Kansas City Chiefs Dexter McCluster: A Man of Many Trades, A Master of None

Back when I first started out on my school’s speech and debate team, my coach told me to pick two events (out of many I could have chosen) in which to specialize.  He wasn’t doing that to be mean or to hold us back from trying new things, he just wanted us to focus our attention on only a couple of things so we could hone our craft.  When we would ask to try new things, he would tell us that it was better to go through trial and error with one or two events than to keep switching around and end up being a jack-of-all-trades.  That situation was very similar to what wide receiver Dexter McCluster is experiencing right now with the Kansas City Chiefs.  Versatility is great.  It’s a great thing to have come gameday.  It allows the team to morph and adapt to unique situations.  But there’s a reason players have assigned positions on the field.  For example, it’s not to say a corner can’t ever play safety, or whatever the case may be, but by and large, the rule of thumb is to stick with one spot and work on getting better at that position.

At first, it looked like McCluster would be one of Kansas City’s best weapons.  Get a guy who doesn’t play a static position, call him an offensive weapon, and stick him wherever you need him.  Let him help out the team by being a journeyman on the field.  In the first game in the 2010 season against the San Diego Chargers, McCluster had a spectacular return for a touchdown.  Since then, though, absolutely nothing has resulted from McCluster’s two years in Kansas City.  Sure, he’ll get a good gainer here and there, but you know what?  A lot of players can say that.  I shouldn’t be able to count McCluster’s highlights on one hand.

So what exactly is McCluster?  Is he a running back?  He’s a little small to play that part.  Is he a receiver?  Yeah, if you can get him into open space.  But that’s the problem, open space is never a gimme.  When he gets hit, he almost always falls backwards, hurting the field position.  Is he a return guy?  Well, yes, but not a very good one.  Another thing, too, am I the only one who sits on the edge of his seat every time McCluster fields a kick?  Every time, I just hope upon hope he doesn’t either, fumble the football, or run into a guy and seriously injure himself.

What about his stats?  Let’s look at 2011, alone.  Rushing wise, McCluster had 516 yards on 114 attempts, with a long of 32 yards.  Receiving wise, he had only 328 yards on 46 receptions with a long of 49 yards.  Let’s combine those numbers.  Out of all of those attempts in 2011, McCluster managed 844 yards of offense through 16 games.  Here’s a real telling statistic: in the return game, McCluster’s longest return was just 22 yards.  None of this is impressive, barring the fact he’s still alive after all of those rushing attempts last year.

In 2011, the Chiefs tried to use McCluster as a running back, but he just isn’t that.  He’s not a good returner and he’s only an effective receiver when he can get into open space.  So then, why keep him on the team?  For the same reason you don’t want to trade wide receiver Dwayne Bowe.  He’s still worth something to your team and if you trade him to someone else, he’s a potential weapon other teams can possibly then use against you.  If the Chiefs can find a way to keep him on the team, I say they should just for the fact that he’s so quick when he gets going.  But if he keeps playing a little of everything, he’ll never be able to truly maximize his potential.

Just like when I had to find my focused role with the debate team, the Chiefs need to find McCluster a singular duty (hopefully in the return game if they can get the special teams mess untangled) so he can hone his craft and be of better service to the team.  A little bit of production here and there doesn’t do anybody any good.  I’m David Abeyta and that’s my opinion.

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  • Hackattack

    This isn’t too logical, IMO. Charles was a bench player until his 3rd season and even then Pioli had him split time with Thomas Jones. Smaller, speed backs take longer to develop in the NFL. Same with return men. The main reasoning behind this is the speed of the game or speed of reaction. A running back has to estimate their cut much faster than a quarterback has to read a progression.

    The faster the back, the even faster they must make the initial cut. McCluster has an absolutely insane initial step. Might be the fastest in the league outside of Harvin. That’s why he was drafted this high.

    Decision making by McCluster needs to be faster. And plays where he came up short on were mostly slow decisions rather than bad ones. If you weren’t keeping score, the confidence on offense last season was piss poor and outside of Asamoah, no one really improved.

    With the loss of Moeaki (who is able to get to the mid or wing LB faster than Pope) the only quick gaps that I saw were coming from Albert. So linebackers and safeties put stress on that during assumed running plays w/ McCluster.

    I see Daboll finding ways to gain back McClusters confidence going into this next season. Daboll runs some of the most awe inspiring Wheels and curls with backfielders that I’ve ever seen.

    Putting it shortly, McCluster’s lack of “mastering the game” mostly involves the fact that he’s still learning most of it. Athletically he has home run ability. And whether it’s at WR or HB, Middle linebackers will point him out in sub packages.

    The quest for players that are masterful is a bit illogical too. Almost all of the NY Giants players lack “mastery” – including Eli. Not sure if you’ve ever player (or played for a team that won) but once players have a feel for the offense – huddle confidence, and smart audibles are what get you into the endzone.

    Again, going against your original thesis. Football is a game of strategy. The best way you can become a master of anything is if you are versatile. Steve Young was a great QB because he was as committed to throwing short curls and Garrison Hearst handoffs as he was a deep bomb to Jerry Rice. Teams like the Pats and Giants won not because their WRs were great but because they weren’t easy to predict. As you gameplan you want 5 enigmas on your team to confuse the defense.

    • David Abeyta

      thank you for replying to my article with such detail. I really like that you supported what you said with explanation. It is comments like yours that not only give me a reason to write the stuff I do, but it makes it more fun. Thank you for reading.

      Also, to whoever it was that called me a “(expletive) nerd” for being on the debate team- First of all, that’s a ballsy thing to say to someone you’ve never met, and second, I don’t care if you disagree with me or not, I write this stuff because it’s fun. I’m giving you a break this time, but if you comment like that on my articles again not only will I have your comment spammed, I’ll have you blacklisted. Don’t think I can? Try me, then watch it happen. Thanks for reading.