In terms of job security, Andy Reid picked the perfect time to collapse in a playoff game (again).
He signed a contract extension less than a year ago, a power move in which the experienced general manager who had ties to Reid was fired and replaced by an inexperienced GM who once worked as Reid’s intern.
He also will almost certainly replace an experienced handpicked quarterback with a 22-year-old, second-year, awesomely talented handpicked quarterback for the 2018 season. His top assistant was just hired to be the Bears’ coach.
He works for a chairman who values stability over everything else, and he has replaced one of the most drama-filled, unstable periods of any major sports franchise in recent memory with four postseasons in five years.
So, in summation: Reid isn’t going anywhere.
But this is also true: the shine is gone.
Reid’s defense is a mess, despite having enough talent, and he needs to fire the defensive coordinator who’s been with him all five years in Kansas City.
But if chairman Clark Hunt has learned anything he must make sure Reid is self-scouting enough to identify and fix his own shortcomings. Next season will be Reid’s 20th as a head coach. Experience is valuable, but it can also create bad habits.
Reid is known as an offensive innovator, and the 2017 season was full of teams across the league copying many of his plays and schemes. He needs to make sure he’s using that same innovation in program management, and macro approaches to the job as he is using RPOs and shovel passes.
That’s even more important without top offensive assistant Matt Nagy, who was hired by the Bears this week. That’s one less trusted voice to push back, or help him try new approaches.
I mentioned this in the column about Bob Sutton, but the loss to the Titans followed the familiar patterns of past failures in both obvious and subtle ways. The offense went cold, the defense couldn’t get off the field, and the Chiefs had a chance to win at the end and failed.
This is the best offense Reid has had in Kansas City, and in all but one of his losses this year the offense could’ve won it with a better final possession. That is an astounding fact, but perhaps not as astounding as this:
Since 2001, Reid has won just one playoff game as the underdog, and lost seven as the favorite.
He is a good coach, and it should never be forgotten or taken for granted how he cleaned up an almost indescribable mess and provided instant credibility. That’s important, and a highlight of an outstanding coaching career.
But this is five years in now, and the evidence is that Reid is good enough to win regular season games and break your heart in the playoffs.
He won’t be fired, and I would not make the case that he should be. But it’s all different for him here now. He must know that. This isn’t good enough. Not anymore. Not here. Whatever capital he earned by saving the Chiefs from the abyss is now spent.
He has his quarterback. He has his offense. He has his GM. This is all on him now, and for the first time in his time here, he’ll be coaching without the benefit of the doubt.
Welp, here we go.
At some point this season, the A-Team started joking that the Chiefs must’ve built that place on an old Native American burial ground, but the joke gets a little realer all the time, huh?
Curses are not real, and jinxes do not exist. But, dammit, if they did this is exactly what it would look like.
I know you’re saying that sarcastically, because Arrowhead really is a good place to watch a game, and I bring that up because it’s part of what makes this all so frustrating. The NFL is the one league in which a team from Kansas City should, in theory, be on equal footing.
The money is the same everywhere, this is a good place to raise a family, the team means something here that it just can’t in a lot of bigger places, and simply by blind luck and the NFL’s legislated parity the Chiefs should’ve made at least a few Super Bowls by now.
They haven’t, though, through this wicked combination of awful luck, brutal breaks and their own mistakes and failings.
I meant every word of the column about the Chiefs underserving their fans, and I have to say, being able to write the game column was therapeutic in a way.
I just feel so bad for so many who’ve spent so much time, energy and emotions into a franchise that gives them a nice place to tailgate and then kicks them in the teeth.
lol no of course not and the Royals don’t either.
Let’s do grades, Corporate Professor style, and we grade on a curve of expectations here.
2013: A-. There is no overstating how bad the Chiefs were when Reid was hired, and not just because of the 2-14 record. That was a dysfunctional franchise, the trust between players and management gone, and because the Chiefs are the Chiefs the first time they ever picked first in an NFL draft was with the consensus worst draft class anyone could remember. If I’m being too generous here, it’s because I believe it was critically important to regain credibility with players and around the league. This would’ve been an A+, you can’t blow 38-10 in the second half and have an A+. You just can’t.
