Thursday Morning Cup O’Chiefs

Last season, there were 29 punt and kickoff returns that went for a touchdown in the NFL.

None of those came from the Chiefs.

In the season before (2007), there were 42 punt and kickoff returns that went for a touchdown in the league.

None of those came from the Chiefs.

That’s 71 touchdowns in the last two seasons from the special teams return games. That’s an average of 2.2 TD returns per NFL team. But among the league’s 32 teams, there are three without return scores in the last two years: Tennessee, Carolina and the Chiefs.

Yes, there has become a very big hole in the Chiefs special teams over the last two seasons. They’ve now gone 46 games without a punt or kickoff return for a touchdown. The last time it happened was October 1, 2006, when Dante Hall (top right) returned a punt for a score against San Francisco.

In the NFL, only Carolina has gone longer waiting for a return score, at 49 games.

A touchdown at the end of a punt or kickoff return used to be a regular part of Chiefs football. With Tamarick Vanover (below right) (1995-1999) and then Hall (2001-06), the Chiefs had 19 punt and kickoff returns for TDs over those 12 seasons, with eight from Vanover and 11 by Hall. The only time the Chiefs were not a threat was the 2000 season, after Vanover ran into his problems off the field and before Hall was ready to become the man handling all the returns.

Since Hall left before the ’07 season and went to St. Louis in a trade, the Chiefs have struggled in the return game. Struggle may be too kind. In 2007-08, they averaged 7 yards on punt returns and 20.4 yards on kick returns. The team had only one kick return that went for over 40 yards and one punt return that exceeded 30 yards in those two seasons.

Todd Haley wants to change that missing element in the Chiefs special teams attack for the 2009 season. He’s determined to find a returner.

“I’ve told everybody here that if you can be a better than average punt and kick returner you’ve got a very goodΒ chance of making this team,” Haley said during the team’s rookie mini-camp last weekend. Β ”I don’t know that we have one right now.”

If this is an area where Haley and GM Scott Pioli wanted to improve the talent level, they’ve not gotten the job done. Right now there’s not a soul on the Chiefs roster who has returned a punt or kickoff for a touchdown in the NFL over the last five years. There were some good returners available in free agency, guys like Arizona RB J.J. Arrington (25.6-yard KR average and a 93-yard TD in ’08), Carolina WR Mark Jones (24-yard KR average and 11.4 PR average) and Tennessee CB Chris Carr (28.1 KR average and 10.1 PR average). But the Chiefs did not decide to sign any of those players, or anyone else with extensive NFL experience as a returner.

What they have is a collection of running backs, wide receivers and defensive backs that has produced one TD on a return in the last five years, whether college or pro. That would be sixth-round draft choice Quinten Lawrence’s 70-yard punt return TD last year at McNeese State.

There is only one player on the roster with a return TD in pro football: that’s 36-year old Bobby Engram, who had punt return TDs in 2002 and 2003.

On the veteran roster are second-year RBs Jamaal Charles and Dantrell Savage, UFA signee WR Terrance Copper, wide receivers Jeff Webb, Mark Bradley and C.J. Jones and cornerback Ricardo Colclough.

  • Charles returned 15 kickoffs last year for 21.4 yards, with a 40-yard return as his longest.
  • Savage returned 26 kickoffs in ’08 for 24.3 yards with a long return of 59 yards. Savage also had eight punt returns for a 2.1-yard average.
  • Over his career, Copper has returned 26 kickoffs for a 19.3-yard average.
  • Webb has returned 17 kickoffs for a 21.9-yard average.
  • Bradley returned four kickoffs in 2005 with Chicago, for a 17.5-yard average. He also had a kick return TD at Oklahoma in 2003.
  • At Garden City JUCO, Jones had eight punt return TDs, but that was in 1999-2000.
  • Colclough had five kick return TDs at Kilgore Junior College and then four punt and kick return scores at Tusculum in 2002-03.

And let’s not forget CB Brandon Carr, who at Grand Valley State returned an onside kick for a TD.

Lawrence returned only one punt in his college career at McNeese State; that came last year when he took it back for a score. As a freshman, he averaged 23.9 yards on kickoff returns in the 2005 season. What the draft choice brings to the competition is speed. He was clocked at the NCAA track regionals in 10.49 seconds in the 100 meters.

