The carousel spun at the end of every season, yet in January, for the first time in what seemed like forever, Andy Reid was spun off.
Reid coached the Philadelphia Eagles for 14 years, leading them to nine playoff appearances, six NFC East titles, four NFC championship games and a Super Bowl. But on Jan. 1, the longest-tenured coach in the NFL was fired following a season in which the Eagles went 4-12, marking the first time the Eagles hadn’t claimed a winning record in consecutive seasons under his watch.
Four days later, the Kansas City Chiefs hired Reid to be their next coach, giving him a say in personnel matters and hoping he could help turn around a franchise that had been to the playoffs only three times in the past dozen years.
Thus far, Reid has done his part. The Chiefs won their first nine games, bringing a buzz back to Kansas City, and they’ll look to rebound after a three-game skid Sunday at FedEx Field when they face the Washington Redskins.
Reid’s task hasn’t been simple. At 2-14, the Chiefs tied for the worst record in the NFL last season, leading to the dismissal of former coach Romeo Crennel. They held the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft in April, which they used to take Central Michigan offensive tackle Eric Fisher, and then traded for former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, who had been benched during the team’s Super Bowl run midway through last season.
But, as Reid said this week, the task wasn’t necessarily difficult. He inherited a roster that he believed was rife with talent – one of the reasons he was quick to accept the coaching job – and he knew he had a foundation he could work with.
After all, when he took over the Eagles before the 1999 season, they, too, were coming off a dismal effort the year before, finishing 3-13 and last in their division.
“The locker room itself when I got here before anybody was added was a solid locker room,” Reid said. “They had been through some ups and downs and they were still together, not only personally, but also from a football standpoint, a team standpoint. They were very close and they wanted to be better. …The players deserve the credit for that.”
Reid made some changes. Smith, the former No. 1 pick in 2005, was acquired via trade in March for second-round picks this and last season. The Chiefs also added cornerback Sean Smith, who has started every game, and worked to keep left tackle Branden Albert, allowing Fisher to develop at right tackle as a rookie.
Yet, Reid stressed, saying the team was better last year than its record indicated isn’t true. It’s a similar situation to Philadelphia, where coach Chip Kelly has the Eagles at 7-5 entering their game Sunday against the Detroit Lions.
“Chip’s done a phenomenal job of making it better, and so I understand how this goes,” Reid said. “We were what we were, and Kansas City was what they were that year, and it was important that – and this is where change can be good sometimes – just new flavor, kind of, and it worked out.”
Alex Smith knew nothing of Reid before he was traded to the Chiefs in March other than he was a coach who had accomplished much in Philadelphia. When he knew that he’d be working with Reid, he figured a potential turnaround for the Chiefs wouldn’t be as arduous.
“I knew he’d gone through a lot in Philadelphia the last few years, and it can certainly be a tough place and a tough environment, but there is just so much passion he has for the game of football, how much he loves being around the guys, teaching,” Smith said. “That’s been the thing that’s jumped out to me and I think certainly kind of sets the tone for the entire team.”
Two of the Chiefs’ last three losses were to the Denver Broncos, who have asserted themselves as the best team in the AFC West and a Super Bowl contender.
But Kansas City, which also lost to San Diego two weeks ago, still has its eyes on a wild card spot. It would be the first playoff appearance for the Chiefs since 2010, when they lost to the Baltimore Ravens in the wild card round despite winning their division.
Reid, seemingly rejuvenated, has navigated the season well.
“Very few teams go undefeated in this league, and so if you’re going to be a good football team you’ve got to be able to maintain through the highs and the lows and work it out through the wins and the losses,” Reid said. “Both present their own issues, and you find the strength of the team that way.”
And, perhaps, one’s own.