There is no denying that Andy Reid is one of the best football coaches of his generation. Were the Kansas City Chiefs head coach to win a Super Bowl, he would become a lock for the Hall of Fame. As it is now, his 194 career wins have him second among current coaches to only Bill Belichick and rank ahead of such Canton residents as Marv Levy, Chuck Knox and Bud Grant, none of whom won the big game.
Anyone who’s observed Big Red on more than a casual basis, though, knows that he has his blind spots. In particular, Reid is not always at his best when the pressure is on. Most fans boil this down to his “Andy doesn’t know how much time is left on the clock” moments of which there are many.
There are bigger repercussions that play out on an organizational level when Reid becomes desperate to win. That’s what Chiefs fans should be keeping an eye on moving forward. Before we get to the present, however, we first need to look back into the coach’s not-to-distant past.
The History Lesson
As head coach of the Eagles, Reid suffered the biggest clock management gaffe of his career during Super Bowl XXXIX. After that, the pressure to deliver a championship to the Philadelphia faithful became off-the-charts intense.
That’s when Reid started to flounder. A little at first, but building up to some giant mistakes.
He mishandled the Terrell Owens–Donovan McNabb feud, losing a segment of his locker room in the process. He jettisoned McNabb, with whom he had reached five NFC Championship games, in favor of former second-round pick Kevin Kolb. Reid then had to quickly move on to Michael Vick, who was less than a year out of federal prison at the time.
His decisions on the defensive side are what doomed him. When longtime defensive coordinator Jim Johnson had to step away because of his health (he died shortly after in 2009), Reid promoted 35-year-old Sean McDermott, who wasn’t ready. His removal two years later is when Big Red really went off the chains.
Reid first hired defensive line coach Jim Washburn to install his “Wide 9” alignments without having a coordinator in place. Then he moved Juan Castillo from offensive line coach to defensive coordinator. The collision course with the eventual disaster those moves caused was seemingly obvious to everyone but Reid.
People remember the chaos of the 2011 “Dream Team” Eagles but that was just when the national media started paying attention. Locals knew that Reid had already been in a spiral for several seasons before that. He lasted one more season in Philadelphia before he was mercifully relieved of his duties.
Looking in the Mirror
Reid supporters will be quick to remind everyone that what happened in Philadelphia has little to do do with what’s happening in Kansas City. Reid had final say over all football decisions with the Eagles, which isn’t the case with the Chiefs. Outside of football, his struggles also corresponded with a turbulent period in his personal life; his son, Garrett, battled substance abuse and died from an overdose during the Eagles 2012 training camp.
Still, after five seasons with the Chiefs, Reid’s teams have yet to advance to a single AFC Championship game. Kansas City might not reach the level of Philadelphia’s pressure cooker, but crushing playoff losses grow old no matter the size of the media market.
Even though it’s not apples-to-apples, there are some odd parallels with the coaches path in the two cities. The Philly front office moved from non-communicative Joe Banner to young brain Howie Roseman as the main decision maker with Reid late in his tenure. The Chiefs made a similar move from the obstinate John Dorsey to wunderkind Brett Veach last year.
Like he did in Philly, Reid traded a longtime starter in Alex Smith to go with a young gun in Patrick Mahomes. That might ultimately be the right move, even if the Texas Tech product has been having some training camp growing pains. Also, on the positive side, just as he found Jackson and McCoy with the Eagles, Reid has turned the Chiefs offense over to dynamic playmakers in Kareem Hunt and Tyreek Hill.
Then again, the offense has never really been Andy’s problem.
Kansas City Defensive Conundrum
The bigger question is whether Reid learned anything from the defensive fiascoes with the Eagles. Just as he once let new Hall of Famer Brian Dawkins walk, the coach waived goodbye this offseason to perhaps his most talented defender in Marcus Peters. Add in the release of Tamba Hali and Kansas City’s defense is in full transition mode.
Despite finishing 28th in total defense in 2017, the Chiefs retained defensive coordinator Bob Sutton. Outside of a pair of top 10 statistical finishes in 2014 and 2015, Sutton’s defenses have largely been in the league’s bottom third.
The defensive coordinator probably can’t survive another effort like last season’s playoff loss to Tennessee. When it comes time for a replacement, will Reid be conservative or will he feel like he needs to shake things up if he’s ever going to win a Super Bowl? He’s shown that there’s almost no way to predict how he’ll handle it.
Perhaps the youth movement that Big Red has undertaken in Kansas City will turn out differently. Maybe he’s learned from those Philly mistakes. The Chiefs faithful should still watch his moves carefully because the game clock isn’t the only thing that Reid mishandles when the pressure to win is on.