Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Tale of 3 Cities

Dallas , San Diego, and Kansas City all couldn't be more different in terms of culture and weather. Though the cities are uniquely different, they all share one common theme. Their professional football franchises are ran by egotistical General Managers who stand in the way of their own football teams' success. Today I am going to give an depth look at each city's professional football franchise and why each hasn't been successful.

Lets start in the lone star state. The current GM/owner is Jerry Jones. He makes all the final decisions with this organization. No players are signed or released without Jones's approval. The last time this organization enjoyed success was in the 90's when  Jimmy Johnson was the head coach. He also handled the  football operations while Jerry Jones ran the business side. Somewhere along the way Jerry realized you don't get as much limelight by simply making money for the team.You have to appear like the guy making all the decisions for the team. In the film "A Football Life-Jimmy Johnson" he referenced Jerry Jones feelings of inadequacy demonstrated by the comment "no one cares about me making this team 10 million dollars, but everyone cares about who signs the backup guard."This was the start of the deterioration of the relationship between Jones and Johnson. Eventually, Johnson was shown the door and since then Jerry has anointed himself President, GM, and Owner. The Cowboys won their last Super Bowl in 1996. Since then the team has only has one playoff win on their resume in the last 16 years. That is grounds for termination for any GM, but as Jerry Jones puts  it   "You basically have to straighten that guy out in the mirror when you work for yourself. But certainly, If I'd had the discretion, I've done it with coaches and I would have certainly changed a general manager." So as you can see Jerry Jones isn't going anywhere. In his comments, he acknowledges his time as GM is unacceptable but refuses to relinquish his power as GM.  

Now as we head out west to the warm weather of San Diego where General Manager AJ Smith resides. In  San Diego Smith runs the Chargers franchise. During the Schottenheimer/Smith era, they enjoyed a 14-2 season which was the best regular season record in franchise history. Also during that time they drafted big names like Tomlinson, Phillips, Sproles, Turner, and most notably Rivers. This was a team built to win a Super Bowl, but unfortunately it was cut short due to Smith's unwillingness to allow Schottenheimer to choose his own coaching staff. The rumor was because Schottenheimer's top two assistants were allowed to pursue head coaching opportunities, this led to his time in San Diego ending  prematurely. I'm sure there is more to this story. Nevertheless, you don't fire a head coach after a 14-2 season. Since then the Chargers franchise has missed the playoffs in consecutive seasons and has also declined in terms of wins and talent. There draft picks over the last few years include names like Larry English, Ryan Matthews, Vaughn Martin, Gartrell Johnson, Marcus Gilcrest, and Shareece Wright.  None of their draft picks since the Schottenheimer era have lived up to expectations. And to add insult to injury his retention of valued players has been less than optimal. Under Smith's reign, the organization has foolishly relinquished talented players such as Drew Brees, Darren Sproles, Michael Turner, and Antonio Cromartie without adequate compensation. Many of the core players (Rivers, Phillips, Jammer, and Gates) on the Chargers current roster are products from the Schottenheimer era. Despite a lack of success with drafting, retaining, or gaining compensation for players, A.J. Smith still remains the General Manager.

