The current Kansas City Chiefs roster is one of the best in the NFL. Specifically on offense, they boast one of the top young quarterbacks in Patrick Mahomes. The one-two-punch of Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill are not too shabby either. But what if we added one of the top running backs in franchise history to this current mix?
And this is no slight to 2020 rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire. The career resume is just simply not as fruitful, obviously. With today’s edition of This Or That, we do not have to go back too far in history. Plainly, the question will be, would you rather have Jamaal Charles or Priest Holmes? If you had to choose one, which player would you choose to add to the Chiefs offense right now?
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Style And Traits
Both rushers made defenders look silly in space. They also presented similar rushing styles in a wide zone rushing attack. Moreover, each of Charles and Holmes did not waste time dancing in the open field. Sure, they each weaved east or west if need be. They never appeared to get lost in traffic, though.
So where are Charles or Holmes different in this regard? We go back to how the runners made defenders miss. Holmes presented more of a powerful and punishing style. If he could, Priest would rather run through you, than around you.
On the other hand, Charles presented more elusiveness. His Gumby-like jump cuts and sidesteps made it appear as if he was moving the opposite direction, as to what you would expect. And while Holmes was not slow, his long speed did not match the elite track star speed of Charles.
As pass catchers, both running backs made an impact as well. Charles and Holmes made it look so natural with soft, sure-handed hands. Where was the difference between the two in this area? Charles could be used in a wider variety of ways. Kansas City would line up in the slot or out wide occasionally. The Chiefs also showed there was more than one way to use him in the screen game. With Holmes, his route tree was a bit more relaxed. He did more damage as a pass catcher after the catch, rather than besting opponents before the ball got there.
The former undrafted free agent first began his professional career with the Baltimore Ravens. He led the team in rushing in 1998 with just over 1,000 yards. Mostly, he saw exciting results as the Ravens starter. Jamal Lewis quickly ended that run however, once he joined the team. Holmes was relegated to RB2 on the Baltimore depth chart in 2000. That demotion was made brighter later on though, as the Ravens would win Super Bowl XXXV over the New York Giants 34-7.
From the jump, Holmes exceeded expectations with the Kansas City Chiefs. He became the first undrafted player to lead the NFL in rushing (1,555 yards) during the 2001 season, his first with the team. Holmes’ 2002 season saw him put up video-game-esque numbers. With 14 less carries than he had in 2001, Holmes registered 60 more rushing yards (1,615). Furthermore, his 21 rushing touchdowns led the league that year. Holmes’ 2002 mark of 5.2 yards per carry was his best single season number of that category with the Chiefs. To cap it off, he was named NFL Offensive Player of the Year in 2002.
What was in store for an encore season? The 2003 campaign saw Holmes rush for 27 touchdowns. This not only led the league for that year, but it also broke Marshall Faulk‘s record for total touchdowns in a season. His record number was later broke by Shaun Alexander (2005) and LaDainian Tomlinson (2006). Holmes is one of just two running backs in NFL history to have back to back seasons with 20 or more rushing touchdowns. Emmitt Smith is the other.
He appeared to be on pace for a third straight season of 20+ rushing touchdowns in 2004. In just eight games, Holmes notched 14 rushing touchdowns. Unfortunately, injuries began to derail his career. Holmes played a combined 19 games from 2004 to 2007. In fact, he missed the entire 2006 season following a spinal injury suffered in the middle of the 2005 campaign. Hip injuries had also taken their toll. The spinal injury, combined with a later neck ailment prompted Homes to retire in the middle of the 2007 season.
Before the injuries, Holmes still left a lasting legacy on the Kansas City franchise. He was the Chiefs’ all-time leader in career rushing touchdowns (76), total touchdowns (83) and career rushing yards (6,070) at the time of his retirement. The team inducted him into the Kansas City Chiefs Hall of Fame in 2014. Other career accolades include three time Pro Bowler (2001-2003), three time All-Pro (2001-2003) two time rushing touchdowns leader (2002, 2003) and rushing yards leader once (2001). He was also an NFL record holder for scrimmage yards per game in a single season. This came during Holmes’ Offensive Player of the Year 2002 season. With 2,287 yards in 14 games, he averaged 163.4 scrimmage yards per game.
The former 2008 third round pick saw a breakout in his sophomore 2009 campaign. With Larry Johnson suspended and eventually released, Charles amassed 1,120 rushing yards in just 190 carries. With this, he became the only player in NFL history to rush for 1,100 or more yards in 200 or fewer carries. More impressively, he did this with just 10 starts that season. From then on, Charles was entrenched as the Chiefs starting running back.
