Sam Mellinger

Mellinger Minutes: Andy Reid’s place on the all-time list, Chiefs’ successes and chances, and the downside of winning a billion

Andy Reid became the third Chiefs coach to win a playoff game, joining Hank Stram and Marty Schottenheimer.
Andy Reid became the third Chiefs coach to win a playoff game, joining Hank Stram and Marty Schottenheimer. deulitt@kcstar.com

Andy Reid is about to coach his 22nd playoff game, and here is the complete list of men who’ve coached more:

Tom Landry, Don Shula, Bill Belichick, Joe Gibbs, Chuck Noll and Mike Holmgren.

Andy Reid is going for his 12th playoff win, and here is the complete list of men who’ve won more:

Belichick, Landry, Shula, Gibbs, Noll and Holmgren.

Every coach listed is in the Hall of Fame, save for Belichick, who clearly will be whenever he is eligible, and Holmgren, who could be.

As it stands right now, Reid has the same number of playoff wins as Bill Parcells, and in fewer seasons. A win on Saturday would give him the same number of playoff wins as Tom Coughlin and Bill Cowher. Reid has coached three fewer seasons than Coughlin, and two more than Cowher.

Reid has a reputation, in many circles, for failing in the big moment. A lot of this is a 1-3 record in NFC Championship games, and losing the only Super Bowl he coached. Some of it, presumably, comes from clock management mistakes.

I am not here to tell you Reid is the equal or better coach than any of the men listed here. All of them have won at least one Super Bowl, which is the ultimate way these things are judged.

I’m just here to tell you his track record may be better than you think, and that he’s an improbable-but-not-impossible run away from having a damn good case for the Hall of Fame.

This week’s eating recommendation is the scallops and risotto at Blvd Tavern, and the reading recommendation is Kevin Clark’s fun story on Tom Brady’s crazy games of catch.

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

This is one of those questions where the real answer is, nobody can tell you how to be a fan, and if they try, tell them to bugger off.

But it’s a good question, and one that the previous sentence probably takes too literally, so let me answer in the spirit I believe you intend it:

To me, yes, absolutely, the season is a success regardless of what happens from here on out* and I say that for a lot of reasons, in rough order from most to least obvious: the January 1994 thing is dead, they completed one of the great in-season turnarounds in league history, made a step forward in the all-important third year of Andy Reid’s and John Dorsey’s control, have provided the kind of stability and consistency that Clark Hunt has chased since, literally, his first day in charge, and more.

* Feel like we need a qualifier here, which is the assumption that the Chiefs don’t lose in some epic fashion that immediately earns itself some condescending title and a place alongside what the Vikings or Bengals did last weekend.

Maybe I’m soft, but I thought just getting to the playoffs meant it would be a hard and angry case to make that the season was a failure. The Chiefs are in the best place they’ve been since the early to mid-90s, and I mean that in more than just winning a playoff game. This is the first time since the turn of the century that they’ve had three straight winning seasons, and two playoff appearances in three seasons.

The success they’ve had since Marty Schottenheimer has mostly been a one-off, these sort of weird, one-year spurts that quickly turned to ash. This here has some meat behind it, a culture, some depth.

I totally get the thought that these are professional sports, so you either win or you lose, but the above paragraph is why I have a really hard time with the mental gymnastics required to see this season as a failure, even with a (normal, non-shameful) loss this weekend.

I was surprised that Houston didn’t make more of an impact. I had the feeling that the Chiefs had been cautious with him, and that his knee would be ready. I don’t totally buy the idea that he just had to “knock some rust off,” because to me, the issue is strength and health. He doesn’t need work on technique.

The fact that he and Hali both saw significantly fewer snaps than usual indicates they weren’t 100 percent physically.

The strength of Hali and Houston are obviously critical, not just because they are two of the Chiefs’ best players, but because they line up against perhaps the Patriots’ greatest weakness.

Along with the Chiefs’ ability to limit Gronkowski’s Gronkness, a disproportionate of this game will be decided on their ability to knock Tom Brady around and knock him around often.

A lot of that will be decided by whether Hali and Houston can be their usual selves, but it’s not that simple. Just as important will be the Chiefs’ rushing from the inside out, with Dontari Poe, Allen Bailey and Jaye Howard blowing up the middle of the Patriots’ offensive line. If you’re weighting recent performance in worrying about Hali and Houston, you would have to be optimistic about the three guys on the inside.

And, let’s be honest. Betting on Hali and Houston being more effective next weekend than last weekend seems like smart money.

I really need to stop taking these questions so literally, but we mean sports identity, right? Because even with a World Series win, and a ridiculous parade, and even if the Chiefs give Kansas City another parade, we still have schools that need fixing, potholes that need filling, a streetcar system that won’t take long for people to ignore and wonder why it doesn’t go to the airport or stadiums, and whole mess of positives: restaurants, convenience, neighborhoods, museums, on and on.