Finally lets travel to the Midwest where we have the underachieving Kansas City Chiefs team. Since 2009 this organization has been run by Scott Pioli. Prior to his arrival in Kansas City, Pioli was regarded as one of the bright minds that help build a dynasty in New England. When Scott Pioli came to Kansas City, he brought in the" Patriot Way" which meant getting rid of mostly anyone who was a part of the previous regime. He swept a lot of front office personnel and long term employees out the door citing in the book "War Room" that he felt most old employees how gotten too laid back. From 2009 till now the Chiefs have only had one playoff appearance. When Pioli took over the team, it had a record of 2-14 from the previous yr. Four years in his tenure as GM, the Chiefs are on the verge of having an identical record. Most of the core  players of the team came from the previous regime ran by Peterson and Edwards. Three years into his tenure, Pioli fired his first head coach in Todd Haley who had led the previous year's team to its first division title since 2003. Since that time the team has regressed. Through 8 games of the 2012 season, the Chiefs have yet to have a lead for a single second in a game. They currently lead the league in turnovers after having the best giveaway/takeaway ratio in 2010. The biggest failures in Pioli's reign as General Manager have been the two areas a GM is expected to succeed in . The first would be identifying a franchise quarterback. In Pioli's four seasons as GM he has failed to bring in adequate competition at the quarterback position. In 2009 he chose Matt Cassel as his starting quarterback who has failed to live up to expectation of the 60 million dollar contract he signed. Over the last four years the Chiefs offense has ranked in the bottom of the league in both scoring and passing yardage in a league where the rules favor teams scoring more points and throwing for more passing yards. Pioli's second failure as General Manager has been his inability to identify a head coach. His first hire in Todd Haley failed despite having success on the field because neither guy could settle there differences off the field.  Pioli created an environment so toxic that an article written in the KC Star titled "Arrowhead Anxiety" referenced Haley's fear of privacy invasion. Whether true or not, you certainly do not want to have your head coach worried about issues not related to football. Haley was later fired and duties as head coach were given to Romeo Crennel.  Crennel had worked with Pioli in New England so he was familiar with the "Patriot Way". Since Crennel's promotion to head coach this season, the team has regressed. Its current record sits at 1-8 and is on the verge of going down as the worst Chiefs team in franchise history. A team that is undisciplined, heavily penalized, and on the verge of shattering a franchise record in turnovers is a reflection of the head coach who was chosen by the current GM.  As of today Pioli still reigns as GM in the heartland despite having epic failures in his selection of the two most vital positions( Head Coach and Quarterback) of an NFL team.

So as you can see all 3 cities have one common theme: ego driven GMs who are their own worst enemy. All 3 cities continue to hire either young inexperienced coordinators or former head coaches who should have remained coordinators instead of trying to be a head coach. As long as all three men remain as General Manager of their respective organizations, they will never hire a head strong coach talented enough to help turn the franchise around. In Dallas, the last 5 years Jerry Jones has hired Wade Phillips and Jason Garrett as the head coach. In San Diego Smith has hired Norv Turner. In Kansas City Pioli has hired Todd Haley and then Romeo Crennel. See the common theme between all cities. Neither GM is willing to hire a successful veteran head coach. Jones tried back in 2003 with the hire of Bill Parcells. It lasted for about 4 seasons before he had enough of Jones control driven ownership. 

The moral of the story here is hire a GM without the ego. You don't need a GM who is too afraid to hire big name head coaches like a Jeff Fisher or Bill Parcells because they're worried about lost of  personnel decision making or who gets credit for the team's success. A good General Manager has to swallow his pride and hire a head coach he can work alongside and share responsibilites regarding personnel. He must be able to hire a head coach that can rival his own knowledge of the the game of football. 

 The thing about the Chiefs and Chargers is that they have an opportunity to correct their mistakes. Both organizations can start fresh at the end of the season and get a GM without an ego. As for the Cowboys, its unfortunate Jerry Jones is the owner and GM. I don't see Cowboys enjoying ultimate success similar to what they had in the 90s until Jones falls under same fate as the late Al Davis. Its a shame, but its the truth.

Jones (Jail), Smith (Solitary), and Pioli (Prison) have all put their organization in a state of incarceration and now their fans are dying to be free. 

Hit me up on twitter @pulseofdachiefs let me know your thoughts.

Monday, November 5, 2012

What's Wrong with Eric Berry?

Today I'm going to breakdown why Eric Berry is struggling this year on defense. I want to start by saying his ACL injury doesn't seem to be the cause of his lack of production. He seems to be moving really good in coverage. For most of you who followed the Chiefs during training camp, AZ Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald raved about how good of an athlete Berry was. So into today's breakdown of Berry, I'm going to analyze how he's being mismanaged by the defensive coaching staff which plays an integral role in his lack of  on field production.

We're going to compare film from the 2010 season against the Bills in week 8 and this year's game against the Bills in week 2. Same two teams yet we get different results. Lets look at what has gone wrong. We'll first examine the difference in how he's being used against the Run.

