Quick fix in Kansas City

Posted Jan. 07, 2013 @ 9:35 a.m.
Posted By Dan Arkush

Forget about it perhaps being an unlucky omen that the Chiefs wasted no time making Andy Reid the 13th head coach in the team’s 53-year history.

Look at it more as a positive sign that, in 2013, the team’s new head coach couldn’t be considered more tailor-made for a franchise starving for stability in the worst way.

The first new head-coaching hire of the new year after also being the 2012 campaign’s first reported “Black Monday” victim, Reid, who turns 55 on March 19, racked up seven division titles, one conference championship and 10 postseason victories in his 14-year run as the Eagles’ winningest coach in team history by a wide margin (130-93-1). He had one five-year stretch (2000-04) in which he won at least 11 games each season (including one trip to the Super Bowl).

In that same 14-year span, the Chiefs managed only 98 wins, three postseason appearances and zero postseason wins under five different coaches.

In addition to the Chiefs not winning a playoff game since 1993 and having five losing seasons in the past six years, the front-office failings of GM Scott Pioli, who “mutually parted ways” with the Chiefs before the Reid hiring became official, had taken a mighty toll, creating a tense, divisive atmosphere — both within the organization and with the team’s increasingly bitter fan base.

That considerable turmoil, exacerbated by the suicide of Chiefs LB Javon Belcher at the team’s practice facility after murdering the mother of his 3-month-old daughter, is expected to quickly dissipate with Reid in control of everything football-related while answering directly to Chiefs chairman/CEO Clark Hunt, who saw a perfect fit in Reid on a multitude of levels, right down to his coaching stint a couple of decades ago at the University of Missouri, 120 miles to the east of Kansas City.

The 3-13 Eagles team that Reid inherited in 1999 was very similar to this year’s Chiefs, scoring only 161 points and getting outscored by 183 points under the direction of Ray Rhodes, who, similar to fired Chiefs head coach Romeo Crennel, had far better success as a defensive coordinator than as a head coach.

Within two years, Reid had the Eagles riding on a smooth, steady playoff track.

Can Reid, who agreed to a five-year contract with the Chiefs, follow in the footsteps of Jeff Fisher, who just finished taking a 2-14 Rams team in his first season as head coach and making it instantly respectable at 7-8-1?

“I think they can win 6-8 games — if they get a quarterback,” one team insider said. “That’s the deal. There’s talent there (five Pro Bowl selections, including starting AFC defenders Eric Berry and Tamba Hali). They just couldn’t string two first downs together.”

Added a leaguewide talent evaluator, “Hiring Reid was a good move but not a great move. He never won a Super Bowl in Philadelphia, and there’s no reason to believe it will happen under his leadership. He will bring stability and probably a couple of division championships, but the Broncos, with (executive VP of football operations John) Elway and (QB Peyton Manning) at the helm, are a lot better right now at the top of the heap (in the AFC West).

“They’ve got to decide whether or not to go with a 3-4 or 4-3 (scheme) on defense, and they’ve got a lot of starters who are going to be free agents. I see them being at least a couple of years away.

“They’ve got a long way to go.”

An immediate concern for Reid and a revamped front office that is widely expected to include Packers director of football operations John Dorsey as Reid’s right-hand man (Reid and Dorsey worked together under Ron Wolfand Mike Holmgrenin Green Bay from 1992-98 and have maintained a close relationship) is which direction they will go with the first overall pick in the upcoming draft.

“It’s got to be quarterback,” the Chiefs insider told PFW. “I know it’s a bad year for that position, but (Donovan) McNabb was not seen as the No. 2 pick in 1999, either. Reid will target a guy and make the pick. He also was a big trader in his day – few teams made more – so he could move down and add picks, (which) would make sense. But someone has to want to come up, and it won’t be anywhere close to a RG3-like deal.”

There are many reasons to believe the Chiefs will focus first and foremost on the QB position.

Neither Matt Cassel, who has proven to be a greatly overpaid disappointment, nor Brady Quinn is expected to be long for the team.

Add the fact that an eye-popping six first- or second-year QBs were among the 12 starting signalcallers entering the postseason (counting Minnesota’s Christian Ponder, who came up lame just before the Vikings’ wild-card game in Green Bay). Then consider the special touch Reid has displayed with a host of QBs, ranging from the high-profile Michael Vick to journeyman A.J. Feeley.

However, there are others on the national scene projecting that Reid will use the first pick on another position, perhaps left tackle.

“I don’t see a quarterback in this class being worthy of the top pick,” the evaluator told PFW. “(Former first-round OLT Branden) Albert was a sore spot in the previous regime and has been very sporadic. The left tackle class looks strong this year, and they could find a guy who could cement that spot for the next five years.”

In any event, in Andy Reid the Chiefs trust, as a fresh start kicks in big-time for a franchise in dire need of his saving grace.