Sam Mellinger

Mellinger Minutes: Andy Reid’s genius, Chiefs on top, Kelce is a knucklehead, and booooo college football

Andy Reid on facing the Chargers and preparing for AFC West opponents

Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid and his team will face their first division opponent this Sunday in Los Angeles against the Chargers. He spoke about the preparation for AFC West opponents. The Raiders and Broncos are 2-0 and the Chargers, thoug
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Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid and his team will face their first division opponent this Sunday in Los Angeles against the Chargers. He spoke about the preparation for AFC West opponents. The Raiders and Broncos are 2-0 and the Chargers, thoug

The Chiefs were lucky to have a three-point lead at halftime against the Eagles, and not just because their offensive line was being consistently bossed by the Eagles’ front. They had nothing working. Not enough pressure defensively, and not enough space offensively.

A loss on Sunday would’ve washed so much of what the Chiefs built the week before at New England. It would’ve been a letdown, at home, a feisty but not-quite-ready-for-primetime Eagles team taking a jumpstart to their own season.

You know how this turned out, of course. The Chiefs won 27-20, and the final score should’ve even have been that close, a proud and talented group strong-arming basically the entire second half.

There are many reasons for this. Alex Smith. Justin Houston. Chris Jones. Travis Kelce (the good parts, anyway). Eric Murray. Laurent Duvernay-Tardif. Kareem Hunt. We could go on and on.

But I also think we should talk about the head coach.

Andy Reid has brought a steadiness, and reliability to the Chiefs, and anyone old enough to read this is old enough to appreciate that. At halftime against the Eagles, the Chiefs had 130 yards. They were being pushed back, outgained, and outmuscled.

After halftime, the Chiefs had 214 yards, their disadvantage at the point of attack compensated by an advantage in deception, this despite Reid going against a former assistant who was supposed to know all his secrets.

There were several plays that stick out in making this point.

The first was the Chiefs’ first play from scrimmage after halftime, a quick screen to Albert Wilson that used the Eagles’ aggressiveness up front and the Chiefs’ athletic linemen for a 12-yard gain.

The entire first half, they only had two players longer than that.

Then, on the very next snap, the Chiefs ran Tyreek Hill in motion from right to left, then back from left to right, Smith calling for the snap just in time to flip the ball to Hill with a running start around the edge. He was past the first down marker before a defender even had a chance, and ended up with an 18-yard gain.

The whole half was full of this stuff. The Chiefs have talent, and when everything is calibrated correctly, the options at different levels of the field can be impossible to cover. But it has to be calibrated correctly, and the same way a baseball hitter’s success is dictated by timing, so is Andy Reid’s offense.

When it’s the Chiefs making the defense react, instead of the other way around, it’s the Chiefs with the advantage. Reid’s job, as much as anything, is to make sure it’s the defense reacting.

He was masterful at this in the second half.

Smith had a 12-yard run on a zone read that gave him the right side of the field open because the fake handoff had most of the defense going left.

Travis Kelce’s touchdown on the shovel pass was incredible, the play of the day, and a beautiful example of Reid’s creativity bringing out the best in his roster’s talent. The play will be remembered for his athleticism, and that’s how it should be, because there aren’t many tight ends capable of scoring that way — the speed to beat the linebacker to the hole, the agility to leap from the 5 yard line into the end zone.

But how about the play call, and design? They ran the same zig-zag motion with Hill that they did on the 18 yard gain earlier, but this time faked it to the right, then faked a handoff to De’Anthony Thomas to the left, which helped clear out the middle for Kelce to run through.

They’ve run versions of this play before, including the opener against the Patriots. Using two fakes to either sideline is a new wrinkle, and one that makes the play virtually impossible to defend. Get sucked into the middle, and you risk Tyreek Hill blazing down one sideline. Get too far to Hill’s side, and you risk Kareem Hunt beating you down the other. I’ll be surprised if this isn’t a regular part of what the Chiefs do this year.