Here's a clip from the Bills game in 2010 in week 8. The down and distance is 3 and 1 with 4:25 left in 2nd quarter. The Bills are going to spread us out 5 wide with Fred Jackson lined up as a extra receiver.  We're in our base 3-4 defense signaling Fitzpatrick to beat us with his arm. The thing I like about the strategy is we're not letting the Bills get us out of our base defense even though they're in a 5 wide set. We all know the Bills don't have depth at wide receiver. So why even get out of your base defense when facing a less than talented receiving core? As you can see, Berry is highlighted in the yellow circle at bottom of the screen. The key here is Berry playing in space. The Bills are going to run a right Jet sweep to Fred Jackson.


As shown on this clip below, Berry did a excellent job of coming up from the safety spot. He came up from about 10 yards off the line of scrimmage to stop Fred Jackson short of the marker. Berry's ability to do this speaks volumes of his speed and athleticism. Once again I like the fact Romeo isn't quick to switch out of the base 3-4 defense even though the Bills lined up in a 5 wide set.


Now lets fast forward to this year's game against the Bills in Week 2. Its 2nd and 10 in the 1st quarter. As you can see the Bills are lined up in a 3 wide set with Spiller in the backfield and the tight end to the left of Fitzpatrick as an extra back. We're in our usual auto dime defense: a formation we normally use against 3 or 4 wide sets. Berry is lined up as an extra linebacker next to Johnson instead of at safety.  At the safety spot, we have Abe Elam playing at the top with Travis Daniels being brought down behind Johnson.


As you can see Berry is getting sucked up into the oline , gets pancaked out of the play, and has no chance to help out against the run on this play. The problem with this formation is that we played right into the Bills'  hand. Instead of staying in our base 3-4 defense we got torched for a 17 yard touchdown on a simple draw play. We had Berry and Daniels on this particular play getting  sucked up by the offensive line because their so close to the line of scrimmage. Going up against a 6ft 5 340 pound offensive lineman, Berry never stood a chance to make a play against the run.


This auto dime defense is causing all types of issues with how we play against the run. Its putting Berry in a vulnerable position because he's having to shed off blocks against guys that weigh 200 pounds more. Romeo  also needs to realize not to come out of your base defense against teams like the Bills. This isn't the Green Bay Packers receiving core you're facing. The Bills do run a lot of spread formations, but really don't have the personnel to do so. Knowing this Romeo should've been more disciplined in his scheme and challenged the Bills to beat him throwing the ball against his base defense. Instead he opted to this auto dime defense, which Gailey knew he would, and ran the ball out of multiple receiver sets time and time again. Spiller burnt us for over 200 yard rushing in this game due to the lack of scheme and  mismanagement of personnel. If we're going to use this defense, it would make more sense to line Berry up on the back end replacing Daniels or Elam. This will allow him to use his athleticism to come up and make plays. With using him as a extra linebacker in our dime defense, it takes away his play making ability. In this manner he spends more time trying to shed blocks than coming up out of the secondary making plays against the run.

Lets dive into how Berry is being misused in pass coverage. Lets look at how he was being used in 2010 in our nickel/auto dime defense. In week 8 against the Bills the play is 1st and 10 in the 4th quarter with about 30 seconds left in the game. The Bills are lined up in their 5 wide receiver set. With the ball being on about the 47 yard line and the score tied at 10 to 10, its an obvious passing situation. We're lined up in our auto dime defense where Berry and Lewis are the safeties on the back end of the defense playing a 2 deep zone. Donald Washington is the extra defensive back lined up near the line of scrimmage (In 2010 Washington and McGraw rotated as the extra defensive back lined up near the line of scrimmage).  We're in a man defense so Carr takes the inside receiver and Washington switches to the outside receiver at the bottom of the screen. I have Berry highlighted with a yellow closed bracket around him so you can see his location before the ball is snapped.


As you can see, Berry does good job in coverage reading the quarterbacks eyes on the play. Fitzpatrick  tried to hit Lee Evans on a slant route and loses control of the ball. The ball sails on Fitzpatrick and Berry does a good job of tracking it for an interception. The fact that he's being used on the back end of the defense allows him the freedom to help out in the secondary over the top. With Berry's natural speed and instinct, it gives him the ability to make plays like this in coverage.


