Generally speaking, we tend to ignore coaches more than we should as football fans. There are two very specific situations where 90 percent of our "coaching" talk comes about:
1) When we're discussing the development of a young player who needs to be "coached up" or "developed" or whatever term you're most fond of, and;
2) When coaches do something that seems really stupid, such as blowing timeouts, throwing bad challenge flags, or using terrible clock management.
Beyond those specific situations, we don't really talk about coaching. We like to talk about what the players are doing on the field. I mean, that's what we pay to see, yes? Gigantic, gifted young men running abnormally fast and hitting each other in ways that would pulverize a normal man. Who has time to worry about boring things like Xs and Os when there are players to watch?
The thing is, coaching (in any sport, but especially football) is a much, much larger part of the game than anyone really wants to admit. Going from a bad coach to a good coach can be worth a half dozen wins to a team, or even more.
As Chiefs fans, we've seen this first hand. While there were upgrades in certain key areas on the roster, the core player group of 2013 was largely the same as the core player group of 2012. Yet the results were RADICALLY different. A big part of that was Andy Reid and the fact that he's a much, much, much, much, much, MUCH better head coach than Romeo Crennel (and I probably left out a "much" or two there).
If you really want to know just how important coaching is, last night's win over the Patriots is about as loud a reminder as you can get.
Now, don't get me wrong, the players deserve a ton of credit. The execution was borderline perfect on many plays, as an outmatched and overrated Patriots team was just overwhelmed. The Chiefs are a more talented football team than the Patriots on both sides of the ball, and it showed. I'll be writing about the players later this week (in particular, a certain position group I've written about a great deal already), so don't think I've forgotten them.
But what you watched last night was, in very large part, what happens when a coach completely and utterly beats the opposing coach in game-planning and in-game adjustments. When that happens, you see absolute blowouts.
Don't believe me? Go back and re-watch the Week 1 game vs. a Titans team that is not very good. The Chiefs look like a different squad, no?
All right, I'll drag you back from that painful memory. Because Week 1 feels like forever ago at this point. Back to last night and Andy Reid's coaching.
I can't say enough good things about the game Reid called. The misdirection running plays (you know, Alex Smith takes off to his right only to slip the ball to Jamaal Charles or Knile Davis? Big fun). The fake reverses. The 3 TE groups. The bubble screens (oh Lord, the bubble screens). The entire night, the Chiefs looked five steps ahead of the Patriots on almost every offensive down.
The only hiccup for Reid all night was his usual atrocious clock management at the end of the half. Here's an interesting thing about clock management, though: when the mistakes occur amidst a tremendous blowout of a team that was favored, it's a lot more adorable than deplorable. Winning is weird that way.
A great many fans on Arrowhead Pride commented after the game that it was one of the best performances they'd ever seen from the Chiefs. And to an extent, I agree (though I'd caution everyone that the Patriots were and are overrated. The 49ers will be a real test). The Chiefs played dominant football.
And that dominant football started with Andy Reid's game plan. He should get all the game balls this week. He took Bill Belichick out back and beat the daylights out of him for three hours on national television.
Perhaps the most encouraging sign from the offense last night was the MANNER in which Reid dominated Belichick and the Patriots. The Chiefs ran the ball early and often, a stark contrast from the "pass to get ahead, run to stay ahead" approach Reid is legendary for. Knile Davis and Jamaal Charles (without question the best running back duo in the NFL right now) combined for 34 carries and 199 yards. That's a dominant day at the office.
The use of Davis leads into another thing Reid did well last night; he continued to show a willingness to use the talent he's been given, rather than trying to force a system that isn't a good fit on the Chiefs (most specifically the wide receivers). Reid is blessed with a team that has its strength at the TE and RB position. Many (including myself) were concerned that Reid would never go away from his preferred sets of 3 WRs (definitely not a set the Chiefs should run with much regularity).
Well, for a night, Reid silenced me and all the other doubters who felt he was too set in his ways to adjust his offensive approach. Those 3 TE sets are going to be a problem for every defense the Chiefs face moving forward, as is the two-headed monster of Charles / Davis (led by the all-by-himself monster Anthony Sherman, the best fullback in the NFL).
My hat's off to you this week, Andy. Fine work. Now stay the course, and stick to the strengths you used to demolish a favored team on national television. I'm very, very excited to watch.