The Chiefs, Bill Parcells And How To Build A Super Bowl Winning Offense

Bill Parcells.  It's been a few years since the 'Tuna' was a regular topic of discussion of the day in, day out drum beat of NFL pundits, talking heads and reporters.  True, he has never fully disappeared from the NFL landscape, but he got a lot more press back when he was coaching and winning football games.  

Fortunately for Kansas City Chiefs fans, Todd Haley learned his trade at Parcells knee during a rocky tenure with the NY Jets way back in the 90's.  Scott Pioli was also present serving as Director of pro personnel, during Parcells' time as the Jets head coach.  Parcells is considered one of the best ever in the NFL of turning franchises with problems into winners in a relatively short time.  So far, it looks an awful lot as if both Scott Pioli and Todd Haley paid very close attention during their time with Parcells.  Scott Pioli would go on to preside as Director of Player Personnel during a Super Bowl streak in New England.  As an offensive coordinator for the hapless Arizona Cardinals, Haley was instrumental in helping guide an offense to a Super Bowl appearance when that team's fan base simply didn't believe it was possible.  A Super Bowl appearance that Haley's team came within a whisker of winning.  

Now working in unison, Haley and Pioli entering their third season with the Chiefs, have once again begun adding to their list of credentials.  Their time in Kansas City is littered with sign posts that indicate they know what they are about. Much of what they have done, resembles what Parcells did back in 1986 when he put together his first Super Bowl winner. Stay with me Chiefs fans, it's about to get fun.

Bill Parcells experience at the head coaching job in the NFL started in 1983 as the Head Coach of the New York Giants.  By that time Parcells had already acquired 14 years of coaching experience in the college ranks and four years of experience at the NFL level.  Always a defensive minded coach, Parcells was ready to get his first shot in the directors chair.

He inherited a team that had gone 4-5-0 in a strike shortened season the year before and hadn't won a championship since 1956, long before the current NFL was built.  They had posted only one winning season in the previous ten.  In that regard, the Giants were much like the Chiefs of today.  By the time they would win a Super Bowl, thirty years would have passed since their last championship.  Would that the Chiefs had only that long to suffer the same fate. With the completion of the 2010 season, it has now been forty years since the Chiefs have won a championship.  To make matters worse, with the playoff loss last year, the Chiefs now own the record of consecutive playoff losses at 8 games.  Sing to the choir Aiken, sing to the choir.

Captny15901221910cowboys_parcells_retires_football_ny159_medium During that first year that Parcells had in New York, he spent a lot of time marking his territory much like Haley did in 2009 in KC.  Parcells was determined to turn the team from a low self esteem, underachiever, into a quiet, confident group that didn't listen to the detractors.  They had to have confidence in each other as well as themselves.  

In his quest to begin building this kind of attitude, Parcells took no prisoners.  He decided to replace Phil Simms with Scott Bruner at QB.  The decision, based on the view at the time that Parcells held about Simms not trying hard enough, turned out to be a disaster.  The team went 3-12 in that first year, nearly getting Parcells replaced.  Parcells has admitted his mistake in regards to the QB since, per Eric Pooley of New York Magazine

'It was a mistake, OK?' says Parcells

 

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Haley was in much the same boat in '09 with Dwayne Bowe.  Bowe (and to be fair several others) showed up to camp out of shape.  Bowe added insult to injury by engaging in childish 'celebrations' after merely making a few catches, and earned himself a short lived demotion.  Derrick Johnson felt the same heat from Haley and found himself on the bench after not being able to consistently keep his play at a high enough level. After that first season, there was little doubt that Parcells and Haley were running the show.  That's what it takes to get the core to buy in.  Once that is established, it becomes easier to get the rest of the team to accept the 'process' as Haley is fond of calling it.  Parcells always said that "you can only yell at the guys you trust".  

Another similarity between those 1986 Giants and the 2011 KC Chiefs are in the running back department.  Parcells inherited a running back by the name of Joe Morris when he took the controls in '83.  Joe's rookie season was during the '82 strike shortened season a year before Parcells arrived.  His stats show a consistent improvement from his rookie season through the Super Bowl winning season in '86.  

