Arguing with the fear of a new Chiefs coach, Andy Reid

Al Messerschmidt

The Kansas City Chiefs will officially announce Andy Reid as the new head coach. It could work out, right?

To quote one of the five greatest movie scenes of all time... boy, that escalated quickly. I mean, that really got out of hand fast.

(In case you're wondering, no, I haven't taken the time to actually rank the greatest movie scenes of all time. I just know that the Anchorman scene is one of them, and probably the only comedy that makes the list. But since we're already here... I'd have to say the cafe scene from Heat, the "earn it" moment in Saving Private Ryan, Denzel's final speech to his son in He Got Game, Quint's rant in Jaws, "I am your father" in Empire Strikes Back, almost every scene with Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight, and Fredo's death in Godfather Part 2 all have to be in the top 10 in some order. Anyways, what were we talking about?)

Right, Andy Reid! So... whoa. How quickly things change. A few days ago we were arguing about the merits of keeping Scott Pioli around (with most heavily against it, for pretty obvious reasons) and the wisdom of hiring a head coach whose biggest accomplishment to date is getting an offense with a top 10 QB, a top three tight end, and two top 15 receivers to score points (this does not strike me as the most impressive thing ever, Mr. Koetter. Call me a cynic).

In short, hope was not something high on our list. Now, out goes Pioli, in comes Andy Reid, and in comes a new era in Chiefs football. excitement hasn't been this high since... well, 2009, when Scott Pioli was hired (ouch).

First things first... Clark Hunt should not get any kind of crap for at least a year, right? The man's eating whatever amount of money it cost him to fire both RAC and Pioli, and STILL is shelling out big money to get one of the top dogs on the market. He Clark-blocked the Cardinals (seriously, a plane was WAITING for Reid and Hunt prevented him from getting on? I don't even care if it's true. I chose to accept it as reality from now on) and got the guy he wanted. That's the second time Hunt (notice I'm not calling him "Clark" anymore?) has stolen a hot commodity out from underneath another team. It didn't work out with Pioli, but Hunt is clearly doing everything he can to make the Chiefs successful.

Nicely done, Hunt.

Now... to the future. To pull back the curtain a little, my plan for the near future is to do some player breakdowns and determine who I think is worth keeping around for the future. But that's on hold for the moment, as some debates have sprung up on AP regarding our new head coach. And since I'm determined to regain the optimism that was beaten to death this season, it's time for another "Arguing With..." column.

TIme to argue with fears regarding Andy Reid.

Fear No. 1- "Andy Reid was just fired by the Eagles! I don't want someone's reject!"

I've heard this argument and to be honest, I don't really get it. Good head coaches get fired. Many of the same people I have seen/heard say this are the same people who breathlessly wonder if we could get Gruden (fired in 2009 by the Buccaneers) or Marty (fired by both the Chiefs and the Chargers in his most recent head coach stints). Bill Belichick got fired from Cleveland. Shanahan got fired from the Broncos. John Fox was allowed to walk from Carolina. Tom Coughlin was let go by the Jaguars. This stuff happens. Good coaches wear out their welcome.

In the NFL, coaches have a limited life span. I have no idea why this is, but it's the truth. The fact that Andy Reid was fired from one of the most notoriously tough cities to play/coach in America is not going to make up my mind on a guy.

(and for those who would counter with, "well, Cowher was never fired," allow me to retort [another great movie scene...]; Cowher would have likely been fired at some point by most owners [there were several mediocre-to-poor years in there], and before Big Ben had the reputation as the coach who "couldn't win it all." Sound familiar? Even a tad?)

Fear No. 2- "We're never going to run the ball! Jamaal Charles will go to waste because Reid doesn't know how to use RB's!"

I keep hearing it, time and again. Jamaal Charles will turn into LeSean McCoy, getting the ball only rarely during games and wasting away as an unused talent. This is what happens when rhetoric rules over stats. I will agree with the idea that Reid likes to pass the ball more than run the ball, but let's face it, that's today's NFL. Reid was merely ahead of the curve. As pointed out in this excellent article by Bill Barnwell, the league passed on 56.4 percent of offensive plays this year, just a TAD under Reid's average of 57 percent. That's today's NFL.

Now, regarding Reid's "inability" to use running backs... Let's take a look beyond the rhetoric of "Reid doesn't use running backs."

