Over the last month, despite averaging a horrendous 1.7 yards per carry, Thomas Jones has received 58 carries – ten more than Charles has. Even adding in their receptions, where Charles has eleven to Jones' two, Jones still ends up with the most touches in that span.
If the same pattern continues against the Ravens on Sunday, then not only will the Chiefs' chances of victory suffer a serious blow, but Todd Haley will deserve every bit of the criticism that's been levied against him this week by Jason Whitlock, Mike Florio, and other Haley-bashers regarding the whole Charlie Weis situation.
For the record, I think Haley has every right to have a hand in his team's offensive game plans. That shouldn't even need to be said – he's the head coach, for God's sake. In the press conference introducing Weis to the media, Haley openly stated that he'd still be involved in the offense. There was never any mystery about it.
So if Weis had a problem with that pre-understood arrangement, as unconfirmed rumors swirling around town suggest he did, then it's probably a good thing he's leaving.
However, the fact that Weis already has his bags packed and one foot out the door means there should be no confusion about which coach's vision we'll be seeing on Sunday. What the Chiefs do on offense will reflect Haley's wishes. And if the Chiefs continue to limit Charles' involvement, it will be unarguable proof that Haley is too stubborn or too foolish to do what's best for his team. That knowledge would put a brand new spin on what Weis may have been dealing with behind closed doors.
We've been hearing speculation and theories all year about why the Chiefs haven't gotten Charles more involved in the offense. The sillier, conspiratorial ones have been blown to bits in light of Charles' new $32.5 million contract. The most obvious suggestion – that Charles isn't built to carry the ball 300+ times – seems like perfectly valid reasoning, although it doesn't explain why Charles was constantly listed as second to Jones on the depth chart.
Regardless, it's the playoffs now, so all of that stuff can be thrown out the window. The only thing that matters is the Ravens. The Chiefs have one game to win on Sunday and they can't afford to hold anything back.
So whether they're handing Charles the ball or getting him involved as a receiver, there's no believable excuse for why the Chiefs can't utilize their biggest offensive weapon as much as they possibly can.
Some are reading this, no doubt, and thinking "Well, of course that's what they're going to do! It's been their plan all along!"
Has it, though?
Throughout 2010, there's been an odd and fairly pervasive notion that kept entering discussions about the Chiefs' offense. It was the idea that the team spent the entire season "saving" certain things for later in the year. In every single case, though, that theory never turned out to be true.
There might not be a better running back in open space than KC's Jamaal Charles.
Early on, when the passing game wasn't wowing anyone with its complexity, there ended up being a stark contrast between the fancy, high-powered Charlie Weis offense that many expected to see and the somewhat dull, run-heavy attack the Chiefs were actually utilizing.
But as the Chiefs won their first three games, the thought began to emerge that, hey, maybe they're just saving the exciting stuff for after the bye week. On the road against Indy and Houston, that's when they'll unveil the big downfield passing game. Their opponents will be caught completely off-guard!
That's not how it turned out, of course. But before long, the same rationale started being applied to Dexter McCluster, who's been almost a complete non-factor in the Chiefs' offense this year. It made no sense that they couldn't find a way to get this potentially explosive weapon involved, so surely they had to be saving him for… something. Right?
The same line of thinking was applied to Charles from day one. Sure, Jones was getting more carries, but it was because the Chiefs were saving Charles for the second half of the season. That had to be it. Except the second half of the season came and nothing changed.
So the narrative changed too, and the story became that the Chiefs were saving Charles for the all-important stretch run. But as we know, that wasn't true either.
Naturally, the story eventually morphed into the notion that the Chiefs were minimizing Charles' workload during the regular season so that he'd be fresh in the playoffs. It sounds awfully good in theory, but it would sound a whole lot better if the Chiefs had seized a big division lead at some point and could have actually made those sorts of decisions.
When during the season were the Chiefs so far ahead of the Chargers or Raiders that a playoff birth became a mere formality? When would they have decided that their spot in the playoffs was secure enough for them to get away with restricting the usage of their best player? The answer is never.
At the end of the day, the idea that they've been saving Charles for the postseason seems no more likely than those other examples we've mentioned. And that's a rather sobering thought with the Ravens coming to town.
It's a been a great season for Chiefs fans, and in a year where the team managed to exceed everyone's expectations, there's probably only one thing that could really put a damper on this unexpected success. That would be the team falling short in the playoffs without even giving it their best shot.
Without any question, the Chiefs' best shot involves a heavy dose of Jamaal Charles. It's time for Haley to put an end to the madness and finally let Charles loose.
WARPAINT ILLUSTRATED MESSAGE BOARDS:
Do you agree as Charles goes the Chiefs go?