By Herbie Teope
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Inept NFL offenses aren’t often worthy of praise, especially a unit coming off a season ranked last or near the bottom of the league in statistical categories.
But new Chiefs offensive coordinator Doug Pederson sees a beautiful swan in his inherited ugly duckling.
“I think it’s a talented group,” Pederson told reporters during a conference call on Friday. “It can be an explosive group. There are some great weapons there on offense, very similar to the circumstances that we had in Philadelphia this past year.”
The Eagles' offense last season wasn’t special, but that unit was in a better place when compared to the Chiefs.
Kansas City’s passing game averaged 169.6 yards per game, ranking last in the league. QBs Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn combined for eight passing touchdowns, also last in the league, and threw the second-most interceptions in the league (20). As for scoring, the Chiefs were at the bottom yet again with 13.2 points per game.
Anchored by RB Jamaal Charles, only the Chiefs’ ground game, which ranked fifth in the league (149.7 yards per game), proved to be a bright spot in an otherwise black hole known as the Chiefs' offense.
Still, Pederson remained confident over the roster’s potential as he embarks on his first-ever offensive coordinator position.
“We’re just looking forward to getting in there as a staff, studying the guys that we have, putting our guys in the best position to be successful on the football field and going from there,” Pederson said. “I like the guys that we have, the guys I’ve seen on film, and I think it can be a good group.”
Pederson, 44, joins the Chiefs after four years in Philadelphia, where he served as the Eagles QB coach (2011-2012) and offensive quality control coach (2009-2010) under Andy Reid, now the Chiefs' head coach.
A 12-year NFL quarterback, Pederson also played for Reid in 1999.
“Doug has been around the game a long time, and he has great vision,” Reid said in a team news release announcing Pederson’s hire. “As a former player in this league, he sees the game from a different perspective, and that will be a great benefit for our players. He has a knack for developing talent, and he’s a good communicator. Doug is ready for this position.”
Meanwhile, a former Eagles player also believes the Chiefs didn’t leave a roster devoid of talent for the new coaching regime.
Koy Detmer, a QB under Reid from 1999-2006 and former teammate of Pederson, said the Chiefs job is a “good fit” for Reid because of what’s in place on offense.
“I certainly think there’s some ability there,” Detmer said. “Obviously, they have to make some moves because whatever’s been happening hasn’t been working. But I think they have a good nucleus and they got a leader in coach Reid.”
One of the moves the Chiefs are virtually certain to make is at the QB position despite Pederson’s optimism over his offense.
During Friday’s media conference call, Pederson mentioned he was aware of Cassel’s 11-win 2008 season in New England and 2010, when Cassel led the Chiefs to a 10-6 record and the AFC West title.
However, Pederson said the QB position would be under evaluation.
“It’s something we want to evaluate, and study it hard this season,” Pederson said. “I want to look at that and see if the right guy is there on the roster, and if we have to find somebody to come in, we find somebody to come in. But we will give our guys every opportunity to compete for that spot.”
In four seasons with the Chiefs, Cassel completed 854-of-1,489 passes for 9,549 yards with 59 touchdowns against 44 interceptions.
While Cassel missed seven games in 2011 and one each in 2009, 2010 and 2012 before his benching, the Chiefs are 23-41 since he arrived as the franchise QB.
Pederson said the QB position has evolved in the last decade since his playing days, but one preferred result remains.
“The bottom line is, when you’re playing the position of quarterback, bottom line is winning the football game,” Pederson said. “However that is done, that’s what you look at and I think that’s the most important thing when it comes to a quarterback is just winning the football game. It has evolved and that’s something that I mentioned earlier we’ll look at this offseason hard and make the right decision for the Chiefs.”
Herbie Teope is the Chiefs correspondent for Pro Football Weekly.