The last two times Andy Reid publicly ceded the offensive play-calling to his offensive coordinator — Doug Pederson in 2015 and Matt Nagy in 2017 — both men went on to become head coaches elsewhere shortly after the season.
So, it should come as no surprise that Reid will resume calling the offensive plays for the Chiefs in 2018, just like he did when he promoted Nagy after Pederson left for Philadelphia a few years ago.
“I’m gonna go back to doing that — I’ll do that,” Reid said, when asked at the Senior Bowl who will call the plays this season. “I did it at Denver, against Denver. And I was very happy with Matt (Nagy), but we’ve had some change, and whatever I think is best for the team, I’ll go from there.”
Reid’s revelation that he called the plays in the regular-season finale against Denver is particularly interesting, considering it was the first start of rookie quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ career, and the two figure to have a long partnership going forward.
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That partnership could begin sooner rather than later, depending on what the Chiefs decide to do with incumbent starter Alex Smith, who is entering the last year of his contract.
The start against the Broncos amounted to an excellent trial run for Mahomes, who completed 22 of 35 passes for 284 yards in the 27-24 win over the Broncos.
“He’s a good kid; he’s a hard worker, all that,” Reid said of Mahomes. “It was great for him to be in that room with Alex and to learn. A kid can come in and say ‘I’ve got it all down.’ Or they can be a grinder, get in like a sponge and take everything in, and that’s the approach he took.
“It sounds easy, and you go, ‘Ah, they’re being paid a lot of money, and they should do that.’ But that’s not the way it always is.”
Mahomes’ improvement was apparent against Denver. He threw an interception, but he also dotted several remarkable throws throughout the course of the contest and led the team on a game-winning fourth-quarter drive, all with Reid calling the plays instead of Nagy, who just became the Bears’ head coach.
“He gets to that Denver game and he can function at a high level, and it’s not just calling the plays, and lining up and doing it,” Reid said. “It’s a matter of the protections against that defense, moving people around.”
The latter was a challenge, considering Zach Fulton was the starting center instead of typical starter Mitch Morse, who is more comfortable identifying defensive fronts since he’s played the position longer than Fulton has.
“They had to work that together and get everything picked up, and he was able to handle that,” Reid said of Mahomes. “And there was no one supporting him more than Alex. He was like a big brother. So it was kind of neat to watch.”
Regardless of who is at quarterback for the Chiefs, Reid made it very clear that his decision to reassume the play calling is not the least bit an indictment of new offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, who Reid believes is a future head coach. Remember, Nagy and Pederson didn’t earn bigger play-calling responsibility until later in their tenures as offensive coordinators, and Reid sees nothing wrong with easing Bieniemy into the role in a similar way.
“I love Eric Bieniemy, he’s a real good football coach,” Reid said. “Someday he’s going to be sitting in the same position as some of these other guys that have sat in that chair. And he’s got a great feel for the whole game, so that’s where we’re at.”
Reid said Bieniemy’s passion and knowledge of the game should allow him to be an excellent fit in place of Nagy, despite the lack of a quarterbacking background that most offensive coordinators tend to have.
“All the way from the offensive line, on up through protections, the pass game, he’s got great understanding of a complete game on the offensive side,” Reid said. “I love his energy and his leadership ability — he’s been a team captain all the way through high school and college in the National Football League.
“I got to see him firsthand because he played for me, and I played against him a number of times as a college player and NFL player. So I really welcome him into that position. He’ll be a great addition there in that role for the Kansas City Chiefs.”
Reid then drew on his past experience, noting that he was once a quarterbacks coach with Green Bay in the late 90s despite never playing the position.
“When Mike Holmgren moved me to quarterback coach, I had been an assistant offensive line and tight end coach,” Reid said. “But tight ends and running backs are very similar positions where you have to know the whole deal. And Mike felt good elevating me … that’s kind of the same way I feel about Eric. He’s got that feel for it. He’s got respect for the quarterbacks. They all understand what he’s all about.”