In sports, other than the most obvious highlights, it’s so much easier to notice the failures than the successes. It’s so much easier to blame a bad play call, than credit a good one. Reid has been on the wrong end of this plenty.

But along with so many others, let’s remember Reid as a crucial part of another impressive win.

This week’s reading recommendation is a stunning project by the Cincinnati Enquirer on Seven Days of Heroin, and the eating recommendation is the ribs at Joe’s. Look, I know it’s an obvious choice, and I usually like to mention stuff you might not know about. But I had these the other night, and they were the best they’ve ever been, so I owe it to myself as a journalist and more importantly to you as a friend to mention them here.

Please give me a follow on Twitter and Facebook. I’m encouraged by these initial few weeks of doing more on Facebook, even beyond the weekly live chats. If you’re new over there, thank you, and if you’re not over there yet, I humbly ask that you change that. Here, it’s easy.

As always, thanks for reading and thanks for your help.

This is undoubtedly true.

The words in the following paragraph are so premature and irrelevant that I would only include them in a silly exercise like this, so with that thrilling disclaimer out of the way:

Of the eight 2-0 teams after two weeks, the Chiefs have the most impressive pair of wins.

/cue laugh track/

I know, I know. That means nothing, or, at most, it means a lukewarm-mostly-empty-diet-Coke-with-backwash more than nothing. But it’s true!

The Chiefs beat everyone’s preseason Super Bowl pick on the road, and then a rising and tough playoff contender at home.

The Broncos have won two home games, including one against the Chargers. The Raiders just beat the Jets at home, which is the NFL’s version of a homecoming game. The Falcons beat the Bears, and the Steelers and Ravens each beat the Browns. The Lions beat the Giants, who appear to be an unmitigated mess right now.

It doesn’t mean anything for how the last 14 games will go, and it’s particularly precarious when the Broncos and Raiders are also unbeaten, each with an impressive win — the Broncos blowing out the Cowboys, the Raiders winning at Tennessee.

But this is a real thing. The Chiefs won 12 games last year, have won 24 of their last 28 regular season games, and the win at New England could come in handy at the end of the year when we’re calculating who gets home playoff games.

The offense, in particular, looks like it’s going to be difficult to stop. The offensive line got handled by the Eagles, and they’ll have to continue scheming toward that group’s specific and significant strengths (athleticism, pass protection) and against that group’s specific and significant weakness (point of attack, especially on short yardage runs). But they have game breakers at all three levels — Kareem Hunt, Travis Kelce, and Tyreek Hill — with a quarterback who knows the system like his own birthday and (very notably) may have found his running mojo.

The defense can be very good, even without Eric Berry, who I believe has a chance to be in the Hall of Fame (if he can stay on the field). Justin Houston was a monster the other day. We always talk about his pass rush, and that’s understandable, but the way he plays the run has as much impact on how offenses operate against the Chiefs as anything. Chris Jones is going to be a star very soon.

But we also know this team has weaknesses, same as any other good team. I believe they should be attacked with the run, and with passes against defenders who are not Marcus Peters. I believe that you should pick Hill or Kelce as your focus, and try to make the other guys beat you. I believe defenses are going to want Smith to prove he can keep his head against pressure, and are going to key on the fact that he very rarely throws the ball after breaking the pocket.

But, again, there are no boats without holes.

I do believe this is the best Chiefs team in the 21st century. You can make a joke about that being a low bar, and your joke may even be funny, but I still think it’s true and means the Chiefs are absolutely capable of winning the Super Bowl the same way six or so other teams are capable.

I disagree with your premise, actually. We talked a lot about this on the Border Patrol, and I hope you listen to it. Nate made a good point, that the most important opinions are from Kelce’s teammates.

I don’t know what Andy Reid can do that he hasn’t done already. He’s yelled. He’s talked. He’s been tough. He’s hugged. Kelce has been fined, he’s been benched, he’s been threatened. These “incidents” — I hate that word, but I’m not sure what to call it — are getting more frequent, not less, as Kelce is presumably emboldened by a big contract and growing fame.