2014: C+. The schedule flipped, and became one of the league’s toughest. The Chiefs actually beat both Super Bowl teams that year, but missed the playoffs with a 9-7 record despite a franchise record 22 sacks from Justin Houston.
2015: A-. Made the playoffs despite a 1-5 start that included a season ending knee injury for Jamaal Charles. I don’t know how much credit you should get for digging your way out of your own hole, but it proved Reid had the respect of his team, and they won the franchise’s first playoff game in 22 years.
2016: B-. Won the division despite getting just five games out of Houston, and another Achilles injury for Derrick Johnson, who was playing so well. Jeremy Maclin was some combination of injured and ineffective, but they got much more than could’ve been expected from Tyreek Hill. A bad playoff loss, as the betting favorite, brings the grade down.
2017: D-. This was always about the playoffs. I can’t justify an F, because winning the division is an accomplishment worth recognizing, but there isn’t a man on the roster or coaching staff who can tell you honestly that it was enough. I’m also a little weary of how frequently we heard The Injury Excuse from Reid in his postmortem press conference. I get it. Eric Berry is a stud. Spencer Ware could’ve helped. Travis Kelce and Chris Jones were missed in the second half against the Titans But football players get hurt. That’s what they do. They got 17 games from Houston, relative health everywhere else, and there is no excuse for blowing an 18-point lead at home in a playoff game.
We’ll disagree with whether they get a free pass. I hear from people all the time angry at the Hunts, and the argument is clear and sensical and the one you just laid out: through all the quarterbacks and head coaches and draft picks and linebackers and kickers, Lamar and his son Clark Hunt have in charge.
They are the common denominator.
It makes sense.
It’s dead wrong.
Let me tell you why.
My experience is with Clark. I started covering the Chiefs in 2010, the beginning of his time in charge. I met Lamar a few times, but that’s it. So I’ll just talk about Clark.
There are two main reasons I believe blame on Clark is misplaced. The first is he’s done what he should. He fired, or accepted the resignation, or however you want to phrase it, with Carl Peterson when that had run its course.
With the opening, he hired the consensus best GM prospect in the game. Forget for a second what you know of Scott Pioli now and consider what was known of Pioli then: part of four Super Bowl championships, the youngest and one of only three NFL executives to win Sporting News’ exec of the year twice in a row, and ESPN’s personnel man of the decade for the 2000s.
Pretty good resume.
Hunt hired him, let him make the football decisions, and supported his decisions financially. Isn’t that what you want as an owner?
Now, I believe Hunt made two significant mistakes. First, his lack of street smarts was exposed when he didn’t see that Pioli’s personality and Todd Haley’s were headed for a blowup. I strongly believe that owners should not meddle in football decisions, so this is a little tricky. But, still.
The second significant mistake was trusting Pioli too much. Trust is good, but you still have to verify. The “absentee owner” thing is a little overdone, because Clark could live in Dallas but still be in touch enough to know what’s really going on inside his organization. He should’ve been able to see it wouldn’t work with Pioli a year earlier.
But, give him credit for a few things. He fired Pioli, redid the organization’s power structure in a way to prevent the mistake repeating, and hired the consensus most accomplished coach available and paired him with a universally respected personnel man with whom that coach had a long and good relationship.
Also: he’s stayed out of the way on football decisions, and supported all football decisions financially.
Isn’t that what you want from the owner?
OK, now for the second main reason I believe blame on Hunt is misplaced: owners don’t win football games.
They can lose football games, by hiring bad people, or not supporting football people with resources, or meddling in football decisions.
But they can’t win football games. If the Chiefs ever win a Super Bowl* it won’t be because of Clark Hunt.
* Yeah, I know.
It won’t be because of his vision, or ownership, or football chops, and it certainly won’t be because of his tackling or coaching or quarterbacking. These are not controversial statements.
I understand the frustration with Clark. He’s a Hunt, and we’re now working on 49 years of a Hunt in charge without even playing in a Super Bowl. So, criticize him if you want, that’s fine, there’s plenty of criticism available.
But if you’re criticizing him now, I wonder what you want him to do that he hasn’t done. If it’s fair to blame him for the playoff failures, I wonder why he would’ve deserved credit for Saturday if the Chiefs won.
This is not major league baseball, and Hunt’s ownership has not been David Glass’ ownership pre-2006.
