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Despite occasional play-calling criticism, Chiefs 12-1 for first time

Fans may sometimes get frustrated with Andy Reid’s play-calling, but we should consider the alternative.

Kansas City Chiefs v Miami Dolphins Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

It’s not a coincidence that it was the 2019 Kansas City Chiefs team that won the franchise’s first championship in 50 years. It was the only squad they had fielded since their 1969 championship that had three essential elements: a strong offense, a strong defense and a transcendent quarterback.

Sometimes the team had come close. Under head coach Marty Schottenheimer in 1997, the team had the league’s top-scoring defense and fifth-rated offense but still lacked a quarterback who had the ability to take over a game. With Trent Green, head coach Dick Vermeil’s early-2000s teams might have had such a quarterback — and certainly featured dominating offenses — but consistently lacked a competitive defense.

In short, the team had always had at least one fatal flaw — until Andy Reid, Steve Spagnuolo and Patrick Mahomes came along.

But in the eyes of many, Reid also has a fatal flaw: his penchant for getting “too cute” with his offensive plays. Widely regarded as one of the most creative play designers in the game, Reid does indeed bring plays to the field that other coaches cannot imagine. But when one of those plays goes wrong, Reid is the one who gets the blame.

And that’s OK with Reid, who consistently directs the greatest criticism at himself.

“I think we all need to do that,” he told reporters on Wednesday. “That’s part of it. That’s something that most people don’t do. I think you better look in the mirror before you criticize others. So it starts with me and I’ve got to make sure that I do that — sincerely do that, not just say it. I’ve tried to always be that way — and I expect the guys to do the same, the best they possibly can.”

From an armchair, it’s easy to be frustrated by what looks like an overabundance of cuteness in Reid’s offense. But for every tricky play that’s blown up by a smart defender, there’s at least one more that has left a defense flat-footed, along with other less-obvious examples in which — for example — a receiver has been left galloping free.

After all... it’s not as if the threat a player like tight end Travis Kelce poses to opposing defenses is unknown. Still, in every game, we see plays in which it appears he has simply been left uncovered. Part of that is due to Kelce’s skill as a route runner, but it’s also because Reid’s offense creates opportunities for him — and other receivers. And yes... sometimes it’s because Mahomes has the ability to find the player who has managed to break free while he’s under pressure.

Reid does it not only because he’s built that way, but also because with the Chiefs, he has the right coaches — and players — to make it work.

“I’ve got good coaches that love the challenge of finding new things and experiment with them,” noted Reid on Wednesday, “and I’ve got players that thrive on that stuff. I mean, they want you to find something that’s out of the ordinary — and make it the ordinary and practice it — so I appreciate all of that.”

So whatever frustration you may feel when Reid gets a little too cute for your taste, remember to compare that to what you felt in 1997 or the early 2000s. Not all fatal flaws are created equal — and Reid’s hasn’t kept him from racking up the first 12-1 record in franchise history.