For all the grief his receivers have taken this season, Chiefs coach Andy Reid has consistently praised the attitude and approach they have taken.
That praise, by the way, is often aimed at No. 1 receiver Dwayne Bowe, who boasts a cap number of $12 million this year and leads a group of receivers who have not scored a touchdown this season.
“Dwayne is one of my favorite guys that I’ve had a chance to coach,” Reid said Monday. “He keeps it real out there every day and brings energy every day. You don’t have big ups and downs and personality or anything else. He enjoys doing what he does.
“He never complains that he doesn’t get the ball enough or wants the ball or this — he just wants to win and I appreciate that.”
In that sense, Reid says he is lucky. He says Bowe, who on Sunday became the third Chiefs player to surpass 7,000 career receiving yards, is the latest in a long line of mostly unselfish receivers he’s coached. That even includes Terrell Owens in Philadelphia.
“T.O. never complained about getting the ball — not once did he complain about not getting the ball,” Reid said. “He got it quite a bit actually, so there was never a time he complained about that. His was other things.”
Reid then cracked a smile and took a playful jab at the 41-year-old Owens.
“But he’s doing well now,” Reid said. “He has got a reality show and he is getting all the balls he wants.”
Reid, however, was not joking about Owens’ workload during his one full season in Philly. That year, 2004, Owens caught 77 passes for 1,200 yards and 14 touchdowns, numbers that blow away the projected stats for Bowe this year — 58 catches for 762 yards and no touchdowns.
Some of the reasons for the gap is the nature of Reid’s offense, which is designed to make defenses cover everybody.
When it works — like it did Sunday in the Chiefs’ 31-13 win over Oakland, when 10 different players caught a pass — everybody is a threat to touch the ball, so there’s no need to force-feed anybody.
That’s a big reason Reid, whose team improved to 8-6 on Sunday, has consistently maintained that he does not care if his receivers still haven’t scored a touchdown this year, despite the ignominy of the drought.
“I want them to want the ball, don’t get me wrong,” Reid said. “You want them all (to demand the ball). I want Jamaal (Charles) to want to carry the football. But you also want them to be team players and understand the big picture of things, so I’ve been fortunate to have those kind of guys.”
Amongst the Chiefs’ receivers, there’s a sense Reid is right. Winning, rookie Albert Wilson says, eliminates any overwhelming worry about their touchdown drought.
“We don’t pay it any mind,” Wilson said. “If (touchdowns) are gonna come, they’re gonna come. We’re working hard, and that’s all we can do.”
There’s also a sense the receivers are beginning to round into shape. For the second straight week, Smith’s top three targets — Bowe, Jason Avant and Wilson — each made at least one impressive play.
For Bowe, it was his 37-yard catch-and-run in the second quarter in which he showed off surprising spryness. For Avant, it was his 14-yard catch-and-run in the first quarter in which caught a short pass and showed some burst up the sideline. And for Wilson, it was his 48-yard catch on a post route — which the Chiefs have struggled to hit all season — that eventually led to a second-quarter field goal.
“Big plays downfield that people haven’t seen yet, why not show it toward the end of the season?” Bowe said. “Andy (is) a mastermind.”
The trio of Bowe, Avant and Wilson has only been the main group at the position for a few weeks, as Avant was plucked off waivers from Carolina a month ago, and banged-up former starter Donnie Avery played heavily against Denver three weeks ago.
However, they’ve already been more productive, as a unit, than other combinations of players were earlier this season.
“Right now, we’re building chemistry,” Bowe said. “Avant is new so he is getting the hang of things. Albert is young but he’s been following my lead. And there is no complaining. Guys just want to get in the game and make plays and as long as we keep that consistently going, you’re going to win.”
Bowe was then asked what the Chiefs are capable of if the receivers — and the passing game — keeps improving.
“We’ve got to show you,” Bowe said. “Once Albert gets in a groove and we all get in a groove, we’re going to be hard to beat.”