The Chiefs probably won't bring back Le'Veon Bell next season but the Bell disrespect is unfair
Many were excited when The Kansas City Chiefs signed running back Le'Veon Bell prior to week 6 of the NFL season after he was released by the New York Jets following a disappointing season and a half with New York. Bell was supposed to be rejuvenated and ready to help out the Chiefs by joining a winning environment like Kansas City and getting away from the toxic organization that was the Jets. Bell wasn't expected to be all-world like he was back in his Pittsburgh Steelers days but he was expected to at least get a nice chunk of touches and help the Chiefs offense. The truth is Bell actually did help the offense and was very effective, but unfortunately, many Chiefs fans seemed to have developed a false perception of Bell that he truly was washed up and a waste of time even adding to the roster. That is not the case and the disrespect that has been directed towards Bell's abilities is unfair.
Let's start with point number one being that it's not Bell's fault that the Chiefs offensive line didn't support Bell's running style. It's fair to say that a fully healthy Chiefs offensive line would have helped Le'Veon Bell when you factor in Kelechi Osemsele, Mitchell Schawrtz, etc. but they all slowly went down and that's not Bell's fault. Despite these issues there were multiple games in which Bell was still useful which we'll get into in a little bit and even outperformed Clyde Edwards-Helaire, yet there seem to be a lot of CEH apologists due to the offensive line run-blocking (or lack thereof) being poor but no love for Bell it seems in inner-circles. The Chiefs offensive line ranked last in the NFL in run-block win rate which is tough for any running back let alone a runner like Bell.
Le'Veon Bell was still effective in plenty games for the Chiefs in 2020 but a big reason why he never seemed to pop off the screen to fans was because the Chiefs always went away from Bell even though he'd have a really nice play or two that would get the offense going. As great of a coach as Andy Reid is this has been a bad habit of his over the years. He tends to go away from what was working which can be frustrating. Anyways, let's look at some of Bell's stats that supports this theory. One of Bell's big abilities that was talked about as justification for the Chiefs signing him was his receiving ability. Bell had been one of the league's best receiving backs for years and it was evident he still had that ability, however, the Chiefs didn't take advantage. Bell never even had more than 3 receptions in a game this year and he didn't get the opportunity he should've as he averaged 9.6 ypr as a Chief in 2020 which was the best of any back on roster. For example, in the Jets game, Bell's second game in action, he had 3 receptions for 31 yards which all came on just three targets. The Chiefs won that game handily though so you could say that is a factor. How about the week 11 Raiders game? Bell had one reception that went for 11 yards in the first half and then he never was targeted again the whole game. In week 15 against New Orleans, Bell had one catch for 14 yards and none after that once again. Yes, the Chiefs won all those games but that would be missing the point. We aren't trying to say the Chiefs were wrong in their decision necessarily, but it's simply disproving the notion that Bell wasn't productive. Bell earned the opportunity to be featured in the pass game more.
A quick overview of Bell's rushing stats as well indicates he was more productive than fans will give him credit for. Over the span of seven games (from the first Denver game to the New Orleans game) Le'Veon Bell had a higher yards per carry than Clyde Edwards-Helaire in four of those games. Bell also averaged just over 4 yards per carry as a Chief over the course of the season which is not great but solid all things considered. Similar to the point of Bell not getting a fair share of targets, he also didn't get enough carries to truly showcase his abilities. For example, in the Miami game, Bell had 2 carries for 21 yards in the first half (10.5 ypc) and once again, nothing after that. Bell also had 6 carries for 39 yards in his first game with the Chiefs (6.5 ypc) and his first 15+ yard run in two years, clearly showing he still had something left in the tank. This is an offense where a running back like Bell needs a good 7-10 carries at the very least in order to get going but the Chiefs just never really committed to trying that. Bell only got more than 7 carries twice in Kansas City and in both games he had over 60 yards from scrimmage.
The biggest reason why Chiefs will have a bad memory of Bell is because he was a no-show in the postseason. This is unfair to Bell because remember he had the knee injury in week 15 against Atlanta which bothered him all the way up until the Super Bowl where he was finally activated. Bell was active for the Super Bowl and did not play a single snap which didn't bode well for his outlook of staying in Kansas City or being remembered fondly. While it's the safe take to always trust the coaching staff's decision, this was malpractice by Reid in the staff. Earlier in the season against Tampa Bay, Bell had one of his most effective games as he consistently made something out of nothing against the league's No.1 rush defense and had 32 yards from scrimmage while also being instrumental in helping to pass-block for Patrick Mahomes. Bell was right up there with Darrel Williams as the best pass-blocking back on the roster. The fact he didn't even get a chance in the Super Bowl was a mistake given the Buccaneer's base defense was daring the Chiefs to run the ball and watching Darrel Williams drop that pass from Mahomes after he was parallel to the ground was infuriating knowing Le'Veon Bell with his receiving skills would not have dropped that ball.
At the end of the day, Bell probably won't be coming back to Kansas City next season, especially with Damien Williams coming back, but his contributions should not be forgotten or overlooked. Bell is not washed up and he should be thanked, not disrespected by Chiefs fans. We here at ShowMeFootball.com wish him well going forward.