Gut Reaction: Chiefs hire Andy Reid

Happy Friday, friends.  I have some thoughts about the hiring of Andy Reid by the Kansas City Chiefs.  The more I think about it, the more deeply ambivalent I become about the move.  It affects us directly as Broncos fans, though, so let’s give it a think.

First off, the talent pool in Kansas City is atrocious, and it’s poorly fitted to the kinds of schematic approaches that Reid has historically favored.  

In terms of the offensive skill positions, the only players that Kansas City can even consider to be real keepers are Jamaal Charles and Tony Moeaki, and Moeaki is overrated.  Dexter McCluster is a useful guy as a matchup problem, and he’ll be in his last year of his rookie deal.  Jonathan Baldwin looks like a giant bust, not that I am surprised.

The Chiefs have no QB and no speed at WR, and Reid likes to go deep with speed guys as much as any coach in the NFL.  There are a few guys with some promise on the offensive line, but as a group, today, they’re not good.  If Juan Castillo becomes the OL coach, I see a couple of them (Rodney Hudson, Donald Stephenson) not being great scheme fits, because Castillo has tended to favor larger players, and asked them to do a lot more drive blocking than zone blocking.

On defense, you have a few players, but it’s all set up to be a Fairbanks-Bullough 3-4.  I can’t see that a new regime would want to continue to pay Tyson Jackson and Glenn Dorsey (who is an unrestricted free agent) huge dollars to underachieve, even if Dorsey might be better in the kind of 4-3 that Reid has a history of preferring.  Can you really be that hopeful with a guy who just earned $51 million in the last five years, and who’d now be making a position switch?  As for Jackson, his salary next year is $14.7 million, so I think you’ll see him looking for work too.

Dontari Poe has some promise, and I think he’s scheme indifferent, but there’s no indication that he’s a star yet.  There are two good pass rushers in Tamba Hali and Justin Houston, and Hali is actually a natural 4-3 DE.  Houston is a true OLB, though, and a scheme switch might mess him up, if he isn’t used correctly.  Brandon Flowers is a good CB, and he’s the only guy in their secondary who’s really worth a damn.  Eric Berry could be outstanding, but he was lousy in 2012, and didn’t belong in the Pro Bowl.

So, so many of Scott Pioli’s draft picks haven’t panned out, and the Chiefs are a scheme-specific bunch with no depth, who’ll likely be asked to change their schemes on both offense and defense.  It portends to be ugly, like the 2008 Broncos, but with fewer quality assets on the roster.

The Chiefs picked a bad year to bottom out, and land the first overall pick.

Every QB in the upcoming draft class is going to be an eye-of-the-beholder type, and when you have the first pick, you’d really like to get a franchise QB.  I really can’t see how the Chiefs will be able to justify taking Geno Smith or Matt Barkley or Tyler Wilson that high, so they’ll kind of be out of luck.

The best player in the draft class, in my opinion, is Georgia’s OLB Jarvis Jones, but that wouldn’t make a lot of sense for the Chiefs, since Houston and Hali are already in place.  Could it be Star Lotulelei, an excellent DT prospect who probably won’t sack the QB much?  How about OT Luke Joeckel or OG Chance Warmack?

To me, their best bet would be to try to move the pick to somebody who’s in love with Jones, and to stockpile more picks later in the draft.  Their biggest needs are at QB and WR, and Scouts Inc’s highest rated QB is Smith at 23rd overall.  Their highest rated WR is Justin Hunter at 26th.  The board just doesn’t really match Kansas City’s needs.

Watch the coaching staff for personnel clues

If Pat Shurmur and Brad Childress come as the offensive coordinator and QB coach, which is the rumor, I’d watch for Brandon Weeden to be acquired by the Chiefs, especially if the Browns hire Chip Kelly as their head coach. 

Weeden got kind of a bad rap this season, because people expected too much of him.  It’s easy to view a 29-year-old rookie as more 29-year-old than rookie, but most of Weeden’s mistakes were of the rookie variety.  He definitely looked to me like he has a chance to be a solid NFL starter, and acquiring him might be the best thing Kansas City can do for its QB situation in 2013.

Who will run the defense?

Since the death of Jim Johnson in the 2009 offseason, the Eagles were never the same under Reid.  Sean McDermott struggled through two bad years, and then, when Reid felt early pressure, he fired McDermott and elevated Castillo from offensive line coach to defensive coordinator. 

If you believe the CW, the Eagles’ downfall was all on Castillo, but I don’t think that’s true.  I put it much more on mercenary defensive line coach Jim Washburn, who insisted on playing both of his DEs as Wide-9s, and who, according to reports, blatantly undermined both Reid and Castillo.

If Reid wanted to make a smart hire, I’d point him to Gregg Williams, provided he gets reinstated, which he should.  Williams is out of fashion right now, and there would be howls from idiots and moralizers, but the fact is that the guy can coach defense as well as anybody in football.  I’m not sure that Williams is a Reid kind of guy, so I figure he may go with a lesser/more comfortable coach like Todd Bowles, who isn’t bad, but isn’t near the Williams level.

Why hire a guy who has such a suspect reputation as a game coach?

You hire Reid because he’s a proven program builder.  A lot of front office people came and went, and Reid was the constant in building a consistent program over the course of 14 years.  He’s a rare coach who is just as strong on the personnel front as he is with schemes.

Reid has a certain type of player that he wants, for each position group, on both sides of the ball.  The requirements are clearly spelled out, and the whole organization seeks only players who fit what they’re trying to do.  Remember when Josh McDaniels was stupidly criticized for only having 100 players on his 2009 draft board?  A Reid organization works that way too – ignoring the players who aren’t a fit for the schemes that are in place.  Not every football player can play for every team.

If Reid could manage football games a little better, he’d be on the level of Bill Belichick, but it’s a struggle for him.  He gets caught up in wanting to throw too much, and he can always be counted on to mismanage his timeouts and challenges, and to have his team bungle the clock. Just this morning, Jeremiah Trotter threw Reid under the bus for those very struggles.

If I were going to hire Reid for his program building acumen, I’d insist that he hire an assistant head coach whose primary gameday responsibility would be clock/challenge/timeout management.  It would have to be somebody who knows how to do math, and who is willing to think outside the conventional wisdom.  If you had that, Reid becomes an excellent hire.  Of course, his ego probably wouldn’t allow such a delegation of authority; he probably thinks he’s “playing the percentages” with what he’s doing now.

I think that Reid is probably a good hire overall for the Chiefs, and that he’d be able to eventually position them to compete for playoff berths every year.  If that’s the mission, then Clark Hunt ought to get the deal done. 

I have a hard time seeing, though, how Reid can be more successful with a cheap owner like Hunt than he would be with a big spender like Jeffrey Lurie.  If he does his best work in building the program, then the best you could probably expect is that “Hunt-as-crappy-owner” is overcome, and the result is roughly the same as what Lurie got in Philly.  The only thing that changes that calculus is an elite QB, and I have a hard time seeing where one is coming from, for the Chiefs.

1.  I’m not in the arguing business, I’m in the saying what I think business.
2.  I get my information from my eyes.

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