Outside of starting the 2015 season with one win in the first six games, the start to the 2021 season is undoubtedly the low point during Andy Reid’s tenure with the Kansas City Chiefs. Through seven games, the team has almost no identity.
The offense, though statistically prolific, doesn’t look anywhere close to the same as it has the last three seasons with Patrick Mahomes at the helm. The explosive plays are few and far between and the mistakes are far more consistent than they ever have been. Even worse, they’ve looked objectively bad twice in the last three games.
The defense is another story. I’d be hard-pressed to mention a truly impressive play from them since probably the second or third drive of the Baltimore Ravens game. Despite having a number of very highly paid players, who should be major producers, they are easily the worst defense in the league and might be the worst under Andy Reid. That last sentiment would be saying something awful, as the 2018 defense was also historically poor.
It’s become more evident by the week there are glaring holes on the roster, ones that are unlikely to be completely filled this season. With that in mind, there are two questions to be asked.
Is this the product of bad luck, and simply following the same process will eventually lead to better results? Or, are there serious problems with the way the front office approaches roster-building?
Let’s take a look at just how one of the most well-run franchises in the NFL got to this point, and specifically major decisions the front office has made in the last four offseasons.
Signing Anthony Hitchens to a market-leading deal
One of the first big moves of the Brett Veach tenure with the Chiefs was to sign Dallas Cowboys linebacker Anthony Hitchens to a five-year, $45 million deal with over $21 million guaranteed. At the time, this made Anthony Hitchens, who had seemingly started to ascend as a player, one of the highest-paid linebackers on a per-year average in the NFL.
To be fair, up until 2018 Anthony Hitchens was objectively a good player. In the two seasons prior he had started 28 games and averaged a rating of over 70 according to Pro Football Focus. From all appearances, he was an ascending player, though it was odd if this was the case that the Cowboys let him hit NFL free agency. Regardless, the Chiefs gambled and made Hitchens one of the highest played defensive players in the league. Unfortunately, Hitchens’ play took a noticeable nose dive following the signing.
In the four years since signing with the team, Hitchens has been anything but ascending. He’s currently graded at a career-low 35 through six games this season, with an average of 43.5 over his four years with the team. While his contract now pales in comparison to a number of linebackers across the league, he is still arguably overpaid relative to his production.
Two caveats to this signing. First, everyone makes mistakes. Brett Veach is allowed some margin for error as players may perform well in one system and then struggle to transition into another. What’s probably an even larger caveat is the team signed him into a base 3-4 defense and then transitioned the following year into a base 4-3. Linebackers in the latter system usually need more speed, which is not Hitchens’ strong suit.
If this were the only issue, we wouldn’t need to think twice about it. Unfortunately, this is just the first of a number of poor roster decisions that are beginning to rear their ugly head.