Owners don’t win Super Bowls. Coaches and players do.
I will never tell you to do any of that. Nobody can tell you how to be a fan, and if they do, you shouldn’t listen to them.
It is not on the fans to support the team. It is on the team to motivate fans to support. This is true for the Chiefs, it’s true for the Browns, it’s true for the Patriots, it’s true for the Royals, it’s true for the Yankees, it’s true for the Canucks, and it’s true for whatever college you went to.
You’re alluding to a real problem for the NFL, which is that the in-stadium experience has been passed in many, many ways by the stay-at-home experience. Going to an NFL game is an all-day commitment, one that requires money, preparation, inconvenience, and for a lot of people a hall pass from the significant other.
When the ultimate outcome is predictable and painful, that’s a tough sell.
So I’m not here to tell you to go to a game, or buy tickets, or any of that.
The Chiefs need to do that convincing, and right now, they’re not doing an awesome job of that. I think you could see that in the secondary ticket market. When a neighbor sent a group text offering two free tickets, the response was crickets, and I know there are a lot of stories like that around town.
This is tricky.
Because the best and most obvious reason for fans to come back is Patrick Mahomes. His presence fundamentally changes how the Chiefs will play, and what they’re capable of — good and bad.
He is what the Chiefs haven’t had since, well, since ever. He is a homegrown, immensely talented, exciting, big-armed, stone-gutted quarterback capable of making big plays out of broken protections, bad routes, and the wrong call.
But there’s a football element to this, too, because I don’t think you want to put too much on a 22-year-old whose only start was a meaningless week 17 game against a name brand defense giving an absentee effort.
Let’s not bury the kid before he gets a chance, is what I’m saying.
But they absolutely have to promote him, the same way I believe the Chiefs should do more to promote their players’ personalities. That’s what sells, that’s what gets fans interested.
The Chiefs have taken a very Football approach to this since the 1990s. Their promotion is always about The Brand, not the players, and I understand all the football reasons for this. Team first, roster turnover is constant, all that stuff.
But Kareem Hunt is impossible not to like, if you get to know his story. Travis Kelce is engaging. Eric Berry is pure. Laurent Duvernay-Tardif is an incredibly impressive man. I don’t mean everyone needs their own radio show like the 1990s, but what’s the harm in 30-second TV spots, billboards around town, or targeted internet ads that let people in a little?
I’d also reach directly to fans, with no b.s., and no products to sell. Fans believe Clark Hunt doesn’t care about winning. Clark should write a letter, do a video message, something that directly tells fans he shares the frustration and is doing everything he knows to fix what’s missing.
If this isn’t planned already, invite season ticket holders to dinner. Hold it at Arrowhead, or the practice facility. Cater Jack Stack. Get Clark and Reid and Brett Veach and a player or two there to speak. Don’t apologize, but recognize the frustration.
Humility goes a long way.
Fans feeling like they’re in it with the team is the most important thing for a professional sports franchise. The best way to do that is with wild on-field success, but short of that, you have to meet them halfway — probably a little more than halfway, actually.
Also, probably don’t tweet about sandwiches.
1. Find a new defensive coordinator. I wrote about that here, I hope you read it.
2. Replace Alex Smith with Patrick Mahomes. Vahe wrote about that here, I hope you read it.
3. Cut or restructure Derrick Johnson’s contract. Cut Tamba Hali, which would create nearly $8 million in cap space. Cut or restructure Allen Bailey’s contract (nearly $6 million potential cap space).
4. Even if all you do is restructure DJ, cut Tamba, and trade Smith, that’s more than $25 million in cap space you’ve created and at least a second-round pick and hopefully more in the trade. Free agency is a rotten way to build a team, but Brett Veach has a good reputation as a personnel man backed up by how he’s performed so far. Target a corner, edge rusher, and the defensive line as priorities. Also look for safety depth, and interior line help, even if you re-sign Zach Fulton and move Mitch Morse to guard.
5. This one is harder to track, but Andy Reid needs to change. He’s now the head coach of two of the four worst collapses in NFL playoff history. He has a well-earned reputation for going fetal position in the fourth quarter. He needs to figure out a solution that works for him, whether that’s more input from an assistant, scripted plays for the second half as well as the first, a dedicated assistant to help with big picture game or clock situations, whatever.
