How does a team go from 2-14 to 8-0? It starts with that big lug on the sideline
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — There were skeptics everywhere when Chiefs CEO Clark Hunt aggressively pursued and landed Andy Reid to be his next head coach last January.
The skeptics, most notably the ones right here in Kansas City, are all quiet now.
Along with general manager John Dorsey, Reid has taken a roster mostly the same from last year’s train wreck of a team, a squad that stumbled and tumbled to a horrific 2-14 record.
The early predictions for Reid’s success were modest. Perhaps a four-game improvement over last year? Maybe 7-9? With a few breaks, how about 8-8?
Well, here Reid and the Chiefs stand at 8-0, the NFL’s last unbeaten team.
The satisfaction of such an incredible turnaround has to fill Reid inside. But he won’t show it.
Nor will he admit to any kind of personal resurrection. After all, following a hugely successful run in Philadelphia, Reid’s exit there was welcomed by many after the Eagles plummeted to a 4-12 mark in 2012.
“I can’t tell you that I wasn’t feeling pretty good before I got here,” Reid said. “Every day that I can get this big tail out of bed, I’m kind of a happy guy.
“I’ve sure enjoyed it here. I will say that. The people are phenomenal. The barbecue is phenomenal.”
But Reid isn’t much for stopping and smelling that barbecue in the middle of a season.
“Listen, you do sit back and treasure each win in the National Football League,” Reid said. “It’s not easy to win. But you are so involved in the day-to-day stuff, you don’t get really caught up in all of that.”
Reid’s mantra of living in the moment seems to have brushed off on his players, who have a hard time singling out the reasons behind the Chiefs’ spectacular turnaround.
The players know, though, that Reid and his coaches have a lot to do with it.
“Man, coach Reid is a heck of a coach,” linebacker Derrick Johnson said. “The confidence level that he gives us, it’s remarkable.
“He came in during the off-season and everybody jumped in the boat, and we’ve been sailing ever since. It’s a blessing that he was available at the time he was.”
Defensive lineman Tyson Jackson agreed.
“You have to give the coaches and the staff a lot of the credit,” Jackson said. “It’s a lot of things. It’s the Xs and Os they bring, and it’s just a new beginning for all of us. That’s what it felt like when they came aboard, that it’s a new year, a new start.
“It gave us a chance right away to forget about last year.”
The horror of last year — not just the losses but the adversity the team endured going through the Jovan Belcher murder/suicide — in many ways brought the team closer in the off-season.
“We were anxious to get back to football,” Jackson said.
Johnson said last year served as a lesson for everyone.
“You have to seize the moment,” Johnson said. “Life is short. We’ve been through a lot on and off the field last year. This year, it’s a big testament to our character and what we stand for. All that stuff we have been through in the past is helping us out now, keeping us humble and to know that you have to take it one game at a time, one day at a time, and be thankful for every day.”
Even the players who weren’t here last season, such as quarterback Alex Smith, can appreciate the fresh-start approach that Reid and his staff preached.
“I think the thing that stands out most to me is that (Reid) has just kept it about football,” Smith said. “From Day One, he just created a healthy environment and just kept this about football, about competing and getting better every single day.
“I think coach (Reid) has just done such a good job of keeping the focus on teaching. Then, for us as players, the focus is on execution. I really think he’s done a great job of eliminating exterior distractions and things like that, and kept this about football. I know I enjoy it. I think the guys enjoy it.”
Players also have bought into the notion of not stopping for a moment to look back.
“We’re never satisfied,” Johnson said. “We’re definitely pleased at the moment but never satisfied. This team has a lot of fight in us. We have a lot to prove still.
“We know it’s a long season. We had a great first half of the season and we’re looking for more wins. That’s the thing about (Reid) is that the goal is to just keep going forward.”
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email at email@example.com.