The successes and failure of Reid’s first five years with the Chiefs

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Sports

August 21, 2018 - 10:33 AM

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Andy Reid wore a gray suit and red tie, and back then the color was a strange look. He’d been with the Philadelphia Eagles longer than any coach had been with any NFL team. Green became part of him, but that was over, and this is easy to forget five years later, but back then he represented hope in Kansas City.
A helicopter followed his ride from the airport to the Chiefs’ offices. A historic franchise had been embarrassed, and ridiculed, and in KC that meant so many fans felt the same personally.
Reid came to save them — an adult after years of amateur hour, credibility to replace incompetence, cohesion instead of the dysfunction that had permeated the franchise under general manager Scott Pioli.
Reid has delivered on all those base expectations, but so far the bigger goal has been unfulfilled. The NFL moves fast, and five years is longer than most careers at this level, but the difference between then and now is stark.
Reid is no longer fresh. The days of Chiefs fans seeing Reid’s history as an upgrade over their own are long over.
He came here talking about putting quarterback Alex Smith into the Hall of Fame, and his five years have so far peaked with a wild card-round win over a team quarterbacked by Brian Hoyer.
Reid came here to change the Chiefs’ historical underperformance and narrative of playoff failures. Five years later, he has only added to them, and in some ways he has climbed over Dick Vermeil and even Marty Schottenheimer to the top of the futility food chain.
Two of the biggest five blown playoff leads in NFL history belong to Reid and the defensive coordinator he retained. With enough distance, the stink of 2-14 with angry banners flying over Arrowhead Stadium doesn’t feel any worse than regular playoff failure.
A hierarchy of self-esteem exists in sports. When you stink, you tell yourself the lie that all you want is to be competitive. When you’re competitive, the lie becomes that you want some regular-season success. When that happens, a championship is all that matters, and for the lucky few who achieve it, the demands for another shortly follow.
The truth is that none of us in sports — fans, media, coaches, players — are ever fully satisfied. What was OK yesterday isn’t good enough today, and what’s good today will be forgotten by tomorrow.
Reid earned his way into this awkward reality with five years that were mostly indistinguishable — five winning records, four postseasons, never worse than second in the division and never further than the divisional round.
He’s also earned the privilege of trying to be better, to be more than the clean-up man who rescued the Chiefs from a train wreck and pushed them back to their customary regular postseason disappointments.
This is all part of what makes this particular moment in the history of both Reid and the franchise he now leads so fascinating and consequential.
Because here comes a reset. Most NFL coaches don’t get this opportunity, but then, most NFL coaches didn’t save a young owner from a humiliating run of failure.
The Chiefs went through more changes this offseason than any other since 2013, when Reid and John Dorsey replaced Romeo Crennel and Pioli, when Smith replaced Matt Cassel.
So many new faces are on defense, and the offense is trading out a 33-year-old averse to turnovers in favor of a 22-year-old averse to boring.
Reid’s first five years haven’t changed who anyone thought he was as a coach. If anything, he’s only confirmed the image and reputation as a dependable and innovative leader who will disappoint you in the playoffs.
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes is Reid’s chance to change all of that. Almost certainly his best chance, and quite possibly his last.
Quarterbacks suck up so much of the energy in football, and the connection of Mahomes and Reid will define the next five years of the franchise, at least. If Reid is right about him, it’ll be the next 15. As Mahomes goes, so too will Reid — he’s the quarterback who could put the coach into the Hall of Fame someday.
Reid has always been protective of his quarterbacks. You could not ask him a question about Smith without hearing about Smith’s leadership and ability before getting to the answer. If you asked about whether Smith needed to throw downfield more, or about whether he was the quarterback to make the Chiefs great and not just good, you would get a full-throated defense that often included some variance of, “People don’t understand how good this guy is.”
It’s like that with Mahomes, too — but more so. The coach who talks only of controlling what he can control, and is hyper-focused on avoiding distractions even by the obsessive standards of football coaches, is now openly referencing pieces written about Mahomes.
Reid’s influence with the Chiefs has never been greater. In his first season here, he had established holdovers like Jamaal Charles, Derrick Johnson, Tamba Hali, Brandon Flowers and Branden Albert. Smith was hand-picked but by then was an eight-year veteran who’d already been through professional hell in San Francisco.
This is all Reid now. Eric Berry, Justin Houston, Allen Bailey and Dustin Colquitt are the only projected starters who predate Reid with the Chiefs, and each has signed a new contract since Reid’s arrival.
The defense is headed by a coordinator Reid has spent some of his own capital to retain. The offense is quarterbacked by a first-year starter Reid has compared to Brett Favre, a player whose significant physical gifts the Chiefs are building around, and whose growing mental acuity Reid is vouching for.
Reid has given the franchise credibility again, and postseasons in every year but one. The Chiefs have been good for him, too. They’ve paid him millions, provided everything he’s asked for and supported him through the disappointing ends.
The relationship has been mutually beneficial, if ultimately unsatisfying. That’s been true of Reid and the teams he’s coached for 20 years now. Change has to start soon, if it ever will.

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