He’s too good to sit, although Reid tried that, too, and it’s failed in spectacular fashion: in each of the three games since Kelce missed the first quarter at San Diego last year he’s taken a stupid penalty.

Kelce respects his teammates. Those are his peers. Their opinion of him matters. NFL locker rooms can be segregated places, not just between offense and defense but sometimes between black and white, rural and urban, linemen and skill positions.

Kelce has friends in all corners of that place, and if those friends begin to more strongly relate to him that they love him but he’s hurting them when he acts like an eighth grader then maybe that can make a difference.

But short of that, I’m just not sure what he’s done or said that makes you believe he’s in any mood to change.

This is who he is. He happens to be one of my favorite players, actually, so I’m not saying any of this from a place of outrage or moral lecture. I just think some people are who they are. There is good and bad.

I know exactly what eating wings and chili cheese nachos at the Peanut are going to do to me the next day, but I do it anyway.

I want to be as clear as possible about this, because I know there has been some confusion: I am completely unoffended by anything Kelce has done on the field, but that doesn’t mean I think it’s a good idea.

As much as I think the NFL needs to get over itself in a lot of ways (more on that below) the rules are in place and everyone knows it so you can’t complain when you get fined for, um, how do I say this in a family-friendly piece of gimmick journalism ... mimic Pee Wee Herman?

All that said, I do believe the Pee Wee Herman move may’ve been my favorite, and I’ll tell you why. First, he had a good point. The Broncos were acting like pirates that game, and had been for quite some time. Calling the Chiefs for a personal foul was a bit like berating the service at a restaurant and being surprised they spit in your food. Also, it was subtle, and made me laugh. I’ll always forgive funny.

My least favorite may’ve been on Sunday, actually. Maybe I’d change my mind if I knew what he was doing, but without more information, it just seemed so bizarre and unnecessary. They just scored a touchdown, and it wasn’t even him. If he was taunting his brother on the other sideline, fine, but you’re telling me he won’t have more chances to do that without drawing a penalty?

Also, the follow up. If you’re going to be the crazy, unpredictable, fun-loving guy, then at least have the self-assuredness to own it. Say you made a mistake, or even defend it, maybe say you play with a lot of passion and sometimes it gets the best of you. But to stand in front of your locker and respond to questions about it by answering questions nobody asked or cares about your opinion on is pretty weak.

Again, I really like Kelce. I think that sports, and the NFL in particular, need more personalities like his, not fewer. But there’s a better way to do it.

This is true!

The NFL has loosened its rules about celebrations from laughably absurd to merely laughable. The league is so far behind the times on this, and so far out of touch with what fans want and expect that it’s embarrassing for a league that should know better.

I do not believe that anything should go. I’m OK with the league trying to limit references to violence, and direct shaming of an opponent.

But creating a football world where grown men are raised and encouraged to act with aggression, unbridled cockiness and at times malice between the whistles but also expected to be gentlemen ready for book club after they make a big play is a ridiculous juxtaposition that cannot be logically defended.

Now, all that said, Kelce deserves and gets no sympathy here. We all make our own reputations, and he’s been perfectly clear about who he is on the field for some time. He needs to be smart enough to know that officials and opponents see that, too, and react accordingly.

This is also true!

The last time Justin Houston played a full season, Kareem Hunt was a freshman at Toledo, and that year’s training camp began as most of Kansas City wanted Dayton Moore and Ned Yost fired because the Royals would never win.

It’s been a minute, is what I’m saying.

It’s a shame, too, because these should be the best years of his career. He broke Derrick Thomas’ franchise sack record that season. He’s still just 28 years old. Michael Strahan set the NFL’s all-time single season sack record when he was 30.

So any talk of what Houston will be long-term should come with disclaimers.

But I agree with what Blair said during our Facebook Live — Houston was the best player on the field Sunday. I also believe Houston is the Chiefs’ best all-around player, and I mean no disrespect to Kareem Hunt or Alex Smith or Laurent Duvernay-Tardif or anyone else, but I think he’s been their best player through two games, too.