“That’s a great opportunity for somebody,” Haley said. “That’s definitely an area we went into the draft and the offseason knowing we needed to find somebody.”

Is Lawrence that guy?

“I’m not speculating whether he can or can’t right now,” Haley said. “He’s got a long way to go.”

So do the Chiefs when it comes to returning kicks and punts to the end zone.

JASON TAYLOR IS OFF THE MARKET AND BACK WITH THE FINS

After a year away, Jason Taylor has returned to the Miami Dolphins.

Taylor, the NFL’s active sacks leader, signed a one-year deal with the Fins for a $1.1 million base salary and $400,000 in what were termed easily earned incentives by his agent. He spent his first 11 years in the NFL playing for the Dolphins.

He returns to Miami after a year spent in Washington playing with the Redskins. The six-time Pro Bowler was released in March when he refused the Redskins request to take part in their off-season program. Taylor wanted to be closer to his South Florida home.

Taylor’s agent Gary Wichard indicated to the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel that his client had also drawn interest from New England and Tampa Bay. He made no mention of the Chiefs.

QB KNOWS NOWITZKI’S HEADACHE; SO DOES DICK VERMEIL

Dallas Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki was not the first pro athlete to have a relationship with a woman wanted in two states for outstanding warrants.

Turns out that Cristal Taylor as she is now known once had a relationship with former St. Louis Rams QB Tony Banks. At least that’s what he told the Dallas Morning News.

“This is unbelievable,” Banks said. “This is wild. I can’t believe it’s the same chick.”

Taylor was taken Wednesday to Jefferson County, Texas. She’s been considered a fugitive since 2001. On May 6, Dallas police officers went to Nowitzki’s house to arrest Taylor after confirming the existence of warrants for her arrest in Texas and Missouri.

Taylor used numerous aliases and Banks told The News he believes Taylor went by the name of Theresa when they met in 1997, his second season with the Rams.

“I just remember the team security guy got involved,” Banks said. “She ended up having a bunch of aliases, she was living with some police officer or something.

“She called me and wanted to see me; I said, no. She sent me her picture in the mail and she was just gorgeous. Me being a kid, thinking I was the best thing since sliced bread, I gave her a call and ended up dating her.”

Banks said he regretted the decision.

“I remember she camped out in front of my crib one time when I had another female friend in town,” Banks said. He said she started making harassing phone calls to him, his agent and Rams coach Dick Vermeil. “It wasn’t a good way for me and Dickie V. to start off,” Banks told The News. “Dick thought about drafting Jake Plummer that first year because of this stuff.”

BOBBY SIPPIO IS BACK ON THE FOOTBALL FIELD

WR Bobby Sippio’s many fans in Kansas City will be happy to know that he’s back in football. Sippio signed with the Chicago Slaughter of the Continental Indoor Football league.

“I’m very happy to be returning to Chicago,” Sippio said in a CIFL release. “Once again, I get to play in front of the great Chicago fans. I hope to help the Slaughter stay on top and win a Championship.”

The Slaughter is 9-0 and the lone undefeated team in the league. They will play Saturday evening against the Wisconsin Wolfpack at the Sears Centre.

Should more information on Sippio and the Slaughter be needed, visit www.ChicagoSlaughter.com.

SIGNINGS & MOVEMENT AROUND THE LEAGUE

DOLPHINS – signed DE Jason Taylor (Redskins).

RAIDERS – signed TE J.P. Foschi (he was with the Chiefs last year).

RAVENS – OT Willie Anderson retired; agreed to terms with WR Kelley Washington.


25 Responses to “Thursday Morning Cup O’Chiefs”

  • May 14, 2009  - Merwin says:

    Seems to me that you need more then a good return man, you also need ten other guys who are willing and able to get on the field and block the other guys long enough to spring the return man past the first wave. What I have seen over the last two years is a bunch of guys dancing around back there with not too many lanes to run into. I hope we get better blocking schemes for this year.


  • May 14, 2009  - Harold C. says:

    More guys would be returning the ball for touch downs if we had better blocking. Not everybody is Hall….dancing and zigging and zagging and going backwards and forwards. It really seems like the Chiefs have way too many problems to contend this year….but NO…I will not think like that….they will compete….they will be better from the new coaching philosophy and game plans. Right?


