Jeff Herr, a finalist in the 2011 Big Gig Contest on 610 Sports Radio, was born and raised in Kansas City. Following the Chiefs, Royals, and Jayhawks all his life has led him to blog about all three extensively at the-jeff-report.blogspot.com. He has also spent time covering the Royals for the blog site kingsofkauffman.com as well as serving for a period as the lead editor of throughthephog.com a blog covering the Kansas Jayhawks. When not writing about the local sports scene, he pays the bills by serving as an accountant.
Jeff Herr: The Andy Reid Era Has Begun
by Jeff Herr,posted Jan 7 2013 10:26AM
The suspense was short lived. Andy Reid is the new head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs. After my post last week implored Chiefs owner Clark Hunt to finally take charge of the organization, he did just that. Only three days after being dismissed from the Philadelphia Eagles, Hunt and his Chiefs front office contingent flew to the city of Brotherly Love and got their man. Shortly after that Scott Pioli was dismissed from his role as General Manager inciting chants across the city of “ding dong the--” well you get the point.
With this move it appears that Hunt is no longer setting the franchise his father built on cruise control. He has now shifted it into gear and attempted to make it his own. His father’s methods of a pronounced organizational structure starting with the GM and working down are no more. With Reid at the helm, the head coach and the GM will be on equal footing and will report to Hunt. They will work together on personnel decisions with Reid having the final say.
Often times Hunt gets little credit as an owner. If he’s not being called cheap, he’s being dinged for being “out of touch” with his fan base and now knowing what’s going on in his own offices. Regardless of how much any of that is true, that was the perception. The results on the field, as well as articles like ‘Arrowhead Anxiety,’ didn’t do much to sway that perception.
Through all of that, the biggest criticism I had for Hunt was his inability to self-evaluate and learn from his mistakes, in order to correct them. Without speaking too soon, it appears he has taken steps toward fixing that.
Getting rid of Pioli and changing the power structure was number one. He realized that he wasn’t as involved as he needed to be and as a result he changed how he will govern his team. While the Chiefs may not be the most profitable of Hunt’s businesses, they are the most visible. Perception is important and it looks as though Hunt finally got tired of not being in control of that perception.
Much has been made about the “four pronged approach to winning in the NFL.” The four prongs are having a great (1) owner, (2) general manager, (3) head coach, (4) and quarterback. In 2012, it appeared the Chiefs had zero of the four. For 2013, Hunt knows that number one is in his hands and nobody else’s, and he’s trying to turn it around. He also knows that he can fix number three and with that head coach they have a chance to make number four realities either with a free agent, a trade, or the number one overall pick. What Hunt also may have realized is that number two on that list might be the biggest crap shoot of them all.
Typically, general managers come to a team in either one of two situations: they have previously failed or they have held a position below general manager and are being given their first shot. Rarely does a GM get a second chance after failing at their first one. Sometimes after being away from the game for a bit, they may be given a chance, but typically have to take a lesser position in the front office.
General manager success is the hardest to predict of them all. Different front offices have different structures and titles are not consistent between organizations. Some may have different responsibilities with the same titles. It’s never exactly clear how the decision making process is structured with who makes the draft picks, the free agent signing, and who balances the salary cap. Pioli was heralded as the hidden genius in the Patriots dynasty, but history will tell that Belichick was genius as advertised and Thomas Dimitroff (Atlanta’s current GM) was the underrated one of the bunch.
Being so hard to tell how much involvement people have and how they will perform given their new responsibilities GM might be the most difficult hire of the front office, the easiest failure, and therefore the biggest risk. Hunt is trying to mitigate this risk by setting the GM and the coach on equal footing, giving the coach personnel power, and Hunt ultimate responsibility. Hunt’s effectively turning it into a three pronged approach which cuts out some possibility for failure and makes it easier to control.
However, it also means that the risk is not equally distributed. This is why the GM will still be hired to help Reid. This new structure is unchartered territory for the Chiefs and hopefully will pay off.
The biggest component of the lack of success the Chiefs had over the last four years was discontinuity. The GM, coach, and players never seemed to be on the same page. Hunt is trying to streamline this process so that doesn’t happen again.
For all of this, Hunt deserves a large amount of credit.
Now, the structure change is big news, but the biggest was obviously the impetus behind the shift: the hiring of Reid. From the “name” standpoint, there might not have been a better choice out there. Reid has the pedigree of a winner. He’s won 130 games over the last 14 years, and 10 playoff games in that time span, which is more than the Chiefs have won in their history. He has helped develop many quarterbacks over the years including Brett Favre, Matt Hasselbeck, Donovon McNabb, Kevin Kolb, and Michael Vick. It’s one of his strengths and one of the reasons he has found himself in KC.
