Politics. Music. Especially sports. Nowadays, if you’re not on one side of the spectrum with any of these, you’re on the other. Gone are the days of “okay;” you’re either “trash” or “fucking lit.” You’re with Trump or you’re against him. J-Cole went platinum without any features, or he once said “….you feel like you the shit, but boy you can’t out-fart me.” There’s no in-between anymore.
Not many people are tougher to evaluate from this method of criticism than 2017’s early candidate for Coach of the Year, Andy Reid. I say “early candidate,” because any chance of that fell apart as the Chiefs lost six of seven after starting the season 5-0. This all led Reid’s Chiefs to be a one-and-done against the far inferior Tennessee Titans in the Wild Card Round. The only thing that may encapsulate Reid’s career better than this season is this picture below.
What do you see? Because that also probably tells you exactly what you think of Andy Reid and his tenure as a coach. And that’s how you make sense of Andy Reid’s legacy.
Okay, maybe it’s not that simple. The truth is, it’s not easy to make a clear-cut decision on Reid. But no one wants to hear someone be broken down as “A really good coach who’s had a few shortcomings when it mattered most.” Nowadays every take – especially sports – is a binary one. So I snooped through the years of Andy Reid’s career as a head coach to find out if he really is bad, or if he deserves a little more respect.
Pretty much all of Reid’s shortcomings can be traced back to head scratching in-game decisions. Very few people are better from Tuesday-Saturday, but when game-time rolls around, Reid leads the NFL in brain farts per minute (BFPM).
Andy Reid has a wont to not give the ball to his best players during the weirdest of times. The instance that comes to mind can be traced to his most recent loss; NFL leading rusher Kareem Hunt received six carries in the first quarter, and only five in the remaining three. This is a game in which the Chiefs stumbled and lost after entering the second half with a 21-3 lead at home. The Chief’s were nine point favorites who only needed to kick a field goal and milk the clock, and they failed to do both.
Even at the peak of his peaks, Andy Reid is not good when it comes to using his timeouts properly. In week one of the 2010 season, Andy Reid had used up all of his timeouts while trailing by seven during the following marks: 5:25, 5:17, and 5:11. No, that is not a typo. Reid went on to lose that game 27-20.
I could find plenty more instances of Andy Reid burning timeouts like a 16-year-old with a fresh bag of weed, but we already know that side of Reid. This has been the real downfall of Reid: Andy can treat the two-minute drill like it’s The Drive.
Let’s wind the clock back (after Andy uses a timeout to decide whether or not to punt) to roughly a year ago, when the Chiefs hosted the Steelers in the Divisional Round. The Chiefs defense kept the Steelers – who averaged just short of three touchdowns per game on the season – out of the end-zone all day. Reid was in true in-game form by wasting two timeouts early in the second half by not having a play call ready. But the timeouts weren’t Reid’s kryptonite that day; instead, the sword Andy fell on was a lack of urgency.
With the Chiefs (who scored a total of 10 points in three and a half quarters to that point) down eight, Reid elected to have his offense construct a SEVEN MINUTE DRIVE. This would make sense if your offense was clicking and you didn’t have faith in your defense that day, but the scenario was completely flipped. The stagnant Chiefs were able to score, but had to go for a two-point conversion to tie it up.
You probably remember what happened next. James Harrison exploded off the line and Eric Fisher had to hold onto him for dear life to prevent Alex Smith from turning into Supreme Leader Snoke. Smith hit Demetrius Harris in the back of the endzone, but for nothing. The penalty deprived the Chiefs of a two-point conversion and the Steelers got the ball back with 2:43 left and no timeouts for Kansas City. Game over, Chiefs out of the playoffs.
Andy Reid has won…a lot. Since his first stint as a head coach in 1999, Andy Reid has had three losing seasons. Future Hall of Famer Sean Payton had three in a row prior to this season.
After his first season with the Eagles, where he went 5-11 with none other than Doug Pederson as his quarterback, Reid went on to make the playoffs 9 out of 11 times. These teams included three byes, four wildcard wins, five divisional round victories, five conference championship appearances, and one that fell just short of the winning it all in 2004.
It’s not like Andy Reid fell off after all of those years with the Eagles. Kansas City had a 30% winning percentage in the six years leading up to Andy Reid’s hiring in 2013. Since then? It’s more than doubled to a near-Belichick-ian 66%. In a larger extreme with a smaller sample size, the Chiefs were 2-14 the year before hiring Reid, only to go 11-5 his first year with them.
So how does Andy Reid stay so consistently good, even with his weird shortcomings? Even after over 35 years as a coach, he refuses to stop learning. As The Ringer’s Kevin Clark wrote in early January, Reid has always believed that college football is five years ahead of the NFL in terms of play calling. This belief was actualized in 2017, as the Chiefs offense took the league by storm for the first half of the season, averaging a would-be league-leading 29.5 points per game. This was done with jet sweep packages featuring speed demon Tyreek Hill, option plays using multifaceted Kareem Hunt, bubbles to after-the-catch monster Travis Kelce, and most deadly of all, a combination of all three.
Other teams quickly took note of this. The Rams ran a jet sweep package against the Cowboys later that year. The Patriots openly admitted to stealing plays from the Chiefs that beat them in week one. More teams will only continue to borrow from these types of plays, and others that Reid brings to the NFL.
Reid’s innovations don’t just end at playcalling. He’s not afraid to continue to move around pieces, and experiment with his roster. This has been evidenced by trades of quarterbacks, both starting and backup, who had yet to fully hit their decline. He traded AJ Feeley for a second-rounder, Kevin Kolb for a second-rounder and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and Donovan McNabb for a second-rounder, all trades that are fair to say he won. Of course, Andy most recently moved a quarterback that could have this tale of good and bad article dedicated to him. This season, Alex Smith finished third in completion percentage, last in interception percentage, and first in adjusted yards per pass attempt, on top of adding a new weapon to his ability in an above-average deep ball. But Reid saw the ceiling to Smith and decided to move on from his playoff-caliber quarterback, a unicorn of a move in a league that typically plays not to lose. Next year he will continue to build on his innovative plays with a freak prospect in Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes.
I don’t think it’s too difficult to see where I’m leaning with this. His abilities as a coach have changed the history of the teams he’s led, his revolutionary play design has changed the landscape of the NFL, and his bullish roster moves is a style that a majority of NFL teams can learn from. Andy Reid is not a good coach, not a great coach, but an all-timer. But for the love of God, Andy, hire some dude who plays Madden all day to manage your timeouts for you.
Also, in the midst of my research, I found this picture of Andy Reid as a walrus. I am not liable for your nightmares.