The X,Y, and Zs : Why The Baldwin Trade Was Made


This is an article that I started writing a few weeks ago. It wasn't exactly on Baldwin, but the major change now that Pioli is gone and Dorsey/Reid are in. It focused primarily on the wide receivers.

Scott Pioli's legacy is seen everyday in training camp. Edgar Jones , a special teamer, is the only notable free agent signed by Pioli. His draft picks on defense - Justin Houston, Dontari Poe, Eric Berry, and Tyson Jackson are likely the bright spot on a luke warm 4 year reign.

The Chiefs offense was hurt the most. Primarily because Piolii didn't realize two things. A coach like Bill Belichick comes once in a lifetime. A quarterback like Tom Brady comes once in a lifetime. You can't try to recreate that magic. But , unfortunately , he did.

Pioli's philosophy came from the belief in having players that were specifically skilled for X, Z, Y positions.



As the West Coast offense developed in the late 80s / early 90s , different offensive coaches began to realize the importance of a wide receiver based on how they would line up on the field.

In the late 90s , The Minnesota Vikings, Denver Broncos, and St. Louis Rams began to evolve the science of X,Z, & Y receivers. Warner utilized Bruce Holt, Az-Hakim 's skills to confuse defenses & win a Super Bowl. Teams quickly wanted to treat X,Z,Y as individual positions and have players that fit those specific roles RATHER than draft 4 Z WRs and 2 X WRs and see how they would work out. Similar theories of having Power Forwards, Shooting Forwards, and Shooting Guards come with individualized Skill Sets had worked in basketball decades prior.


This philosophy proved to be fairly useful and caused many teams to experiment with 3-4 , Tampa 2, and Nickel defenses. Wide Receivers were concentrating on improving their own strengths and having to learn more plays designed specifically for them - instead of every route in their playbook.


PIOLI / HALEY / RAC era Philosophy -


X receivers, - usually the teams best deep threat. Usually guides the safety during play. Jon Baldwin's height-deep threat ability was what made Pioli take him. Randy Moss was this in New England

( examples - Julio Jones , Calvin Johnson, Randy Moss, Reggie Wayne )


Y receivers that could go shallow and work well in screens - and occasionally go deep. Dexter McCluster and Devon Wylie.


Z receivers , - Great Hands Player that specializes in intermediate catches and isn't afraid of hits up the middle. Dwayne' Bowe's best work is when he's on the same side as the TE. Specifically cross routes.

( Bolden, Roddy White , DeSean Jackson, Hines Ward, Stevie Johnson)

OVER the past 2 decades, Scouts & GMs - have put a heavy emphasis in finding X Wide Receivers. Every Owner (Dallas? ) wanted to take a chance of finding Randy Moss / Calvin Johnson / Larry Fitzgerald type potential. By most War Room philosophies , a player that could play a version of the X position was the most athletic player on the offense & thus would be the most talented player on the field. A common misconception in the NFL was that the X Wide Out was actually the no.1 WR / or no.1 Quarterback read.



Because the quality of defensive talent on college tape was deemed irrelevant , Scouts & Coaches looked past fundamentals of the game. Specifically tape on intermediate pass catching & intermediate route running.

If an injury took place, and your best WR was the Z wideout and his back up was below-average - a quarterback struggled to get back in rhythm & defenses prepared around that. The Chiefs philosophy wasn't putting the 4 best targets on the field at the same time because the Playbook was more important than the Talent.

Similar to Basketball , you're playing against heavy odds that via draft that you'll land the best Center, PF, SF, SG, PG.

Many NFL teams weren't putting their 3 best WRs on the field at the same time because of the conflict. Or they wouldn't draft a highly rated Z-WR because they already had 2 decent ones in depth.



John Dorsey/ Mike McCarthy & Sean Payton realized 2 things in the Late 2000s/ early 2010s.


1. Z WRs were not seen as a commodity in the 1st round of the NFL draft. DeSean Jackson, Anquan Boldin, Donald Driver, Lance Moore , Wes Welker - all dropped significantly in tape study & DRAFT VALUE because GMs didn't feel safe drafting a player that might struggle with being in the X position. Most of their COLLEGE tape were intermediate passes in zone defenses.

If Healthy - Most Z WRs found their way to yards & points in their rookie contract.


2. Traditional X WRs had a very high bust % in the NFL. They also had very little value to the team outside of the X position. They wouldn't play special teams. They usually had egos and big mouths. (Terrell Owens, Plaxico Burress, Chad Johnson, Randy Moss).

Unless they are a HIGH 1st Round Pick (Johnson, Jones, Fitzgerald) , X WRs also need about 3/4 of their Rookie Contract to really develop. Their hardest test is beating a jam at the sideline and it takes years for most to master.


3. Teams were spending high draft picks on Free Safeties and 3rd & even 4th corners. The Az-Hakim's of the NFL were being well-handled by talented corners. Percy Harvin , Wes Welker, and Victor Cruz had to be utilized in Z & Y scenarios. More than often, they'd be handled by a corner w/ the best footwork and not a scrub nickelback in his rookie contract.