So, yeah. Sports identity. I was thinking about this the other day. It was barely three years ago that the Chiefs went 2-14 in one of the most dysfunctional, incompetent, and literally tragic seasons in NFL history. The Royals turned Our Time into a punchline.

In the last 16 months, the Royals killed the longest playoff drought in North American sports, won an unforgettable AL Wild Card Game, and a year later the World Series. The Chiefs have ended an embarrassing playoff losing streak, and by turning 1-5 into the playoffs have ended another sad streak — the city’s two biggest sports passions had never made the playoffs in the same calendar season before.

I suppose you could probably do something similar with any successful teams, but with that qualifier, the way this has come about has changed the context of being a Kansas City sports fan.

That stupid Shuttlecock Curse thing was always a joke, the product of a bizarre assignment from the boss and a brilliant and sarcastic idea from Christopher Leitch, who was then the director of the Kansas City Museum. But, yeah, you have to admit, if you were one to believe in made-up curses, then the Kansas City sports scene sure seemed to deserve one.

I promised to give up the act after the Wild Card game, because no city that is operating under a curse ever gets a night that incredible, and they sure wouldn’t get a magic carpet ride to the seventh game of the World Series. The last holdouts had to give up when Game 5 of the 2015 World Series ended, and what the Chiefs have done is just another load of bricks on the pile.

Kansas City has gone from wondering why it wasn’t listed as high as Cleveland or Buffalo on those sports heartbreak lists, to now being two wins away from (at least) two weeks of Is Kansas City The New Boston stories.

Pretty amazing, really.

Because, honestly, I know Edgar and I aren’t the only ones to think this...

Exactly.

Yes, is the answer to the first question.

I might’ve said Jamaal Charles before the Chiefs won without him, and might’ve said Justin Houston before the Chiefs won without him, but without knowing how good Chase Daniel really is, the biggest gaps on the Chiefs’ depth chart are probably between Derrick Johnson and D.J. Alexander, and between Jeremy Maclin and Chris Conley.

I’m going to get into this more with a column this week, but the Patriots’ thing is to go to extremes to take away what you do best. If Maclin was healthy, that would mean Bill Belichick deciding between Maclin and Travis Kelce.

If Maclin doesn’t play, or even if he does but at significantly less than 100 percent, Belichick has an easy decision, and instead of Alex Smith making those Trust Throws to Maclin, he’s now going to have to rely even more on his legs and the scheme and play calls getting his receivers open.

It’s not a deal breaker, because in the NFL the only deal breaker injuries are to Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, and maybe Rob Gronkowski. But I do think it would impact the Chiefs’ chances of winning from — and you know exactly how scientific this is — 40 percent to, like, 33 percent.

But, I do think Nick Gray makes a good point above, too. The Chiefs are also going to need Hali and Houston to cause some problems.

Well, I’d stick up for the Chiefs a bit here and mention the Monday Night Meltdown. That one wasn’t in a playoff game, which I suppose makes it better? I don’t know.

I was actually thinking about this the other day, for some reason. This is one of those really weird things that happens when you like sports, I guess. Your warped mind thinks of silly hypotheticals that have no bearing on anything in life, and then, if you happen to have a job that’s based on such silliness, you might actually end up getting a question asking you this very thing on a weekly timesuck you find yourself doing.

So, anyway, about what you said.

The Bengals loss, because they had it won, and then lost in such humiliating fashion — physical errors, mental errors, embarrassing conduct. Is that worse than extending a 20-year playoff win drought by blowing a 28-point lead? Is that worse than The Kicker Who Shall Not Be Named? And is someone going to stick up for the Vikings, especially the fans who sat out in hypothermic temperatures to watch their team lose a playoff game on a kick high school kids make with ease?

Forced to pick, I think the “winner” here is between the Bengals and The Kicker Who Shall Not Be Named. The Vikings have a good young team, and you expect them to be back. The 38-10 thing is sort of the same deal. It would’ve been nice to end the drought, but that was still a team that made the playoffs the year after 2-14.

The Bengals have been stuck on this step for a while, and already had to deal with Andy Dalton finally being REALLY good, and then getting hurt. I actually think The Kicker makes for a worse loss, because it was damn cold that night, too, and that team had some real talent and a chance to advance. But if you make the argument for what the Bengals did, I cannot debate the point with much passion.

I see what you did there, assuming the parade will happen, but I will (again) take issue with the premise:

I don’t think Kansas City is a baseball town. I don’t think Kansas City is a football town. I don’t think Kansas City is a college basketball town, or soccer town, or any other specific little title we sometimes see used.

Kansas City is a convenient place with great neighborhoods and better food, a place where most people are from here or the area, which by definition tends to exaggerate a lot of things — pride, insecurity, and interest in local products, including the sports teams.

There’s enough room for both, is what I’m saying. Kansas City is like virtually every other city in the country in that it likes a winner. The Royals’ explosion was over the top, legitimately more than what you see in most places, but there are a lot of reasons for that — the length of time since the last championship, perhaps most notably.