Haley similarly inherited a running back by the name of Jamaal Charles when he started in '09.  Just like Parcells, Haley inherited a 2nd year guy with loads of potential. Morris was 5'7" tall and his playing weight was listed at 190 lbs.  Charles is listed at 6'1" and 200 lbs.  I think the 200 lbs is a bit generous.  In his first three seasons, Morris was only able to average 3.7 yards per carry.  As we know, Charles has averaged a very sick 6.0 yards per carry in his first three years 248006_medium
.Morris' per carry average shot up to 4.5 yards per carry in the 1985 season.  What changed?  Parcells added a top notch blocking full back to pave the road for Morris.  His name?  Maurice Carthon.  Morris' best season prior to Carthon's arrival credited him with only 510 yards on 133 carries.  Once Mo got started, Joe Morris became a star.  In '85 he rushed for 1336 yards on 294 attempts for a 4.5 yd average.  Mo only had 27 attempts for 70 yards that season, while the Giants went 10-6, made the playoffs and lost to the eventual Super Bowl winning Chicago Bears in the Division championship.

In 1986 the Giants employed their new found running identity with a bit more enthusiastic sense of purpose.  Mo Carthon paved the way with 72 (the most he would ever get in a single season) attempts for 260 yards for a 3.6 yard average, while Mr. Morris carried the rock 341 times for 1516 yards and a 4.4 yd average.  That was enough for a Super Bowl win.  

Does anybody besides me have a feeling that the addition of Le'Ron McClain may just have been part of a larger plan that was conceived over 20 years ago?  I have trouble keeping my seat and typing while visions of sugar plums dance in my head.  Charles has already had a nearly 1500 yard season without this type of full back in our midst. TJ is good, but he is not a plow.  McClain is the final piece of the offensive backfield puzzle to a Super Bowl potential running game.  And on top of that, we have the full back who made a Super Bowl win possible directing our backfield today.  This my friends, is proof that history does in fact repeat itself.

Besides the addition of the full back, my research has indicated that Todd Haley may not be the first coach to employ the zone blocking scheme with the EP offense.  There is much difficulty in actually attributing the zone blocking scheme to any one author.  Many things in the NFL concerning schemes of any type typically evolve from the advancements of several coaches, not just one.  Actually, I found an article that suggests that Lombardi used the zone blocking scheme in Green Bay.  Not that he invented it, but that he used it.  

What's more interesting is that Karl Nelson who played RT for Parcells from '84-'86 collaborated on a book called Playing the Offensive Line, and it describes zone blocking.  The book had a foreword written by Parcells, who many consider a later era Lombardi for his ability to turn around troubled teams.  So could this whole zone blocking thing be something else Haley took from Parcells teaching?

Joe Morris was most successful as a running back because of his ability to cut back and find holes.  That is what the zone blocking scheme is all about.  Listen to what he had to say about his offensive line.

"Their blocks", says Morris, "are designed to help me break it back.  They'll block to create cutback holes, lateral gaps or they'll make a block and let me choose where I want to go".

I think this is just more evidence that this Chiefs offense is a lot more like those Giants than we may have realized.  What we haven't seen from that Chiefs offensive line yet is their ability to work as a cohesive group to enforce a TEAM will on opposing defenses.  Eric Pooley of New York Magazine describes such an instance 

It worked so well in the 49-ers playoff game that the Giants needed only one play to go 45 yards for their second score.  " It was a toss to Joe [Morris] outside", said Benson [the Giants Left Tackle] "but he broke it up the middle, that's all".  

There was a little more to it than that.  Bavarro lined up on the right side, drawing strong safety Carlton Williamson the 49-ers best tackler away from the play.  Here's what happened in the first two seconds after Oates snapped the ball:  He fired out and cut off the left inside linebacker. Simms pitched the ball to Morris, who was running left.  At the left end, Zeke Mowat knocked the outside linebacker backward, turned him, and drove him toward the sideline.  Next door, Benson did the same to defensive end Dwaine Board.  Carthon led Morris to the right sideline and decked the right corner back.  Billy Ard [the left guard] pulled down the line toward the end, saw the hole forming inside, and cut into it, driving the right inside linebacker back into safety Ronnie Lott, pinning them both--a reverse double team.  Morris took the pitch, saw the wall of blockers sealing to the outside, and turned up field early inside his blockers.  The only blocker with a shot at Morris was Williamson pursuing from the other side.  When he reached for Morris, the runner accelerated and veered to the outside at the same instant--something that should not be possible.  Williamson grabbed air.  Five seconds later, Morris crossed the goal line.