The non-Super-Star X WRs , like Jon Baldwin (Chad Jackson (NE) / David Terrell (CHI) / TROY WILLIAMSON (MINN), Charles Rogers (DET) ) , were horrible at catching intermediate passes. Their college coaches protected them from going up the middle & getting hit. Their concentration was made for being 3 steps ahead instead of 1.

Their run blocking ability was horrid. They often missed pre-snap audibles. They only wanted to score touchdowns on deep balls.



Probably the most important part of John Dorsey's career will be his improvement to the WR core , but most importantly the philosophy of its depth & how WELL that works with Reid.

In Green Bay , Mike McCarthy dis-regarded the NFL trend of X,Y,Z completely. Defense strategy and talent generally knew what the opponent would bring with X,Y,Z players.

McCarthy & Dorsey came up with a system where they could benefit the most.

A) Forget the SUPERSTAR X wide receiver drafted in the Top 10 picks of the NFL Draft. They eat up too much $$$ and cause too many headaches. Find tape of Z WRs that could potentially play X if forced to.

B) Intermediate Pass Catching, Route Running, and Hands are more important that Size & Speed at the combine.

C) Since SIZE is a talent, draft a TE that could play Slot in Red Zone situations.



Dorsey, McKenzie, and McCarthy had outstanding depth at the WR position. If a player was injured, another could reach back. There were 4 WRs that could play the Z position perfectly, and X position if needed. During most games 3 to 4 very talented Z-WRs would be on the field for Aaron Rodgers to confuse defenses with. The Defenses had problems identifying / predicting what each would do. This caused Defenses to retreat from Pass Rush and to leave the Safety outside of the box.




The Packers rotate WRs in and out of the X WR position. Aaron Rodgers plays off of the LEFT CORNERS choice to play the WR under the center.

In this case, the Corner wants to JAM Jordy Nelson (an average X WR) at the line and hope that he goes INSIDE. Jordan's JAM is now a Decoy for even FASTER Randall Cobb to race out (from the Running Back position) and go DEEP. If the Corner spends too much time Jamming Nelson (aka the deadly X) then Cobb has a huge amount of space on the sideline. If the Corner commits to Cobb, then Nelson has a free catch in space and 2 WRs/ 1 TE blocking for him.



1. Donald Driver ( 7th Round Pick / Veteran / capable Z-WR & X WR)

2. Greg Jennings (2nd Round Pick / - Capable X WR & Z- WR)

3. James Jones ( 2nd Round Pick / - Z-WR )

4. Jordy Nelson (2nd Round Pick / 2nd Year Player - Z-WR)

5. Randall Cobb ( Rookie - 2nd Round Pick / Special Teamer / Deep Threat )

6. JerMichael Finley ( 3rd Round Pick / TE / RedZone Y-Capable , Z-Capable )

7. Tom Crabtree (UDFA / TE / REDZONE Y-Capable)

8. Andrew Quarless ( UDFA / TE / PROJECT RedZone Y-Capable )


CHIEFS IN 2012 -

1. Dwayne Bowe ( Z WR , y capable , sometimes X capable but lacks speed ) *1st Round Edwards/pick

2. Kevin Boss ( TE , not Y-capable , not Z-capable) *2012 Free Agent Pioli Signing

3. Tony Moeaki ( TE, potentially Y-Capable - but deals with injuries over the middle) *3rd Round Pioli Pick

4. Steve Breaston ( Y WR , not X capable, not really Z capable) *2010 Free Agent Pioli Signing

5. Jon Baldwin (X WR , not Z or Y capable) *1st Round Pioli Pick

6. Dexter McCluster ( project Y WR , unlikely Z capable, not X capable ) *High 2nd Round Pioli Pick

7. Devon Wylie ( project WR , Y capable , not enough body to be a Z capable WR, not X Capable) *4th Round Pioli Pick

8. Jamar Newsome ( project X WR, not Z capable) *UDFA Pioli Pick

9. Terrance Copper ( ST , not X , Y, Z capable) *Free Agent Pioli Signing 2009

10. Steve Maneri ( Fan Favorite , TE, Blocking only) *UDFA Pioli Pick



1. Outside of Dwayne Bowe, Green Bay had 7 players better than every player in KC's 10 deep WR core. Pioli's lack of drafting & free agency success was mixed with an odd ego of his own strategy.

2. This trade today was a chance to resolve something that we've struggled with all offseason. Intermediate Pass Catching.

One of the main concerns that 49ers fans & coaches had over AJ Jenkins was that he couldn't play the X position that Michael Crabtree played well in over time.

Jenkins has a very long way to go. Similar to DeSean Jackson, he's going to need to find ways to create plays from other places than the X position. AND Andy Reid is the perfect person to analyze this.

One of the main problems Reid faced in Philly was that he didn't have a GM making sure he had DEEP talent at the WR position.

IF anyone knew AJ Jenkins abilities & limitations , it was Alex Smith. The Chiefs found a player that can rebound and develop under a system that works for US.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Arrowhead Pride's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of Arrowhead Pride writers or editors.

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