Going For Glory (And The Win)
By Charlotte Wilder
FOX Sports columnist
Andy Reid has guts.
On Sunday, Kansas City was up by only five points in the fourth quarter against the Browns with just a few minutes left in the game, and the Chiefs’ head coach went for it on fourth-and-1.
If he had been entrusting this play to Patrick Mahomes – the reigning Super Bowl MVP who can hit a target 70 yards to his left while blindfolded – that wouldn’t seem so crazy.
Reid, however, was working with his backup quarterback, Chad Henne, who had thrown an interception the previous possession.
Mahomes was in concussion protocol after a nasty hit while he was trying to run for a first down in the third quarter. If you ever want to watch a horror movie and can’t decide which one, just roll the tape of Mahomes trying to get up after getting rocked by two Browns defenders. It was horrifying. The replays only made it worse.
But the show must go on, and Reid didn’t change the plot just because his star was out. Even the announcers were surprised. Before the play, Tony Romo said, "there will be no play," as he explained how the Chiefs were trying to draw the Browns offsides for a penalty to avoid delay of game. That would’ve given Reid time to decide whether he’d go for it or punt it back to the Browns, hoping they were still the same old Browns and wouldn’t be able to score.
Instead, the ball was snapped, and Henne sprang into action. Romo freaked out, much like I did on my couch and much like I imagine most of football-watching America did, too. Henne threw the ball to Tyreek Hill, Hill took it past the marker and slid onto his butt, and the Chiefs were on their way to their third straight AFC Championship Game.
Fortunately, it seems like there’s a good chance that Mahomes will be there next Sunday. After the game, Reid said, "[Mahomes] got hit in the back of the head. He’s doing great right now. So that’s a positive. He passed all of the deals he had to pass."
I’m not sure the technical term for the NFL’s concussion protocol is "deals," but a) I’m not a doctor and b) Reid can say whatever he wants because he’s the bravest man in the world.
"Going for it" vs. punting has been a hot topic among football nerds for years, and it's especially relevant during these NFL playoffs. In the wild-card game, the Colts went for two instead of punting and ended up losing to the Bills by a field goal. The next day, Mike Vrabel punted on fourth-and-2 from his own 46 in the fourth quarter, when the only way he could’ve won the game was by scoring a touchdown. Later that night, the Steelers punted on fourth-and-1 in the third quarter and killed all the momentum they had fought for after going down by 28 points against the Browns in the first quarter.
It seemed like a "damned if you do, damned if you don’t" weekend, but Reid wasn’t going to be damned at all. He went for glory. He trusted his team and his backup quarterback to do what needed to be done.
Even though the completion probability of the 5-yard pass to Hill was 88 percent, there is something almost moving about Reid’s decision. Having faith in your team goes a long way, and as we saw recently, not all coaches do. One decision in one game such as that can make all the difference in a squad’s confidence going forward.
It’s fitting that Reid went for it. He’s a man who — according to John Harbaugh, who ran special teams for Reid with the Eagles — had a sign on his desk in Philly that read "Don’t Judge." Reid has been such an effective manager that, as of 2018, seven of his former assistants were head coaches. Two of them — Harbaugh and former Eagles head coach Doug Pederson — have won Super Bowls, and Washington’s Ron Rivera coached in one with the Panthers.
Reid himself finally won one last year, and there’s a good chance that he can do so again.
Machiavelli said that when it comes to leading, it is better to be feared than loved, but I think Machiavelli was an idiot and a liar. Fear is certainly one way to get people to listen to you, but it’s not the only way. Reid is famously loved. After several stumbles (including getting fired by the Eagles), he has finally proved that he’s one of the greatest, buoyed by the respect of his players.
"I can't remember anyone who didn't like playing for him, and I can't imagine why anyone wouldn't like playing for him," said FOX Sports’ own Geoff Schwartz, who played for Reid in 2013, Reid’s first season with Kansas City. "He's everything you want in a coach."
Reid’s offensive coordinator, Eric Bienemy, said that when he visited the Eagles in 1999 as a prospective player, Reid made him "feel at home." Current Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce has said that Reid is effective because he puts players in position to succeed.
That’s the hallmark of a great leader: To know your people’s strengths so well that you know exactly what they need to do and exactly what not to ask of them. So much dysfunction in teams and organizations occurs because leaders – coaches, GMs, hell, maybe even your boss at your marketing firm – don’t know how to put the correct pieces in place.
It might seem like I’ve gone off on a business school tangent in an article about one play on a football field, but that one play is a microcosm of a good culture. Reid put Henne in a position to succeed and didn’t doubt that Henne would. And then Henne did.
Chiefs fans will remember that play long after Henne is no longer in the league and Reid has retired. Henne is currently on the first year of a two-year contract with Kansas City, but even if he never plays another snap, he has cemented himself in the city’s lore.
Or should I say: Reid cemented Henne, the way he helped cement Patrick Mahomes and the Lombardi trophy. Now we’ll see if he can position his guys to do it again.