Reviewing Andy Reid’s tenure with the Kansas City Chiefs: 2017

FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 07: Kareem Hunt /

One of the more polarizing seasons of the Andy Reid era. The Kansas City Chiefs had quite a bumpy ride with a finish many were unhappy with.

The Kansas City Chiefs’ most recent season is the most middling of the Andy Reid era. After an unexpectedly hot 5-0 start, the standings were turned upside down by a 1-6 midseason run. Reid again for the 2nd time in 3 years turned over playcalling duties to his offensive coordinator halfway through the season.

The Chiefs did end up making the playoffs for the 4th time in 5 years under Reid, but again for the 3rd time in 5 years suffered a postseason disappointment. Eric Berry missed 15 games with an Achilles tear late in the 1st game of the season, in which he blanketed tight end Rob Gronkowski so well that many wondered all year long how different this team could have been with him healthy.

Now with that introduction out of the way. Let’s break the season down into how this season left Chiefs fans feeling from the emotional and the cold hearted statistical side.

The emotional side

DENVER, CO – DECEMBER 31: Quarterback Patrick Mahomes
DENVER, CO – DECEMBER 31: Quarterback Patrick Mahomes /

Probably the biggest thing not mentioned in the previous section is the trade up for and drafting of quarterback Patrick Mahomes II out of Texas Tech. The Chiefs traded two firsts and a 3rd round pick for the right to move up and take Mahomes at 10th overall. That move shocked nearly everyone watching. Some believed they were potentially jumping up to snatch someone like Reuben Foster to replace the aging Derrick Johnson.

Mahomes started just one game for the Chiefs in 2017, but has already been slotted into the starting role for 2018 with Alex Smith traded to the Washington Redskins. Rookie Kareem Hunt fell into the starting position in 2017 due to an injury to presumed starter Spencer Ware. Hunt didn’t quite start the season as he intended too, but ended it better than anyone could have expected.

Alex Smith had arguably the greatest season of his 12 year career. Smith ended the season with career bests in yards, touchdowns, interception rate, yards per attempt, and passer rating. In fact he did what no one likely ever would have expected. He ended the season as the NFL’s best downfield passer—quite a turnaround from his ‘Checkdown Charlie’ days of old. But even his best season wasn’t enough to save him from getting jettisoned to Washington.

The moves the Chiefs made in the offseason and the performances of guys like Tyreek Hill, Kareem Hunt, and Alex Smith are a big part of what made this season special. But the 1-6 collapse was hard to watch at times, and another postseason disappointment really dragged this whole season down. It was far from the most disappointing season, but it was far from the best either.

The statistical side

KANSAS CITY, MO – JANUARY 06: Alex Smith #11  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO – JANUARY 06: Alex Smith #11  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) /

In the last two articles, I’ve mostly been looking at the whole team performance in this section. However, what truly made this season special at times was the production of several individual Chiefs. First, lets start with the brightest star of the Chiefs squad in 2017 Kareem Hunt.

Hunt was known as a guy in college who could make guys miss, bowl through them, and overall was just hard to take down. He finished 2nd in the nation in 2016 in forced tackles missed with 92. In 2017 in the NFL, Hunt finished 1st among running backs with 61 forced tackles missed. That’s 13 more than the runner in second, Melvin Gordon III with 48, and equal to the difference between 2nd and 10th place.

League leaders in missed tackles forced over the last 5 seasons:

Name           |Year  | MTF Kareem Hunt    | 2017 | 61 Jay Ajayi     | 2016 | 58 Doug Martin   | 2015 | 57 Marshawn Lynch | 2014 | 88 (DeMarco Murray, 67) Marshawn Lynch | 2013 | 75

As shown above, the only two backs to surpass Hunt in the last 5 seasons are Marshawn Lynch and DeMarco Murray. That’s some pretty good company for Hunt to be in. Here’s hoping he can continue that stretch and go back to back leading the league as Lynch did.

The other most notable stat from this season has to be the downfield passing of Alex Smith. Over the previous 11 seasons of Smith’s career, he had started to earn himself a bit of a reputation as a ‘checkdown king’. For various reasons people have tried to explain the reasons why Smith can’t or just doesn’t thrown downfield—from not good enough weapons to schematic issues. Everyone loved to critique Smith for him seeming to avoid the big play downfield. Well he shut everyone up in 2017, and from here on our I’ll let the stats from PFF do the talking for me.

Name | Att. | Comp. % | TDs | INTs | QB Rating 1. Alex Smith | 62 | 56.5 | 12 | 1 | 131.4 2. Drew Brees | 61 | 52.5 | 5 | 3 | 103.3 3. Tom Brady | 80 | 46.3 | 5 | 4 | 88.5 4. Matthew Stafford | 70 | 45.7 | 10 | 3 | 111.6 5. Carson Wentz | 65 | 44.6 | 10 | 4 | 100.2

It wasn’t even close. Now, Smith did have the best downfield weapon in the NFL in Tyreek Hill. But it’s not like the rest of these guys were throwing to scrubs. And of course remember, this is totally new territory for Smith. This was the first time Smith was even in the top 15  since he came to Kansas City. It was also the 2nd highest rating on deep passes over the past 12 years (and I couldn’t find any reliable data before then).

This is probably one of the more statistically interesting years of the Reid era. Too bad it just didn’t end the way we would have wanted.

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