By Herbie Teope
It has been a whirlwind of change at One Arrowhead Drive since the 2012 NFL season ended after a disastrous 2-14 campaign.
Out are head coach Romeo Crennel and GM Scott Pioli, who compiled a 23-41 record in four seasons. Enter head coach Andy Reid, whom the Chiefs hired days after he parted ways with the Eagles.
The hiring brings credibility to a franchise that suffered through head coaches like Crennel, Todd Haley and Herm Edwards since 2006. Reid’s track record restores hope to a passionate fan base and he’ll start with a gift from the 2012 regime: the No. 1 pick in April’s NFL draft.
But while a glaring need rests at quarterback, numerous draft analysts believe this year’s class doesn’t have a passer worthy of the top pick, a problem Reid alluded to during his introductory press conference.
“We have been blessed with the No. 1 pick in the draft,” Reid said. “And you want to make sure you do the right thing and pick the right guy, not necessarily a quarterback, it has to be the right thing.”
QBs Geno Smith, Tyler Wilson and Matt Barkley are high on wish lists. However, don’t expect Reid to fall in the trap of using the top pick on a QB for the sake of drafting one despite inheriting a position that combined for eight touchdown passes and 20 interceptions in 2012.
“You don’t want to force anything,” Reid said of the No. 1 pick. “People that do that get themselves in trouble.”
Nevertheless, the Chiefs have options, including trading down should the right offer present itself. Reid also could follow his last draft in Philadelphia by going with the best player available in April.
Prior to 2012, Eagles beat writer Jeff McLane of The Philadelphia Inquirer said Reid’s drafts in 2010 and ’11 appeared to reach for players to fill holes. The Eagles were also aggressive in free agency, which included the 2011 “Dream Team” that finished a disappointing 8-8.
“In 2012, they went back to picking the best player available,” McLane said. “I would think generally that’s Andy’s philosophy. With the No. 1 pick overall, you have the opportunity to pick the best guy.”
Still, that decision won’t rest on Reid, as many speculated when Chiefs chairman and CEO Clark Hunt restructured the front office where the head coach reports directly to him, not the GM.
Reid made it clear when asked who had the final say on player personnel.
“That would be the GM,” Reid said. “And really the GM will pass that through Clark.”
Knowing the GM holds ultimate authority on player personnel could cause angst among some team supporters still reeling from the Pioli era. From trading TE Tony Gonzalez to cutting ties with OG Brian Waters, Pioli’s term was rife with mistakes.
His drafts raised questions, starting with 2009 first-round pick (third overall) DL Tyson Jackson. Further clouding Pioli’s evaluation of player talent comes in the form of the recent Pro Bowl selection process, where four of the five Chiefs players voted in are holdovers from the Carl Peterson era.
Yet, arguably the most glaring error during Pioli’s tenure remains Matt Cassel, his hand-picked QB. While the Chiefs won the 2010 AFC West title, Cassel failed to consistently produce for his GM in the only category that matters.
“We all want to look at it and try to understand the why, where and how, but it’s about wins and losses,” former Chiefs OL and current KCTV-5 analyst Rich Baldinger said. “In your fourth year, you can’t be 2-14 and be at a level of historically poor performance. I don’t want to pile on Scott — it’s a tough position to be in — but the bottom line is you’ve got to win more than you lose and he didn’t get it done.”
With just three losing seasons out of 14 in Philadelphia, winning hasn’t been a problem for Reid, who ranks fifth in career victories among active coaches. Reid has a reputation of being detail-oriented, a team builder and a player’s coach, attributes former Eagles RB Correll Buckhalter, a training-camp coaching intern under Reid last season, believes will contribute to a Chiefs turnaround.
“An Andy Reid-coached team is a team that is very cohesive,” Buckhalter said. “A team that is a family, a team that everyone plays for one another, a team that you know the guy beside you is going to give his very best on the field when playing. Period.”
Moreover, former Eagles backup QB Koy Detmer, now a high school QB coach in Somerset, Texas, said Reid is loyal to players he believes in. Detmer adds that dedication will help whomever the Chiefs select to be the next QB.
“Anybody that Coach Reid brings in or he puts in a position to be the QB, he’s not the type to make a quick decision and pull somebody out,” Detmer said. “He’s going to hang in there with guys that he trusts. And so, if he’s putting a guy in that kind of position, obviously he trusts them and they can trust that he will be there to be in it with them.”
In the meantime, Kansas City enters a transition period where Buckhalter said Reid’s philosophies will serve as a wake-up call, especially in training camp.
“Coach Reid’s training camps are hell, like no other team in the NFL,” Buckhalter said. “You scrimmage every day against one another. It’s a daily grind, but that’s a part of earning his respect and the demand that he has on his philosophy so players understand what he’s trying to do and what his goals are.”
Detmer agreed and has perspective having experienced the adjustment as a member of the Eagles’ roster before Reid took over in 1999. Detmer offered the Chiefs advice to assist with the change.
“He’s proven to have success in his system and where he’s come from, the coaches in front of him with Mike Holmgren,” Detmer said. “If they’re all onboard and go forward and embrace it, they have a chance to have success in a short amount of time.”
Chiefs’ top 3 needs
1. Quarterback: The likes of Matt Cassel, Brady Quinn, Tyler Palko, Brodie Croyle, Matt Gutierrez, Ricky Stanzi and Kyle Orton haunted Kansas City in the past four years. The first priority for the new regime at One Arrowhead Drive must be to improve the most important position in the NFL.
2. Cornerback: The Chiefs once had a formidable duo with Brandon Flowers and Brandon Carr, who left via free agency in 2012. Stanford Routt proved to be a disaster and starter Javier Arenas is better at the nickel spot. The importance of strong cover corners is magnified when playing in a division that Peyton Manning calls home.
3. Wide receiver: Dwayne Bowe might bolt via free agency if not re-signed or the Chiefs choose not to use the franchise tag on him for a second straight year. The Chiefs have 2011 first-round pick Jon Baldwin, Steve Breaston and Dexter McCluster, but the receiving corps lacks quality depth and experience.