The literal answer is it depends how the season went, but I understand the point you’re making, and I agree with some of it — Berry’s absence absolutely exposed shortcomings in both personnel and scheme.
But that can’t be a defense of Bob Sutton’s work.
Part of being a coach is adjusting, and if one injury exposed the defense that badly, that’s as clear an argument against Sutton as I can imagine.
I like Bob, and respect his career, but there were too many instances of him being slow to adjust and easily manipulated by the opponent.
Berry covered a lot of those shortcomings, but let that be a strength for the next guy to work with.
Did people forget that?
I don’t think people forgot that.
I think people remembered that, and the loss to the Bills, and the loss to the Jets, and the rest of a seven-game stretch in the middle of the season in which they were worse than every team in the NFL except the Browns.
That was always part of what this team showed itself to be, so it was always part of what this team would do in the playoffs.
I said before the playoffs that absolutely every outcome was possible. The Chiefs could be the 8-0 cohesive power they were in games 1-5 and 13-15, or they could be the 1-6 mess from weeks 6-12 and lose in spectacular fashion.
I guess I did not consider the possibility they could be all those things in one game — the power in the second half, the mess in the second, and the spectacular failure at the end — but we all should’ve seen that happening.
Yes. In some ways, the expectations should be even higher than they were for 2017, because Veach will have every chance and resource to build a better roster around the quarterback than he had for 2017.
So much of this depends on Mahomes, but so much of the discussion has, is, and will continue to center around him that I’ll focus on the other stuff for the purposes of this answer.
Tyreek Hill, Chris Jones, and Kareem Hunt should continue to improve. Marcus Peters, Travis Kelce, and Justin Houston are still in or in Houston’s case close enough to their prime. Eric Berry will presumably be healthy. Spencer Ware’s return should help Hunt. Dee Ford was missed. We could go on.
I don’t know what’s realistic for next year, but I do know that the Patriots, Seahawks, Packers, Steelers, and others have had success with quarterbacks on their rookie contracts. There is an ability to build up the defense, and improve the roster’s infrastructure in a way that helps the young quarterback smooth out rough edges.
If Mahomes is 75 percent as good as I believe he can be, the expectation next year should again be postseason success.
I don’t know. This seems really simple to me: any time a player goes into concussion protocol, take three seconds to review the play and determine if there was an illegal hit.
Loop in the officials in the booth watching for head injuries, give them to ability to tell officials if something obvious was missed.
I don’t know, man. This seems really, really simple to me.
But it’s also true that I don’t believe the NFL cares even a little about player safety beyond how it may impact their business.
Oh, man, here comes another downer.
I’m always excited for spring training, because I’m a baseball dork, and am absolutely in on the symbol of changing seasons and all of it.
Same way I’m ready for the Chiefs to change over to Mahomes, I’m ready for the Royals to embrace this rebuild, too. You are probably sick of hearing me say I wish they would’ve done this a year ago, or gone all-in on trying to win last year, but that’s all true, so if circumstances are now forcing them to accept a rebuild, well, I’m here for that.
There will be some ugly years. The Royals are almost certainly going to lose a lot of games, and they’re going to give big league time to some guys who will prove unworthy of it.
But there will be some gems, too. Part of being a baseball fan, to me, is being able to watch guys grow over time. Sal Perez’s debut in Tampa is the exception. Alex Gordon’s path may be extreme, but there are more like his than Perez’s.
It’s hard to think of it like this in the moment, but the growth and improvement over time from Mike Moustakas, Zack Greinke, Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Danny Duffy, Yordano Ventura, Luke Hochevar, Whit Merrifield, Billy Butler, Alcides Escobar and so many others through the years is a cool thing.
Doesn’t always work like that. Sometimes that prospect turns into Johnny Giavotella, or Tim Melville, or whoever.
But that’s part of the process, pardon the word. Without busts there are no successes.
So I’m in. Lets see Hunter Dozier, and Bubba Starling, and Josh Staumont, and Khalil Lee, and Nicky Lopez. Lets see if they’re good enough to be the next wave, and see if Nick Pratto is good enough to join them someday.
It’s all hope and projection and trial and error. There are no guarantees, and far more fail than succeed, but the last time the Royals did this they ended up with a parade.