Will the shake up on the offensive line in Arrowhead give us the opportunity to see this kind of teamwork coalesce?  I'm sure that's what Pioli and Haley are planning.  Isn't it possible that the O-line will include Hudson, Lilja, Asamoah, Mims and Albert by the start of the third quarter?  Whether or not it happens quickly enough to propel us to more than 10 wins this year remains to be seen, but the removal of Brian Waters (as great a man and player as he was for the Chiefs) from our offensive line was surely a part of the overall growth of this offense. 

Yet another similarity comes at TE.  Parcells TE was a guy named Mark Bavarro.  Bavarro was a rookie in 1985 a season before the Giants won a Super Bowl (much like Moeaki was a rookie last season--sorry can't stop thinking about how similar these two offenses are!).  During his rookie season, he had 37 catches for 511 yards and 4 TDs.  Very respectable.  Let's see...Moeaki had 47 receptions for 556 yards and three TDs last year in his rookie season.  Also very respectable.  What happened to Bavarro in his second season on the road to a Super Bowl win?  He doubled his stat line.  66 receptions for 1001 yards and still just the 4 touchdowns.  I don't know if this is an indicator of what to expect from Moeaki this year because the rest of our receiving staff is substantially better than the Giants WRs were back in '86.  Bobby Johnson and Stacy Robinson (the two starting receivers) only had 60 catches, 1,028 yards and 7 touchdowns combined.  That Giants team was all about enforcing it's will on opponents with the running game.  Hmmm...where have we heard that before?  And that takes a TE who can block as well as catch.  Seems like that description has been used on Mr. Moeaki.  With the addition of Mr. McClain, 2011 is set up to be Chiefs Will 2.0.

Now add to that the fact that our WRs potential is much higher with the likes of Dwayne Bowe, Steve Breaston and our newest shiny toy named Baldwin and you have to believe that this offense's potential is off the charts.  Feeling any better about that oh-so difficult schedule that we have to face this year?

Well then, how about this?  That 1986 Giants team went 14-2 and won those 14 games by an average of 10.5 points.  There was no regression for this team on their Super Bowl trip.  They went from 3-12 in Parcells' first season to 9-7, then 10-6 and finally 14-2 in their first Super Bowl season.  Sounds pretty good, eh?  

It's not as if they were a scoring machine that couldn't be stopped, but they certainly had their moments against lesser defenses.  Their biggest margin of victory during that regular season was by 35 when they beat the Green Bay Packers in the last regular season game by a score of 55-20.  They topped that off by beating the San Francisco 49ers in the first round of the playoffs by a score of 49-3.  This team was peaking at just the perfect time and IMO it had as much to do with good coaching as it did with talented player personnel.  After all, Ron Erhardt was running the offense for Parcells and HE was one half of the tandem that gave it's NAME to that offense.  Bill Belichick was the defensive coordinator at the time as well. Sounds like a pretty competent group, wouldn't you say?  

Belichick's defense was a monster of it's own accord, that punished opposing offenses week in and week out.  Lawrence Taylor was part of a linebacking corps that may have been one of the best of all time.  The Chief may not exactly have that defense, but hey, they did finally get an honest to goodness NT to fill up the middle.  Combined with bringing back Hali and an outstanding young defensive backfield, I think it's going to make a huge difference.  Crennel may not be Belichick, but he sure learned a thing or two from him.  Whatever we got, it certainly ain't chopped liver.

In my zeal the last couple of years to compare this offense to the New England Patriots and their three recent Super Bowl wins, I think I overlooked the Giants.  I jumped on board with the Patriots because of the connection with Pioli and Cassel.  I just didn't go far enough back to find the roots of what is being done in KC.  It's all about the Parcells' way, not the Patriots way.  It was Parcells after all, that influenced the Patriot way as well as the Jets way, the Cowboys way (for a time) and now the Chiefs way.  Success has been found along that path for several teams and it's high time we had some more success in KC.

