Maybe a better title to this article would be "Why not, Andy Reid?" Because that's the question I (and if Twitter is any indication, a whole crap ton of other people) have for the Chiefs fearless leader.
Let me make something abundantly clear before I get started. I am not privy to all (or any) of the practices and meetings where Andy Reid and his coaching staff make their decisions. I completely understand that they're operating with much more information than I have at my disposal. They know more about their players than I (or any of the rest of us) do, and it's not particularly close.
With that caveat in mind, I ask again: Why on Earth aren't Travis Kelce, Vance Walker, and Anthony Sherman on the field?
Sherman and Kelce
I have questions about all three, but let's start with Kelce and Sherman on offense. Arrowhead Pride took a look at the various offensive formations in which the Chiefs lined up during Sunday's debacle (insert joke about how truly "offensive" it was here). A few things stick out.
For starters, the Chiefs only had two running backs (which means Sherman in at fullback, generally) on the field nine plays. Which reflects the reality that Sherman was barely on the field Sunday, seeing six total snaps. Yes, you read that correctly. On a day where the Chiefs offense was sputtering and struggling to move the ball, one of the Pro Bowl caliber players was sitting on the sideline watching.
Now, fullback has been called a dying position in the NFL, and rightfully so. But when your offense is struggling and the best player at his position isn't being called on to help, that at least raises a red flag. Add in the surrounding context of the situation the Chiefs were in personnel-wise (I'll come back to that later) and it's utterly mystifying.
But not half as mystifying as Travis Kelce's situation. Kelce saw 18 snaps on Sunday. In a vacuum, I suppose you could say, "Hey, that's a lot more than Sherman! What's Kelce doing on this list?" But the fact is Kelce played only a third of the offensive snaps Sunday. He played significantly fewer than half the snaps Anthony Fasano played (53, practically every snap on offense).
That is absolutely inexcusable on Andy Reid's part. Inexcusable.
Don't get me wrong, this is not some kind of shot at Fasano. Fasano is a solid tight end. Good blocker, decent hands, does his part to get open. I think he'd start on more than a couple teams in the NFL.
The problem isn't with what Fasano is. It's with what he's not. And, quite simply, he's not Travis Kelce. We'll use Kelce's 27-yard reception in the second quarter to show where the major difference lies. Follow through the set of stills (nope, no GIFs.Sorry. I'm old school like that). Kelce is in the first frame running left to right from being on the line at the tight end spot.
Here's where Kelce distinguishes himself from Fasano. People like to talk about the difference in pure speed between the two, but that's not the major issue on display here (though that disparity is very real).
In the first frame Kelce appears to be running a simple crossing route. From the looks of things watching the play live, the linebacker who was initially in coverage thinks he's passing Kelce off to the in-the-box safety. So far, Kelce's "open" but not really (as he'd get absolutely hammered by a throw at this point).
In the second frame, Kelce shows what makes him different from Fasano (and a lot of other tight ends). He plants his right foot and changes direction quickly, heading into a corner route (I believe this route in its totality is referred to as a "flag" route, but the names of routes seems to vary depending on who you talk to). Kelce makes the break so quickly and is at top speed so fast that the linebacker can't catch up.
In the last frame you see Kelce about to make the catch over his shoulder. The linebacker doesn't have a prayer at the ball and only an exceptional hit by the deep safety prevents a touchdown (also, that was a heckuva throw by Smith on a day he played the worst I've ever seen him play for the Chiefs. I've killed him in other places, so credit for this throw is due I suppose).
Again, what's on display here isn't just pure speed. Speed is a straight line issue, and a lot of players can run fast in a straight line. It's the ability to break outside so quickly that allows Kelce to leave the defense flat-footed. Anthony Fasano, capable as he is, just isn't capable of running this route as effectively. He's not quick enough.
There's a reason Kelce (in only 14 snaps where the offense was passing the ball) saw five targets and had three catches for 49 yards. He has the ability to create separation almost instantly against linebackers, and is just way too big for corners or safeties to cover effectively. Yet, again, he only saw 18 snaps.
This is especially egregious in a game like Sunday's, where Reid decided to trot out formations with three receivers and one (or no) tight end 35 out of 57 snaps (a shade over 60 percent of the snaps). Keep in mind the personnel the Chiefs had available on Sunday. Dwayne Bowe was out, so the Chiefs were left with Donnie Avery, Frankie Hammond Jr., and Junior Hemingway as their primary receivers.
In other words, the Chiefs were playing with a relatively bare cupboard of proven wide receivers, while having a pair of very competent (and one very explosive playmaking) tight ends at their disposal. Yet, for some reason, Andy Reid decided it was better for the offense to march out three receivers the majority of the time on offense. Throw in the lack of Sherman's use and you've got Reid sitting two highly capable players in favor of guys who (all due respect to them) weren't getting it done Sunday.
I understand that Reid is set in his ways as a coach, but he needs to adapt to his personnel. Even with the return of Bowe, the Chiefs aren't a team that should constantly be in a three receiver formation. They have too much talent at other positions (tight end, fullback, running back) to trot out non-factor players just for the sake of being in Reid's favored formation. And further, Kelce needs to become one of the centerpieces of this offense, not an afterthought who is only on the field for 14 passing plays.
Great coaches adapt to their personnel. And right now, the Chiefs are built to be a double tight end team that runs its offense through Jamaal Charles, Dwayne Bowe, and Travis Kelce. Andy Reid has an opportunity to prove he's a great coach by adapting to what he has. We'll see how it goes.
This section will be much, much shorter. Because it's pretty simple.
1) Vance Walker was paid decent money to come to the Chiefs.
2) Vance Walker only only one freaking snap on Sunday.
3) On that one snap, Vance Walker did this (right defensive tackle)
Dorsey / Reid / Sutton, you paid the man. Now it's time to play the man.
One snap? Sheesh...
Here's hoping we see a lot fewer head-scratching decisions this Sunday.
(I'll be doing the mailbag in a day or two. Send all mailbag questions to MNchiefsfan@hotmail.com or tweet to @RealMNchiefsfan)