He impacts every single play, and always in a way that tilts the field toward the Chiefs. I don’t know how many other guys you can say that about.

I’m glad you mentioned how he is against the run, too. The pass rush stuff is obvious, and I talked about this some in the Insta-reaction, but on separate plays he engaged with each of the Eagles’ starting tackles, set the edge, then shed the block and made the solo tackle.

That is a stunning display of brains, strength, cool, athleticism, and skill.

When he does that, it completely changes what an offense can expect to do.

This is the best version of Houston, and I’d even say it’s an evolution of the 22-sack season from 2014. It’s the version we saw during that Sunday night game at Denver last year, when he wrecked anything the Broncos tried to do on his side of the field, and effectively benched their starting right tackle.

If this is what we’re going to see regularly this season — and, more importantly, late this season and in the playoffs — then this can be one of the league’s better defenses, even without the significant impact of Eric Berry.

But not all of you are convinced!

You’re not wrong.

The Chiefs have given up 547 yards passing, which is too many, but also a bit misleading. Carson Wentz threw for 65 of his 333 yards late in the fourth quarter, when the outcome was essentially secured, and the Chiefs (frustratingly) started playing prevent. Fifty-three more of those yards came on a completely fluky play down the left sideline, when the ball bounced off Terrance Mitchell’s chest and into the hands of Zach Ertz.

Just take away the play to Ertz, and the Chiefs move up four spots in passing defense. Take away the fluke and that last drive, and they go from 29th to 19th.

They’re giving up too many yards, but they gave up a lot of yards last year, too. Some of this is the way the Chiefs have decided to play — generally speaking, they’ll give it up between the 20s in exchange for limiting big plays, then try to stiffen in the red zone — and some of it is that the NFL has decided that everyone will give up a lot of yards.

If we’re focusing on these Chiefs, and these first two games, it’s also true that they’ve played at Tom Brady and against Carson Wentz. Those guys are going to get a lot of yards.

Brady threw for 447 yards and three touchdowns on Sunday. Wentz threw for 307 yards in the opener.

You make a smart point about the pressure. That’s going to be the most important thing for the Chiefs, even more important than for most teams. They have a lot of talent and salary cap attacking the quarterback, who knows before each snap that pressure is coming, and that his best shot at completing the pass is probably going to be away from Peters.

This isn’t going to be a dominant defense, I don’t think, at least not without a ton of turnovers. But it can be a very good defense, because of all the playmakers, and combined with a more dynamic offense can create a brutal matchup for opponents.

Not to nitpick, but they died last week, and probably earlier than that.

Even in 2015, when they boatraced the American League Central and basically went wire-to-wire in the American League, this has always been a group that’s operated with a small margin for error.

The Indians are loaded with talent, and a very diverse way to beat you. They have home run hitters, speed, good defense, all over the field. Their pitching is consistent. These Royals have none of that.

If they were going to win this year, they were going to need all the good things that’ve happened happen — Hosmer’s career year, Moose’s run at Balboni, Whit Merrifield, Lorenzo Cain, on and on — but also very little of the bad.

They could not carry so many holes in the lineup, for starters. They needed Danny Duffy to be very good (which he’s been) and also very healthy (which he has not). They needed the bullpen to fill out, not necessarily approaching the dominance of HDH, but at least consistent. At least reliable. They needed Ian Kennedy to be good enough to at least think about opting out of that contract.

They needed more, too, including the trade with the Padres to have actually helped the pitching staff and the trade with the White Sox to have had a bigger impact on the lineup and defense.

The pieces are all there to make the playoffs. Worse teams have made the postseason, and against better competition, because the division was absolutely there. The Tigers have quit, the White Sox are punting on 2017 (and probably 2018, too) and the Twins were waiting all year to lose so they could trade Ervin Santana and Brian Dozier. As it stands, they’ll be the rare team to make a seller’s trade at the deadline and play postseason games.

This is a failure.