  • May 14, 2009  - Scott says:

    Merwin and Harold are right. We could have had Devin Hester or Josh Cribbs returning kicks for us…and it wouldn’t have made much difference. It’s called Special TEAMS. And we haven’t had that for awhile. Field position, both ways, has been absolutely killing us the last few years.


  • May 14, 2009  - tm1946 says:

    All this rehashing is fine, what we did or did not do in past years. Unfortunately that will not solve what to do in 09. Somebody has to stand back there and catch the football, who? How about our center Nus or DT Dorsey, neither will probably be a starter this year? Lastly, if and when the special teams down the ball, who is going to carry the load on offense? LJ, Bowe, or Cottam, I doubt it.


  • May 14, 2009  - Rip 'em a new one says:

    Not a good idea to use a starting position player for kickoff and punt return duties because of the increased injury possibility. Besides, as Bob points out, there isn’t any reliable talent in that pool anyway.

    I think you have to start with two major needs of the return guy: Speed and hands. Then there’s the elusive factor, setting up his blocks, busting to daylight and, and, no wonder it’s such a tough position to fill!

    But, start with a guy with 4.3 burner speed and sure hands. Those types don’t grow on trees either.


  • May 14, 2009  - Scott says:

    “Great” return guys are few and far between. What we need is a guy who can consistantly get us decent field position…so we don’t have to start every drive from the 20. Good blocking is the biggest part of that.

    Having a guy, like a Vanover or Hall, who is a threat to go all the way every time is nice…but those guys don’t come around very often. There are only (maybe) three or four players in the NFL at any given time that can do that.


  • May 14, 2009  - Bubba says:

    you said carolina and tennessee were the 2 other teams without returns for touchdowns, then you list a player from each team as some one the chiefs should have picked up this offseason. that doesnt make sense.


  • May 14, 2009  - Rick says:

    bubba….i totally agree. talk about contradicting your story. we are suppose to get a player from one of two teams who haven’t scored a td either. come on bob your a better reporter than that!!!


  • May 14, 2009  - SG says:

    “OT Willie Anderson retired.”

    A well-played career Mr. Anderson.

    “…you also need ten other guys who are willing and able to get on the field and block the other guys long enough to spring the return man past the first wave.”

    Not to mention the kick return coverage units weren’t exactly spectacular the past couple years.


  • May 14, 2009  - SG says:

    “Unfortunately that will not solve what to do in 09.”

    Although you have a point, there’s something we should not ignore…an indication of something bigger…the GM and head coach appear to have some attention to details sometimes ignored. Realistically, we may get mashed 34-10 some weeks. Being honest – it’s more likely than not that this team will not be playing for a conference title this year. However, in those games we lost by 6 points or less the past two years and the fans were all throwing things at the tv because of poor decision-making or letting that one big kick return or big play beat us, it appears to be the intent of management to not allow that trend to continue. Like you, I have serious questions about how they have (or have NOT) answered some key issues such as the O-Line and the WR’s, this is one of the very positive trends going forward.


  • May 14, 2009  - Scott C says:

    I really think the Kickoff return game went down the crapper when Herm had to make some roster moves and put Robinson in to return kicks and put Savage on the practice squad. Dantrell Savage looked pretty good without good blocking in front of him. Just imagine if he did have some blockers. I would have really liked to have seen him at that position the whole season. I’m wondering if he will be the guy this year?


  • May 14, 2009  - SG says:

    “….but NO…I will not think like that….they will compete….they will be better from the new coaching philosophy and game plans. Right?”

    Is that a real question you don’t have the answer to or more an offer for someone else to throw in a thought?

    Guys, I hope there’s more than just sling blind hope and blind faith out there as our only basis for thinking the team will be better. There are arguments to be made (one only has to comment from the models used in NE since 2000 and the one the past couple years in AZ to have a valid base for discussion) which are not being made.

    Let’s win the day in the school of public opinion while our team does the things it needs to do to improve.


  • May 14, 2009  - IPWT says:

    I don’t think it was the types of returners we had last year, it was more the types of blockers we had on special teams. We’ve picked up some good special teams LB’s like Monty Beisel and Corey Smith.


  • May 14, 2009  - anonymous says:

    I can live with no TD’s from ST’s, but God, I hope they improve on covering KO’s and punts!!

