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Cutting Jeremy Maclin is an awful idea

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From 6/2: This is from February but very relevant today! The Chiefs cut Maclin.

So every now and then I hear a take that’s so scalding hot that I can’t help but comment on it immediately. In those situations, I rarely have time to write some kind of captivating (or even coherent) introduction. Today is one of those times, so I’ll just say it:

Getting rid of Jeremy Maclin is a bad idea, and you should feel bad if that’s your idea.

"But MN, he barely had more than 500 yards receiving this year!"

Uh huh.

"But MN, he’s not fast like he used to be! He’s a possession guy only now!"

Hmmmm.

"Seriously, MN, he’s just not dynamic!"

Oh.

Look... I don’t know how to say this, but you’re wrong. You’re just... wrong. Did Maclin have a rough year? Yes. Was he clearly struggling mentally early in the season after some personal tragedy struck? Yes. Did he then suffer a groin injury that lingered for quite some time (OUCH)? Absolutely.

But the most important question you should be asking is this: after all the crap, was Maclin looking like himself down the stretch? And there is only one answer to that: absolutely, positively, beyond-a-shadow-of-a-doubt, YES.

All I needed to do to confirm this was go back to the playoff game (in which Maclin only saw four targets and had two catches) to be absolutely certain that Maclin’s lack of production is not a Maclin issue.

On this play, Maclin demonstrated his trademark route-running, which constantly leads to defenders being turned the wrong way or with their momentum going the wrong direction. Here, the ball went to Spencer Ware out of the backfield almost immediately instead.

(I had someone tell me the LB here makes that throw a pick. I disagree. The LB doesn’t move until Smith throws, which would’ve been roughly the same time he would’ve thrown to Maclin. ZERO chance he gets to it in time unless Smith throws it about 2 yards farther left than he should. That’s an easy NFL window).

My point isn’t really about Smith here, it’s to demonstrate that it’s ridiculous to gauge a WR based on numbers. You have to look and ask: are they getting open? And Maclin was.

Hill and Maclin ran the same route on opposite sides of the field on this play (great zone-buster routes). Hill had less separation on his side, but was the first read and was open so, therefore, got the ball. Think about whether another catch and 10 or so yards would change your opinion of how a WR’s stats look in a game. Then ask yourself why on earth a WR should be penalized on a play he did his job and just didn’t get the ball. This is why stats with receivers, more than any other position, should be viewed VERY carefully.

That’s only two plays, you say? OK.

This is another situation in which the lack of a catch has nothing to do with Maclin. He does a nice job getting separation over the middle here, but the ball got tipped up in the air (and was going elsewhere regardless). If he does the EXACT same thing and gets an average throw, he adds a minimum of 15 yards to his stats (if not quite a bit more, given the space there). But he gets nicked for something he can’t control.

And about that speed...

Maclin isn’t the burner he was in college, but he’s still got way more than enough juice to run right by corners who don’t respect his ability to stretch the field, even if they’re playing off the line of scrimmage. The safety help over the top, in my opinion, could have never gotten there on time to stop a well-thrown deep ball here (to be fair, Smith placed a great throw to Kelce over the middle on this play, so again, this isn’t about dinging Smith for not throwing Maclin the ball).

This is a long road to a short thought: it’s absolutely, completely ridiculous to say that Maclin is no longer a good player. He very much is. However, a combination of issues last season capped his production. Two of those (his own personal stuff and injury) we’ve already covered. There are two more issues that presented themselves as well, though:

  1. Andy Reid’s insistence on making inferior receiving options the first read or ONLY read on certain play calls.
  2. Alex Smith not seeing Maclin open.

Let’s not fight about Alex Smith, OK? My opinion of him hasn’t varied since I last wrote about him. There’s nothing left to say there. He shoulders some of the blame for Maclin’s numbers.

As far as Andy Reid goes, this issue has been well-chronicled. Albert Wilson and Demetrius Harris should not have have more targets between the two of them (82) than Jeremy Maclin (or Tyreek Hill, or Chris Conley). They just shouldn’t. Ross Travis and James O’Shaughnessy shouldn’t have another nine tacked on at all. Sure, nine targets sounds like very little, but when you factor in that number is roughly 12 percent of Maclin’s targets all year, it suddenly becomes a little more, "whoa, why did that happen?"

The point of all this, though, isn’t to bury Andy Reid either. He’s a very good coach with a few maddening tendencies. I can forgive that due to how well he designs the offense and manages the players.

The point is that Jeremy Maclin is, and has been, a very good wide receiver. It takes less than ten minutes of looking at all-22 film to see him demonstrating that. Teams should focus on building their system around their best players (Kelce, Maclin, and Hill), not replacing said players.