Kansas City, Mo. Question his use of running backs, and Todd Haley fires back with a question of his own.
“What’s our record?”
It’s 2-0, as Kansas City’s combative head coach knows well, a stunning turnaround from last year’s 0-2 start. Against San Francisco at noon today, the Chiefs will seek to validate their march toward respectability by going 3-0 for the first time since 2003.
So Haley and his staff must be doing something right.
But how, ask many fans and critics, can they let the accomplished but aging Thomas Jones share carries with young Jamaal Charles, who possesses rare game-breaking speed?
Charles, who broke a 56-yard run against San Diego for the team’s only touchdown rushing, is averaging 6.4 yards per carry. He’s one of the fastest backs in the NFL.
Jones, 32, is averaging 3.7. But in two games, Jones has 33 carries and Charles 22.
It’s not as though Charles is unproven, his fans plead. After troublesome Larry Johnson finally was benched and then released last year, the former Texas Longhorn had a breakout season with 1,120 yards rushing. His 968 yards over the final eight games exceeded everybody in the NFL but Tennessee’s Chris Johnson, the offensive player of the year.
Nevertheless, the Chiefs signed Jones as a free agent in the offseason. And the 49ers would be smart to plan on seeing both the older, rugged guy and the younger, faster guy carry the ball roughly the same number of times.
If it’s a dilemma for anybody, it’s a dilemma for the opponent, Haley insists.
“It is in no way a problem for us. So far, through two games in the first quarter of the season, I would grade us as being successful. We’ve got to utilize the weapons we have, and those guys are both weapons,” Haley said.
There’s no way to argue the running game is in good shape. With Matt Cassel sputtering at quarterback, it’s the only part of the offense that has shown consistency.
The 49ers (0-2) have allowed an average of less than 64 yards rushing their first two games. They’ll face a K.C. rushing attack that ranks third in the AFC with 137.5 yards per game.
“One of our deeper positions is running back,” Haley said. “That means we’ve got a couple of real good players, in my opinion, maybe three and maybe four. Some way we need to figure a way for them to contribute.”