The new ‘Romeo Rule’: Chiefs will bench any player who turns the ball over
By Doug Farrar | Shutdown Corner
The effectiveness of their methodology is yet to be determined, but the Kansas City Chiefs are certainly moving around a lot in an attempt to change their fortunes after a 1-7 start and a minus-109 point differential, second-worst in the league behind the Jacksonville Jaguars. Head coach Romeo Crennel recently replaced himself as defensive coordinator with Gary Gibbs, the team cut starting cornerback Stanford Routt despite signing him to a multi-year deal this preseason, and there are rumors afoot that team owner Clark Hunt recently met with former Chiefs head coach Marty Schottenheimer for some unknown reason.
On Friday, Crennel put everyone still in the building on notice -- from now on, any offensive turnover will result in an automatic benching. It sounds like a drastic move, and we're not aware of a precedent here, but if there's any team where such a move is justified, it's this one.
The primary reason the Chiefs have been so bad this year is that they simply can't hold on to the ball. They have a minus-20 turnover ratio -- the second-worst team is the Dallas Cowboys, and they're at minus-11. There hasn't been a team with a worse turnover ratio in a full season since the 2006 Oakland Raiders, who bottomed out at minus-23.
So, Crennel said that when the Chiefs face off against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday Night Football, he's pulling anyone who fumbles or throws a pick.
"I have to impart on them the importance of protecting the ball for this team," the coach said, "and sometimes to get that done, you basically have to threaten them. If you fumble it, I'm going to take you out of the game. And they will get the message."
"They" certainly include quarterback Matt Cassel, who has thrown 11 picks and fumbled the ball an unbelievable eight times this season.
"Yes, you can make a change [at quarterback]," Crennel said, "but the thing is, you always have to know exactly what happened on the play and why it happened. If a receiver tips the ball up in the air, is that on the receiver or is that on the quarterback? I have to make that determination, so I'll make the call."
The players responsible for those turnovers can apparently return to the same game, but there's no star system here -- even running back Jamaal Charles, by far the team's best offensive player, would get yanked.
"Look, Jamaal Charles has fumbled the ball," Crennel said. "So if he fumbles, and he stands over there with me for a little bit, then I put him back in, because he's the guy who runs for a touchdown."
This all sounds a bit ridiculous at the NFL level -- you'd expect it of a coach trying to turn a Division III or high school team around, and you'd expect professional football players to know better. Then again, the Chiefs are a disaster from a fundamentals perspective, and what does Crennel have to lose? He's one of the nicest guys in the game, and people would rip him even more if he acted as if this current course was acceptable.
"He has every right to feel that way as much as we've turned the ball over this year," running back Peyton HIllis said. "It's been ridiculous. He's always been a rational man, he's been good to us, so he's not doing this for no other purpose but to make us better."
The Chiefs' offense has been risk-averse out of necessity, but there's the concern that such a threat could make Cassell even more balky -- if that's even possible at this point.
"When you're out there playing, you try to make the right decision," Cassel said, "but you can't go out there and play tentative or scared because then you're not going to be doing your job either. You compete, and in this game, there are going to be mistakes that are made.
"Unfortunately, we've had quite a few more than we wanted this year, but it doesn't change your approach or how you go about it. You are conscious of it, especially during practice. You work hard at it, you try to be diligent about your reads, but when you get out there and play, you go out there and play and let the preparation take care of itself."
Or, you get benched. That's already happened to Cassel this season.