I do think there is something to be said for the idea that Kansas City, in general, is not as enthralled with where the Chiefs are right now as it was during the Royals’ postseason runs, but I don’t think that should be taken too seriously. I wonder if there is a sort of civic exhaustion, that people put SO much into the Royals that they need some time to recover.

I am also quite certain that the Chiefs game this weekend will do, like, a 60 rating and that if they win the passion and interest going into the AFC Championship game — either against the Broncos, or at Arrowhead against the Steelers — would be overwhelming. Already, you are seeing more red and flags and everything else around town. Let the Chiefs win this weekend, and it’ll be another city-wide rage.

So would that make it any less of a baseball town? Of course not. It’s sort of like asking me if I’m a nachos guy or a wings guy. The answer, obviously, is both.

The first thing I would do is depress myself by reading many of these stories. The second thing I would do is be OK with pissing a lot of people off. The third thing I would do is set aside a big chunk to do something real, like, help organizations like Operation Breakthrough or Big Brothers Big Sisters with their important missions. I think a program like the Kauffman Scholars could be expanded, and further supported.

After that, honestly, I’d be afraid. Winning the lottery seems to leave peoples’ lives in much worse shape. It’s good to have some struggle, good to have responsibilities, good to work.

A few things would change: I’d be constantly dressed in badass and very comfortable clothing, and vacations would be amazing. But I wouldn’t want to do the trust-fund thing for my kids. I want them to work. I don’t want them to be soft, because the only thing worse than kids turning into entitled adults based on money they didn’t earn is kids turning into entitled adults based on money their parents didn’t earn.

Like, I wouldn’t move. But we would add a bedroom, and redo the kitchen. And I wouldn’t quit my job. But all my columns would be with web-only deadlines.

When I was a kid, I was mowing the lawn one day and the mower kept stopping. I’m sure it was something simple, basic, like I had the blade too low or whatever but I was also probably 10 years old so I was whiny and frustrated.

After what seemed like hours of trying to get the mower right (but I’m sure was probably more like five minutes) I announced that using the mower was just now worth it, and that I was going to cut the grass the old fashioned way, with hedge clippers. My dad just laughed at me, which made me more determined, and so for the next hour or so I was crawling around the backyard making a mess of everything and legitimately mowing the lawn with hedge clippers.

I don’t remember how that one got resolved. I probably needed my dad to convince me that switching back from the clippers to the mower was, in fact, not an admission of being wrong.

I’m also sure my wife would have a more current answer to this question, but I don’t feel like embarrassing myself at the moment.

I will miss his tortured genius thing, freakout during Game 5, and the genuinely hilarious way he deals with frustration (arms thrown in the air while he spits out a stream of conscious line of insults and cursing that is almost always both hilarious and averaging at least six syllables per word).

I do like Andy, and despite the occasional and completely appropriate stupidness on Twitter between us, I think most of you probably know that. He’s one of the best writers and reporters we’ve had here, and his coverage on the Royals will be missed.

So, right here at the top, let me say (again) that by rule I am opposed to statues of living people. I think it’s unnecessary, unnecessarily risky, goes against what statues are supposed to be, is rather pretentious if we’re being honest, and depending on how deep you want to go with it represents a lot of modern problems.

But, I also understand that like the tomahawk chop, this is an argument I’m never going to win and that most people don’t even want to hear*.

* Not to make assumptions about what you’re thinking, but my problems with the chop are probably not what you think.

So, yes, I do think there will be a statue of Alex Gordon at Kauffman Stadium, and it will be up relatively soon after he’s done playing. And I believe the statue should be him pointing as he rounded first after the home run in Game 1 of the World Series, and it should stand in deep center field where that ball landed.

You didn’t ask this, and actually, I haven’t typed “Alex Gordon is the best Royals player since George Brett” here, but I know that now that I just did, some of you are yelling Carlos Beltran at your phones or computers, so a few facts...

Career Wins Above Replacement for the Royals in a career:

1. George Brett, 88.4

2. Amos Otis, 44.6

3. Willie Wilson, 42.2

4. Frank White, 34.7

5. Alex Gordon, 31.8

6. Hal McRae, 27.7

7. Carlos Beltran, 24.7

Carlos Beltran’s best two seasons with the Royals, by WAR: 6.4 (2001) and 5.8 (2003).

Alex Gordon’s best two seasons with the Royals, by WAR: 7.2 (2011) and 6.6 (2014).

Now, Beltran has had a better career, and as much as I love advanced metrics, I am the first to say they don’t tell the whole story. Numbers be damned, I’m not sure I’d take Gordon’s seasons over Beltran’s 2001-03, but I don’t think the gap is as wide as you might think. But many of Beltran’s best seasons, and much of his career production, has been done after he left the Royals.

Also, longevity matters. So does sticking around to help push a team from the bottom to the top.

You guys. There are times that being a sports fan is the absolute dumbest thing you can do with your life.

Part of what makes it fun the other times, if you think about it.

Sam Mellinger: 816-234-4365, @mellinger

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