Now lets look at how he's being used in pass coverage this year. Here's another play from Week 2 against the same team.  Its 3rd and 12 in the 3rd quarter.  The Bills are lined up in a 5 wide set.  We're in our auto dime defense, except this time we play a single high formation with Travis Daniels playing as the only safety over the top. Elam is playing down near the line of scrimmage next to Flowers at the top of the screen. Berry is at his usual hybrid linebacker spot playing man to man against the tight end. I have him circled at the bottom of the screen. The Bills are going to run a five yard crossing route with Stevie Johnson that goes for a 49 yard touchdown.


Its a blown coverage on the play by Flowers and Elam, but I'm not trying to breakdown this portion of the play. Instead I want to illustrate how Berry's skill set is being wasted  in our nickel defense. As we take a closer look at the play, Daniels has the angle to make the tackle on this play. However, he whiffs on the tackle because he lacks the speed and athleticism to make tackles in the open field. If that was Berry, this play would not have gone for a 49 yard touchdown. Stevie Johnson combine time was a 4.58 in the 40 yard dash. I wouldn't exactly describe that as burner speed. On the play it looks that way because of the lack of speed Travis Daniels possesses to make an open field tackle.


Berry still has all the speed and natural talent to be an effective safety for this team. In plays like the one  shown above, his skill set is being wasted in the auto dime/nickel defense. Against the run he's ineffective because he spends too much time trying to fight off blocks by offensive lineman. Then against the pass he's covering less talented tight ends, and the back end of our defense is getting exposed to yards after the catch. The current Chiefs' safeties (Elam and Daniels) in the dime formation don't have the speed to make tackles in the open field, nor do they have the ability to break up passes across the middle of the field in pass coverage. I can't emphasize enough how senseless it is to not allow your most athletic safety to play in space. Instead, when running our dime/nickel defense, we have Berry in the paint ( as he calls it) which limits his ability to make plays against the run or pass. This is a another example of how a players' talent is wasted when his skill set is mismanaged by the coaches' scheme. I don't understand why Romeo has put Berry in this position when he had so much success his rookie year playing on the back end of our nickel defense.

First, Romeo needs to stay in his base 3-4 defense most of the game. This allow Berry to come up out of coverage, make plays against the run, and help in pass coverage. In addition, Romeo needs to move Berry out of the linebacker position when running the auto dime/nickel defense. Berry needs to go back to playing safety next to Lewis when using this formation-- where once again he can have the freedom to roam and make plays against the run or pass. Berry still has to work on his technique in man to man coverage. So until he develops, he's best served playing on the back end of the defense where he can be more effective.

Well there you have it. Let me know how you guys feel. hit me up twitter at pulseofdachiefs

Monday, October 22, 2012

Cassel or Quinn: Here's My Take

My goal today is to breakdown a series of reasons why Matt Cassel's  game against the Ravens needs to be his last of the season. I am in no way saying Quinn is the answer long term, but i do believe at the very least he will give us a chance to try to salvage the season. I'm going breakdown how the fumbles and interceptions by Cassel aren't a fluke, but it is a product of his inability to play the Qb position from a mental standpoint. Its well documented how much he's struggled this season. His 14 turnovers contributes to him having the worst quarterback rating among starters in the league this season. While all 14 turnovers cannot be attributed to Matt Cassel alone; however, most are a direct result of his inability to play the quarterback position efficiently. Lets talk about some things all Chiefs fans know about him. He stares down his receivers, holds on to the ball too long, lacks pocket presence, and doesn't have the field vision to find open receivers. When you're not a gifted passer physically (arm strength and accuracy), you have to excel in the mental aspects of the game. Unless Charles has another Jim Brown like day like the one in New Orleans (where he had over 200 yards rushing and 90 yards receiving), this team will continue to struggle to win games with Cassel starting as quarterback. How many of you really think Charles can have 10 more games like that this season?

The game plan against the Falcons to let Cassel spread the ball around was a good idea against a team we knew we had to score points against to win. We just had a quarterback who didn't have the physical or mental tools to execute this game plan.