Maybe. I don’t know. Probably not. But I guess I can see it?
I don’t know how he’s “rated” by fans. The last “approval poll” on Royals Review that I see is from last June, and had him at 74 percent approval. That seems high, but we’re all just guessing, and I’m not even going to attempt a guess at how media local or national rate him.
I can speak for myself, though.
I like Dayton a lot. I believe he pulled off the sports equivalent of a miracle in turning the Royals — the Royals! — into world champions. I believe he took a job that many around baseball told him to avoid, and followed his heart in attracting a strong staff of scouts and coaches who eventually won the first championship for a small money club* since the 1994 strike.
* Depending on how you look at what the Marlins did.
I believe for all of that he should be remembered as the best general manager in franchise history. Cedric Tallis has a case* but he didn’t win a championship. John Schuerholz did, but did not deal with the same financial disadvantages as Moore, and did not inherit a franchise so dysfunctional it famously once skipped a team picture because nobody wanted to remember the team.
* It is an absolute joke that he’s not in the team Hall of Fame, by the way.
So, am I overrating him? Maybe.
I understand the case. The rebuild took longer than he or anyone else I know thought it should. Too many major decisions since the parade have backfired. One of his great strengths here has been to bend David Glass’ perspective and opinions, and Moore should’ve had the vision to know and convince the owner that the team could not win, rebuild, and save money all at the same time.
I get all that, and more. Just three winning seasons out of 11. Many owners would’ve fired Moore after 2012, so in some ways, he’s lucky he had the chance to see this all through.
But, guys. Pro sports are measured in championships, right? In playoff success? Isn’t that what’s driving so much of the current frustration with the Chiefs?
And Moore helped the Royals dig out from being baseball’s worst franchise to consecutive pennants, a world championship, and an experience that fundamentally changed the sport’s place in Kansas City.
That’s pretty damn good.
C’mon, man. I love both my sons. I love fries and burgers. I love ribs and burnt ends. I love Chipotle and Tortilleria San Antonio.
I guess my line of demarcation might be something like this: if I’m at a real Mexican place, I’ll go tacos. If it’s Tex-Mex, or a quickie gringo place like Qdoba, then I will make out with a big burrito.
Burritos can’t be beat if you’re starving, or a little hungover. But on their own merits, truly spectacular tacos are a special treasure.
So, this depends.
We live in a very old house, and anyone reading this knows that comes with, um, quirks. One of our quirks is a section of pipes that is essentially exposed to the weather. We have a heater for it, but you don’t want the heater running 365 days a year, which means you have to remember to plug it in when the weather gets cold.
Well, one year I forgot to plug it in.
Water everywhere. We got very lucky. We were home when it happened, and a repair crew was over within an hour. We paid a lot in what my dad calls Stupid Tax, but everything was fixed.
This is a long way of saying, can I have heat around the pipes?
Because if so, I’ll go without heat rather than AC.
You will never hear me complain about the cold. I’m not here to tell you it’s not miserable when it gets so cold your bones ache, and I’m not here to tell you that driving in the ice or snow is pleasant.
But I am so much happier when it’s cold, rather than hot. When it’s cold, you can build a fire, make some chili — we’ll have some for the weekend — and put on a sweatshirt and grab a blanket.
The most miserable I can be is when it’s so hot I’m sweating without doing anything. It’s uncomfortable, it’s a mess, and people assume you’re nervous or hiding something when you’re really just angry at the sun.
Cars are brutal in that heat, too. If you have leather seats, your skin sticks, and if you don’t you know you’re sitting in sweat-soaked fabric. But at least sometimes your steering wheel is too hot to touch. That’s always nice. Sleeping in the heat is the worst, too.
When I wake up with a wet pillow, I want it to be because I had a nightmare about Andy Reid protecting my retirement account, not because it’s 97 degrees at midnight and I have a 50-pound dog who refuses to sleep anywhere except between my legs.
So, Team Cold, and I know what I said so this is not a complaint about the cold but this week I’m particularly thankful for a break in the weather. There’s only so long you can go to Wonderscope, or Union Station, or plan play dates before kids just need to be outside for more than a few minutes. They sleep better, and they’re happier, which means I sleep better and am happier, too.