Inside the NFL | Reid helps Chiefs turn things around
Published: Friday, September 27, 2013
Updated: Friday, September 27, 2013 09:09
The Kansas City Chiefs suffered through a 2-14 season last year, tied for the worst in franchise history. The Chiefs had a turnover differential of -24, lost nine games by 14 points or more and suffered through the tragic murder-suicide of linebacker Jovan Belcher, who shot himself in front of general manager Scott Pioli and coach Romeo Crennel at the team’s practice field after murdering his girlfriend at their home.
This season, however, Kansas City is 3-0, one of seven undefeated teams left in the league and by far the most improved team in the NFL. All of this is despite few major offseason player acquisitions, aside from signing quarterback Alex Smith, who was benched in San Francisco after the emergence of Colin Kaepernick.
But the biggest addition in Kansas City has not played a single snap, nor will he ever see the field. He spent 14 years with the Philadelphia Eagles, where he led the team to five NFC Championship games without gaining a yard of offense or making a single tackle.
That man is head coach Andy Reid. By bringing in Reid, the Chiefs’ first-year general manager John Dorsey bucked a league-wide trend of hiring young, up-and-coming coaches.
The Chicago Bears brought in Marc Trestman, who spent the last five seasons with the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League. Philadelphia replaced Reid with Chip Kelly, the mastermind of Oregon’s high-octane spread office whose career before Oregon included stops at New Hampshire, Johns Hopkins and Columbia. And the Tampa Bay Buccaneers tapped Greg Schiano, who spent 11 years building the Rutgers program into a regional powerhouse but has not coached in the NFL since 1998.
Unlike these young guns, Reid is not exactly a sexy choice. He has been criticized as too conservative, preferring a vanilla, ball-control offense built around a consistent ability to pass the ball. But Reid is an unquestioned winner, and he has masterfully changed the culture of the entire Chiefs organization — something other head coaches are often unable to do in their first season with a franchise.
Throughout training camp, players were amazed with Reid’s ability to teach the nuances of football while not losing sight of the big picture: bringing immediate success back to Kansas City after its disastrous 2012 campaign.
In Philadelphia, Reid was given player personnel duties, but he has gladly ceded these responsibilities to Dorsey, who had worked with Reid as an assistant coach with the Green Bay Packers and is credited with drafting quarterback Aaron Rodgers, wide receiver Greg Jennings and linebacker Clay Matthews.
Freed from these player personnel obligations, Reid now has the singular focus of teaching the game of football, something he has done remarkably well throughout his NFL coaching career. Although Reid never won a Super Bowl with the Eagles, he led the development of some of the league’s best players of the 2000s, including quarterback Donovan McNabb, safety Brian Dawkins, running back Brian Westbrook and cornerback Lito Sheppard.
Despite their 2-14 record last season, the Chiefs have plenty of returning talent for Reid to build upon. Last season, Kansas City sent six players to the Pro Bowl, more than every other team except for the 49ers, the Texans, the Patriots and the Vikings. Among the Pro Bowl selections is running back Jamaal Charles, who is averaging 4.3 yards per carry and has scored two touchdowns as the feature back in offensive coordinator Doug Pederson’s run-oriented system.
Smith will never put up the numbers of a Tom Brady or a Peyton Manning, but he is an above-average quarterback who is the perfect fit for the West Coast offense Reid is trying to install. He moves well in the pocket and makes good decisions, and so far he has led the Chiefs to three turnover-free games in which they have averaged 23.7 points.
It is still unclear what level of success Kansas City will have this season. The Chiefs have yet to play the Broncos or the Chargers, and their three wins have come against teams with a combined record of 3-6.
Still, the Chiefs have already exceeded their win total from 2012 and are playing smarter football with a swagger that was absent last season. For an explanation, look no further than the culture change initiated by Andy Reid.