Kansas City Chiefs: Unplug the Panic Button


After his first two seasons with the New England Patriots, Bill Belichick was 16-16. Two years after he took over the Seattle Seahawks, Pete Carroll was 14-18. Andy Reid, as head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, is currently 19-12.

It’s easy to let frustration boil over, throw up your hands and call for everyone’s head, but remember that this regime just spearheaded the second-most drastic turnaround in NFL history. Remember that Arrowhead looked like some kind of dystopic recycling center two years ago, with paper bags at every head turn, boos on the heels of every play and pilots promoting change.

When Reid arrived at KCI, the team was a 2-14 dumpster fire. Every year felt like it should’ve ended with a “Next season on The Sopranos…” preview, with a stocky, shiny-headed man walking around in his topcoat, wire-tapping potential rats (or in this case, head coaches).

The 2012 group of “500!” throwing quarterbacks totaled as many passing touchdowns as that year’s Chicago Bears defense (eight pick-sixes).

To put everything into context, let’s compare the progress since 2012.

The offense:

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The defense:

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The passers (since Cassel only played in nine games, per-game averages are used):

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Obviously, the Chiefs are anything but flawless. But unlike 2012, they are something besides flawed.

The offense takes flack on a weekly basis, and a lot of it is justified. That said, you’d be hard-pressed to find a coach who squeezes more juice from lemons than Reid.

While he definitely has playmakers, his offensive line is the NFL equivalent of bubble wrap. And up until the last week or two, Dwayne Bowe was the only wideout who offered any semblance of consistency.

His defense is comprised of solid defensive backs complementing a nightmarish collection of pass-rushers. However, the absences of Mike DeVito, Derrick Johnson and Eric Berry have devastated Kansas City’s run support. Josh Mauga has the second-most missed tackles (21) of any inside linebacker in the league; Ron Parker is tied for the most (21) among secondary players.

As for the quarterback? Throw objectivity out the window.

Dec 21, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (11) calls a play at the line of scrimmage against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the first half at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

If you’re pro-Smith, any potential blame deflects to those surrounding him. He’s the pocket-passing lovechild of a Garmin and Watson the Supercomputer. Criticizing him is like badmouthing a newborn.

If you’re anti-Smith, the exact opposite occurs. All offensive blame reroutes to No. 11. He’s the pocket-passing lovechild of a broken slingshot and Bubble Boy. Film study consists of an off-screen photo from a Vizio broadcast, which usually leads to some combination of red circles and “WIDE OPEN,” despite half of the secondary being out of frame.

Regardless of where your allegiances fall, it all goes back to the first comparison. There aren’t a lot of coaches who, in their first two years of being hired, win 63 percent of their games with a new organization. And to do so with the foundation of a 2-14 train wreck is virtually unheard of.

Carroll, for example, took over a 5-11 squad, while the Patriots finished 8-8 in the year prior to Belichick’s arrival.

Two years removed from the league’s worst record, most people would view eight or nine wins as a leap in progress. But when a historically unrealistic turnaround sets your bar of expectations, reality gets distorted and bites you on the backside. Average becomes the new subpar, and good becomes the new average. Regression is redefined.

Football or otherwise, first and lasting impressions are usually one in the same.

More than anything else, Reid’s Chiefs are victims of their own success.

Statistics provided by Pro Football Focus (subscription required) and Pro-Football-Reference.com.