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Speaking of Matt Cassel, I would be remiss if I did not address what many fans think is the most controversial piece of our offense.  There is substantial 'noise' on the channel concerning whether or not Matty has the 'goods' to lead us to the promised land.  Well, how about a comparison to Phil Simms?  Do you, Chiefs nation, consider Phil Simms a 'great' QB?  Would you take Phil Simms if your goal was to get to and win a Super Bowl?  Based on his performance, I guess you'd have to say yes, but I'm sure that many of you will disagree.  How do he and Matty stack up?  I'm glad you asked.

In Cassel's three seasons as NFL starter (one in NE and two in KC) Cassel has a record of 24-21, having gone 860 for 1459 in passing (58.9%), averaged 3244 yds passing per year with 64 touchdowns and 34 interceptions.  His average rating over that three year span is 84.1.  

Phil Simms did not play during the strike shortened season of 1982, and Parcells benched him for all but 2 games in '83 so his three year record that includes his first Super Bowl season yields these numbers.  He went 33-15, 820 completions for 1496 attempts (55.5%), averaged 3786 passing yards per season with 65 touchdowns and 50 interceptions.  His average rating over that three year period was 77.1.

Simms numbers have benefited from missing most of that first season under Parcells when the team went 3-12.  Matt Cassel stood in and took the beating in KC during that first ugly season when his new team went 4-12.  Remember Mark Bradley, Devard Darling, Will Franklin and Jeff Webb (I shudder at the thought)?  Even including the damage that a season like that can do to your stats, Cassel's numbers hold up well against Simms.  One very interesting item in both QBs three year strings--as the teams improved and won more games, both QBs yearly passing yardage went down because of the improvement of the running game.  Simms went from 4000 yards in '84 down to under 3500 in '86, the year they won the Super Bowl.  Cassel had nearly 3700 yards in his starting year in NE and has only averaged about 3000 in his two years in KC, yet he has a higher completion % than Sims had on virtually the same number of attempts.  Sims averaged just over 5 more ints per season than Cassel did in that span.  In fact, Sims never completed 60% of his passes as a starter in the NFL until his final year in the league in 1993.  That also happened to be his fewest attempts as a 16 game starter when he went 247/400 for 3038 yards.  All in all, a very Matt Cassel like (so far anyway) season. 

The real point here is that even though Cassel is statistically similar (better in some aspects and worse in others but both are in the same ball park), I think most Chiefs fans would say that Matt Cassel doesn't hold a candle to a Super Bowl winner like Phil Simms.  The truth is that they would be wrong.  The difference?  Cassel hasn't won a Super Bowl--yet.

Yes, Chiefs fans, the stage is set for greatness in KC and many of the faithful have not recognized our potential.  That too, is a similarity between these Chiefs and those Giants.  Heed the words from Eric Pooley of New York Magazine after the 1986 Giants won the NFC championship and were headed to Super Bowl XXI.

These Giants were calm, but for those who follow them, the air of disbelief remains.  In fact, it is hard to realize just how good the team is.  Most years in football, the gang with the biggest, fastest, most highly motivated players rears up and frightens the rest of the league.  This year that team is the Giants.  Like the Green Bay Packers of the sixties, the Pittsburg Steelers of the seventies and last year's Chicago Bears, the Giants have done it with a brutal, magnificent defense and an offense that stays on the field until it finds a way to win.

In our case, I believe that we have an offense that is a smidge better than the Giants was and a defense that is somewhat less than that Giants defense was.  What happens if our defense fulfills it's potential?  What if Hali/Dorsey/Jackson/Gilberry/Studebaker get enough lift from Gregg/Houston/Belcher/Bailey to move up a few more notches?  It's all right there waiting to happen.  The best part?  Haley/Crennel/Muir/Carthon/Pleasant have all been a part of it before.  No one is wondering what to do, no one is grasping at straws and no one is panicked.  What you see instead are well educated professionals who know what it takes to bring the Lombardi to KC.  It's happening before our eyes. Don't worry Chiefs Nation.  Pioli and Haley know that winning alone isn't enough. Delivering on the promise is their goal, and that day is rapidly approaching.  Dont let the naysayers distract you from your team this year.  These things have a way of reaching critical mass and exploding when no one is looking.  I for one, plan to be watching very closely.  

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