Doesn’t meant this group has failed in the larger picture, but this is a failure. The team is going to look starkly different now going forward, and the front office will have some tough decisions to make.

Whatever it’s worth, I hope they realize they need a more focused mission. They have to stop trying to serve all masters. Decide to win now, or build for later. They just can’t do both.

There is no logical reason that this would be the case, and even if you are among the reactionaries who now think Dayton Moore is a dummy, you have to concede that one-third of baseball now qualifies for the postseason compared with just over 10 percent for most of the previous drought.

The Royals have good players, still, and will even if Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, and Lorenzo Cain each have press conferences where they try on different uniforms this winter.

Danny Duffy is one of the better left-handed starters in baseball, and at 28 still has plenty of prime left. I’m guessing he’ll be particularly motivated after this season, and I would not be surprised even a teeny tiny bit if he’s a serious Cy Young candidate next year.

Sal Perez is one of the game’s best catchers. Either the best or second-best in the American League, depending on what you think of Gary Sanchez. Whit Merrifield appears to be very real. Jorge Bonifacio is three homers shy of what Hosmer did as a rookie. Raul Mondesi slashed .305/.340/.539 in Omaha this season, and if he progresses like the Royals hope, he’ll be the team’s best player very soon.

So there’s a foundation here, still, no matter what happens this winter.

The problems are the contracts, with more than $100 million guaranteed to nine players, and a relative lack of prospects coming up through the system. Cleveland is clearly the best in the division, and should be again next year, no matter what happens with Carlos Santana. The Twins are young and getting better. The White Sox are basically like the Royals were in 2010 or so. The Tigers have quit on 2017, but they have more money than the Royals.

Anyway, the point here is the immediate future of the club depends on some 30,000-foot decisions the front office will face this offseason. If they decide to try to win now, they can put together a team capable of at least the second wild card. They’ll need to accept a payroll bump, and spend money and make trades better than they’ve done, but it’s certainly possible.

Or they could take a deep breath and try what would have to be a more accelerated rebuild than the last one, when the first winning season came seven years after Moore was hired.

That’s the option I’d go with, even if it meant some difficult decisions in trading “now” assets for future help.

But either way, there is no reason that in today’s baseball we should see another playoff drought that approaches three decades. It’s a different game now. The Royals have limitations, but they’re not outclassed financially within the division.

Imperfect teams make the playoffs every year. That’ll certainly be true again this fall, whether it’s the Twins or Angels or someone else.

I know the fear is there, because Kansas City lived with irrelevant baseball so long it began to feel like perpetuity here. But there were a lot of factors — fewer playoff spots, the strike, the board, Glass being clueless until 2006 — that just don’t exist anymore.

I’m not here to tell you we’ll have more parades soon. But I don’t think my kids are going to grow up with the Royals a punch line the way millennials did.

Not at all, and the best example of this might be Roy Williams. Kansas hired him in 1989 on Dean Smith’s recommendation, because he was at least in a second-cousin-once-removed sort of way, part of the KU “family.” He built up from probation and put KU back into regular national contention, including four Final Fours.

Then he left in 2003 to rejoin the North Carolina “family,” and he’s won three national championships.

Jim Harbaugh was hired at Michigan because he was part of the “family.” Jim Boeheim at Syracuse. Tom Izzo at Michigan State. Urban Meyer is from Ohio, and got his start in coaching at Ohio State. Charlie Weis had no connection to Kansas, and was a disaster. Gary Pinkel and Bill Snyder had no connection to Mizzou or K-State and they were terrific successes.

We could go on. You get the point.

Hiring from the family isn’t a dumb idea.

But, and this is probably more of the spirit of where you’re coming from: hiring someone solely because they’re from the family is probably a mistake.

The best criticism of the Kim Anderson hire was that no other Power Five school would’ve considered him. I don’t think the same thing could be said about Barry Odom, necessarily, though the familial connection was strong.

I’m probably as guilty of thinking this way as anyone at times, but there is no single answer to anything in life, including sports.