    Also, I agree, Savage was the best of the bunch.


  • May 14, 2009  - Scott says:

    anonymous says:
    “I can live with no TD’s from ST’s, but God, I hope they improve on covering KO’s and punts!!”

    Agreed. It’s tough to stop opposing offenses when they consistantly start at the 40, or closer.


  • May 14, 2009  - Hank says:

    I went back and watched 10 kickoff returns from 3 different games in 08′ and then went back to 95′ and 03′ Chiefs games and watched 10 returns. My observation is that the wedge (which is no longer) was set up WAY TOO DEEP allowing the defenders too close access to the returner and too slow of a lane development to run through. Why can’t ST coaches figure this out?


  • May 14, 2009  - Rin Tin Tin says:

    A great return man is like a poem about a man & a jet – well here, let me addend nee translate in a football sense:

    “Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth (and I’m OFF!) & danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings (MAN I’m F-A-S-T weeeeeeeeeeeee!!! :-)

    Sunward I’ve climbed (down the near sideline) and joined the tumbling mirth (shooting past the mass of wedged humanity) of sun-split clouds, and done a hundred (in 9.4) things you have not dreamed of-wheeled, and soared, and swung high in the sunlit silence (juking defender out his jo- er, shoes.)

    Hov’rng there (in mid-air as I vault the fallen), I’ve chased the shouting wind along and flung my eager craft (that’d be me) through footless halls (Dante) of air (breaking into the clear now!)

    Up, up, the long delirious burning blue (green in this case, 300 feet gridiron yardage) I’ve topped the windswept heights (out of the N/NE at 25 mph) with easy grace where never lark, or ever eagle flew (only the ghosts great return men past do.)

    And, while with silent lifting mind (a reflective mood, undecided: a Sharpie or White Shoes Johnson shuffle upon arrival paydirt), I’ve trod the high untrespassed sanctity of space (shall ne’er pass- no, ‘run’ this way again, this particular TD run gone fore’er) put out my hand (hi mom I’m on TV!, ball raised high above my head), and touched the face of God (I should’ve shave for my closeup.)

    We remember the great ones – the greatest KR’r in Chiefs history is, as every, a subjective matter. Stats alone tell only what happened, not what you saw or remember. One example is WR Otis Taylor… though his stats are not on par with many others in football history, anyone who saw him play will tell you he was as good as any who ever played.

    Back to our jet inspired poem from afore (“High Flight”, writer American aviator John Gillespie Magee Jr. who, sadly, died while in air combat.)

    The Chiefs had a ‘Jet’ of their own…he remains to date the best ever Chiefs history, my opine. Like Otis Taylor, you had to see him to believe him.

    Noland Smith, the ascribed ‘Supergnat’, aka ‘The Jet’ (a title the latter which Noland told me he actually prefered.) Noland was fast – VERY fast. What Dante Hall lacked in blinding speed he made up for with quickness- ‘Supergnat’ flipped those two attributes.

    Noland Smith was the referenced 9.4 100 yard dash return man. Noland to this day retains the record for longest KO return TD in pro football history (* he was credited with a 106 yarder in 1967 that tied Al Carmicahel’s same from 10 years earlier, and they were later tied by Roy Green, and more recently surpassed. Fact is a tape review Smith’s TD will affirm it was AT LEAST 107 yards, maybe 108 which would tie the current official record.)

    Much like the non-existant QB sack records afore 1982 that in essence make mute & moot any player who excelled afore then (like David Deacon Jones, who’s the actual all-time sack leader regardless of what the NFL touts.) Too, Derrick Thomas? Try Bobby Bell, who was just as quick on the blitz when he was allowed to, and faster than Thomas too. Again, sports records whether NFL or other (like MLB, where Maris & Aaron remain the most prolific hr hitters season/career, Ruth ‘best’ ever, Bonds* but an adenoid or a 3rd teat on a boar hog at best.)

    Noland ‘Supergnat’/Jet’ Smith and Dante ‘Human Joystick’ Hall were the two best, certainly the most exciting in Chiefs history. Several others were reliable & consistent, names like Marshall and Grayson among them.

    That the likelihood of finding another Smith or Hall is small, a lunchpail type willst suffice.
    Course, before a Smith or Hall arrived, no one could have imagined their like either.

