The disappointments are many on a team with only four total wins. Yet in the Chiefs 50th season, perhaps no player was more disappointing than Dwayne Bowe. After a ridiculously productive first two years in the league, the talented receiver took steps backward last season -- no one knows for sure how many. The question is: Can he be counted on as the number one option for the Chiefs moving forward?
Just how good was Bowe? It's well-documented around these parts, but it's worth repeating. The dynamic rookie year of 2007 put Bowe in a class few others can lay claim to. With 70 receptions and nearly 1000 receiving yards (995 to be exact), Bowe placed himself in elite company. Only 10 receivers in football have more yards in their rookie season with names like Randy Moss and Terry Glenn and Anquan Boldin comprising such a list. That year in particular signaled the Chiefs finally had their main man in the receiving game and that a high-powered offense just might be in the works.
Bowe only increased fan's confidence in his second year with even better numbers: 86 receptions, 1,022 yards, 7 touchdowns. His name was immediately listed among the top young receivers in the game and, paired with Tony Gonzalez, made the Chiefs passing game respected by every defensive coordinator in the league. Only 13 players in NFL history have at least 80 catches and 1,000 yards in their sophomore go-around -- names like Jerry Rice, Isaac Bruce and Sterling Sharpe. You get the picture.
Needless to say, Dwayne Bowe wasn't just good in his first two seasons. He was historically good. Perhaps we miss that idea given his output last season and, sure, the drops were there along the way. His name was never mentioned as a Larry Fitzgerald or Andre Johnson either. But the Chiefs definitely had a player who was among the best young playmakers at the WR position and who seemed to have no ceiling given his output thus far. And then 2009 hit.
More analysis after the jump:
The expectations were high, of course. Bowe's history told us to expect great things already, so that's a given. But the best was supposedly yet to come. That's because the Chiefs new regime included first-time Head Coach Todd Haley -- a man with attachments to names like the aforementioned Boldin and Fitzgerald. Sure, there would be adjustments to a new scheme and playcaller, but most felt the best would only get better. And then the worst happened.
The drops continued. The substance abuse suspension cost him four games (a diuretic used for weight loss). The Chiefs traded Tony Gonzalez and were relying heavily on Bowe and apparently a combination of the coverage and/or pressure became too much. And the Chiefs WR situation became a literal revolving door of newly-signed veterans garnering plenty of playing time. While the fantastic find (and resigning) of Chris Chambers gave fans a glimmer of hope, the seeming loss of a No. 1 receiver still dealt a major blow.
Enter 2010. The Chiefs have a new offensive coordinator in Charlie Weis, bringing even more changes for Bowe to learn and grow with. And it's still the same coach in Haley that seemed to ride (and deride) the LSU product. So there are some wild cards in play. At the same time, this is still the same guy whose early career numbers place him in elite territory. This will be the second year for QB Matt Cassel and the expectations are already in place. The offensive line is stronger on paper. Plus, it can't hurt to have some additional offensive help from guys named Thomas Jones and Dexter McCluster.
The main thing helping Bowe in 2010 is that the offense seems more balanced. This might seem rather elementary, but it's important to note that the talent on the offensive line and in the running game in particular give a lot of reason for hope for the passing game. Matt Cassel should have more time to check his receivers. Jamaal Charles and Jones should make defenses respect the box a lot more. And that allows Bowe to not feel the pressure he faced in his first year PG (Post-Gonzalez).
Still that doesn't mean Bowe is guaranteed to return to form. In fact, even though most of the names on the list with Bowe for his second year numbers show that he is, indeed, in elite company, there are a few examples of a worst-case scenario. Consider the following:
1. Marcus Robinson, WR, Bears, '98-'06
The South Carolina product came out like a beast in his second year in the league, starting only 11 games and yet accounting for 1,400 receiving yards and 9 TDs. He immediately became a force and made many believe the Bears might just develop an incredible passing game. Then, in 2000, Robinson's third season, the production dropped to 55 catches and 700+ yards. The next two years? 500 combined yards. He quickly fell out of favor and moved on, unsuccessfully, to Baltimore and Minnesota. While he had a decent season or two with the Vikings, he never regained the form he displayed early on in the Windy City.
2. Germane Crowell, WR, Lions, '98-'02
The Lions second round pick in '98, Crowell brought solid expectations and delivered his rookie season with a decent campaign of 25 catches for 464 yards. In his second year, he brought his A-game with 81 catches and 1,338 yards with 7 touchdowns. Yet like Robinson, the next year started the freefall with successive seasons bringing 34, 22 and 22 catches over the next three years in Detroit. He was last seen on the Saints practice squad before retiring.
In both cases, injury took their toll and took promising young receivers with them. The injury plaguing Bowe seems to be mental at this point, so here's hoping the best is yet to come. The Chiefs, while balanced, still need to see Bowe as a vital component in this offense.