Earlier this week, Black Monday was a dark day for many familiar faces. In total, seven head coaches received their walking papers, including franchise mainstays Andy Reid, Lovie Smith, Norv Turner and Ken Whisenhunt. Other less tenured coaches, like Pat Shurmur and Chan Gailey, also failed to avoid the axe.
In an instant gratification society where it’s all about what you’ve done for me lately, sour seasons, especially over consecutive years, are intolerable in the NFL. With every overthrown pass, every botched snap, impatient fanbases grow increasingly hungry for Ws, desperate to watch their heros kiss the Lombardi Trophy.
Fantasy owners, particularly those in keeper leagues, are wired similarly. If dismissals bring instant fame and fortune, they are unquestionably for it.
Optimism, which would satisfy both fanbases, is already in the air.
On Friday, Andy Reid agreed to terms with the Kansas City Chiefs. Several hours later, Chip Kelly, as first reported by Ian Rappaport of NFL.com, was close to filling the coaching vacancy in Cleveland.
Both moves have fans of all shapes and sizes in KC and Cleveland overwhelmingly giddy. Still their employment leaves many in the fantasy community with questions. To help clear the air, here is my take on common misperceptions attached to each coach:
Common Belief: Andy Reid’s offense is a detriment to running backs. Jamaal Charles, like LeSean McCoy, will be terribly underused.
After I passed along the news of Reid’s imminent hire on Twitter earlier in the week, many disgruntled fanatics, most of which were likely former McCoy owners, predictably reacted with “There’s goes JC’s value...” That statement couldn’t be further from the truth. Though not an Adrian Peterson or Arian Foster workhorse-type, McCoy averaged just under 21 touches per game in three years as a starter, more pigskin grips than Frank Gore and Matt Forte, in a similar number of games, during that stretch. He also finished sixth, second and 11th in points per game among RBs over that span. His workload under Reid wasn’t ideal, but he was markedly efficient with the rock in his hands. In other words, Reid's hiring is the antithesis of a doomsday scenario for running Chiefs.
In terms of explosiveness and versatility, Charles is equal to McCoy, if not better. Yes, if a bulkier back is brought in to occasionally spell JC, which is a good thing considering his sleight build, his touchdowns will be limited to 7-9 next year. Still, he will thrive with 20-23 touches per game. The Chiefs’ offensive line is top-notch and an enhancement at QB can only help action between the tackles. Remember, he’s netted a spectacular 6.2 yards per touch since entering the league in 2008. He will be highly, highly productive, possibly a top-five contributor overall on Reid's watch.
Common Belief: Brandon Weeden possesses the athleticism of a beached whale. There’s no way he can be successful in Kelly’s offense.
A Galapagos turtle wearing cement boots has more speed than Weeden. He’s stunningly slow and, at first glance, a poor fit for Kelly’s unconventional offense. It’s entirely possible Kelly will look into bringing aboard Michael Vick, giving the more athletic Colt McCoy another shot or acquiring a multidimensional threat via the draft (Tahj Boyd anyone?) to general his offense next season. After all, as described in vivid detail by Grantland’s Chris Brown back November, the mad scientist’s system is a no-huddle, hurry-up spread designed to keep defenses tied to an oxygen tank. It also emphasizes read option, a scheme that obviously doesn’t work for a sloth-footed passer. Speed is coveted.
But the Chipster, like all successful college coaches before him who’ve made the leap to the big leagues, will make adjustments. If he believes Weeden is his quarterback of the present, he will tailor schemes to his strengths, alterations that should be relatively easy to implement. Keep in mind, Weeden was quite effective in a quick-paced spread offense while at Oklahoma State. When given time, he’s a deadly passer in the short-to-intermediate field. If the starter, a 4,000-yard 22-25 TD campaign is in his immediate future. However, the situation remains very fluid.
Common Belief: Kelly prizes running backs with elite speed. Trent Richardson doesn’t exactly fit the bill.
I’m convinced Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas have cheetah blood pumping through their veins. They are the hoplites of college football, fast, quick-hitting soldiers who can skewer the opposition in the blink of an eye. And they’re prototype Kelly RBs – at least that’s what’s most believe.
Recall in 2008, when Kelly was offensive coordinator for the Ducks, LeGarrette Blount, whose nervous system is fueled by molasses, was a high-impact back. That year he rushed for 1,002 yards (7.3 ypc) and scored 17 touchdowns. If he can thrive in the zone-option spread, anyone can.
Remember, Richardson excelled on zone runs while at Alabama. Kelly’s system won’t be foreign to him. Though he doesn’t have world-class speed, he’s hardly a snail (4.45 40-yard dash). Plus, his attacking physicality, excellent hands and warrior toughness – he played with 2-3 cracked ribs for much of 2012 – are wondrous attributes. It would be no stretch if he finished at or near the top among fantasy RBs in ’13.
Common Belief: The Browns don’t have enough talent at WR to satisfy the passing game’s demands.
Compared to most high-powered NFL rosters, Browns wide receivers are pound puppies. That’s indisputable. But Cleveland isn't completely devoid of talent. Greg Little, despite an unsavory number of drops, has the baseline tools to develop into a reliable WR2. He should build off the strides made in 2012.
Josh Gordon, meanwhile, is the single player that could benefit most under Kelly’s direction. The supplemental pick out of Baylor showed tremendous potential as not only a premier playmaker downfield (Fun Fact: Per Pro Football Focus, his yards per route run ranked alongside traditional home run hitters Torrey Smith and DeSean Jackson), but also as an underneath weapon. Because Kelly’s offense stretches opponents thin, he could be awarded several zone or single coverages, which he will surely take advantage of. His excellent speed would also cripple defenses in the screen game, another key feature in Kelly’s offense. Already a favorite of mine before the ripples formed along Lake Erie, he would be a near lock for 75 receptions, 1,000-plus yards and 7-9 touchdowns next year.
Wide-sweeping changes are already underway throughout the league, some which could greatly enhance player values. So far, Kansas City and Cleveland have made the grade.
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