Six Seasons Of Instability
Bowe was selected by Kansas City with the 23rd overall pick of the 2007 NFL Draft, and has experienced a considerable degree of change since that time. He has endured a proverbial revolving door at the Head Coaching position, consisting of Herman Edwards, Todd Haley, and Romeo Crennel. That in turn necessitated continual adjustment to an assortment of offensive coordinators, and the ever-changing strategies that they employed. Plus, he has collected passes from an unimpressive array of signal callers throughout his career. Beginning with the trio of Damon Huard, Tyler Thigpen, and Brodie Croyle in his first season, then progressing to Matt Cassel, Tyler Palko, Kyle Orton and Brady Quinn beyond that point.
Now that the dust has settled following that collection coaches, QBs, and schemes, the record reflects that Bowe has only been involved in one offense that found success statistically, and has yet to perform on a unit that effectively generated yardage through the air. But there is great promise for Bowe and the Chiefs this season, as Andy Reid will institute his version of the West Coast Offense. In doing so, he becomes the latest HC who will attempt to resurrect the fortunes of a franchise that has not been victorious in a playoff game since 1993, and has not been involved in a Super Bowl since 1969.
Bowe Has Produced Despite Struggling Offenses
Even with the deficiencies that often surrounded him, Bowe has produced three 1,000-yard seasons, garnered over 80 receptions twice, and has exceeded 1,150 yards twice. His most productive year occurred in 2010, when he led the NFL with 15 TDs, while amassing 1,162 yards. That was by far his best TD total, as he has caught just 24 in the other five seasons combined. However, last season was his worst since an injury shortened 2009, as he finished just 34th among all WRs with 801 yards, and a mere 49th with 59 receptions. Plus, he only scored three times. Still, he managed to lead the Chiefs in each category, and his 114 targets were 36 more than any of his teammates received. This is hardly a surprise, as Bowe has led the team in receiving yards at his position in all but one year of his tenure. And has also paced KC in receiving TDs during five of his six seasons.
Unfortunately, Bowe has been the best receiver on a unit that has perpetually struggled with its passing game. The Chiefs only finished 24th or worse in five of Bowe’s six seasons with the team, ranking 31st, 24th, 25th, 12th, 27th and 24th respectively during those years. The lone exception occurred in 2010, and was accomplished predominantly through generation of the NFL’s most productive running game, which averaged 164 YPG. Even with the favorable ranking in total offense during that particular season, the passing attack only ranked 30th, averaging 186 YPG. While that was the second most anemic passing offense that Bowe has been part of statistically, the Chiefs have ranked between 20th and 32nd in that category during that time. Including last year’s unit which was dead last, while manufacturing a meager 170 YPG through the air.
The West Coast Offense Moves To Kansas City
But Reid should construct a vastly improved attack this season, which will be tailored to fit the abilities of newly acquired signal caller Alex Smith. The system will be implemented by new OC Doug Pederson. He is a former QB, who has steadily elevated within Reid's offensive staffs since that time. Bowe’s athleticism will serve him well in this version of the west coast offense, although it will be even more essential that he run precise routes and capture separation. If he is successful in those endeavors, then he will succeed in Reid's system. However, the offense will strive to involve numerous weapons in the passing attack. The image of Smith connecting on short throws to Jamaal Charles is unquestionably strong, as it is likely that he will collect more receptions than Bowe, and ultimately led the team in that category.
The Importance Of Alex Smith
A healthy degree of the success and failures for Bowe and the entire offense will be predicated upon how Smith performs this season. He will be 29 when the regular season commences, and he supplies the Chiefs with a better opportunity to win then they would have experienced by allowing four-year starter Matt Cassel or former backup Brady Quinn to continue taking snaps. Smith became very efficient during the final two years of his eight-year tenure in San Francisco, after Jim Harbaugh joined the organization. That said, Smith can hardly be considered an elite signal caller, and there are undeniable limitations with his game. He only generated 15+ touchdowns passes in two different years, and his career best is only 18. Plus, his TD/INT quotient was only favorable after Harbaugh became his head coach in 2011. Prior to that that time, Smith had tossed 51 scoring throws, and 53 INTs. That should be alarming to anyone who perceives Smith based primarily upon what he accomplished in the past two seasons. However, Kansas City’s decision makers believe that Smith will be a viable starter this season, and he does represent an improvement for the franchise at this critical position.
Where You Should Draft Him
Bowe signed a five year, $56 million contract in March, which currently makes him the fourth highest paid WR. He appears motivated by the promise of Reid's offense. Plus, his track record of providing his best effort running routes, and as a blocker, should alleviate any concerns about his motivation. Bowe’s size and strength should also help him build a favorable reception total in Reid's system. He will be provided with some opportunities to display his big play ability, including his proficiency at garnering difficult catches in traffic. And the offensive strategy will certainly enable him to be more effective than the ill-fated approach that was instituted last season. Plus, Bowe is easily Kansas City's primary WR once again, as Donnie Avery, Jonathan Baldwin comprise the next slots in KC's depth chart.
Yet, even though his numbers should easily exceed his output of 2012, there is a limit to the degree in which we should we elevate our expectations. Despite Bowe's proclamation that he will lead the league in receptions and TDs, reality is that neither the system nor his QB will enable him to fulfill those aspirations. While Bowe is clearly KC's WR1, the offense will often utilize several other receiving options, particularly Charles, Dexter McCluster, Tony Moeaki, and Anthony Fasano. Also, Smith will not be asked to launch an overabundance of deep throws to Bowe. Remember that Michael Crabtree’s production soared when Colin Kaepernick supplanted Smith last season, and significantly upgraded the 49ers with accurate, vertical passing that Smith simply could not provide. Bowe’s numbers will be impacted in a similar fashion by Smith’s limitations, even though he could still deliver his best numbers since the aforementioned 2010 season. Regardless, the results will not place him in the top 15 among all WRs. He should ultimately garner 70 catches, generate 900 yards, and produce six TDs.