His 2010 season was even more dominant. Charles rushed for 1,467 yards on 230 carries. He was not the only Chiefs running back to have a thrilling season. Thomas Jones was also about 100 yards away from 1,000 rushing yards on the year. The duo helped Kansas City win the AFC West at 10-6. Charles was rewarded with a brand new five year contract before the end of the regular season. It was a $32.5 million deal that included $13 million guaranteed. Charles’ exhilarating 2010 season saw him almost break an insurmountable record. His 6.38 yards per carry average for the season was the second highest in NFL history. It was only two one-hundredths of a yard off of the record set by Cleveland Browns legend Jim Brown.
Sadly, Charles did not get to make much of an impact in 2011. He torn his ACL in the Week Two game against the Detroit Lions. But, he was right back to Pro Bowl caliber rushing in 2012. Charles’ 1,509 rushing yards that year, was his highest for a single season. Additionally, he churned out 100+ rushing yards seven times that season. Twice, Charles went over the 200 yard rushing barrier in a single game. His highest single game rushing mark (233 yards) in 2012, came against the New Orleans Saints. This was significant, because Charles helped lead the team from down 24-6 to a comeback win in overtime, 27-24. His 91 yard rushing touchdown began the eventual downfall of the Saints in that game. It was also one of just two wins for the Chiefs, in what was a depressing 2012 year.
Charles again ran for over 1,000 yards in both 2013 and 2014. There were a few notable games that still stand out greatly for him from those two seasons. In 2013, Charles became the first player in franchise history to score five touchdowns in a game since Abner Haynes in 1961. This occurred in Oakland against the division rival Raiders. Charles presence was felt more as a receiver that day (eight receptions, 195 receiving yards and four receiving touchdowns). He added 20 rushing yards on eight carries, with one rushing touchdown. In the Chiefs’ 2014 Monday Night Football trouncing of the New England Patriots, Charles totaled 108 yards from scrimmage on 21 touches, with three touchdowns (one rushing, two receiving). And finally in that same 2014 season, his performance against the Seattle Seahawks was thrilling. It was his lone game on the year with over 100 rushing yards (159). Charles rushed for two touchdowns that day on 20 carries. It was a whopping 7.95 yards per attempt for him on the day.
Like Holmes, injuries unfortunately started to take their toll on the end of Charles run with Kansas City. His 2015 season ended in Week Five against the Chicago Bears. Charles suffered another torn ACL. Alas, he never fully recovered during the 2016 season. Charles did not take the field until Week Five, and was only able to play in three games. It was determined that he would need a second surgery to trim his meniscus. Early in the 2017 offseason, the team released Charles.
After two years of playing time with the Denver Broncos and Jacksonville Jaguars, Charles retired officially as a Kansas City Chief on May 1, 2019. He signed a one day contract, and took one “last handoff” from Patrick Mahomes during offseason workouts. Overall, Charles was a four time Pro Bowler (2010, 2012-2014), three time All-Pro (2010, 2012-2013) and one time NFL rushing touchdowns leader (2013). He still holds NFL records currently as well, with career yards per carry for a running back (5.4) and rushing yards in one quarter (165).
What makes both Charles and Holmes even more impressive? Looking back on the Chiefs teams that they played on, it was mesmerizing to watch them singlehandedly takeover a game. Of course with Holmes, he was surrounded by Trent Green and Tony Gonzalez during those few years. His offensive line was easily the best blocking in team history, too. Left to right, Kansas City was led upfront by Willie Roaf, Brian Waters, Casey Wiegmann, Will Shields and John Tait. Nonetheless, the Chiefs only appeared in one playoff game with Holmes on the team. And they lost their lone playoff game with him, falling in a shootout to Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts, 38-31.
The same hardships were there throughout Charles’ brilliant run with Kansas City. Before Alex Smith and Andy Reid came to town, he played with quarterbacks like Matt Cassel, Brodie Croyle, Damon Huard, Tyler Thigpen, Kyle Orton, Brady Quinn and Tyler Palko. It never felt like the Chiefs were going to find that saving grace at quarterback. Add in Charles home run ability, to take any single carry to the house, and Jamaal scored most of the team’s points on his own. The passing offense was simply not there. Receiving touchdowns happening were something of utter shock throughout periods of Charles’ glory years.
So if you had to choose between Charles or Holmes, who would you pick? You can go to the poll to cast your vote here: Jamaal Charles or Priest Holmes?
As for my personal pick, I would probably have to lean Charles. It is extremely hard to choose one over the other. Yet, I believe Charles provides a better skillset for the Chiefs current offense. The elite speed gives him a slight edge over Holmes, in my opinion. Elsewhere, Coach Reid could throw in more wrinkles in numerous ways with Charles on the passing game. Compared to Holmes, who would likely be relegated more to a short passing game.
Be on the lookout for more FPC Chiefs This Or That hypothetical articles throughout this 2021 offseason. We will post them on Tuesday and Thursday. For more great sports and NFL content, stay tuned to Full Press Coverage.
– Braden Holecek is the Kansas City Chiefs managing editor for Full Press Coverage. He covers the NFL. Like and follow on Follow @ebearcat9//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js Follow @FPC_Chiefs//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js and Facebook.