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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The losses piled up early in the season for the Kansas City Chiefs in a way they should not for a double-defending AFC champion with a reasonable preseason goal of playing in a third Super Bowl in a row.
The Chiefs lost to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 2 after leading by 11 points in the fourth quarter. They lost to the Los Angeles Chargers the following week after committing four turnovers. They lost to the Buffalo Bills by 18 points in Week 5. They lost to the Tennessee Titans in Week 7 after scoring three points, their lowest total since Patrick Mahomes became their starting quarterback in 2018.
If ever there was a time for panic, for serious intervention by the head coach, for change for the sake of change, then this was it. The Chiefs had 3-4, and it looked unlikely to get to the playoffs – much less to win a few games once there.
But every day at the Chiefs’ training facility was much like the one before it, much like those of previous years. They gather to practice and meet and find solutions to their many problems in the field.
There was no shouting, screaming or drama of any kind coming from coach Andy Reid’s office. He did not cut any of the Chiefs’ several underperforming players. He did not even threaten it. He did not order the Chiefs to put on the pillows and strike out on training.
The decisions he made were not of emotion or full of drama. They were executed after some deliberation, for wind or loss, that’s Reid’s way.
Reid’s fixed approach seems justified. After the 3-4 start, the Chiefs teamed up to win eight games in a row and claim their sixth AFC West championship in a row. They ended the regular season 12-5, opening the playoffs as the AFC’s No. 2 seed on Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Arrowhead Stadium (20:15 ET, NBC).
“He knows exactly what he wants to do and where he wants to go and how he wants to get there,” said Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, an assistant to Reid for 11 years. “He knew that from the beginning. He’s rock solid. That’s the best term I can use. Rock solid. He’s always been, remarkable.
“Andy never stopped trusting us: myself, the other assistant coaches, the scheme. Did he make suggestions? Of course. Always. That’s what a head coach does. But he does not force you to do anything. He believes in those people. , he has around him and then he lets us do our work, players and coaches. “
Reid does not scream
This is not the first time Reid’s patient approach has helped the Chiefs turn a season in the right direction. In 2015, the Chiefs were 1-5 and were apparently heading nowhere.
They won their last 10 games to reach the off-season and then added an 11th win in a row as the Chiefs won the playoffs for the first time in 22 years.
Reid coached the Eagles for 14 seasons, and his reassuring approach in Philadelphia was one of the reasons Chiefs president Clark Hunt brought him to Kansas City nine years ago. When Reid arrived, the Chiefs had a recent history with fleeting head coaches, including one, Todd Haley, who fired an offensive coordinator during the preseason.
“Andy, no matter how the previous week has gone, is always the same coach,” Hunt said recently. “I think consistency is very important for the team, especially when going through a difficult period. While I was reflecting on it, I thought about the long career that Andy has had and he has certainly had seasons where his teams had struggled early in the season and then were able to turn it around.
“It reminded me of how lucky we are to have Andy and his experience in such a situation.”
Reid said that in 23 seasons as NFL head coach, he must have made an emotional decision during a downtime at some point. But he could not remember a specific case, not even this year. He said he could not remember as much as shouting at an underperforming team or a player.
“Human nature says that if you keep shouting at someone, [he’s] will turn you off, “Reid said.” I believe in discipline. There are certain things you just need in this sport. … But at the same time, I believe that you treat people as if they are human. I’ve been doing that since I’ve been in business. That part has not changed.
“I’ve tried to be genuine, as honest with the guys as I can. If you’re not consistent with how you do it, the players will not trust you … I do not want to be everywhere with them.”
Many players, including former offensive lineman Jeff Allen, said they could not remember Reid ever raising his voice.
“He would make faces, moan, maybe bite his lip, say, ‘for hell,'” Allen said. “It was then that you knew he was not happy. But that’s about as far as he wanted to go, and it took a long time before he got to that edge.”
“Coach has been through some really hard times”
Reid began this season with the strain of how the previous one ended, and perhaps his stability has never been more important. Three days before the Chiefs were to play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl LV last year, Reid’s son, Britt – then the Chiefs’ linebackers coach – was involved in a car accident that seriously injured a young girl not far from the team facility. .
Britt Reid was later charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, a felony. Jackson County, Missouri, prosecutors said the younger Reid “operated a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, and acted with criminal negligence by driving at too high a speed.”
The Chiefs lost the Super Bowl 31-9, the 22-point margin was their biggest with the Mahomes as their quarterback at the time.
Chiefs general manager Brett Veach has since said he has had hour-long conversations with Reid, where the topics of football, Chiefs or their list never came up.
“He’s a human too,” Veach said. “It’s not like he’s this cartoon character who never gives up. There are days when you know he needs a phone call where he wants to talk about things other than football.
