Lutz Blog

Bob Lutz: The Chiefs’ forever struggle to find wide receivers

Otis Taylor is the only receiver in Kansas City Chiefs history to lead the NFL in receiving. He accomplished that feat in 1971 with 1,110 yards.
Otis Taylor is the only receiver in Kansas City Chiefs history to lead the NFL in receiving. He accomplished that feat in 1971 with 1,110 yards.

The Kansas City Chiefs’ best wide receiver in history is Otis Taylor, whose career came to an end 40 years ago.

Let thank sink in for a moment.

Passing games in football have exploded over the past couple of decades. Twenty-four of the top 26 passers in NFL history have played since Taylor retired.

The Chiefs’ all-time leading receiver is tight end Tony Gonzalez.

A Kansas City receiver has never topped 1,400 yards in a season, a feat accomplished 75 times by other receivers in NFL history.

This season, though the Chiefs are 7-5, a wide receiver is yet to catch a touchdown pass and the most dangerous KC receiver is again a tight end, Travis Kelce.

The longest pass completion of the 2014 season for quarterback Alex Smith is 34 yards. He prefers dumping the ball off to Jamaal Charles or finding Kelce on a short route. The Chiefs’ receiver corps is helpless when it comes to stretching the field. They might try, but the field always stretches back into a narrow zone for the KC offense to operate.

I would guess this is maddening to Chiefs fans, who long for the excitement of a big pass play.

Dwayne Bowe, who has had three 1,000-yard receiving season, looks way past his prime. The Chiefs have become so desperate that they recently brought in 31-year-old wide receiver Jason Avant.

Smith ranks 21st in passing yards in 2014, but only 29th in yards per attempt and 32nd in yards per game (197).

Kelce, whose 578 receiver yards leads the Chiefs, is ranked in a tie for 50th in the NFL. Bowe is 54th with 569 yards.

I’m not telling Chiefs fans anything they don’t know, but this is atrocious.

Kansas City has defeated New England and Seattle this season, but lost to Oakland and Tennessee. The Chiefs’ maddening inconsistency has to be at least partly based in their inability to pass the football for significant yardage.

Charles, fortunately, is still playing at a peak level. In fact, given the Chiefs’ lack of resources, it’s shocking to me that KC coach Andy Reid doesn’t utilize Charles more often, especially in the passing game.

Reid’s most successful season with the Philadelphia Eagles came in 2004, when Philly finally reached the Super Bowl after three consecutive losses in the NFC Championship Game.

That ‘04 Eagles team featured quarterback Donovan McNabb, wide receiver Terrell Owens and running back Russell Westbrook, plus an outstanding defense.

Owens caught 77 passes for 1,200 yards and 14 touchdowns for the Eagles that season. While I believe Smith and Charles compare favorably to McNabb and Westbrook, what the Chiefs are missing is a wide-out comparable to Owens.

And this has been going on for years and years.

Taylor is the only Chief to lead the NFL in receiving yards. That happened in 1971, when Taylor had 1,110 yards. You’d think in all the years since, Kansas City would have stumbled on to a game-breaking wide receiver.

Yet, the Chiefs have had to make due with the likes of Derrick Alexander, Carlos Carson, Eddie Kennison, Andre Rison and Stephone Paige. Alexander holds the Chiefs’ record for receiving yards with 1,391 in 2000 while Carson (3), Kennison (2), Rison (1) and Paige (1) combined for seven 1,000-yard seasons.

Who who among that group, though, has struck fear into opposing secondaries?

Bowe has the Chiefs’ record for touchdown catches in a season – 15 in 2010.

Only only eight other Kansas City receivers have had 10 or more TD catches in a season. It’s been done league-wide 359 times.

Why can’t the Chiefs’ develop effective wide receivers? It’s a question we’ve been asking for years, one that remains without an answer.

Offensive firepower has never been more necessary. It’s not impossible to get by without it, provided you have a defense that locks down opponents. The Chiefs’ defense ranks ninth in the NFL this season. It’s far better than average.

But partially because Kansas City can’t throw the ball downfield, the Chiefs are 7-5 and barely holding on to the final wild-card spot in the AFC.

All-time individual 1,000-yard receiving seasons

(Franchise history)

Chargers 35

Broncos 34

Packers 32

Rams 31

Cowboys 30

Cardinals 28

Vikings 28

Redskins 27

49ers 26

Lions 25

Steelers 24

Raiders 24

Falcons 24

Titans 24

Colts 23

Bengals 23

Jets 23

Eagles 22

Giants 21

Saints 20

Seahawks 20

Patriots 19

Bills 19

Dolphins 18

Chiefs 17

Bears 14

Bucs 14

Panthers 13

Jaguars 13

Browns 11

Ravens 10

Texans 7