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If you are into talking about the Kansas City Chiefs, this is the place to be. I am Aiken_Drum and I am a Chiefaholic. If you are too, great! Let's discuss this team that we inexplicably love to follow. Don't be afraid to be critical here. Positive or negative, they are all thoughts about the Chiefs. Also, do not tell ANYBODY here that they shouldn't respond in a certain way. You don't like what they said? Just stop commenting. Be the bigger commentor.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Andy Reid, Alex Smith, the WCO and how to make 14 bucks the hard way.

The WCO.  No, that doesn't stand for the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra or the World Customs Organization (both of which, however, show up as possibles if you do a wiki search).  We are, of course, talking about the West Coast Offense.  The very same offense that Andy Reid was supposedly running during his tenure in Philadelphia.  "Supposedly" Aiken?  What in the name of Jerry Rice is that supposed to mean?

Well, let me tell ya.  You all know that Joe Montana is my hero.  Having him play for my Chiefs may just have been the highlight of my fandom to date (this could possibly be eclipsed by the Chiefs winning another Super Bowl but let's not get ahead of ourselves).  I mean, I love the fact that 65 Toss Power Trap won us a Super Bowl but I was a bit too young to participate in those festivities at the time, and since then we really haven't had much to compare to that.  For me, having a Super Bowl winning QB at the helm of my favorite team was better than not having loved at all (Tennyson forgive me for that reference).

It just so happens that Joe was running Bill Walsh's version of the WCO when he won those Super Bowls for Walsh and Seifert.  I thought it was about time for a little discussion on this most wonderous and exciting offense along with a look at how Andy Reid and potentially Alex Smith fit under the same roof.  Everyone is so caught up in Alex Smith 'game film' (I mean seriously do fan's actually watch 800 hours of game film to find out that Alex Smith can actually throw a football?--isn't that a QB's job?) that they have given little to no attention to what is really important here--do Reid, Smith and the WCO actually combine to make a Super Bowl winning team a possibility?

Could it be possible that the fact that someone actually felt 800 hours of film study was necessary before giving their approval to our new QB is testament to the fact that statistically he just might not be all that good?  I mean, if a statistical analysis leads you down a road you don't like, what are you to do?  You can either accept those stats and report on same, or, if you have the power of the bully pulpit you do something that you know others simply won't do and then you throw your hands in the air and start speaking in tongues about how the stats LIE.  You see, statistics are merely an attempt to put a players abilities into context so that he can be compared to other players.  Stats can definitely be used to mislead, but over time, stats begin to give a relevant view of a players actual accomplishment on the field.  If you want to watch the film (particularly of that specific players best games of his career), ignore the stats and conclude that the stats simply don't tell the story, you are more than welcome to do that.  The question becomes however, just who are you misleading by doing so?  Homers mislead themselves all the time.  It's a requirement.

While it is my fervent wish that Alex Smith is the second coming of Joe Montana in Chiefs regalia, the truth is that even if that is the case, Reid's recent display of coaching mediocrity has given us plenty of reason to pause before we begin making Super Bowl banners out of butcher paper for the players to run through when their name is called at the big game.

First off, you absolutely must understand that the term WCO is used 'loosely' to define a type of offense in today's NFL.  Very 'loosely'.  To try and define all the offenses that run a version of the WCO as West Coast Offenses, is similar in difficulty to defining all colas as Coke.  Each one has it's own unique signature based on it's own particular creator and what they think they can accomplish given the ingredients available to use in it's formulation.  

The idea, in my opinion, is really the opposite of the Earhardt Perkins style offense that we were seeing under Haley and then under Crennel and Daboll after that.  EP is all about using the run to set up the pass.  The WCO is about using short to medium passes in place of the run to set up the run and keep the defense guessing as often as possible.

Joe Montana ran coach Walsh's version of the WCO to perfection.  Walsh is considered the 'father' of the modern day WCO, but in reality it's roots are attributed to many coaches.  It really refers to a style of offense.  It relied on many short to medium passes to force DBs into coverage, which kept the DBs busy looking for WRs trying to get behind them quickly off the line.  This in turn opened up the run because the defense couldn't key on certain players or 'sets' to decide if the (up until that time) traditional running down was indeed going to be a run.  Indeed, Walsh's version was a basic NFL set of two RBs in the backfield, two Wide outs and a TE.  The idea was to 'release' all five of those players at once, creating havoc with a defense because the ball could literally be going via pass to any one of them on a timing pattern.  The three step drop is an integral part of that offense combined with the QB throwing the ball to 'spots' where a receiver was supposed to be.

Maybe the most important thing to remember about coach Walsh's WCO is that he developed it way back in 1969 when his then strong armed QB was lost and he had to retool his offense to a QB with much less range and arm strength.  Walsh's creation that Joe Montana ran so flippin' well, was designed for a QB without the deep threat capabilities of a Dan Fouts (time frame reference) does that sound at all like Alex Smith?

The biggest fault of Andy Reid's Michael Vick powered WCO (in this writers humble opinion) was his refusal to protect the element of surprise generated with the offense by running the ball more often.  This offense absoultely must run the ball often enough to 'keep the defense honest' and Reid simply pulled out the stops more than necessary.  It was like betting everything you have on black at the roulette wheel every time you play.  Sometimes it made for big paydays and sometimes you just went home mad without a nickle to your name.

