On Nov. 1, with his team sitting at a disappointing 2-5, Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt declared that coach Andy Reid and general manager John Dorsey would return for their fourth season at the helm in 2016 — no matter what.
Two months later, with his team now 10-5 and headed to the playoffs for the second time in three years, it’s safe to say that decision looks pretty strong.
“Well, I’m a big believer in continuity, and I’m a big believer in Andy Reid or John Dorsey,” Hunt said before the Chiefs' regular-season finale Sunday against the Oakland Raiders. “Although I was very disappointed (at the time), I wasn’t at all thinking about making a change, because again, it goes back to the job they’ve done since they’ve been here.”
Entering the Raiders' game, Reid and Dorsey had compiled a 30-17 record since 2013.
“They took us — after a very disappointing 2012 season — to the playoffs the next year,” Hunt said. “We narrowly missed the playoffs last year, and all of us thought this was probably the best team that we’ve had since they’ve been. We were just disappointed, but I had a sense that they might be able to turn it around.”
Hunt said he got that sense by having regular conversations with both men throughout the losing streak.
“We talk every week, and obviously when you’re losing, those conversations are a little bit harder,” Hunt said. “And Andy said the key was ‘Look, we’ve just to keep focused on our next opponent, and that’s what we did.”
The Chiefs' snapped their five-game losing streak with a 23-13 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Oct. 25, then went to London and demolished the Detroit Lions 45-10.
“I think the team had a great experience over there, obviously, won the game,” Hunt said. “And it just took off from there.”
Hunt credits Reid's calming presence for keeping the team together during the losing streak.
“He doesn’t get too high or too down during the course of a season,” Hunt said. “He continues to tell the guys to believe in themselves, to stick together. He does that with his coaching staff and he does that with his players, and I think that was the key to the turnaround early in the season.”
Hunt also credited the leaders in the locker room for refusing to let the team splinter and point fingers, as losing teams are often wont to do.
“First of all, I think we have tremendous leadership in the locker room with some of our veteran players — Justin Houston, Eric Berry, D.J., Alex Smith,” Hunt said. “And I think that — combined with Andy and his very veteran coaching staff — was able to keep the guys focused. A lot of teams at 1-5 might have packed it in, but we didn’t and I think that’s really a credit to the coaching staff and the leadership in the locker room.”
Speaking of Berry, Hali and Johnson, all three are free agents at the end of the season, and Hunt was asked if he plans to bring all three back in 2016.
“I won’t comment on any one of them specifically, but all of them are very important to this franchise,” Hunt said. “One of the things I like best about pro football is when players stay with the team that they were drafted with for their entire career. That doesn’t happen a lot anymore, but if we could have all those guys back, I would love it.”
But first things first. The playoffs loom, and when asked whether he believes this team has the ability to string a few wins together and make a Super Bowl run, Hunt wasn't shy.
“I really do, and it goes back to a lot of what we’ve already talked about in terms of the coaching staff, the leadership that we have in the locker room,” Hunt said. “Clearly the guys all believe in each other — they’ve had to do that to sustain the winning streak for the past nine weeks — and if we can carry that momentum into the playoffs, I think we’ve got a legitimate shot.”