LeSean McCoy split touches with Brian Westbrook in 2009, and has been "the man" ever since then in Philadelphia. From 2010-12, McCoy has played in 42 games and gotten 680 carries, or an average of 16-plus carries a game. While that might seem a little low for a back of McCoy's ability, you can't just ignore the passing game. In that same three year span, McCoy caught 180 passes (good GOD!). This raises McCoy's number of touches per game to about 20.5 touches per game.

Know how many touches per game JC has averaged since becoming "the man" midway through 2009? A shade under 19. That is correct, Mr. "Never Uses running backs" has actually utilized LeSean McCoy (a poor man's Jamaal Charles) MORE than we have used our No. 1 option here in Kansas City.

I won't break down the numbers, but if you actually go back and examine Westbrook's numbers when he was "the man" in Philadelphia (and when he could stay healthy), you see the same story. Plenty of carries for a slightly smaller back and tons of catches (so in other words, lots of touches). Anyone who had him on a fantasy football team during his peak years can vouch for the guy's production.

Personally, the way Reid uses running backs is a HUGE plus for me. Jamaal Charles has been CRIMINALLY under-used as a receiving threat out of the backfield. And while I love his ability to run between the tackles when he has to, he's more deadly in space. I want to see him (and Dexter McCluster, whom Reid wanted on draft day) getting put in space against linebackers out of the backfield. Fewer big hits in the trenches on our franchise running back, more chances to be alone in space against overmatched defenders.

(Quick side note.: As much as I know Clay Wendler will mock me for saying this, Reid could be the best thing to happen to Dex, who has been just "ok" at slot receiver but still hasn't found a real niche. He's exactly the type of player Reid can maximize coming out of the backfield or working out of the slot. The way I figure it, 452 yards receiving in our 2012 offense should equate to roughly 2100 yards receiving in Reid's offense. Math is fun.)

The final thing to remember is that it's Jamaal freaking Charles. There isn't a coach in the league who isn't going to use him. He's one of the most electrifying players in football and the second best running back alive (c'mon guys, Adrian Peterson isn't human. No shame in JC being second to him). Don't worry about JC. If he gets used anything like McCoy, he'll have 2,000-plus yards from scrimmage and our offense will be zfine.

(Another quick side note... if you're watching a Vikings game with VIkings' fans, here's a fantastic trolling tip: After a freakishly good run by All Day, casually say to your friend, "Man, what a stud. He is hands down the second best running back in the NFL." They will lose their minds.)

Fear No. 3- "Reid's going to bring in a wide-9 defense and set us back years! Our guys are built for the 3-4, and we'll have to overhaul the defensive side of the ball if he doesn't get us a 3-4 coordinator!!!"

A couple things here. First, very few have defended the Chiefs defense as adamantly as I have. They were put in an IMPOSSIBLE situation this year, with turnovers by the pound and an offense that almost never moved the chains. The defense rarely had a shot.

That said, are we THAT afraid that our defense might get changed up? While I do believe it was better than the numbers, can we really say it was such a dominant unit that any change would be a mistake? I don't believe we can. Especially when it comes to getting to the quarterback, which makes up most of the battle in today's NFL.

According to the excellent article provided by our SB Nation Brothers over at BleedingGreenNation, Reid is a huge believer in rushing the passer. I don't know about you, but that sounds good to me. Despite the presence of Tamba Hali and Justin Houston (one of the better pass rushing duos on the league), the Chiefs still ended up near the bottom of the league with 27 sacks. Blech. That has to get better. And a coach who invites the idea of pass rush being pivotal to success is a welcome change from the "bend but don't break" philosophy we've seen here for years.

Regarding a change to the 4-3... I've seen way more fear than the change warrants around here. Know what the Chiefs most successful line was this year? Houston/TJax/Poe/Hali, all with their hands in the dirt. The Chiefs used that line for the last 6-7 games of the season in nickel/dime formations (minus TJax being out against Denver), and got more pressure on the quarterback than they had all year.

People are freaking out and claiming we'll need to blow up the defense in order to run a 4-3, but is that really the case? Justin Houston's best two traits are his pass rushing (often with his hand in the dirt) and his strength against the run. Tamba Hali is more stout against the run than he was years ago (the last time he was in a 4-3), and he still saw the majority of his sacks/hits/pressures when rushing as a defensive end in the nickel/dime. TJax showed us what he can do (thanks for waiting so long, RAC!) in the second half of this season when given a chance as part of a four-down-lineman group. And Poe can do anything we need (isn't that the advantage of an athletic big man?).