IMO, Reid's version of this offense simply went for the big play too often and left the mess that followed to be cleaned up by his  unfortunate QB.  That is what lead to Vick nearly getting bludgeoned to death on the field the last couple of seasons.  Once the defense had confidence that Vick was going to try and hold the ball long enough to make a play deep on damn near every down, they just took their time getting Vick in the crosshairs and pulling the trigger.

You see, Reid was spoiled by having a Donovan McNabb in his backfield for 10 years that could nearly throw the ball the length of the field, while still being atheletic and strong enough to take off and run away from the defenses pursuit on many occaisions.  In addition, McNabb was so big and strong, he could take a lot of abuse that Vick just wasn't designed to take.  This is why I say that McNabb may have made Reid's bones and not the other way around.

Vick was an early version of the quintescential running style QB and Reid thought he'd get smart and bring him back from the depths of NFL fan disfavor to grab the brass ring. Reid needed a chance to see if he could make the WCO work with a guy who could supposedly 'run out' of trouble if the passes were covered even more often than he had done this in the past.  I think the evidence supports the argument that he failed in this regard, and he nearly got Vick killed in the attempt.

This then, brings us to the choice of Alex Smith as the guy to run this offense.  At first blush, it would seem that Alex is well suited to run this offense because he hasn't been known as the long ball thrower.  Indeed, a quick check of pro football reference shows his stats as a passer quite clearly, and it ain't all that good.

His best passer rating for a complete season was 90.1 for 2011, for his career he is 79.1 that makes him 24th of active QBs.  Matt Cassel is 21st at 80.4.  He's 13th among active QBs in sacks taken (Cassel is 17th) and 14th in yards lost on those sacks (Cassel is 19th).  He's 29th on sack %, getting taken to the turf 8.26% of the time (this means that he gets sacked once in every 12 or so snaps).  Just for comparison here, Matt Cassel is 26th on this list at 7.26%.  Can you say 'holds the ball too long'?  Sure, I knew you could.  I hope all you Cassel haters that think Smith is the shit have some good strong whiskey available for Sunday's this fall.

Let's keep going, Yards per pass completion?  Smith 28th with 11.1, Cassel 26th at 11.2.  Yds per pass attempt Smith and Cassel are tied at 6.6 with Byron Leftoversandwhich and wait for it, KYLE ORTON.  Here's one that Smith beats Cassel--passing yards per game.  Smith 178.5 (25th), Cassel 173.0 (28th).  WOW, now that's a feather in Smiths cap alright...moving on.

How about fumbles?  Smith 15th at 44 and Cassel 17th at 41.  Lest you think these comparisons unfair, it is important to note that these two have played a nearly identical number of games with Matt having 78 carreer games to Smiths 80.  Matt has 2044 career attempted passes to Smiths 2177.  Pretty close for comparison I'd warrant.

So, at least statistically, these two QBs seem very similar.  BUT WAIT!  We've been told that if you just watch the game film (remember this is only the game film from Smith's BEST season to date in the NFL) that he is actually quite good.  He can make all the throws and he doesn't suck on third down.  Taking this view is exactly what we homers did with Matt Cassel in 2009...remember?

This is just about as useful as Trent Dilfers endorsement that Alex Smith is a 'master' at running the offense from the line of scrimmage.  If Smith is a master, I'd sure hate to be subjected to watching somebody who doesn't know what he's doing.  Sheesh.

It's funny what fans will do with stats and game film and such.  Honestly, we all want to support and feed our hope that things are going to go well, but to ignore some of the facts to do that is just setting yourself up for disappointment.  I simply won't let this team do that to me anymore.  I am now a member of the 'Winning is not enough" group.  It'll only change when those wins are actually strung together long enough to actually win us some playoff games.

Alex Smith's record shows a very average QB (actually, if you think Cassel was below average, then I simply don't see why you feel differently about Smith except for his playoff run and there are enough questions about the coaching being the reason to at least give one pause--right?).  If he is smart enough to run the WCO and make the timing throws that need to be made to keep the offense moving down the field, we may win a few games this year.  If he turns into the 2010 version of Matt Cassel, we'll probably go about 7-9 given our schedule.  For me, that just isn't good enough.  I want it all, and I want it now.

It's disappointing to head into another season with nothing more than Alex Smith to look forward to, but hey, that's the life of a Chiefs fan.  What Smith needs is the secret of how to make 14 bucks the hard way.  He's in luck because I know just who to ask.

Pay attention Alex, this is your lucky day.


  1. I'll bet you were something before electricity...Nice article. Not exactly drinking the Smith Kool-aid but more than likely realistic. I hope that you're wrong (says the Homer in me). I miss Joe Montana, too. I wish we could have got him about three years earlier when he and Steve Young were hating each other. I can't wait for pads and pre-season. Any thoughts on Chase Daniel, Ricky "America" Stanzi and Tyler Bray?

  2. Nice quote. As far as the QB situation goes, Chase Daniel and Ricky Stanzi are both very nice examples of COLLEGE QBs. How will they play in the NFL? Your guess is as good as anyone elses. Stanzi seems to be bringing up the rear since he couldn't even get any playing time when all he had to beat out was Brady Quinn. It is rumored that Tyler Bray has trouble reading and understanding playbooks. It is my opinion that he has some physical gifts that could be NFL quality, but if the brain of the computer doesn't work, he'll just be trade bait for Andy Reid's snake oil sales company in a few months.