“He’s had his good days and his bad days, but he’s super-resiliant. He’s never changed who he is and what he’s about to appease anyone. He’s always been genuine and authentic. He’s the one he is every day. “
Reid has previously been the victim of family tragedy. In 2012, Reid’s last season with the Eagles, his son Garrett died of an accidental overdose. He was 29.
“Let’s face it, Coach has been through some really tough times back to when he was in Philly,” Spagnuolo said. “Still, you can not see it in him. I do not know how he does it. But it is a reassuring and reinforcing and encouraging aspect for players and coaches because you can always count on it. It’s hard to do this job, “When you’re dealing with moody people, when you do not know what you’re getting every day. It’s not Andy.”
“That’s the way he interacts with players”
If Reid had applied early in the season to make an example of a player, he had the perfect goal in safety Daniel Sørensen. Sorensen started the season as a starter, but hurt the Chiefs by missing tackles and allowing big passes.
Reid stuck with Sorensen who starts until week 6, when he was replaced by Juan Thornhill. But Sorensen kept a lot of playing time in passing situations and eventually made several big plays that helped the Chiefs turn their season around.
RUG TO RUG TO RUG TO RUG TO RUG TO RUG TO RUG 🏆 pic.twitter.com/I5kA1KcOcO
– Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) December 27, 2021
Since he was hired part-time, Sorensen has had a couple of interceptions, which return one to a touchdown. He broke a pass at the finish line at the end of the first half to prevent a touchdown during an overtime win in Week 14 over the Chargers, a win that gave the Chiefs a huge advantage in the AFC West race.
“He’s a good player and he has a role in that defense,” Reid said of why he would not give up Sorensen earlier in the season. “Everything is not going to go perfectly. We understand that.
“He trusted himself. He trusted the coaches. He trusted the scheme and the guys around him. That’s not always the case.”
Spagnuolo would not go into detail with his discussions with Reid about Sørensen other than to say that the coach never pressured him to put any player on the bench.
“If you make a decision about which players you want to put in the ranks, you can not panic at the first sign of trouble,” Spagnuolo said. “If you believe in who you have and what you do, you have to let it play itself. Now there comes a point where you have to do something different if things do not change. But it I do not.I do not think it comes after game one or game two or mistake one or mistake two and Andy agrees.
“You never hear Andy say, ‘We have to make some changes because what we do does not work.'” What does he say? Usually it comes back to fundamentals. Even when we had the hard stretch here this season, it was all about the basics and taking care of the little things. When we do, the big things will follow. “
Reid’s steady approach has surprised some. Katie Sowers worked as an assistant coach for the Chiefs last summer at training camp through an NFL diversity program after working for the Atlanta Falcons and San Francisco 49ers.
Sowers tweeted shortly before her time with the Chiefs ended that she “learned from the best to ever do it.”
Learning from the best to ever do it 🐐 pic.twitter.com/gMKCYCmpsq
– Katie Sowers (@KatieSowers) August 7, 2021
“There’s not one thing he does specifically,” Sowers said later in an interview. “It’s the way he interacts with players on a daily basis and the consistency you see in the way he communicates with all his players. It’s in the daily things, the little things. It’s the tone of his voice. It’s is the way he looks at you.these are the very things that tell you that this is a true leader who knows how to lead people.
“I’ve always had the idea that he felt there was more to life than just scoring at the end of a match, the win and the loss. Clearly, winning is extremely important, but you can see “how he trains, that he puts the purpose behind these young men. One day, their careers end and he knows how valuable their lives are after the NFL.”
Wide receiver Josh Gordon’s first game with the Chiefs was the 18-point loss to the Bills, a defeat that brought them to 2-3. The Chiefs are Gordon’s fourth NFL team, and he said he was surprised by the relaxed atmosphere when things were not going well.
“I’ve noticed coach Reid has allowed players to act in ways that are very genuine,” said Gordon, who has been given a chance by the Chiefs after serving eight suspensions for drug and alcohol offenses. “He’s always talking about us showing our character. [In] elsewhere it is not always the case. So I definitely appreciate him for that, because it allows the players to be their best selves. “
Reid has always been like that, win or lose. Nothing changes regardless of his team’s record, and although he was disappointed, he did not seem discouraged by the Chiefs’ unexpectedly slow start to the season.
In fact, during his weekly meetings with Hunt, he predicted that the Chiefs would turn their season around.
“He kept reminding me that we were not that far away, whether it was the offensive side of the ball or the defensive side of the ball, and that the team worked really hard during the week, which he was encouraged by. , “said Hunt. . “He saw that the guys would get better, would get it turned around and felt like they would.”