After watching Houston/TJax/Poe/Hali do more to pressure quarterbacks than anything we've seen in years, I'm all on board with that as a front four in a 4-3. I also think the depth (Jerrell Powe and Allen Bailey especially) would be better served in such a front. All I care about is that we have an attacking defense and not one that waits to get attacked.

Now, the linebacker switch from a 3-4 would admittedly be more problematic. But DJ is twice the player he was three years ago, and I believe he could make the switch (although this will likely be debated). Remember, he struggled in the Chiefs 3-4 the first year, too, so it's not as though he became a beast the instant we switched up to a 3-4. The remaining linebacker spots could be an issue, but it's not as though those spots are utterly impossible to fill via free aency or the draft (if you get a chance, check out the available 4-3 linebackers in free agency. There are guys to be had). Who else wouldn't hate seeing Rey Maualuga as the middle linebacker?

The point is, our front 4 would be just fine (and possibly excellent) in a 4-3, and we'd still be fine in the secondary (although we need to upgrade Kendrick Lewis, but that should happen regardless of scheme). The only real issue is at linebacker, and we need to stop acting as though we'd have to cripple our defense to make this switch.

(IF it even happens. That remains to be seen. For all we know, the Chiefs end up with a 3-4 coordinator and all of this becomes moot. Either way, it's not a reason to fear Andy Reid.

Fear No. 4- "Andy Reid will ignore our need at quarterback! I wish Pioli was here to pick our guy!!!"

OK, I'll be honest... I made that argument up. I haven't seen a single person who would rather have had Scott Pioli pick out our next signal-caller. However, I HAVE heard people say they are worried Reid will bypass a quarterback in the first in favor of building the trenches.

Here's my counterpoint- with his first draft pick ever, Andy Reid picked up Donovan McNabb.

He smartly bypassed Akili Smith and addressed the Eagles' biggest need (much as it is ours). He then developed the guy into a franchise quarterback who played quite well for nearly a decade (and then got a second round pick out of the guy JUST before his play fell completely off a cliff, which shows wonderful foresight). So... what exactly is the problem?

Isn't that exactly what we want?

Nobody understands the importance of the quarterback position better than Andy Reid, a guy who made getting a franchise QB his first job upon becoming a head coach.

And his record with quarterbacks goes well beyond McNabb. He's the only coach to EVER make Mike Vick look like a legitimate NFL quarterback for any length of time (that's incredible if you look at Vick's career). He managed to coax solid enough play out of A.J. Feeley to get a second round pick for the guy. He made Kevin Kolb look promising enough to get a 2nd round pick (sensing a pattern here?) AND a good cornerback in Dominiqu Rodgers-Cromartie (that was highway robbery).

Look at that record. LOOK at it. Throw in that he was quarterbacks coach earlier in his career (for some loser named Brett Favre, apparently. He also helped develop some other journeyman named Matt Hasselback), and is there really anyone else you would have rather had picking our next quarterback?

I trust Reid enough regarding this position that even if the Chiefs pass up on a quarterback in the first round and take one in the second (which I would hate), I'm not going to freak out. Because his track record with quarterbacks is that solid.

(OK, Andy, I was on the fence about that last part. Take a quarterback right away. Please? For my sanity?)

Last Fear- "The Eagles were terrible last year, and that's on Reid. Who is to say that won't repeat itself here?"

I have no idea. But I do know that, as shown above, even great head coaches have ended up failures when they stayed in one place long enough. That's the NFL. Eventually, everything ends badly, or it wouldn't end (Cocktail is a very, very, very terrible and stupid movie. But that's a nice quote). A change in scenery has done wonders for many other coaches. And it just might help Andy Reid get back to what made him so successful for a dozen years.

Overrated/Underrated/Just Right: Concerns about Andy Reid

Overrated: Passing the ball too much (1990 is over. Time to join the modern NFL)

Underrated: His recent penchant for signing big-name free agents that don't pan out (hopefully, he can find a middle ground between Pioli's method of hardly ever doing this and his last few years with the Eagles)

Just Right: Clock management (I didn't even include that in the article because from everything I hear, there's no defending Reid's clock management).

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