Kansas City Chiefs RB Dilemma: Thomas Jones or Dexter McCluster?

David GeltContributor IISeptember 21, 2011

KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 26: Dexter McCluster #22 of the Kansas City Chiefs runs downfield with a 31-yard touchdown reception against the San Francisco 49ers at Arrowhead Stadium on September 26, 2010 in Kansas City, Missouri. The Chiefs won 31-10. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Oh, how quick the tide can change.

One minute, the Kansas City Chiefs are a struggling, yet somewhat talented team with a lone bright spot in Pro Bowl running back Jamaal Charles. This was the guy who sold the tickets to get fans in the seats.

The next, halfway through the first quarter of a 48-3 stomping by the Detroit Lions, all of that changed.

Third-and-four. Shotgun snap. Hand off right to Charles. Charles lunges out for that fourth yard and boom. Down goes Charles with a torn ACL. Down go the Chiefs' playoff hopes.

Injuries are a part of the game nobody likes to see.

The Chiefs still have to play out this season, and head coach Todd Haley has made it clear that they are not going to just sit back and watch football happen in front of them every Sunday. He would allow no excuses for the result of their game Sunday and has instilled this attitude in his team.

As wide receiver Jerheme Urban stated, "Coach talks about it all the time, and if you go in any other NFL locker room, they're going to talk about it was well: Somebody goes down, somebody else has to step up."

This injury does set up something interesting for coach Haley, however. Kansas City has two men on the roster who both have legitimate shots to fill in the hole. And, like seemingly every story, he has the proven vet and the eager young-gun.

The first option would be the 11-year veteran Thomas Jones. Jones has built a reputation as "ol' reliable" after five consecutive seasons of over 1000 yards and 896 last season as Charles' primary backup.

On the other hand—Dexter McCluster, in his second season out of Ole Miss, provides a sense of explosion and energy that Jones does not; however, McCluster has spent most of his time since being drafted working as a wide receiver.

The decision will be, by far, the toughest Todd Haley has had to make in his three years as the Chiefs top dog. No matter which back he chooses, he will take heat.

With Jones, he will hear about how the team needs to think about the future and that McCluster needs to learn the playbook so he can be used as a compliment to Charles in the future.

By picking McCluster as his new ball carrier, he opens himself up to criticism for giving up on this season after only two games. The reason McCluster needs to become a top-tier receiverso when Charles returns, the Chiefs will be loaded with offensive weapons.

In my mind, however, McCluster needs to get the bulk of the carries. He has premiere athleticism and play-making abilities. Keep in mind, there is no guarantee that when Jamaal Charles returns to the field he will be the same player. A running back coming off major knee surgery is a serious question mark for any team. Teach McCluster the running back position in that offense. Give yourself a security blanket for the future. At least give yourself a chance for some explosion and excitement.

This still doesn't mean Thomas Jones should never touch the ball. Both backs need to see the field. But when it really comes down too it, even before the injury, the Chiefs were no Super Bowl contender. Thomas Jones' best days are absolutely behind him. He is still solid, but he will never again be a feature back.

It's time for this season to be about the future. It's time to give the Chiefs diehard fans something to cheer about.