Deciding you’ll only date brunettes doesn’t mean you won’t burn through some bad relationships, same way that deciding you’ll only hire previous head coaches doesn’t mean you might end up hiring Turner Gill.

If there was a simple answer, nobody would screw up a coaching hire, but I do think you’re touching on something worth keeping in mind: if the only reason you’re considering someone is they used to play or coach at your school, you’re probably considering the wrong person.

Speaking of bad coaching hires...

No, I do not think he’s had a free pass.

There is an interesting internal political situation within the athletic department. I remain convinced that Sheahon fumbled the rollout for this proposed $300 million stadium renovation, in part because if this was the plan — “announce” at an alumni gathering at the Well, be very awkward when asked about it, offer few details for months — then they have bigger problems than a fumbled rollout.

Zenger is tied to David Beaty in a real way, because if Beaty fails, and needs to be fired, Zenger won’t be around to hire the next coach. He understands this. And the athletic department is tied to Beaty in other ways, because an empty football program is costing the university money and energy, and remains a real liability the next round of conference realignment.

They’re all tied together, which means decisions will be made as much in self-interest and hope as they will be logic and evidence. I happen to believe this is part of why Zenger was aggressive in giving Beaty a contract extension through 2021.

But I don’t think anyone is under any misconceptions about Zenger’s part in all of this. He took over a tough spot, with Gill steering the program into a wall, but then made it worse with a bad hire and worse contract for Weis.

If Zenger’s job security isn’t getting as much attention as Beaty’s, it’s because his job and performance at this point are not nearly as relevant as Beaty’s.

One difference is that if Beaty is fired, he’ll land somewhere as an offensive assistant and someday perhaps have another shot at being a head coach.

If Zenger is fired, he’ll presumably find another job in another athletic department, but I’m not sure any Division I program would hire him as an AD.

If K-State was what a lot of us — me very much included — thought they’d be they would’ve won that game by a touchdown or more. I’m interested to see how good Vanderbilt ends up being, but with all of that talent on offense, they should win 100 percent of the games in which their opponent scores seven points.

Jesse Ertz had some nice runs — he has that classic K-State quarterback patience on those draw plays — but completed just 10 of 28 passes with two interceptions. That just can’t happen.

There are a few ways to look at this. If competing in the league is all that matters, there is no reason that losing to a likely bowl school on the road should dampen expectations about a top three finish.

But the way that game happened, against the way K-State needs to be able to win, means this is a program that should probably focus on bowl eligibility before dreaming about contending for a league championship.

This isn’t the question you asked, but I’m going to say it anyway: it’s a bad loss for the Big 12. There was — and remains — some real momentum from the league, most notably with Oklahoma winning at Ohio State, but this was a missed opportunity for the league to have a road win against an SEC program.

I like fall beers, even if the whole pumpkin thing is overdone. Octoberfests are the best of the bunch, and there are many correct answers, including Boulevard’s Bob’s, and Great Lakes, and Sam Adams, and Brooklyn, and others.

But I’m here to tell you that if we’re talking about the best seasonals, I’m on Team Winter. Dark beers have a grip on my heart, including Torn Label’s Bloody Christmas. Winter seasonals tend to come out swinging, lots of taste, dark and strong, the kind of cold drink that will still warm your gut.

I will never kick a good Octoberfest out of my fridge, and if that’s your thing, God bless. My dad spends his falls buying enough Bob’s to last him until the spring. He’s like a hibernating animal that way.

But give me a nice glass of something dark and punchy with an ABV in the 7s.

I don’t know if this is why you’re asking this specific question this week, but my favorite weekend of the year is the Plaza Art Fair.

The fall is the best season in Kansas City. This is less opinion than fact. The weather is cooled, but not yet cold. The trees are turning, but not yet bare. We’ve survived what is usually (not this year!) a brutal summer, and have not had to use the ice scrapers yet.

