AFC West: Priest Holmes
But Holmes, announced by the Chiefs on Saturday as this year’s entrant to their Hall of Fame, is deserving for many other reasons. The Chiefs had some great offensive teams for many of Holmes’ seasons (2001-07) in Kansas City. They had the pass-catching tight end in Tony Gonzalez, an efficient quarterback in Trent Green, an underrated wide receiver in Eddie Kennison and a great set of blockers, but the package wasn’t complete without Holmes. That showed in the final game of the 2002 season when the Chiefs and their high-scoring offense, playing for a postseason berth but without the injured Holmes, were shut out by the Oakland Raiders.
Holmes also caught the ball well. He led the Chiefs in receiving in two of his seasons when the Chiefs went his way more than that of Gonzalez. Holmes wasn’t merely an outlet receiver, one the opponent felt comfortable leaving uncovered in the flat. He could and would line up wide, run a good route and beat coverage to make a play.
His signature plays, though, were ones that featured Holmes in the open field. He had great vision and patience for letting the blocks develop in front of him, so Holmes was a natural on sweeps and screens. Even if that’s exclusively how he was used by the Chiefs, Holmes would still have been a useful player.
But Holmes’ game was complete. Now the Chiefs’ Hall of Fame is complete with Holmes as a member.
Quinn not the answer: Many Chiefs fans got their wish and saw Brady Quinn start at quarterback. His results were no better than Matt Cassel's. Quinn three two bad interceptions (one was returned for a score). I think Cassel will get the chance to start again when he is healthy.
Offensive woes continue: The Chiefs haven’t scored a touchdown on their first drive of the game dating back to the start of last season. Kansas City’s offense hasn’t scored a touchdown in the past two games. The Chiefs have not had a lead during any game. Their one win came in overtime at New Orleans.
Charles misses mark: Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles had 40 yards on 12 carries. He now has 591 yards in six games. He was vying to join Priest Holmes (2004) to be the second player in team history to have 600 yards on the ground through six games.
What’s next: The Chiefs stumble into the bye. They host Oakland in two weeks in the first game at Arrowhead Stadium since right tackle Eric Winston berated some fans for cheering when Cassel went down. It caused a national firestorm and prompted coach Romeo Crennel and owner Clark Hunt to praise the team’s fan base. It could be an interesting day at Arrowhead.
Michael from Long Beach wants to know what I think about Ryan Mathews’ slow start to camp.
Bill Williamson: It’s been a tad worrisome. He didn’t pass a conditioning practice at the beginning of camp that most San Diego players had no problem passing. The running back admitted he could have conditioned his legs more during the lockout. And he has missed some time with a reported toe injury. This is a big year for Mathews. The Chargers need to get something out of the No. 12 overall pick in 2010. He showed flashes a rookie but durability was an issue. There’s no excuse for him not to be in premium shape. It’s early and he has time to get ready for the season, but the team is surely keeping its eye on him.
Brian from San Diego wants to know what I think about Oakland draft picks Denarius Moore (receiver) and David Ausberry (tight end).
BW: They looked decent when I was at the Raiders’ camp early in the week. I think Moore, a fifth-round pick from Tennessee, has a better chance of helping early. I’m not sure if he will have the same impact Jacoby Ford had as a rookie last year, but we may see him get a chance. He seems polished and he gets open a lot. He's been a star of camp. Ausberry, a seventh-round pick from USC, is moving to tight end from receiver. He is big and fast. But he will be a work in progress and it’s unlikely he will be ready to make a huge impact as a rookie.
Aaron from Syracuse wants to know if I think Brian Waters, who was recently cut by the Chiefs, could end up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
BW: I read your email and you make a good case, Aaron. He was part of some great running offenses and he led the way for Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson. But guards usually have to be extremely dominant to make the Hall of Fame, especially guards without multiple Super Bowl titles. He made five Pro Bowls and he was named All-Pro twice since joining the Chiefs in 2000. Waters has a good reputation and he could get some votes, but it may be difficult for him. Former Kansas City guard Will Shields, however, could easily go in on his first ballot next year. He was named to 12 Pro Bowls in 14 NFL seasons and he was All-Pro nine times.
Holmes, Hall of Fame defensive end Carl Eller, Obafemi Ayanbadejo and Ryan Collins are listed as plaintiffs in a complaint filed in federal court in Minneapolis, reports the Associated Press. It seeks class-action status on behalf of all former players.
This is another piece of the puzzle in the fight against the owners. Several current players -- including the Chiefs’ Mike Vrabel and Chargers’ receiver Vincent Jackson -- are suing the league in a similar suit as is draft prospect Von Miller.
Rookie pay and retirement issues are part of the labor dispute, so that explains why Miller and the former players are involved. The retired players reportedly want the NFL lockout to end to ensure their pensions and health benefits remain funded.
Holmes, 37, played for the Chiefs from 2001-07 until he retired after suffering several injuries. He sat out the 2006 season with a neck injury. He retired during the 2007 season after re-injuring his neck. His last full NFL season was in 2003. Holmes remains committed to his foundation, which focusing on awarding scholarship to children in Texas.
Holmes started 63 games for the Chiefs from 2001-07. He was the NFL’s offensive player of the year in 2002.
