Whenever Travis Kelce has a question coming off the field, it would be great if he could go straight to the boss, the head coach, Andy Reid.
But as Reid manages the game, he simply doesn’t have time for individual instruction.
For Kelce, that’s where special projects coach/spread-game analyst Brad Childress — who was recently promoted to co-offensive coordinator, along with quarterbacks coach Matt Nagy — entered the fold.
“There are countless stories where … I don’t have to go up to coach Reid, I can just talk to Brad Childress right there on the sidelines, and ask him ’What did you see on that look?’ ” Kelce said.
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He might ask, for example, which route he should have run to counteract a defensive coverage.
“Childress has been right there, being able to help me out with not only running the route, but being able to understand what the quarterback’s thinking, what Andy Reid’s thinking and ultimately where that play is supposed to hit them,” Kelce said.
Childress’ understanding of Reid’s West Coast offense is one reason analysts Steve Mariucci (NFL Network), Trent Dilfer (ESPN) and Bill Polian (ESPN) think the Chiefs are well-positioned to survive the loss of offensive coordinator Doug Pederson, who left to coach Philadelphia in January.
“They’re not gonna deviate a whole lot,” Mariucci said. “Alex Smith’s offense and Andy Reid’s version of the offense is very solid.”
Dilfer added the message will be the same in the Chiefs’ offensive room, and so will the teaching.
“And Andy still has his hands on it,” Dilfer said. “If Andy was a defensive coach, I’d be worried. But because Andy is who he is, he will oversee it. I don’t think the Chiefs are going backward.”
Polian, a Hall of Fame general manager, concurred, noting the titles of each co-coordinator — Childress and Nagy — are far less important than the job descriptions Reid gives them.
“Andy is essentially the guy that drives that train, so he’s in the position that if he feels it can work, and he’s tailored the job descriptions to the way he feels is efficient, then it will work,” Polian said.
To that end, when he last spoke to the media on Jan. 21, Reid said he had not divvied each man’s role yet, even though he did note that Nagy — a former Arena League quarterback — will assume Pederson’s old role of being the sole voice in quarterback Alex Smith’s headset.
Still, Polian also vouched for Childress — who was the head coach inMinnesota in 2009 when Polian’s son, Dennis, worked there as Childress’ assistant — calling him an “excellent” play caller with a deeper understanding of the West Coast offense than most.
“When you have hands-on, firsthand experience with a system — be it offense or defense — the benefit that you have is when things go wrong, you know exactly how to fix it,” Polian said.
“Someone who got the offense from someone else who got it from the guy who invented it does not know what tool to go to in the toolbox when it’s time to fix it.”
Polian said that’s the benefit the Chiefs have with Reid, who was in Green Bay from 1992 to 1998, when Mike Holmgren’s version of the West Coast offense was being cultivated.
That’s one of the reasons, Polian said, the offense stayed afloat and even improved after running back Jamaal Charles was lost for the season in early October.
“When you lose arguably the best running back in the league, he knows exactly how to change things to make it work,” Polian said. “That’s the benefit of having Andy, and Brad was the same way. Brad understands the offense in exactly that same fashion.”
In the same vein, the fact Nagy has spent the last eight years on Reid’s staff — and has been promoted to his current position after starting as an intern — should be considered a promising sign, as well.
“Nagy is a bright guy, he quickly earns your trust — you understand that he has a good feel for the game,” said Denver Broncos guard Evan Mathis, who played for Reid and Nagy in 2011 and 2012.
“He’s one of those guys that — when you’re around a solid coaching staff like Andy Reid’s — are kind of sponges to that information and can learn a lot and grow as people and as coaches. Guys can recognize that he has talent and they recognize his ability.”
At least one Chiefs offensive starter is comfortable with the transition.
“Chilly and Matt Nagy, it’s not a matter of how much hard work they’re gonna put in — that shows every single day,” Kelce said. “It’s just a matter of can we comprehend it and put it on the field as they imagine it.”
The good news, Kelce said, is that both are “awesome teachers.” Throughout the 2015 season, Kelce picked the brains of both men about football.
“You know Chilly has been in the position — he’s been a head coach, he’s been an OC for a very long time,” Kelce said. “Any bit of information I can snag from him, I’m gonna snag from him. And it’s the same thing with Nagy — he’s such a relatable guy. He’s a younger guy and he’s played the QB position at a high level.”