Standing Tall At Tackle? … Wednesday Cup O’Chiefs

From St. Joseph, Missouri

It has been quite a trip watching how Chiefs fans and the K.C. media have reacted to the addition of Jared Gaither to the club’s roster late last week.

From the things I heard and the questions I’ve been asked, it seems the assumption is that Gaither has already written been written into the starting lineup for the 2011 Chiefs. Whether it was at right tackle for Barry Richardson or left tackle for Branden Albert didn’t really matter – although most opinion leaned towards Gaither taking over on the right side.

The Chiefs wouldn’t have signed him if he wasn’t going to start, right?

Wrong.

Let’s look at the facts in this little football melodrama as they are very visible and provide insight as to why Scott Pioli and Todd Haley signed a player that does not fit the stereotype of the “right 53″ that they’ve laid out over the last three years.

1. Were the Chiefs looking for a replacement for Albert or Richardson? No. If that was a major item on their wish list, they would have reacted within the first days of free agency and lined up a player to sign. They would have used one of their draft choices to select a tackle. Here’s the No. 1 fact that some fans don’t want to accept – Albert and Richardson are not bad players. How could the Chiefs lead the NFL in rushing and finish in the top half of the league in pass protection and be so awful at the tackles? The fact is they wouldn’t have had that offensive production without Albert and Richardson. They are not awful. Is improvement needed? Absolutely, but obviously Pioli and Haley did not view offensive tackle as a problem.

2. So why sign a guy like Gaither, who has been a starter in the NFL at left tackle? First, it cost them next to nothing. Gaither signed a one-year deal for just short of $700,000. That’s a lot of money to me and you, but for a potential NFL left tackle, its chicken feed. Plus, the deal is for one year only. Should Gaither not work out or into the lineup, then they don’t have to re-sign him in 2012.

3. Why would Gaither sign with the Chiefs if he wasn’t guaranteed a starting spot? He didn’t have anywhere else to go. He danced with the Oakland Raiders and they decided against signing him. That’s a pretty big blow to any player’s ego when a franchise like the Raiders won’t sign you to even a one-year deal. If there was truly something special about Gaither, the Ravens would not have allowed him to get out the door. Baltimore is one of the best run personnel operations in the league, which is why they always seem to be in contention for playoffs and conference championships. They don’t allow a player they want, or still fits their needs to get away from them.

So what was Gaither’s problem in Baltimore? We saw a slice of that pie on the practice field at Missouri Western on Tuesday afternoon. After just two practices with the Chiefs, Gaither was unable to go and spent the afternoon working in the rehab area and trying to bring down his times on the stationary bike.

What’s his injury? Those are details the Chiefs do not share, but it does not appear to have anything to do with his back injury that kept him out of action last year. He was wearing some sort of sleeve on his right knee and he limped about the field favoring that side. He apparently tweaked something in Monday’s practice.

Two practices and he’s already on the injured list; that was part of the reason he fell out of favor with the Ravens. There were too many times when he was unavailable to practice because he was “hurt.” There were too many occasions when Gaither did not maximize his opportunities to be in condition and stay in shape to play 16 games plus.

He was not committed and he was not dependable. On the surface, how he gets on the Chiefs roster with that type of resume is beyond me. Haley has stressed and Pioli has gone out and found players who are committed and dependable. They seek self starters, guys who take the game and even the business of football seriously.

That has not been the resume of Jared Gaither. Going back to his time at the University of Maryland, he lacked commitment to conditioning and academics. He pouted when coaches moved him to right tackle after he played the previous season at left tackle as an injury replacement. Gaither’s behavior in that situation was so bad the Maryland program suspended him for two weeks, i.e., they sent him to timeout.

There really wasn’t much of a change in his behaviors once he reached the NFL and the Ravens. That’s why when he went into the NFL’s 2007 Supplemental Draft; he wasn’t selected until the fifth round, despite his remarkable collection of physical abilities and talents.

Don’t get me or anybody with the Ravens wrong – Gaither is not a criminal, he’s not a bad person, he was not a problem in the locker room. He was self-centered and unreliable. He was immature.

Which means there’s always a chance he can grow into a level of maturity that makes him a reliable professional athlete? But had Gaither been on the Chiefs roster in 2009 when Pioli and Haley took over, they would have either run him off or pushed him so deep into the doghouse he would have disappeared.

So again, why sign him? It cost them little or nothing. They’ve made just a one year commitment to a guy that has problem with making commitments himself. If it doesn’t work out, it’s no harm, no foul, and Gaither moves on.

There’s another key component in this equation – Gaither is in a spot where he’s not been before – at the age of just 25, he’s on the verge of losing the professional athlete lifestyle that he has come to enjoy over the last four years. If he’s not aware of the fact that this could be his last chance to survive in the NFL, then he might not be salvageable as a contributing player.

