KANSAS CITY, Mo. — With Andy Reid, it’s not about the baggage. It’s about the gravitas.
Loafing? He’ll bench your backside. Malcontented? Talk to the hand. You know, the one with the NFC championship ring on it.
Talent wasn’t the reason the Kansas City Chiefs were 2-14; five Pro Bowlers will attest to that.
It was cynicism. They claimed to adore Romeo Crennel, the man Reid succeeded as coach Friday, yet they rarely played well for him. They knew the man didn’t have the final word, the final veto. They played as if they knew Matt Cassel (or Brady Quinn) gave them no shot at realistically winning that day. They played as if they knew offensive coordinator Brian Daboll’s game plans were a joke. They played as if they knew the coaching staff was in over its head, week after week.
Every NFL locker room has pockets of selfishness — this is a business, after all, and a cruel one, at that — but in Kansas City, the me-first philosophy was unusually rampant. After a 1-5 start that included butt-kickings at Buffalo and Tampa Bay, neither of which will ever be confused with the ’85 Bears, it was clear: They wanted this season over and done with.
Compare that with the Indianapolis Colts, a great story with a roster that, man for man, isn’t that much better than the one fielded by the woeful Chiefs. Indianapolis went 11-5 because it had a quarterback everybody had bought into and a cause — coach Chuck Pagano — to rally around. Colts players said their locker room reminded them of a college environment, a high school environment, one heartbeat. The Chiefs’ locker room, by contrast, was like an MTV reality show — 53 cabs, 53 agendas, 53 microdramas.
Reid has to get their attention, and quickly. He brings star power, if not outright respect. Here’s the man who won all those NFC East division titles with Donovan McNabb, Michael Vick and Kevin Kolb, a man who won in Philly, one of the toughest crowds in the world to charm.
The man also brings national credibility, something this franchise hasn’t seen since the last former Eagles coach to take the reins — Dick Vermeil. Todd Haley didn’t have it. Crennel certainly didn’t. Former general manager Scott Pioli was the face of the club before his dismissal Friday, the star around which the rest of the planets were supposed to neatly align. They didn’t.
Reid, walrus mustache and all, is that star now. Regardless of whether he brings in John Dorsey and Tom Heckert to assist him the front office, the final word on personnel matters is expected to be his alone. And even if Reid doesn’t excite every corner of the locker room, he’s got the fan base jazzed again. That alone makes this a victory for Chiefs CEO Clark Hunt, who was going to have a tough sell over the winter with Pioli still on board. While folks rightly wonder how much Reid, 54, has left in the tank, he’s going to be warmly embraced — at the outset, at least — by a community starved for a consistent winner.
Kansas City considers itself an NFL town first and a college basketball town second; the locals want to wear red and tailgate like fiends and scream like banshees for three hours. It’s part of the collective DNA. That Reid — a West Coast guy who could’ve entertained overtures from the Chargers and Cardinals — settled on the Chiefs is another feather in the cap for Hunt and team president Mark Donovan.
The wingtips gave Reid a tour of the facilities on Friday and reportedly plan to introduce him at a news conference Monday. For the coach, this all has to feel a bit like deja vu. In 1998, he’d inherited a Philly team that was 3-13 and had scored all of 10.1 points per game the previous autumn. At that time, he’d succeeded Ray Rhodes, a respected defensive coordinator who’d failed badly in the head coach’s chair. This time, it’s Crennel’s mess, but parallels are kind of eerie.
And yet, compared with the realistic alternatives, it fits. Reid is 10-9 lifetime in playoff games. The Chiefs, as a franchise, are 8-14; they haven’t won a postseason contest since 1993. They’re 3-12 in the playoffs since the NFL-AFL merger of 1970.
Not that there aren’t questions, of course, the ones you’d ask with any regime change. Reid has built a street cred of chucking the ball around at every opportunity — his Eagles teams ranked among the NFL’s top 10 in pass attempts in eight of his 14 years but among the top 10 in rush attempts just once. It’s anybody’s guess how that’s going to mesh with a roster where the most valuable piece of offensive weaponry is all-world tailback Jamaal Charles. The Chiefs, at present, aren’t remotely built to do what Reid prefers to do.
You wonder about his heart, too: Reid’s son, Garrett, died during the Eagles’ training camp this past summer after battling drug problems. Another son, Britt, was charged with drug and weapon offenses after allegedly pointing a gun at another motorist. Nor did it help when ex-Eagles linebacker Jeremiah Trotter went on a radio show this week and blasted Reid as a play-caller, asserting that it was Philly’s defense, under the late Jim Johnson, that made it a perennial contender. (He may have a point, too: With Johnson, Reid’s record was 97-62-1. After Johnson left the staff in 2009, it was 33-31.)
Then again, nobody has to like the guy. After all, the Chiefs players said they liked Crennel, and what did that get him in the end? Crennel was a nice guy. NFL players dig nice guys. They respect power. And, for better or worse, Reid has it.