His 14 years of success brings up an interesting topic. What is the success rate of head coaches with 10+ years at a previous stop? The list is short and hard to compare with many different eras.
Curly Lambeau coached the Packers for 30 years and went on to coach the Cardinals (Chicago) and the Redskins. His success was limited, but the NFL was barely recognizable from the game we see today. Mike Ditka spent 11 years as the coach of the Chicago Bears and later failed miserably with the New Orleans Saints. Then again, Ditka spent five years away from the game and his act wore thin in Chicago which led to his dismissal anyway. Jeff Fisher is probably the best comparison having spent 17 years with the Titans. His success with the Rams remains to be seen, but they look to be on the right track.
Those aren’t the only ones but the sample size is still small. Regardless, it still doesn’t give much evidence to support future success of Reid here in KC.
On Twitter I mentioned that this was a very “Chiefs move,” and was met with much consternation. People weren't quite sure what I was getting at, or just assumed it was a negative reaction and thought I was jumping the gun. What makes this a “Chiefs move” in my opinion is that they made the move looking backwards. While I don’t claim to know all the reasons Reid was hired, his previous 14 years of experience was noted as a major factor.
Having a past history of success is a necessary part of any hire, but you don’t want to be in a position where you are chasing ghosts. Looking at what someone has done previously can let you fall into a trap where they are trying to recreate something, forgetting what made them successful in the first place.
When he took over in Philly, Reid was an innovator, a solid judge of talent (especially at the QB position), and someone who was ahead of his time in how he utilized his offense. Now, Reid is a commodity whose best years were nearly a decade ago. The last two years in Philadelphia were unmitigated disasters and now he’s been handed the keys to the car that is the Kansas City Chiefs like it’s his sixteenth birthday.
Reid has never been the same since his longtime confidant and defensive coordinator Jim Johnson left the Eagles and passed away. Defense has never been his strong suit and its part of what led to his downfall in Philly. With the excitement Hunt had for Reid, we can only hope he called him on this. If Hunt’s biggest struggle was not being involved enough, his next biggest was not being a competent evaluator. Pioli needed to be checked and never was and it caused a dysfunctional, toxic atmosphere at Arrowhead that led to the worst season in franchise history.
Only time will tell but Hunt needs to make sure that Reid himself knows where his weaknesses lie. There needs to be a plan in place to handle the defense as well as insure the last two years in Philadelphia were the exception and not the rule. Reid needs to realize the foils that have always followed him with his inability to consistently manage a game, and how that will be corrected in Kansas City. If Reid will report to Hunt, the responsibility will fall on Hunt to make sure that Reid knows his strengths and his weaknesses.
From the outside, Reid seems like a great hire. From the inside, it seems like an all too familiar tale that we’ve seen. A coach who had success before comes into town to save the organization and bring back the tradition that is harped on so often. So far, it’s only led to mediocrity and temporary flirts with greatness that’s given this town no playoff wins in the last 20 years and no Super Bowl appearances in the last 43.
While the Kansas City chapter of Reid’s book is yet to be written, it does hold itself as little risk and high reward. The Chiefs will be relevant again. Whether they get over the hump or not and win a playoff game and possibly more remains to be seen.
That said, if ever there was a good candidate for the positive effect of a change of scenery, Reid is it. After his son lost his life via a drug overdose last year and the way things ended in Philly a new town, team, and direction could pay off for the Chiefs and Reid. In coaching terms Reid is still relatively young at 54 and, if successful, another 10 years might not be out of the question.
Maybe Reid will go down in history as one of the great Chiefs coaches. Maybe everyone will remember Reid in the red and gold instead of the green white. Perhaps the Lamar Hunt trophy and possibly even the Lombardi trophy are on their way back to Kansas City in this new era. Then again, maybe he is just another Dick Vermeil who will do some good things but whose time is largely passed.
It will be a great deal of fun these next few months to see how Reid’s staff comes together and who he picks with the franchise’s first number one overall pick since the 1960’s. But championships aren’t won in March, May, or August. They are won in December, January and February. I’m not sold that Reid is the man to keep the Chiefs seasons alive during the cold KC winter months, but I wouldn’t be surprised if if my January’s were a lot more exciting in the next few years either.
Here’s to hoping that Hunt’s new direction and the Andy Reid era leads to the first ever exciting February in my lifetime.