The way Andy Reid figured it, why mess with success?
For 14 years as the Philadelphia Eagles’ head coach, he gave his team the entire bye week off. No practices, no meetings, see ya’ next week.
The Eagles went 13-0 in games following their bye until 2012, when they lost 30-17 to a then-6-0 Atlanta team that would play in the NFC Championship Game.
So when Reid came to Kansas City last year, he continued his bye-week policy. The Chiefs were 9-0 at the time of their bye last season and lost at Denver 27-17.
But Reid maintained the same philosophy this season, giving the Chiefs last week off following a 22-17 loss at San Francisco and leading up to a massive AFC West showdown this Sunday at San Diego.
“I’ve done it this way for a long time, and it’s been fairly successful,” Reid said. “I’ve had success with it. Sometimes I think it’s good to step away whether you’re doing well or not doing well. Coming off a win or a loss … sometimes it’s good to get away and get recharged.”
Only former Buffalo coach Marv Levy (8-1) and Green Bay’s Mike McCarthy (7-1) have better records coming off byes.
Levy and McCarthy took opposite approaches. Levy, coaching the Bills to four Super Bowl appearances in his Hall of Fame career, practiced Wednesday through Friday and had the weekend off in the early 1990s, and by his last few seasons, practiced just Wednesday and Thursday.
That was before the 2011 collective bargaining agreement mandated teams must have four days off during the bye week.
McCarthy, who won a Super Bowl in 2011, generally gives the Packers the whole week off, and in the last three or four seasons, they’ve needed it because they were so banged up by injuries.
Not only do the Chiefs players get the week off, but the assistant coaches are given some time away after a few days in the office.
“The coaches are able to go back and do some self-scout work without any distractions around where they have to worry about meetings with the players,” Reid said. “I thought it could kind of rejuvenate guys and get them back healthy.”
When the Chiefs returned for practice on Monday, there was a little more pep in their step.
“The week off helped us relax, get our legs back and get us ready for this run that we’re about to go on,” said wide receiver Junior Hemingway. “You could tell at practice everyone came back to work with the right mindset. Everybody felt good, and that’s what a break helps do.”
Considering the Chiefs were coming off a loss and could be playing a season-defining game at San Diego this weekend, might the team have benefited from a couple of days of practice last week before they were turned loose?
“To keep them here, just to keep them here, are you really going to get much out of them?” said offensive coordinator Doug Pederson. “Their mind is thinking about, ‘Where am I going Thursday … where am I going Friday … ?’ So it’s a little iffy.”
“The fact he lets the guys go, gets ’em out of here, they come back fresh, they come back healthy. They also, and this is a tribute to the players, come back in the right frame of mind. … It’s good as assistant coaches, too, to get our minds fresh again.”
Reid established the template in 1999, his first season in Philadelphia when the Eagles beat eventual Super Bowl champion St. Louis 38-31 in the regular-season finale, though the Rams had already clinched home-field advantage in the playoffs.
In fact, 11 of Reid’s 14 games in Philadelphia following the bye were played at home. His two post-bye games with the Chiefs were scheduled on the road, last year in Denver and this week at San Diego.
Reid is also 3-1 in the playoffs when he’s had the postseason bye, so it’s obvious he takes advantage of extra time to prepare.
“What’s interesting about this one is because it’s only after the fifth game, so you don’t have a massive amount of data that you can sort through,” Reid said of his staff’s self-scouting. “Normally when it’s eight games or in that area, you’ve got a little bit more data.
“What you’re able to do is take that time and go back and look at every inch of it on tape and you come out with some things. You come out and say ‘Hey listen, we can do better right here. Maybe we need to run this a little bit more,’ whether it’s offensively or defensively. It’s that type of evaluation you go through.”
Best records following bye weeks
Marv Levy, Buffalo: 8-1
Mike McCarthy, Green Bay: 7-1
Andy Reid, Philadelphia and KC: 13-2
Note: Minimum eight games