Boy, oh, boy. How things have changed 'round these parts. For years, the face of the franchise was Tony Gonzalez, the Chiefs' all-world tight end who's a surefire first-ballot Hall of Fame entry. He's redefined the position for the next twenty years and became a hero to a new generation of Chiefs fans. All was for good reason, of course; Gonzalez's play was simply exemplary in nearly every facet of the game. He was the offensive focus much of the time and it was an earned trust Gonzalez held with KC's quarterbacks.
Then came The Trade. Gonzalez became a Falcon during the offseason of 2009, an exchange Chiefs coaches and fans still have yet to unveil their side of until this April's draft. At that point, along with the installation of new head coach Todd Haley, the tight end emphasis was no more. The position garnered a last second remembrance in last year's draft with the seventh round choice of Jake O'Connell. In free agency, we grabbed that which was familiar in Leonard Pope from the Cardinals. But largely, the fan base hoped high draft choice Brad Cottam would fill the role (and hole) left by Gonzalez' departure.
But alas that was not to happen - at least to this point. And with the hiring of former Notre Dame coach and Patriots offensive guru Charlie Weis, the Chiefs won't be returning to any real focus in that area for a long time.
More after the jump:It's been noted early and often that Todd Haley prefers to air it out, giving his wide receivers most of the stats and yardage. One quick look at names like Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin make that observation rather obvious, although one also has to wonder whether that's a product of having such a talented receiving corps in the first place. Yet that's exactly what happened this year, too, with receivers making up the top four in receiving yards at year's end. New quarterback Matt Cassel looked to his WR most of the time and left precious little glances for his tight ends. Then again, perhaps that's a lack of talent there.
Still, one look at Charlie Weis' pro career and it's easy to see this trend continuing in coming years. In 2000, Weis' first year calling plays for New England, the leading tight end, Jermaine Wiggins, had only 203 yards. Even the back-up RB, Tony Simmons, had more than that in only two starts and 12 games overall. It was Terry Glenn and Troy Brown who held the torch most that year and each year only further entrenched the offense in that direction. Wiggins had even less years in '01 and Christian Fauria barely broke 250 yards in '02.
By the end of Weis tenure, things looked up a bit more for the tight ends on the roster due to talent upgrades with Daniel Graham (400 yards in 2003), yet teams started raiding the receiving talent of New England as well - leading to perhaps a shift or leveling out of the talent pool between receivers and tight ends.
No matter the rationale behind Haley or Weis's thoughts toward the tight end position, there's little reason to believe tight end will ever become a position of importance it once was in previous years here in Kansas City. Guys like Cottam, Pope, O'Connell or whoever else the team adds will have to be okay with an occasional look here and there and do their job along the offensive line. As for the fans, I doubt they care one bit as long as the Chiefs find some ways to win.