The Plaza Art Fair is some of the best that Kansas City has to offer, and not just the weather. There’s always been a strong arts scene, and it seems to get stronger and stronger all the time. Some of the best restaurants in town serve food, and you don’t have to look far for a drink.

It’s one of the best places I can imagine if you want to look at art, and also one of the best places I can imagine if you only want to pretend to look at art. There’s music, stuff for kids, everybody’s in a great mood.

I’ve had fun at the Plaza Art Fair as a kid, and an adult. I’ve had fun there single, dating, and married*.

* Not in the same year!

I’ve had fun with friends, and I’ve had fun with my wife and kids. I’ve had fun with family, and I’ve had fun with new friends. I’ve had fun on days I’ve been home by dark, and fun on days long enough I didn’t feel right until the next night.

I assume it’s like this in most cities, but we’re fortunate here to have a lot of weekend fairs and festivals. There are a lot of great ones, and I actually wish I went to more of them.

But the Plaza Art Fair is the one I always seek out, the one I try to plan around.

Should we do a top 10? Let’s do a top 10.

10. Meshuggah Bagels. Best bagels in town.

9. Kitty’s Cafe: The pork loin sandwich costs $5.50. 

8. Longboards. Cabo Beef for $7.79 is a good investment.

7. M&M Bakery. The Hook ’Em Up with a bag of chips for $6.50.

6. Town Topic.

5. Johnny Jo’s. Slices as big as your face for $3.50.

4. Lunch Box. I don’t know how they do the tenderloins like they do them, but they do.

3. Lutfi’s. All the catfish.

2. Vietnam Cafe. I have often taken the family there, and am constantly surprised at how cheap the total is.

1. El Pollo Rey. It’s cheating to include too many Mexican places, because you stuff yourself for $5 at most, so I’m limiting this list to one. And I feel a little bad about not giving this spot to places like Tortilleria San Antonio, because the tacos there are insanely delicious and very cheap, but El Pollo Rey wins my heart because they have delicious Mexican food and also amazing chicken wings.

You guys, I’m always available to talk about pizza.

It is true that bad pizza is still pretty good, but it’s always true that great pizza is freaking amazing. I’ve never been a pizza snob — nothing wrong with that $5 takeout deal from Papa John’s when the Royals win and score five runs — but I used to think Kansas City lacked good pizza.

I am standing in front of you and the world and saying I was wrong.

My favorite in the city might be Caddyshack, and I have to tell you Charley, you are a hero for asking this question because it made me go to their website and, you guys, at some point since I moved from downtown they’ve expanded their delivery area and I might be in the game. I will have to investigate this soon.

This may have changed my life, and my wife’s life, and my kids’ lives. Charley, if this works out, I am forever in your debt.

The list of good pizza spots around town is long and diverse: classic spots like Minsky’s and Waldo, more uptown spots like Il Lazzarone and 1889, and down-and-dirty spots like Grinders and Johnny Jo’s. Spin might be my wife’s favorite, and a family favorite for delivery is Pizza 51, which I always appreciate because when you ask for a large, they basically tell you, “No, you mean our medium, because our large can feed a rugby team.”

There really is no such thing as a Kansas City style of pizza, and I dig that. Means we’re not married to that weird cheese like St. Louis, or pretending that those deep dish casseroles are a normal meal like Chicago, or that Pizzeria Bianco is worth the wait like Phoenix, or that thin pizza isn’t served everywhere in the country like New York.

But, seriously. If this Caddyshack thing works out, Charley has made me a better man.

This week, I’m particularly grateful for Trader Joe’s. There are a million ways food has advanced since I was a kid, but the most useful might be the improvement in quick food. When I was a kid, it was basically peanut butter and jelly, Stouffer’s lasagna, or a Hot Pocket. All three are delicious, it should be said, but my kids are eating stir fry, dumplings, chicken nuggets, all sorts of frozen foods that are easy and we don’t feel bad giving them. Those things are everywhere, but I’m not sure anyone does it as well/cheaply as Trader Joe’s.

Sam Mellinger: 816-234-4365, @mellinger

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