The last time Andy Reid came off a bye week, the upcoming game was being described as the most important of his tenure.
The same is true now, for an entirely different reason.
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The Chiefs, the NFL’s only perfect team at 9-0, scattered after meetings Monday, some to the airport for home or a mini-vacation as the team began its bye week before a showdown at Denver on Nov 17.
And make no mistake here. Fans can debate among themselves the merits of a break in the action — who’s tired of watching the Chiefs win every week? — but the players want the down time.
“I’m ready for the bye week,” defensive tackle Dontari Poe said. “It’ll be good to go home, get our minds away from it for a while, and rest up.”
The Chiefs will do that knowing nobody in the game uses this time better than Reid, at least based on the results.
In 14 years in Philadelphia, Reid went 13-1 in games after bye weeks. The Eagles won the first 13 before losing to the Falcons after the bye week last season in a game that was framed as critical to Reid’s future. He fired his defensive coordinator, Juan Castillo, during the week, looking to shake up the Eagles, who started 3-3.
But the Falcons, who were undefeated and on their way to the NFC’s best record, won 30-17.
Still, Reid’s post-bye record remains incredible, and the success is as simple as this: Reid wants his players off the clock and not punch back in until the latest possible moment. In this case, next Monday for the usual game week preparation.
“I’ve always given them time off, even back when it wasn’t popular to do that,” Reid said.
Since 2011, the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement requires that teams must take at least four consecutive days off during a bye week. That’s never been enough for Reid.
“They need to take time out and relax,” Reid said. “It’s a time to take care of business if that’s what they need to do.”
Linebacker Derrick Johnson has worked with several coaches in his nine years with the Chiefs, and the music of Reid’s final words rang in his ears as he left the locker room.
“It’s a joy to hear a coach say, ‘Y’all relax this week, and come back ready to go,’” Johnson said.
Quarterback Alex Smith said there’s not an off switch for players, but a pause button and an understanding of what lies ahead.
“I think every guy in this locker room in the back of their head the whole week will be thinking about Denver,” Smith said.
Other NFL coaches have cited Reid’s philosophies. Last season, Saints coach Sean Payton, asked why his teams had won their previous post-bye week games, said “We really just plagiarized Andy Reid’s schedule.”
When the Colts reached their bye week this season, coach Chuck Pagano gave his team the week off. What happened? The Colts fell behind the Texans at Houston 21-3 on Sunday night before rallying for a 27-24 victory.
The extra week not only rests minds and heals wounds of players, it a sign of trust from coaches to players.
“You treat these guys like men because that’s what they are, young men,” Reid said.
Coaches also benefit, with self-scouting and additional preparation time. The payoff for Reid hasn’t been only the first game after the bye. Since 1999, the Eagles were 45-45 in games played before the open week, and went 85-47-1 in the regular season after. The Eagles posted winning post-bye records in 12 of Reid’s 14 seasons.
That’s a trend the Chiefs hope follows Reid from Philly with the teeth of the schedule starting next week. The Chiefs meet the Broncos and Chargers twice, along with Washington, the Raiders and the Colts.
“We’ve positioned ourselves well, so this is a time to get rested up and recover for the home stretch,” Smith said. “Especially with a big one coming in two weeks and a lot of division games coming up.”