KANSAS CITY, Mo. – If anyone in the Chiefs’ offense should be excited about the arrival of new coach Andy Reid, it would be Dexter McCluster.
The diminutive McCluster (5 feet 8, 170 pounds) was drafted in 2010 as a multi-purpose weapon, which he was that season with the Chiefs with Todd Haley as coach and Charlie Weis as offensive coordinator.
As a rookie, McCluster caught 21 passes for 209 yards, returned 13 punts (including a 94-yarder for a touchdown), returned 26 kickoffs for 527 yards and rushed 18 times for 71 yards (six of those rushes went for first downs).
And with Weis gone in 2011 but his system still in place, McCluster caught 46 passes for 328 yards and ran 114 times for 516 yards, along with his punt and kickoff return duties.
But that versatility screeched to a halt under new coach Romeo Crennel and new offensive coordinator Brain Daboll in 2012. McCluster was virtually eliminated from the return game, rushed only 12 times all season, and was used almost exclusively as a slot receiver.
Reid already has vowed he will use McCluster much like Weis did – in a variety of roles.
“He’s a unique talent because he can do a few different things for you, whether it’s special teams as a returner, or whether it’s offense as a receiver or a running back,” Reid said. “You saw what Charlie [Weis] did with him the one year where he kind of mixed him in the different positions offensively and he can handle that. He’s a sharp kid. Obviously he’s a talented kid.”
Reid wouldn’t take the bait when asked why anyone would reduce McCluster’s role as much as the Chiefs did last year.
“He was banged up just a bit and he played through it,” Reid said, stone-faced. “I think that story’s been told. He was really put in one position as a slot receiver. I think his value – and it’s a tribute to him – is that you can move him into different spots where you can utilize his talents the best.
“I know he’s a tough kid and I know he’s a hard worker. So we’ll try to put him in positions where we can exploit what he does best or what we feel he does best.”
Reid, in fact, liked McCluster so much that he wanted to make him an Eagle in 2010.
“You know what, I was interested in drafting him, it just didn’t fall that way,” Reid said. “But I did have some interest. I liked him as a football player.”
McCluster said he wasn’t aware the Eagles were ready to draft him. The Eagles were one spot behind the Chiefs when Kansas City took McCluster with the 36th overall pick. The Eagles wound up with safety Nate Allen at No. 37.
“I had no idea,” McCluster said. “It’s nice to know. But I didn’t visit them or anything.”
But McCluster is ready to get acquainted with the Reid offense.
“I have not gone back and watched any film from Coach Reid,” McCluster said. “But as a person that watches football, I’ve seen the success his offense has brought. He knows offense.”
Reid already has told McCluster changes are coming in how he will be used.
“I know he said he wants to use me in multiple places,” McCluster said. “That’s the type of player I am and the type of player I’ve always been.
“Now I’ll have the opportunity to showcase my talents and what I do best.”
And if McCluster were suddenly anointed the offensive coordinator, how would he utilize his talents?
“Oh, man, I don’t know,” he said, laughing. “My best role is to keep the defense on their toes. Move me around. Keep them guessing.”
First things first: McCluster and the Chiefs will have to rid themselves of any recollection of 2012 and the 2-14 record.
“Honestly, me personally, I erased it from my memory the minute the season was over,” he said. “Yes, it’s definitely a new beginning. There are a lot of people that look like they’re ready to go.