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Kansas City Chiefs fans are not happy with the Frank Clark trade, and it’s hard to blame them

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Kansas City Chiefs v Detroit Lions - NFL Photo by Amy Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images

On April 23, Seattle Seahawks GM John Schneider let the Kansas City Chiefs take Frank Clark in exchange for their future. Preceding the transaction was a Franchise Tag, several negotiations and an unwillingness on Seattle’s part to pay top-five money for their budding star. What’s followed has been an intense battle of wits to determine which 2019 offseason trade was a bigger success for Schneider: Frank Clark or Jadeveon Clowney?

Actually, it’s not really a debate - for now. The Clowney trade is still viewed, and probably always will be unless he gets hurt, as an utter shellacking of the Houston Texans. But each week is making it look more and more like Schneider was wise not to give up top dollar for Frank Clark.

The Chiefs let Dee Ford and Justin Houston go this offseason, whose combined deals essentially add up to the equivalent of Frank Clark’s $104 million contract. Ford has twice Clark’s sacks and the same amount of QB hits on less than half the playing time, while Justin Houston has more sacks, tackles, and QB hits than Clark.

So right now, Week 6 of the 2019 season, Kansas City fans are none too happy with the former Energizer Bunny of the Seahawks defense.

And in fact the double team excuse has been quite prevalent thus far, but we’ll get to that in a bit. First, the facts.

Through five games Clark has 12 pressures. Since his rookie year in Seattle, Clark has never had a less effective five-game stretch rushing the quarterback. He’s only registered 11 tackles this season, no fumbles forced or recovered, and one pass defensed. Even his lone interception had nothing to do with him, until it bounced off three other players first:

For the most part, people have been noting Frank Clark’s complete and undeniable mediocrity this season. He’s averaging a distance of .18 yards (half a foot for those still in school) closer to the QB at time of pass than the league average.

He’s currently not generating any quarterback pressure (hey maybe he’s still a Seahawk at heart!) and that part of his game which got him paid is not showing.

Clark is currently on pace for 3.5 sacks this season. He is playing well against the run, however, which I’m sure brings endless delight to our friends out in Arrowhead. As demonstrated here by a typical KC fan, Frank Clark is displaying an incredible ability to tackle opposing RBs who run directly into his face:

There’s no doubt really that Clark is an incredible athlete. I don’t even think at this point in the season anyone should be honestly using words like “fluke” or “bust” with any real integrity. But Clark is making a ton of money, and isn’t even generating the type of backfield presence of Seattle’s Jadeveon Clowney. Clowney is similarly not finding home against the opposing QBs, but we just highlighted how often he’s winning, which means the sacks will come.

Clark, meanwhile, is not doing so well in his matchups this season.

Per The Athletic:

Clark’s win/loss percentages against the run are what keep his numbers from actually being fairly poor. As a pass rusher, he has lost more than he has won the past few weeks and hasn’t made nearly as many impact plays against opposing quarterbacks as one would hope. So is Clark a victim of circumstance, someone who is getting extra attention and impacting the game quietly?

There’s that double team reference again, at the end. We’ll get there soon, I promise.

Here’s perhaps the best summary of Frank’s 2019 play, this time from the Kansas City Star:

I charted all 169 of Clark’s snaps with the Chiefs so far. Clark has not been bad, or ineffective. He’s been … fine. But the Chiefs didn’t use first- and second-round picks and $63 million in guarantees for fine...It makes sense that Clark might need some time to learn a new scheme and adjust to new teammates, and that the Chiefs’ coaches might need the same time to learn how to help him better use his specific gifts. You can see flashes of what the Chiefs paid for, but those flashes so far do not justify the cost. That was always the burden Clark would carry with the Chiefs.

So what’s causing Frank Clark’s struggles this season? I can tell you definitively what it is not: double teams. It’s a weird thing to measure because of the fluidity of offensive lines, and whether to count TE/RB chips (and if they even do anything - Nick Vannett). But Frank Clark is currently double teamed at a 20% rate, according to NFL NextGenStats.

Here’s the entire first drive from the Indianapolis Colts last week, in which Clark (#55) was completely invisible.

First play: run up the middle / right. Clark one on one against the left tackle.

Second play: the only play of the drive where Clark lines up against the right tackle at the top of the screen. Indy’s Marlon Mack runs to the left, completely avoiding Clark, who is unblocked, untouched, and un-useful on the play.

Third play: Let’s all take a second to appreciate these Colts who just won a game against a very good team while running the ball three straight times. Anyway, Mack runs left side straight at Clark behind the right tackle and guard. Frank is head-to-head against the tackle, and surprisingly doesn’t even make an assisted tackle on the play below.

Fourth play: They finally trust Jacoby Brissett to throw it. Below may be what Chiefs fans are all about while they try to come to Frank Clark’s defense, as Mack (25) is headed to make a chip block in assistance. Whether by design or not, Brissett immediately moved to his right and Mack never actually contributed - Clark just got beat once again.

Pass play yet again, one-on-one yet again, no pressure generated yet again.

There were a few more run plays, which is not really why we’re all here. But every play on this opening drive remained single protection. Furthermore, it quickly became a pattern of Marlon Mack scampering off into the distance while Clark just sort of watched over the shoulder of tackle Anthony Castonzo.

Some dude out in Kansas City claims to have gone through every pass play of the Chiefs’ first four games and taken note of protection against Frank Clark. I can’t vouch for this completely, but the eye test sure holds up.

The point is this - Frank Clark’s production has dipped significantly to start 2019, while he’s making significantly more, and it’s not because he’s been double-teamed into irrelevance.

How you feel about all this probably depends on your opinion of Frank before he left Seattle. Clark has been one of my favorite draft picks and players on this team in recent years, and it’s unfortunate to see him taking the brunt of Kansas City frustration while he’s in the middle of his slow start.

But Clark’s departure is part of the process of having a world-beating quarterback, linebacker, and an absolutely fearless GM. Can’t keep everyone. It is not uncommon at all to see Seahawk players reach a level of play worth real money (for another franchise), and then struggle to find the same success they had in Seattle. Byron Maxwell, Paul Richardson, Earl Thomas, and to an extent Richard Sherman, DeShawn Shead or Jimmy Graham are a few of the notable ones.

Whatever the case may be, John Schneider made two of his bigger trades this offseason, and right now Seattle looks to be on the plus side of both.


What was the best move by John Schneider this year?

This poll is closed

  • 43%
    Jadeveon Clowney for a third and backups
    (1249 votes)
  • 41%
    Frank Clark for a first and a second
    (1203 votes)
  • 14%
    Knowing the more you pay Russell Wilson the better he plays
    (430 votes)
2882 votes total Vote Now