“Priest’s tremendous work ethic and perseverance took him from unheralded beginnings as an undrafted free agent to one of the most electrifying and productive offensive players to ever play for the Chiefs,” Chiefs Chairman and CEO Clark Hunt said in a statement released by the team. “On behalf of my family and the entire Chiefs organization, we congratulate Priest on this well-deserved honor.”
Meanwhile, another work week has ended without the Chiefs hiring an offensive coordinator to replace the departed Charlie Weis, who is now at the University of Florida. The Chiefs’ season ended 19 days ago. I know Kansas City coach Todd Haley has interviewed some people, but it’s been quiet.
Yes, we knew it was coming, and yes, Tomlinson is no longer a top back, but his departure from San Diego has to be a time of reflection. To mark Tomlinson’s release, I’m listing my top five running backs who spent the bulk of their career in the AFC West:
1. LaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego: This is not a courtesy pick. Tomlinson was a dominant player. He compiled 12,490 rushing yards in nine seasons. He is eighth on the NFL’s all-time rushing list. He is among the league leaders on several other record lists. In his prime, he was among the best players in the league. He’s the best running back ever to play in this division.
2. Marcus Allen, Los Angeles Raiders and Kansas City: Allen was a special player, especially for the Raiders. He was a key to a Raiders Super Bowl team and he was a game changer. His 12,243 career rushing yards are 12th on the league’s all-time list.
3. Terrell Davis, Denver: Davis only played from 1995-2001 in a career that was cut short by injuries, but he made the most of it. He had 7,607 career rushing yards. He was a catalyst to Denver’s two Super Bowl championships. When he was in his prime, Davis was unstoppable.
4. Floyd Little, Denver: Little was just elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He played in Denver from 1967-75. He played on several bad teams, but Little was a workhorse who was deserving of his enshrinement in Canton.
5. Priest Holmes, Kansas City: Holmes played in Kansas City from 2001-07. He was dominant in his first three seasons in Kansas City before injuries plagued him. He is the team leader in career rushing yards with 5,933.
The Kansas City Chiefs just cut a player who was one decent game away from becoming the team’s all-time leading rusher, and it seems like it’s the right move for everybody.
It is time for Larry Johnson to leave Kansas City.
|G. Newman Lowrance/Getty Images|
|Larry Johnson was just 75 yards away from breaking Priest Holmes' team rushing record.|
Both sides tried to make it work, but the new Kansas City regime did Monday what it probably should have done in the spring. At least everyone knows the Chiefs gave Johnson a chance to finish his career with them.
Now both the Chiefs and Johnson will move on. And they probably won’t miss each other.
Off the field, Johnson remained a distraction, and on it, Johnson, who turns 30 this month, wasn’t giving the young team much. The 1-7 Chiefs clearly weren’t giving Johnson any motivation.
The Chiefs probably have been planning Monday’s move since Oct. 28, when they suspended Johnson for Sunday’s game at Jacksonville after he made gay slurs and questioned the credentials of Kansas City coach Todd Haley. Last year, Johnson was suspended four games by the Chiefs and the NFL after two separate incidents involving women in Kansas City nightclubs.
General manager Scott Pioli and Haley were impressed by Johnson’s work ethic in the spring when he was committed to the team’s offseason program. In July, Johnson, who in the past asked to be traded from Kansas City, said he was re-energized because of Pioli and Haley.
But the losses started piling up for Kansas City in the first half of the season and Johnson was ineffective because of a combination of him wearing down and a porous Kansas City offensive line. He has 358 yards on this season and was averaging 2.71 yards per carry. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Johnson’s per-carry average this season is the fourth worst in NFL history for players with 100 or more carries.
Johnson is clearly no longer the same back he was in 2006, when he set an NFL record with 416 carries. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Johnson’s per-carry average in that special season was 4.7; since it has been 3.7.
Still, despite his decline, Johnson, a No. 1 pick in 2003, was close to becoming the franchise’s all-time leading rusher. He was 75 yards from breaking Priest Holmes’ team record.
Holmes is still revered in Kansas City, while Johnson has been vilified because of his long history of off-field issues. Many Kansas City fans voiced their displeasure about Johnson last week and wanted him to be released. Some fans began a petition to urge the Chiefs not to allow Johnson to break Holmes’ record.
The team listened and it will move on with youngsters Jamaal Charles and Kolby Smith. The two didn’t do much Sunday at Jacksonville when they were just temporary Johnson replacements. Now Johnson is in Kansas City’s rearview mirror and Charles and Smith need to step up their game.
If they don’t, Kansas City will be able to live with it. Johnson is no longer a Chief and that appears to be the best scenario for everyone involved.
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
My take: The fact that former Kansas City running great Priest Holmes is helping Savage prepare for the 2009 season is sure to get folks excited in Kansas City. Holmes has a special place in the hearts of Chiefs fans. Give credit to Savage for recognizing Holmes as a rushing authority. The Chiefs are excited about Savage. The summer work with Holmes won't hurt him.
My take: Rivers threw for 4,009 yards last season. It was his highest yardage total by more than 600 yards in his three seasons as an NFL starter. Throwing for 4,000 yards is not easy. It is no shoo-in for anyone. But Green's belief in Rivers shows what people think of Rivers: He is an elite quarterback and he's been recognized for it.