (as well as dig into my own humor bone a bit). A particular aspect of our offense that has stood out to me the most not only this year, but over the last few years, has been our 3rd down efficiency and how bad it has been. I'll share with you some details and potentially inevitable realizations I've come upon in looking at this negative scab on our current team.
I decided to look at the past 4 playoff years and the teams that competed in said playoffs, and I've found that the 3rd down effiency for those teams was leaps and bounds above where the Chiefs and several other bad teams over the course of those same years finished. Let's have a closer look:
The twelve 2006 playoff teams combined for an average of a 43.16% 3rd down success efficiency, with the highest being 56% from the Indianapolis Colts, and the low being 37% from the Chicago Bears. This was the last season the Chiefs made the playoffs under the Herminator, and they were bringing a 41% 3rd down success rate to the table that year. Interestingly enough, out of those 12 playoff teams, the highest and lowest 3rd down success rate were the two teams that made the Superbowl that season, with that one guy I see in the commercials all the time raising the Lombardi Trophy that year.
courtesy of ticklemykittens.com
The 12 playoff teams that year combined for a 42.5% 3rd down success rate, with the Indy Colts leading the pack again with 49%, and the Seattle Seahawks bringing up the rear at 35%. The Chiefs that season fell to an average 34% success rate during the regular season. New England went undefeated in the regular season, carrying a 48% 3rd down rate, losing to the other Manning and the ball-to-helmet catch and the NY Giants 42% success rate. The post-Superbowl win Eli Manning wouldn't have much to say about it due to being "incapacitated".
courtesy of midwestsportsfan.com
Combined, the 12 playoff teams averaged a 41.58% 3rd down success rate, as the apparently unstoppable-on-3rd down Colts once again led with a 50% success rate, and the Tennessee Titans mustered a 36% rate. The "Griefs" (as the Chiefs would so affectionately be called through that 2 win season) jumped up to a 38% sucess rate, which begs the question "was that the worst team in Chief's history or just the worst coached?" The Superbowl consisted of a Ben Roethlisberger led Pittsburgh Steelers with a 41% rate defeating the Kurt Warner led Arizona Cardinals with a 42% rate. So many jokes I could throw out about Big Ben, but I won't, and I'll just leave you with this:
courtesy of lebronshames.com
The combined average for the 12 playoff teams was at 42.16% success rate, with the immortal Indy Colts topping out at 49%, with the Arizona Cardinals and Philadelphia Eagles tied for last at 36%. Ah, this is where the Chiefs have sunk the lowest, as their 3rd down efficiency dropped to a putrid 27%, only above the offensive juggernaut that is the Buffalo Bills, while leading the league in dropped passes, inaccurate throws, and head coach curse words at his own players (Rex Ryan may be the leader for that this season, and the Jets are 4-1. I would hate to hear what he says to his team when they are losing). Like 2006, last season's Superbowl once again consisted of the highest 3rd down success rate of the Colts playing the New Orleans Saints and their 45% success rate. The only reason Drew Brees could win a championship is because he knows the right people.
courtesy of 2.bp.blogspot.com
This research suggests that a consistently high 3rd down success rate is directly attributed to consistently good QB play. Clearly, my concern at this point for our current KC Chiefs team is that our QB play has been below average, as our 3rd down efficiency is at a lowly 28% through 4 games in 2010. Our defense is only allowing a 32% success rate for opponents, but obviously it can't be good if the opponent is converting a higher percentage of 3rd downs than you are. Comparing those 2001 NE Patriots to our 2010 KC Chiefs, and extrapolating our current average of 12.5 3rd downs per game over the course of the season along with our current average of converting 3.5 of those 3rd downs per game (and as Aiken so eloquently put it, assuming no improvement), finishing at 28% 3rd down success rate would put us at a miserable 56 for 200 3rd down conversions. Those 2001 Pats finished at a 41% success rate (91 for 221) while holding opponents to a 37% success rate. That is not a good comparison when hoping our paths of success run parallel. Another disheartening comparison is that the '01 Pats finished with 292 total first downs that season, while the '10 Chiefs are on pace for 248 first downs (again, assuming no improvement), which would put us at #30 in the league.
While I have been a supporter of waiting for more time and games to lapse before I pass the ulitmate judgment, I haven't seen any facts over the course of the last 3 seasons, since our last playoff appearance, that would lead me to believe that progress is being made. Let's look at some other victory-challenged teams over the course of that same span of time:
2010: 41%. Not a bad start considering all the adversity they faced, but....
Could these bad percentages have led to this:
courtesy of legendsrevealed.com
2010: 39%. The Sam Bradford era has begun in St. Louis, and I have to admit, I'm jealous.
Hard to be efficient if everyone is against you.
courtesy of cache.gawker.com
The Browns were trying to get this guy on the field as much as possible, apparently.
courtesy of waitingfornextyear.com
I'm sure I could go on with other bad teams and their correlating bad 3rd down success rates (anyone for some JaWalrus pictures in his black and silver?), but I think you get the idea.
I have been a staunt Matt Cassel supporter since we acquired him, and I have high hopes (many apologies as maybe I'm an "apologist") for his development with Charlie Weis, but I'm slowly and painfully making my way up the long line to buy a ticket for the "hater-wagon" that is looking to run over Cassel while simultaneously snatching his wife up for a ride in the love-machine. His first step in avoiding this wagon, in my humble opinion, is to greatly improve on putting his offense in a better position to be more successful on 3rd down. Getting him to make that step might begin with better playcalling from Weis, maybe it begins with more focus and attention to him during the games from his coaching staff, maybe it begins with a teammate yelling at him to start playing like he can, while showing him that it's okay to yell at his teammates when they make a mistake (pay me part of your salary, Matt, I'll stand on the sideline and do it for you. "BOWE!!!! I'M GONNA PULL A CASINO/DE NIRO MOVE AND SMASH YOUR HANDS WITH A HAMMER BECAUSE CLEARLY YOU DON'T NEED THEM FOR ANYTHING!!!!!!"). Whatever needs to happen to start improving the 3rd down success rate is what needs to be done first and foremost. I'm happy for the focus on avoiding negative plays, but we have to have more positive ones before we can call it an "improvement". It's pretty safe to say that while our record is well above where most thought it would be at this point in the season, I would expect the bottom to fall out on our luck if the trend of a bad 3rd down success rate continues into the latter parts of the season. Anyone would be hard pressed to say that history supports that teams can make the playoffs with this low of a 3rd down conversion rate, so improvement of this would go a long way in changing many people's outlook on the future of this team in 2010.
Please show me that you can put it together, Matt and Charlie, just for the sake of our defense's health and stamina, b/c I don't know how much longer it can hold up at this rate. You don't have to be Peyton, but PLEASE don't be JaDerekbradydan Orlrussellquinnsonsky, Jr. And remember, all three of you will always have a special place in our hearts.
courtesy of cache.boston.com and farm4.static.flickr.com respectively