So a funny thing happened to me yesterday. School was out for the day and as I often do I went to the mothership and put on Todd Haley's daily news conference to listen to while I finished up some work in my office before going home. It works well because I don't have to really listen that close while I work because it's pretty much the same coach speak day after day. Something like....
"We just need to get better everyday. He's a guy that is starting to get it. I'll only talk about the guys on the field. It's a process. We're going to go with the guys we feel give us the best chance to win."
I could go on, but most of you know what I'm talking about. Some days you get a treat and Nick Wright will ask a question that you know Haley doesn't want to answer and you get a dirty look or sarcastic remark, but that's usually about it.
That's why yesterday almost slipped past me. I actually had to stop what I was doing and go back and listen again. Am I wrong here, or did Todd Haley actually give us a little bit of honesty and insight into his use of our best player Jamaal Charles? I think he did, and furthermore, I now feel confident that nobody needs to worry about how we will use JC this season.
I think most of our fears about the Charles / Jones situation stem from last year when we suffered through half of a season with Mr. 2.7 falling down at the line of scrimmage while Jamaal sat on the bench. In the back of our minds we worry that even though Jones should be an upgrade over 2.7 he won't be anything like JC was in the second half last year. Surely, Haley won't take away the one thing that got Chiefs Nation excited down the stretch last year, would he? After hearing Haley's press conference yesterday, I feel safe that the answer in no. First, check out this quote:
I think that all will kind of play itself out and if Thomas or Jamaal is averaging seven yards per carry after 100 or 200 carries, then you’d be a fool not to play him if he’s holding up and things aren’t adding up that you feel would be detrimental to the team. My father told me a long-time ago about an unnamed player, ‘We’ve got this guy who’s starting who’s averaging 3.5 yards per carry and then you’ve got this guy on the bench who’s averaging 22 yards per carry in the preseason. Wouldn’t you put him in until the average went down a little bit? At least keep him in there until he’s not averaging 22 yards.’ That makes sense to me. That’s common sense. As a coach that’s what I try to go by. I play the guys that give us the best chance to win and the good thing right now is we’ve got great competition because both those guys want to be pretty good
Now, Haley implies that it could be Jones or Charles that is averaging 7 yards per carry because he doesn't want to offend Jones who has been working hard and is showing great leadership. However, we all know which guy has a better chance of averaging close to 7 yards per carry. Okay, then notice the line in there about "if he's holding up". Again, he doesn't say it, but he's talking about Jamaal again. Jones has proved he can take a full season of being a workhorse and Jamaal hasn't. He was asked directly yesterday by Nick Wright if "Jamaal has the body, the physical capability where if he had to be an every-down back, that he could handle that workload?" This was Haley's response:
That we don’t know Nick, that we don’t know. We’ve talked about it a bunch in here. I don’t want to set a bar on Jamaal Charles and I said that last year multiple times because when a bar’s been set on him he’s kind of broken through it and proved people wrong. That is yet to be seen. I know that Jamaal was a work-in-progress last year and our coaches, specifically coach (Maurice) Carthon did a tremendous job with this guy. This was a guy that was inactive in a couple games early that he then used that to his own advantage to push himself harder. It’s a tough position to play. You’ve got to have a certain mindset to play that position and when you start talking 20, 25, 30 carries a game, game-in and game-out, that’s a lot to ask of anyone. I’m not going to set a bar on Jamaal and again, we’re just going to have to see how it plays out because I don’t think there’s any way to answer either one of those questions right now.
To me, that says that they are aware of the punishment an every down RB takes in the NFL. Charles is special because he is so explosive and if he were to start breaking down from a heavy work load he would lose what makes him so good. The Chiefs don't know how much is too much for Charles right now. It is my opinion, that they brought Thomas Jones in so that they can be a run first team without the fear of running their star player into the ground. While ducking a question about the type of pass plays they will use this season Haley said:
From a competitive advantage or disadvantage position I don’t think I’d get a whole bunch into that. It’s preseason. We’re not game-planning, we’re trying to evaluate a lot of players. I will say that we’re going to try and be a running team. I’ll give that morsel.
Again, this is just my opinion, so feel free to disagree, but I think the coaching staff sees what we see. Cassel probably isn't going to be a QB that can carry us to the playoffs on his shoulders. However, I think he could be a QB that could take us to the playoffs if we don't ask him to do too much. That means we have to be able to run the ball, and run the ball well. If we hadn't brought Jones in and Charles got injured because his workload was too high, we'd be in trouble. Yes, we will use Jones. Yes, he will take away some of the carries JC was getting in the last half of the season last year when we had no real back up for him. I don't think that's a bad thing over the course of a 16 game season.
Finally, if you are still scared that the lack of use of Charles in the pre-season games is a sign of things to come in the regular season, I offer you this last quote from Haley about the Jamaal's use in the pre-season:
We are in the preseason. We are not scheming. We are trying to get guys ready to play. Jamaal Charles I’ve talked about. My job as the head coach, he’s coming off a pretty significant off-season physically that he had to deal with. We want this guy to be playing when the games count.
Translation: We're not going to work our most explosive player a lot in some pre-season game. We're saving him for Monday Night Football when the Chargers come to town.
I know some of you will still choose to disagree. That's cool. AP is all about the debate and I wouldn't have it any other way. However, I am 100% confident that Jamaal Charles will still be our number one weapon this year and Haley and Weis are drooling over how to use this guy when the games mean something.
The other lesson here is to listen closely to Todd Haley's news conferences because once every couple of months he actually says something worth taking note of.