    Dyno-MITES as twere, they were: legitimately 5’6 and change and about 154 lbs. in pads was Smith, while Hall was (w/ apologies to his bio) taller than Smith but not the 5’8 KC listed him. Almost 190 lbs.? (182-187 listed.) Right… with Noland Smith being carried under Dante’s arm, maybe.

    Hank Stram in his book “They’re Playing My Game” stated “you can’t order up world-class athletes like a sandwich” – this in reply to the concern regards the Chiefs talent level decline back in the early 1970s. As Smith was a 6th round draft choice and Hall a 5th, gems such as they prove that lightning can strike twice, and that good things come in small packages.

    :-)


  • May 14, 2009  - colby says:

    I’m pretty confident that we have a better special teams coach this year. Bob never mentioned Leggett, who got 5 KO returns last season, and if memory serves correctly, was being looked at as a PR as well in training camp last year. He’s a fast kid who might fit here as well. Savage is the fan favorite, Lawrence will probably get the most opportunities, and Colclough is the darkhorse.

    The Chiefs went the veteran route the last two years with Eddie Drummond in 2007 and BJ Sams in 2008. Neither player did much of anything. If our return man isn’t a TD threat, he at least needs to be able to contribute in some other way. Drummond and Sams couldn’t, they were just return men.


  • May 14, 2009  - SG says:

    Good post Rin – thanks for telling about Mr. Smith…


  • May 14, 2009  - BinSC says:

    Not sure how Bob comes to the conclusion that they have “failed” in improving the return game. Did I miss the first game of the season somehow? He references guys that have experience that were available, but if they were so good, why were they available?

    Did anyone think Dante Hall would be so good when we drafted him? I believe most people thought he was way too small to ever contribute. Just because we didn’t somehow trade for Devin Hester doesn’t mean we haven’t improved. For all we know, the next great returner is on our roster. Or maybe not. To say improvement in this area has been a “failure” is pretty ridiculous and normally a little beneath Bob’s writing.


  • May 14, 2009  - Blake says:

    I think Savage is the best returner we have, he had the best average out of the people above. I watched the Lawrence video on you tube and I dont think he likes to get hit, he ran out of bounds on every single kickoff that they showed so that he wouldnt get hit. He also ran out of bounds a lot when he was catching passes also, so I dont think that is a very good sign. I can see him running down the sideline and get crushed and him not getting up. Savage can take the hit and still hold onto the ball and get right back up too. I think Savage is our best option.


  • May 14, 2009  - Rin Tin Tin says:

    Yes, wasn’t it though…’Supergnat’ was too.

    ;-)

    * Footnote in history: Mr. Smith may have gone to Washington in the movies by way of Jimmy Stewart, but outside reel life nee in real life Supergnat DID leave KC and went to…San Francisco.

    After a great rookie season & a still good but not as second his, he was let go by the Chiefs near the halfway mark season three his 1969 so that despite the belief some, Noland was NOT a member the Superbowl team (tho he did recieve Superbowl Ring nontheless.)

    Noland was the victim of one too many clothesline tackles; he became (according some) a bit gunshy if you will – which as a returner is the kiss of death. While he was at his peak however, he was the best…


  • May 14, 2009  - anonymous says:

    Couple other guys that the Chiefs will look at in the return game are, Donald Washington and Bates, not Bill but Jackie. If Jackie wants to mimic the former Bates and become a ST’s coverage guru I think the Chiefs would be happy with that.


  • May 14, 2009  - Mark says:

    Haley/Pioli hasn’t failed to get a return guy. Herm failed, by bringing in vets that had severe injuries and weren’t the same guys in Drummond and Sams, and gave them the jobs. He also drafted a guy who was just too slow in K-Rob, who Pioli already showed what he thought of. Haley is going to attempt to do it right, looking at young, FAST players, and may the best man win. It’s silly to say he’s failed at this point, unless they can’t get over the utter failure of the prior Head Coach.


  • May 15, 2009  - Harold C. says:

    If Pioli and Haley can turn us into contenders in one year….they deserve high praise. If they can’t do it in one year and we are mediocre at best this year…they certainly do NOT deserve our condemnation. Yes we want to be contenders but we don’t want to be one year wonders either. Pioli and Haley are working to make us consistently good….not a flash in the pan.




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