December 27, 2013

In a season of great candidates, Andy Reid deserves coach of year

He couldn’t have done it alone, and general manager John Dorsey and running back Jamaal Charles certainly deserve recognition, too, but Andy Reid’s transformation of the Chiefs is second to none in the NFL this season.

The Chiefs spent the previous year embarrassing themselves and are now resting their starters in preparation for the playoffs. That’s just the beginning of why Andy Reid should be the NFL’s coach of the year.

No matter what happens against the Chargers this weekend, or next week in the playoffs, this Chiefs’ season has already been more successful than could’ve been reasonably expected. There is enough credit to go around.

Jamaal Charles is on the brink of becoming just the 10th player with 2,000 yards from scrimmage and 20 touchdowns, and if not for the NFL’s rules and deification of quarterbacks, a better case for the league’s MVP and offensive player of the year awards.

John Dorsey made the trade for Alex Smith, and found seven players on the waiver wire just before the season who’ve contributed. He also filled important holes with Geoff Schwartz, Anthony Sherman, Mike DeVito and others.

But Reid is the common denominator here, the one who has schemed a way for Charles to go from very good to historically good, and the one Dorsey trusted could redo so much of the game plan just as the regular season began.

He was the perfect coach, with the perfect message for a team that absolutely needed to hear it.

Have fun. Show your personality. Do your work. We trust you.

He is the one the players most often credit for stitching shut the wounds of the last few seasons, of instilling confidence after the worst professional year of most of those players’ lives, and of maximizing the talent that largely went to waste in recent seasons.

That Reid did this

a year after suffering his own personal tragedy, in a season a lot of people (myself included) thought he might spend on the beach, is just more remarkable. In many ways, coaching — and just

coaching, not the personnel duties that wore him down in Philadelphia — has helped him as much as he’s helped the team.

One of the great turnarounds in recent NFL history was done largely based on one of the great one-year coaching jobs in recent NFL history, and it would be only right to name him coach of the year for it.

There are other good candidates, of course. There always are. Pete Carroll has helped navigate key injuries in Seattle. Ron Rivera has the Panthers on the verge of the NFC South championship. Chip Kelly picked up the pieces that Reid left behind in Philadelphia, transitioned quarterbacks, and has the Eagles in position to win the NFC East. Bruce Arians deserves special mention for winning 10 games with the Cardinals, who’ve done that only one other time since moving from St. Louis.

All due respect to those men, but none can match what Reid and the Chiefs have done.

Carroll’s roster is the deepest and most talented in the league, thanks in large part to GM John Schneider, who should probably win executive of the year. Kelly lost at home to Reid, and has benefited from playing in a rotten division. The Cardinals are still on the outside of the playoff bubble.

Rivera has a strong case, pulling the Panthers ahead after a 1-3 start that created public questions about his job, but c’mon.

Doesn’t the argument for anyone else have the feel of finding a reason


to honor the guy who took a 2-14 team and put it in the playoffs?

Reid took over a team that had become a sad industry punch line and transformed it into one that clinched a playoff spot with two games to go.

He walked into talent, sure. And an easy schedule helped. But the journey from January (when Reid skipped his traditional postseason vacation to start with the Chiefs right away) to December (when the team is tied for the third-best record in the NFL) was a virtual minefield.

The players Reid inherited had lost trust in their coaches, the front office and in some cases, each other.

Tamba Hali is among the players who’ve talked about this

, that he thought the locker room was infested with snitches who’d report to the bosses on the second floor. Players had become accustomed to coaches and executives worrying about who would get the credit instead of who would make a play.

In that sort of environment, chairman Clark Hunt knew he needed a specific kind of coach. Of the two most recent coaches hired (and fired) under his watch, Romeo Crennel had failed in his only other head coaching job and Todd Haley had


no other head coaching job.

Hunt saw that this challenge would require a man with instant credibility, a track record of success. Someone who not only had the chops to unite a broken locker room but the kind of reputation that would make that broken locker room


it would be united.

Reid trusted his players immediately. This was important. In training camp, he found a way to run physical practices but leave his players feeling fresher than they had in recent seasons.

He told his players to have fun. This was also important. So much of the last few years was about keeping quiet and pleasing the right coach. Reid encouraged his players to show their personality. It’s OK to strut after a good play. Football is difficult enough. Make a play, and reward yourself. Justin Houston does his dance now.

Charles dusts himself off

. This is not only tolerated by the head coach, but promoted.

For the most part, every player is treated the same. Nobody is too big for hard coaching, nobody too small for special attention. No team meeting goes by without Reid making a specific point that demands focus, or a specific comment that demands a chuckle.

You will hear Reid’s players say the coach treats them like men. In part, they mean that the work is the most important thing. Winning is above everything else. The nonsense is back to being nonsense. Players are trusted to do their jobs. When Reid has to say something, he prefers to do it privately, to not embarrass anyone unnecessarily.

Reid brought in respected assistants, starting with coordinators Bob Sutton and Doug Pederson, but also running backs coach Eric Bienemy, strength coach Barry Rubin and special-teams coach Dave Toub, and others. Reid is 7-1 on replay challenges this year and is quick to push the credit for that toward longtime assistant Tom Melvin.

If Reid wins the coach of the year award, those are among the names he will mention first. He will talk about his players and thank them for working hard. He will thank Hunt for bringing him in, and Dorsey for fulfilling their longtime pact of working together.

He’ll be right, of course. He’s had a lot of help.

But the Chiefs wouldn’t be in this position without him. They’d be on the sideline, watching the playoffs, wondering why some other team performed the NFL’s best turnaround.

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