The Chiefs like to joke that when it comes to the practice field, it’s hard to sneak a mistake — no matter how small — past the big man in the bright red jacket.
“He doesn’t miss anything,” quarterback Alex Smith said of his coach, Andy Reid, with a grin. “He doesn’t need the tape.”
So imagine how detailed Reid must be when it comes to his quarterbacks.
Along with the offensive line, which Reid played in college, quarterback the position he is known for coaching, thanks to his history in Green Bay, where he spent time teaching Brett Favre, and Philadelphia, where he molded Donovan McNabb into a Pro Bowl quarterback.
“He has such a good feel for all of us, myself included, and kind of having a feel for what we do well, the things we like, the things that fit us,” Smith said.
So while players are the ones who actually play, you do have to give Reid and his staff some credit for the preseason performances of his quarterbacks.
Smith posted his best performance of the preseason in the Chiefs’ 34-10 win over the Tennessee Titans on Friday, completing 16 of 18 passes for 171 yards and two touchdowns, while backups Chase Daniel and Aaron Murray have each lit it up at different points in the past three games.
Reid’s quarterbacks say their head coach, who also calls plays, does a nice job custom-fitting his offense toward what they do best.
“Coach Reid will call plays that Alex loves and knows Alex is good at,” Daniel said. “It does take time to understand, as a play caller, what your quarterback loves, and coach Reid has all of us down on what we know, what we do well.
“You might see a little naked (boots) out there with me. You might see, with Murray, a little more quick game or go routes. With Alex, you see a little of everything. He’s very timing-driven.”
And while this sounds like an obvious trait NFL playcallers should have, Daniel said he’s heard stories about how that’s not always the case.
“Oh for sure, for sure,” Daniel said. “I’ve heard stories out there. They’re out there.”
Reid has a reputation for being a tad pass happy — he’s passed the ball at, roughly, a 57 percent clip in his career — and his West Coast playbook is voluminous with complicated verbiage.
However, he says he works hard to mold his offensive concepts in a given year toward what his players do well.
“You draft (players) to see how they fit in your system, then you see how they play, then you mold what they do the best and you try to exploit their strengths and keep working to get better at their weaknesses,” Reid said. “So it evolves over time. You have to be able to analyze that as a coach and try to put your players in the best position you possibly can.”
For example, Reid has a quarterback in Smith who played in a spread system in college based heavily on packaged concepts. In 2014, the Chiefs drafted Oregon star De’Anthony Thomas, a diminutive speedster who starred in a hybrid running back-receiver role in a similar offense.
So last season, Reid mixed in a healthy amount of packaged plays out of the shotgun — a formation he never even ran early during his head coaching career in Philadelphia — and had a good amount of success with it as Thomas was named the Chiefs’ rookie of the year.
“The game is evolving, and he’s evolving with the game, and that’s what makes him good,” said receiver Jason Avant, who played for Reid in Philadelphia from 2006 to 2012.
When Avant signed with the Chiefs last November, one of the first things he mentioned was his belief in Reid’s ability to take advantage of his unique skills. Avant has never been a burner, but he does possess strong hands and good route-running ability, which allows him to thrive on the short concepts Reid’s offense revolves around.
“He changes up based on his personnel,” Avant said. “I knew that he knew how to use me, I knew that he would do things that was within my skillset.
“It’s not about how great the player is, but (he thinks about) what great attributes does that player have and how I can use them to the best of my ability? A player may not be the greatest at all things, but he can do two things, and he tries to maximize those two things.”
Avant, a 10-year veteran, says this is a rare trait among coaches.
“Because there comes a humility with it,” Avant said. “If it’s about you, it won’t work. But if you’re about the team and doing what’s best for the team, you’ll adapt your system to your players.”
This is why Smith — and the rest of the quarterbacks — feel so comfortable with his Reid as they embark on a crucial third season, with playoff expectations, to boot.
“It is, kind of, custom to us,” Smith said of the scheme. “The longer people have been doing things, in general, the easier it is to get stuck in your ways, so I think it’s a credit to coach, with how long he’s been doing this ... that it’s always changing.
“He’s always looking to get better, always trying new things. I think, especially within the label of the West Coast, so often, it just gets labeled as this playbook and we just run this playbook. (But) with coach, there are no boundaries ”