Andy Reid has been a head coach in the NFL for 19 years now, long enough to understand this song and dance.
His team, and lately his offense, has been terrible lately. The Chiefs are 1-5 in their last six games, and his starting quarterback, Alex Smith, has struggled to get in a rhythm.
So, no, Reid is not shocked by the increasing call from fans for a change at quarterback, thoughts that were reinforced on Twitter by the likes of Pro Football Hall of Famer Cris Carter and ESPN analyst Louis Riddick, who called for rookie Patrick Mahomes following the Chiefs’ 16-10 loss to Buffalo on Sunday.
But Reid not only shot down those calls in the moments immediately following the game –– “That’s not where I’m at right now, there’s a couple other things I’ve got to take care of,” he said –– he did so again in his weekly presser on Monday, after he’d had the opportunity to study the coaches tape of the gruesome loss.
“Alex is my guy, yeah,” Reid said, when asked directly if Smith will be the starting quarterback this Sunday against the New York Jets.
And while it’s interesting that Reid followed up that comment by stopping short of confirming that would remain the case going forward — barring injury — his larger point was that the offense is in such dire straits right now, there’s more than enough blame to go around.
“Without getting philosophical, I am not sitting here with a crystal ball projecting things like that, that is not how I roll,” Reid said, when asked if Smith is entrenched through the rest of the year. “We all have responsibility to do our job, at all positions, starting with me. That is not getting done the right way.”
“It is not one guy –– that has to be understood, it is not one person,” Reid said. “And we all have to pull together as a football team, in this case, as an offensive football team, right now and get that taken care of. As a team. Not one guy. That is about as clear as I can make it.”
That much rings true. The running game was inept again Sunday, as running back Kareem Hunt only managed 17 yards in 11 carries. The offensive line has not been as dominant up front as it had been the first five weeks of the season, when it paved the way for Hunt to lead the league in rushing yardage.
Far too often, there’s been a breakdown. All it takes is one blown assignment or missed block to foul up a run. Reid noted Monday the Bills went with a nickel subpackage on Sunday, even when the Chiefs went with an extra lineman on the field. The Chiefs still could not run the ball, an indictment on their blocking up front.
“Teams shouldn’t be able to do that and get away with it,” Reid said.
Reid noted Monday that the Bills spent most of the game bringing an extra defender in the box, a tactic that discourages the run and forces the quarterback to deliver the ball quickly. Reid also said the Bills pressed the outside receivers and played zone behind them, a tactic that can be exploited with the passing game.
Yet, the Chiefs didn’t get their initial first down until late in the second quarter, and Smith only threw for 199 yards. And while it’s clear Smith missed opportunities to punish the Bills for this, Reid was clear that there were times he was about to, only to have the receiver run the wrong route, or have the protection break down. There were also times the plays he called simply didn’t work.
“We have to make sure we dial those (deep plays) up and give the guys an opportunity to execute them and then, if the defense is presenting it, we have the route going the right way that we throw and complete it,” Reid said. “Have to do a better job of protecting. You can kind of go around and see, if you are on a three-step drop and you have a guy in your lap, that is a tough thing.”
That said, Reid was clear that execution will be the name of the game this week in practice. The offense has opened the game sluggish for at least the last three outings, and that clearly cannot continue. The way to fix it, he said, is by executing better.
“You have to execute and you have to take pride in that –– there has to be an urgency, a back-to-the-wall mentality and so on,” Reid said. “There is a certain desire that goes into this sport, no matter how you cut it from a player’s standpoint and a coaching standpoint, and it has to be collectively. If it is not, then you have a problem. So you have to fix that.”
And there is no better time to fix it, Reid said, than now.
“That’s how we are going to go about our business here,” Reid said.
The Chiefs, despite their poor play, still sit at 6-5 and lead the AFC West by a game. The two teams sitting behind them, the Raiders and Chargers, are 5-6 with visits to Arrowhead Stadium looming in December.
Win those games, and the Chiefs will likely win the division and clinch a playoff berth. Get to the dance, the theory goes, and anything can happen.
But before that can happen, there’s some healing that must take place. That’s on the entire offense to fix –– not just the quarterback, Reid stressed.
“With the core group that I’ve got on the offensive side I know they’ll look in the mirror first and demand more from each other,” Reid said. “We’re obviously not playing as well as we’d like to play and the end results are showing that. Everybody has to feel that urgency to change it.
“Again, I thought we had a good week of practice last week, but we stalled coming out of the gate on the offensive side of the ball. We can’t do that. We all have to pick our game up.”