KANSAS CITY, Mo. – No team in the entire AFC passed the ball fewer times (475) than the Chiefs did in 2012.
And that is an astonishing fact for a team that didn’t actually lead in a game in regulation until the ninth game of the season. It is also almost unfathomable for a team that finished 2-14 and lost nine of its games by 15 or more points.
But with Andy Reid now in charge as the new Chiefs’ head coach, that run-run-run approach is about to change dramatically.
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Chiefs fans should be prepared, and perhaps excited, for a seismic shift in offensive philosophy.
Reid will bring to Kansas City the West Coast version of offense he learned under Mike Holmgren in Green Bay, an offense Reid then personalized in 14 years as the Eagles coach.
Reid also will bring with him a personnel strategy he learned by watching Ron Wolf in Green Bay, a strategy that focuses more on acquiring beefy, pass-protecting offensive linemen and mobile, strong-armed quarterbacks than it does on flashy skill-set players such as running backs and wide receivers.
Under the Chiefs’ last three coaches – Herm Edwards, Todd Haley and Romeo Crennel – the Chiefs steered away from putting the game in the hands of the quarterback.
That also will change, most likely immediately, as Reid will entertain his options with the No. 1 overall pick. In Green Bay, Wolf early on targeted a trade with the Falcons for a young, strong-armed quarterback named Brett Favre, whom Reid worked with as the Packers’ quarterbacks coach.
Reid’s first move in Philadelphia was spending his first draft pick on quarterback Donovan McNabb. Reid may do the same in Kansas City, perhaps using that first pick on West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith.
And don’t be surprised if Reid also swings a deal for Seattle backup quarterback Matt Flynn, who tutored under Mike McCarthy in Green Bay. Reid is friends with Seahawks general manager John Schneider, who worked with Reid in Green Bay in the 1990s.
It seems more than likely that Reid will clean out the Chiefs’ quarterback stable of Matt Cassel, Brady Quinn and Ricky Stanzi, none of whom seem suited to operate Reid’s version of the West Coast offense, which not only emphasizes precision timing on slant and crossing routes but also requires touch on long, vertical throws.
It is an offense Chiefs fans will recall from the mid-1990s when Marty Schottenheimer was coach. Schottenheimer and general manager Carl Peterson not only brought in Joe Montana, but they also hired offensive coordinator Paul Hackett, another West Coast offense disciple, to change offensive philosophies.
“There are a lot of versions of that type of offense,” Schottenheimer told FOXSportsKansasCity.com. “We still had an emphasis on the run, but a lot of those short passes and completions were the same as a run. You want to keep gaining yards, keep the down and distance short, keep moving the chains.
“That’s what we tried to do and that’s what Joe was so good at. Then you take your shots down field.”
That is precisely Reid’s philosophy, and Schottenheimer believes it will work with the Chiefs.
“They definitely have some talent on that roster,” Schottenheimer said. “Obviously it will have to start with the quarterback and (Reid) will determine what he wants there.”
Schottenheimer, by the way, gives the Reid hiring a thumbs up. Schottenheimer spoke with Chiefs owner Clark Hunt “a few times” over the last couple of months but said he wouldn’t classify his role as a consultant during the coaching search.
“I presented my opinion on certain matters,” Schottenheimer said.
Reid, like Schottenheimer when he took over the Chiefs in 1989, will be in a hurry-up mode to install his system, starting with personnel.
Reid’s approach in that area is similar to Wolf’s – invest your resources in a quarterback and an offensive line to protect him. That strategy will be reinforced particularly if Reid and the Chiefs land Packers director of football operations John Dorsey as their new general manager. Dorsey tutored under Wolf and then later Ted Thompson.
One of Reid’s early moves in Philadelphia was signing free-agent offensive tackle Jon Runyan to a six-year, $30 million contract, which at the time made Runyan the highest paid offensive lineman in NFL history.
That becomes significant now as the Chiefs will have to decide on their own free-agent left tackle Branden Albert, who may be in for a huge payday with Reid in charge.
Reid also will have to find a replacement for guard/center Ryan Lilja, who announced his retirement after this season.
Another player heading for free-agency is wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, whom the Chiefs franchised last year. At 6 feet 2 and 221 pounds, Bowe fits the mold of receivers Reid prefers – big and physical.
But it remains to be seen whether Reid believes he can cure Bowe of his tendency to drop passes and play soft, or if he chooses to look for a No. 1 receiver elsewhere.
Jamaal Charles’ role is likely to be affected the most under Reid.
Charles ran the ball 285 times last season with Crennel as coach but there’s virtually no chance Charles will run the ball that many times again in a season under Reid.
Instead, Charles likely will become a bigger threat out of the backfield as a receiver. The most passes Charles has caught in a season is 45. That number may virtually double in Reid’s offense.
That versatility is key for any running back playing for Reid, whose favorite all-time back was Brian Westbrook.
“I never coached a running back as smart as him,” Reid once said of Westbrook.
Speedy wideout Dexter McCluster may also see his role change under Reid, who may take McCluster out of the slot and insert him more in the backfield.
“The key for any coach coming in is get the system you want in place and get the people you want in place,” Schottenheimer said. “You change the culture.”
And change is starting now at One Arrowhead Drive.