Pioli and Haley are counting on Gaither understanding that he must change his ways. They are counting on the presence of one of his very best friends in Branden Albert to help make that transition. If his mind and body are right, then Gaither will increase the competition level at the tackle position and that’s huge because it will produce better players, whatever the combination of Albert, Richardson or Gaither might come out of the mix.

Still, none of that will happen unless Gaither can stay on the field. This is not a club where he’ll make the roster in the tub. He’s not off to a good start.


18 Responses to “Standing Tall At Tackle? … Wednesday Cup O’Chiefs”

  • August 17, 2011  - Kenneth says:

    I’ve read where Gaither not only had the back problem but he also had a reoccuring foot issue, i’m not sure which foot it was. So if its not a knee then it may be that foot problem has come back to haunt him.


  • August 17, 2011  - bhive01 says:

    I assume the other reason is competition. If the fire can be stoked in him then he’ll bring real competition to the line. If not, he’ll be a reasonable backup.


  • August 17, 2011  - Michael says:

    It’s good that he has Albert and others he knows on the Chiefs to be in his ear. Hopefully, they along with Haley and the KC coaches can help the guy mature into what he could be. Timing is everything, and maybe the Chiefs are getting him at the right time.

    Bob, a one year deal? I haven’t seen that reported anywhere but here. Nice job picking that up.


  • August 17, 2011  - Adam says:

    Gaither could be one of the best tackles in the NFL if he would simply toughen up.


  • August 17, 2011  - el cid says:

    Suggest the “right 53″ is a general concept. It maybe time to start cherrypicking a guy here and there who does not fit the mould. Injuries asside, this may be his last grasp on a roster spot or resurrect his career with another team. I recall the raiders used to get a year or two out of another teams wreck. Might work here.

    Like him or not, Pioli has strengthened the team and OL is our current weak area (I know NT but there is no one left with size, quickness, and availability).


  • August 17, 2011  - jim says:

    Kenneth, the biggest “foot problem” Gaither will have if he continues to be unavaliable will be Haley’s foot square up his back side. IF, and only IF, Gaither realizes this is his absolute last chance to become what everybody seems to think he can be………an elite R/LT in the NFL, maybe he’ll seize the opportunity and be the “find” of the off season.

    My biggest concern is: “You quit on yourself and your teammates in several situations. If you start at R/L tackle, when will you quit on us?” I see a serious trend here that I’m not at all comfortable with. Just my take………..


  • August 17, 2011  - lyle says:

    I think that el cid is right. Pioli et al have built a roster of tough minded, hard working players. Now that we have that foundation, we can take chances on guys like Gaither and Houston. I will be surprised if Gaither makes the final 53 unless we see him figure out the difference between being hurt and being injured in the next 2 weeks


  • August 17, 2011  - Mark says:

    I agree completley with this Bob.
    I’ve been beating the drum behind Richardson all offseason and yesterday when I saw Gaither was “hurt” already I was ticked off.
    Nice job picking up on that for this article.


  • August 17, 2011  - jim says:

    Relative to the ‘right 53′, remember ……they may go thru over a hundred till the final cut is made for the ‘right 53′. You don’t have to be a “53er” to get to camp…..only to STAY.


  • August 17, 2011  - Rw says:

    Motivation and connection of same comes in many forms. I find it difficult to fathom why these pro athletes are not making their craft their top prority in terms of training and conditioning.
    I am also reminded of that time when the team took a flyer on on damaged goods guy from the aints a decade or so bsck in time.


  • August 17, 2011  - Judge says:

    Judge Bob says guilty!!


  • August 18, 2011  - ED says:

    ONe of best reads Bob you’ve ever wrote. I’ve been screaming all along guys like Brandon and Barry are not going to be replaced by an injury prone Gaither. He’s simply high reward low risk guy brought in to add depth to the position. Coming off the season we had where like you’ve stated we led league in rushing and had fewest sackest I don’t know why so many Chiefs fans and local media are ready to throw one of their own home grown linemen in Richardson and Albert under the bust for an underachiever. Either way I fully expect both Richardson and Albert to start all season where as Gaither will battle injuries most of the year if he remains on the team at all he want be back next yr in my opinion. Because like you’ve said Bob he just can’t stay healthy and its obvious he doesn’t fight through injuries.


  • August 18, 2011  - Paul says:

    As a Raven fan, Jared showed occasional flashes of an NFL tackle, but he never seemed to have the desire or motivation or work ethic to be a success. Since he was a Maryland grad, and had the physical size of a Jonathan Ogden, everyone here wanted for him to develop and succeed. But he never compared to J.O. in determination and desire to win. I wish him the best (except for this Friday) and i hope he matures and works out for all you Chiefs fans.




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