Fresh start with Chiefs should energize Reid

Back-to-back losses to the Dallas Cowboys in 2009 caused Andy Reid to completely revamp his roster. I recall walking into GM Howie Roseman’s office in the 2010 offseason and seeing only two teams’ depth charts on the wall: the Eagles and Cowboys.

Head coach Andy Reid, who had final say in all personnel decisions at that point, was disgusted by not being able to match up with the Cowboys. The Eagles had bludgeoned Dallas 44-6 in a winner-take-all game at the end of the 2008 season. And they advanced to the NFC Championship Game, where they lost to the Arizona Cardinals.

Reid would never say it publicly, but he took a lot of pride in compiling a 17-11 record against the Cowboys. He was a master at exploiting matchups. Eagles running backs Brian Westbrook and later LeSean McCoy gave the Cowboys fits because of their quickness. The Cowboys didn’t have linebackers who could cover Westbrook out of the backfield. And the Giants signed linebacker Michael Boley to a lucrative free-agent contract for that very reason.  

Now, Reid has former University of Texas star Jamaal Charles in the backfield. Charles has been nursing a quadriceps injury, but he returned to practice Thursday.

“I’m excited. I don’t want to miss this game for the world because everybody from Texas will be watching this game,” Charles said Wednesday during a conference call. “I think I need to go out there and just show everybody what kind of Texas player I am.”

Reid had a tremendous run with the Eagles, but he needed a fresh start. He presided over the infamous “Dream Team” in 2011. And after helping rehabilitate Michael Vick’s NFL career, he couldn’t figure out a way to keep the quarterback healthy. Reid has a much better offensive line with the Chiefs, and he has a quarterback in Alex Smith who won’t make a lot of mistakes. In a lot of ways, Kansas City’s the perfect place for Reid because the expectations don’t compare to what he encountered in Philadelphia. The Chiefs have a loyal fan base, but it’s been beaten down by so many losing seasons. Reid gives the franchise instant credibility, much like what Jeff Fisher brought to St. Louis.

“Well, we certainly know Andy Reid and the kind of teams he’s put together for a lot of years so it’s something that I think will be a little bit familiar to us,” said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. “The colors are different but we’ve gone against him a lot and we have an immense amount of respect for him and what he’s done and the kind of program he’ll put together. I think it was reflected in their success, starting off against Jacksonville. He certainly has a good feel for our team, having competed against us a couple times a year for a lot of years. It will be a good battle. He’s an excellent football coach and we have the world of respect for him.”

With the Eagles, Reid struggled finding a defensive coordinator to replace the late Jim Johnson. He was fortunate to have some excellent position coaches such as John Harbaugh and Steve Spagnuolo, but both of those men had moved onto other jobs. He made the disastrous decision to name his longtime offensive line coach Juan Castillo the defensive coordinator and ended up firing him during the 2012 season. Reid now has longtime Jets assistant Bob Sutton running his defense. The Chiefs employ a 3-4 scheme, and second-year nose tackle Dontari Poe (6-3, 340) has a chance to become a dominant player. He dropped about 20 pounds this past offseason by eliminating barbecue from his diet.

Poe should provide a great test for Cowboys rookie center Travis Frederick. He held up pretty well against the Giants, but he didn’t have anyone the size of Poe directly across from him.

For Reid, beating the Cowboys would provide him with an early signature win. I don’t think the Chiefs have the firepower to keep up with Dallas, but it’s hard to say how the Cowboys might respond if they fall behind early. Reid will stick to the script early. You can bet that he has a few gadget plays that he didn’t have to roll out in last Sunday’s 28-2 win over the Jaguars. It will be interesting to see how much he leans on his offensive coordinator Doug Pederson when it comes to playcalling. Reid often turned the playcalling over to Marty Mornhinweg when he was with the Eagles. But both of them had a tendency to abandon the run at the first sign of trouble. That would be a mistake against a Cowboys defensive line that has been battered with injuries. The Giants abandoned the run against Dallas, in part because they kept fumbling the ball.

Reid’s knowledge of the Cowboys should be invaluable heading into Sunday’s game. But he refused to  take the bait Wednesday when he was asked why he’s been so successful against the Cowboys.

“Probably because I survived in the NFC East for so long,” Reid said Wednesday. “It was probably just by chance, just having been in that division so long.”

Reid was given too much power in Philadelphia. He cared deeply for his players, and that made it hard for him to know when it was time to release them. A fresh start in Kansas City will likely energize him.  And he will be able to focus on his team rather than worrying about talent acquisition.

Playing the Chiefs in Arrowhead Stadium has never been an easy task. But facing a head coach that has had their number over the years makes it even tougher.