WPI Roundtable - Week 5

This week we discuss Matt Cassel, establishing the run, Scott Pioli and Dez Bryant.

Can you put an end to why Croyle should not be starting over Cassel?

Nick Athan: It's as simple as $63 million. The other factor is rarely has general manager Scott Pioli interfered with Todd Haley this season, but playing Cassel over Croyle was something he was adamant about when the Chiefs opened the season at home against the Oakland Raiders. Cassel should have sat that game, but Pioli has staked his reputation on signing the quarterback long term.

Cassel will be fine, but Croyle is deserving of an extension. He's good insurance in case Cassel suffers an injury. This issue, as it did under Carl Peterson on many occasions, boiled down to the GM over ruling the head coach. What does that mean for their future together? Stay tuned.

Michael Ash: Are there actually people out there pining for Croyle? We'll ignore the fact that he's never won an NFL game, since it obviously isn't his fault the Chiefs are so bad. But has Croyle ever done what Cassel did Sunday, leading a game-tying touchdown drive in the final seconds? If KC's defense hadn't collapsed against the Raiders, he'd already have two of those "fourth quarter game-winning or tying drives" TV broadcasts always refer to.

But even if we pretended that both quarterbacks are equally talented, we all know the offensive line is terrible. Croyle has a history of injuries that could fill a small book and he's also far less mobile than Cassel. Do the people who want to see Croyle start secretly have some kind of grudge against him? Do they want to see him get hurt?

C.E. Wendler: Why should this even be a question anymore? When a quarterback is paid as much as Cassel is and goes out and makes like John Elway at the end of a game – as Cassel did against the Cowboys – it's pretty clear who the starting quarterback is. Has Cassel been perfect? No.

But you really only need to look at one statistic to put this issue to bed. In 14 career games, Croyle has a whopping eight touchdown passes. Cassel has seven in four games this season alone. Does anything else really need to be said?

It seems Haley is making the same mistake Herm Edwards did by severely predicating his intentions to establish the run. I can understand the thought process, but he is completely ignoring last year's attempt at the exact same thing.

Nick Athan: It's an old dominant theory that you must establish the run first, but in 2009 it's not working and it never will with the current offensive line. The Chiefs' line is so bad, the only way this team is going to win is if Haley utilizes a shotgun offense that features four receivers and a scatback like Jamaal Charles in the backfield.

Larry Johnson is nowhere near the back he was in his prime and he's not an outside runner, either. His first step has been tentative all year because of the line. Haley has to go back to what he does best. That's passing the ball, and until he adopts a pass-first, run-second mentality the Chiefs will keep losing.

Are the Chiefs running too much?
Jeff Roberson - AP

Michael Ash: A year ago, Todd Haley coordinated an offense that had the fewest rushing attempts of any team in the NFL. Naturally, that meant Arizona was among the league leaders in pass attempts – ranking second – but they were also among the bottom half of the league in sacks allowed. In other words, when Haley's offense had an offensive line that could protect his quarterback, he threw the ball all day long.

Is he trying to establish the run now in Kansas City because he's had a sudden change in philosophy? Or does he know that if he drops back to pass all day, his quarterback is bound to leave on a stretcher at some point? I would lean towards the latter until we see something to suggest otherwise.

C.E. Wendler: Criticizing strategy in a season that's already over is meaningless. Besides, comparing Haley to Edwards just because they both want to establish the run is erroneous. If you look at how the Chiefs have actually called plays this season, there is balance, which was never something we saw in Kansas City under Edwards.

For a prime example, look at last weekend's game against Dallas. The Chiefs ran 34 plays on first down and called 18 passes. Overall, Haley's playcalling and gameplan was balanced. Heck, to be honest, the Chiefs threw more than they ran last week. Can we just stop bringing up Edwards? His philosophy went out the window the day he was fired. There are no ghosts.

Nick, it sure didn't take you long to fall off the Pioli bandwagon. This time last year all we heard was how he was the "must hire" for the Chiefs. In hindsight who would you have rather had instead of Pioli? Do you all still think Pioli and subsequently Haley were the right hires five games into the season?

Nick Athan: I'm not against Pioli's hire, I just don't like some of the changes he's made. To be honest (and selfish) he fired some of my friends, so I'm taking it a bit personally, but I still say he is the right man for the job. I wish he'd done more to help his head coach, who might be a one-year guy, but I have to think he has a long term plan.

I had a conversation with a player recently who said he really likes Pioli and so do the players. That says something when you consider all the difficulties players had with Carl Peterson. Pioli has put all his eggs in one basket with Cassel and defensive end Tyson Jackson, which appears to be a slight error at this point when you see what linebacker Aaron Curry is doing in Seattle. But if Clark Hunt opens up the checkbook next season, Pioli will get the job done. But he's the highest-paid GM in the NFL. He should be on the hot seat.

Michael Ash: I think it's pretty clear both of them need to go. After nearly a decade of roster mismanagement, one offseason and five whole games should have been more than enough time to have the Chiefs primed for a playoff berth. To be honest, I can't understand why Clark Hunt hasn't already taken action.

In all seriousness, I certainly wasn't among those claiming Pioli was a "must hire." There were a lot of decisions made over the offseason that I didn't agree with. Pioli stood pat on the offensive line, retained Tim Krumrie despite the Chiefs' lack of development with defensive linemen, and passed on Mark Sanchez.

But I'm far from jumping off the bandwagon. I don't think Pioli or Haley expected the Chiefs to be terribly competitive this year. With that in mind, I imagine their main goal this season is to evaluate the players who are already here, see how they respond to what they're being asked to do, and determine which guys they want to keep. That factors into the reason they keep adding players they're already familiar with, because they don't need to evaluate them.

Once the season ends, they'll have plenty to work on and won't have the "just settling into the job" excuse. Barring some big unforeseen development, I probably won't re-examine my bandwagon status until we see how they handle free agency and the draft next year.

C.E. Wendler: It's impossible to judge Haley or Pioli after five games. I'll remain patient with both as I was patient with Herm Edwards. It took me two years and four games to reaching a breaking point with him, so they get at least that long considering the state of the roster they inherited.

Pioli will largely be judged on his drafts. Free agent pickups in September and October are largely inconsequential where the big picture is concerned. If Pioli gets the draft right, not much else will matter. We'll judge Haley on how he handles close games once the roster is established.

With Dez Bryant missing the majority of the season, and the concerns over his off-the-field issues, will he slip into the early second round of the next draft?

Nick Athan: He's a great talent but could slip into the second round, where the Chiefs might have three picks. They currently have their own, plus the one acquired in the Tony Gonzalez trade. If Pioli makes a deal with Detroit for Derrick Johnson, that may bring another one.

Will Bryant slip to the Chiefs
Christian Peterson - Getty

But that aside, Bryant can play at the NFL level. It's all going to boil down to how he handles his current issues and what sort of shape he reports to the combine in. The NFL generally overlooks players who have issues in college if they truly believe they can be rehabilitated at the NFL level. But right now I'd still project him as a late first-round pick.

Michael Ash: He'll probably slip a little bit, but for a player of his talent it may take an arrest or drug test failure to make him fall all the way out of the first round. So let's keep our fingers crossed that he screws up!

C.E. Wendler: Bryant isn't going to come out with the burner label. With all his other issues, he might well indeed drop to the second round of the draft. Teams just aren't going to spend a top 15 pick on a player who isn't going to stretch the field, especially if he's a character risk.

It'd be different if Bryant was a talent like Calvin Johnson. But at this point, how much better is he than Dwayne Bowe, who fell all the way to the bottom of the first round in 2007? Now imagine if Bowe had character concerns.

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