Andy Reid isn’t done evolving
When it’s all said and done, Coach Reid will be remembered for many things—his offense, his player development, his ability to connect and really reach guys, to name a few. But watching yesterday’s game, something else dawned on me: Andy Reid isn’t done evolving.
It’s 3rd-and-7 with 1:15 left in the 4th quarter. The Chiefs lead 27-24. Reid has a decision to make. He can run the ball, which most likely won’t earn the Chiefs a first down, but it virtually guarantees the Bucs will get the ball back with no timeouts and thirty seconds on the clock, a scenario which would make it hard on Brady to move the ball into field goal range.
Reid could also elect to pass the ball. If the Chiefs convert the first down, which is far more likely on a pass play than run, the game is over. On the other hand, if the pass is incomplete, he will be punting the ball back to Brady with a little under 1:15 on the clock. That’s enough time for Brady to work the ball into field goal range and sent the game to OT.
Historically, Reid would opt to run the ball. It’s important to remember that coaches and players experience the game differently than fans. The atmosphere and palpable pressure of the situation might make the run choice more attractive. The consequences of an incomplete pass feel that much scarier given the gravity of the situation.
Reid chose to pass. Mahomes, out of the shotgun, scrambled to his left. Just as the Bucs defenders closed in, he stepped up. Tyreek Hill had snuck back toward the first down marker, and Mahomes tossed it to him for an easy completion. Game.
Reid’s decision to throw in that situation may simply reflect his confidence in Mahomes. After all, a pass play with Mahomes at center is almost risk-free in its own right. But Reid’s choice to throw is interesting for a different reason, at least for me. Winning a Super Bowl validates a head coach, at least in terms of public scrutiny. What if Reid chose to run it, failed, and Brady marched down the field? Well, Reid was making the safe choice; after all, he won the Super Bowl. Such is the privilege of having a Super Bowl under your belt. Call it decision-making immunity, at least for a couple years.
My point is that there was no overt pressure on Reid to call the pass, to do something slightly out of character given Reid’s penchant for playing it “safe” late. Instead, Reid chose to call a play that he typically wouldn’t, because he appreciates that the game is changing. With the influx of analytics and data-based approaches to decision-making, the football community has a new wealth of insights that change how we interpret the game.
Reid could plausibly ignore these new philosophies, play the “safe” game, and move on. But he didn’t. His decision late showed a willingness to adapt a bit, to bet on his best players, and to earn a decisive victory. He appreciates that the pass play gives his team the best chance to win the game. He is sensitive to changing strategic elements of football and adapts his decision-making to those very changes. He may have tied his horse to a certain style of clock management and late-game decisions, but he’s far from tethered to ego, even though he’s earned the right to be.
Andy Reid, the 62 year old Super Bowl champion, was made for these times.