 Lets take a look at Week 1 against the Falcons. I'm going to start in the 2nd half after we missed the field goal. The team goes down 27-17. Cassel begins his streak of 3 turnovers. Lets look at the first of his three turnovers. On 3rd and 15 with 4:14 left in 3rd quarter.

If you look at the play Dex is open in the middle of the field. Cassel becomes shy about making the throw and hesitates. This leads to a sack fumble by Abraham. He pats the ball a couple times like he always does instead of stepping up in the pocket, planting his back foot, and delivering the football. Lets look at it from the pocket view.


From this view you can see if Cassel just climbs the pocket and gets the ball over the linebacker and underneath the safety, this is a easy completion. Instead he doesn't feel the pressure, hesitates, and Abraham gets a sack fumble. Once again if you don't have all the physical tools to play the quarterback position, you must be able to compensate mentally. Lack of pocket presence is one of the weaknesses Cassel displays frequently, which leads to him taking unnecessary sacks. As fans we often blame this on the offensive line. Now I see why Haley had so many sideline tirades with this guy. Just throw the freaking ball !!! Lets look at the next turnover that basically puts the game away.


 On this next play a ball tipped in the air led to the 2nd turnover of the game.  Lets visit the pocket view again. The play is 2 and 9 with 1:25 left in 3rd quarter. Currently the Chiefs are down 34-17
Despite having the defender riding on Moeaki's back, Cassel still tries to force the ball in very tight coverage. What you don't see is in the 2nd half of the game the Falcons brought their coverage up seeing that Cassel only settled for short and medium range throws across the middle of the field in the 1st half. Cassel never adjusted to the coverage which led to many of these turnovers. The entire time in his drop he never once scans the field. Instead he makes up his mind that no matter what he's going to throw this ball to Moeaki. That is dangerous attitude to have in playing the quarterback position. Defensive players see this on film and they will begin to sit on those kinds of routes.


Lets take a look at the same play pre-snap.  As you see in the yellow bracket, the corner is giving Bowe a 8 yard cushion off the line of scrimmage. Also look at how both linebackers are stacked in middle of the field. As a quarterback seeing this, Cassel should automatically work the ball outside the numbers. Instead, as seen in the previous image, he stares down Moeaki and throws the pick. Now lets see does Bowe get open on the route?


 As you can see, Bowe is indeed open. If  Cassel was better at pre-snap read, he would have found Bowe open on the come back route. As stated previously, the corner gave Bowe the cushion pre-snap which should have alerted Cassel where he needed to go with the football. Instead he chooses to force the throw to Moeaki in tight coverage and the ball gets tipped in the air for an interception.


I can go on and on with more clips of how Cassel's lack of mental skills in playing the quarterback position is just as much of a detriment to this team as his lack of arm strength and accuracy. My point in saying all this is that we'll continue to get more of the same if we march Cassel out there on Oct. 29th against the Raiders. Just think all of these mental errors are coming from a guy who is going into his 5th season as a NFL starting quarterback.

 I'd rather take a chance with Quinn right now because at the very least you have upside in both his physical and mental abilities. Quinn possesses the stronger arm to make some of the throws Cassel just can't make. He also delivers the ball more quickly which resulted in zero sacks against the Bucs - - an aspect that was overlooked in that game. Additionally, he spreads the ball around which led to eight different receivers catching balls in that game. Despite the lackluster numbers he had in touchdowns and passing yards, I felt that had more to do with Daboll's play calling and use of personnel rather than Quinn's play at quarterback. I feel if we had featured guys like Bowe, Baldwin, Breaston, and Mcluster instead of Maneri and Eachus, Quinn could have put up bigger numbers. Daboll should have been more aggressive in his play-calling by attacking 32nd rank pass defense in the league. We took only one shot down the field to Baldwin. Most of the day Bowe and Baldwin routes were limited to 5 to 10 yards down the field. To reiterate I am in know way endorsing Quinn as the quarterback of the future. However, I do feel with Brady Quinn starting at quarterback and with more aggressive playing calling this will increase the Chiefs chances of winning this season.

Well there's my thoughts. Who do you guys think should start going forward ?

Hit me up on twitter let me know your thoughts @joedice2001