Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid appeared on NFL Network’s “Schedule Release ‘21” show on Wednesday night, speaking with his old friend Steve Mariucci, with whom he served when both were assistant coaches with the Green Bay Packers from 1992 through 1995.
Mariucci asked about the changes Kansas City has made to its offensive line since their 31-9 Super Bowl LV loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — in which Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes faced unrelenting pressure behind a line that had been decimated by injuries and COVID-19 opt-outs.
“We just hadn’t done a whole lot recently with the offensive line,” acknowledged Reid, himself a former offensive lineman. “You need to take care of that bunch, so that’s where we went.”
And the team went with a vengeance — beginning by releasing injured starting tackles Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz to create salary-cap space and allowing center Austin Reiter to walk in free agency. Then they signed former New England Patriots guard Joe Thuney and former Los Angeles Rams interior offensive lineman Austin Blythe — and brought former Chicago Bears guard Kyle Long out of retirement. Just before the NFL Draft — in which they selected Oklahoma center Creed Humphrey and Tennessee guard Trey Smith — they traded what amounted to a late first-round/early second-round pick to the Baltimore Ravens for tackle Orlando Brown Jr.
Even with the returns of guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and tackle Lucas Niang — both of whom opted out of the 2020 season — along with offensive linemen like third-year player Nick Allegretti, former Chiefs’ Rookie of the Year Andrew Wylie and veteran reserve Mike Remmers, it’s possible that the Chiefs will enter Week 1 without a single starter who appeared in February’s Super Bowl.
And yet... Reid made a point of saying that it might not play out that way.
“We have some guys returning that were on that Super Bowl team, too,” he told Mariucci. “So we’ve got great depth and there’ll be competition. And as you know, Mooch, competition brings out the best in everybody. And so, we’ve got that now on the offensive line and these guys will battle it out. The kids that were on that Super Bowl are tough kids. It just wasn’t our day — and things didn’t quite work out right. It’s not all their blame for sure. And that’s not where we were going with this.”
Reid said that the team’s goal is — as always — to put the best five players in front of his star quarterback.
“As far as Patrick goes, listen, he’s gonna get the five best that are available to play that we have — and he’ll play with anybody,” said Reid. “So he’ll get out there and do his thing.
“The expectations are to continue to grow — and you know how this kid’s wired. He wants to be great, and he’ll keep working until he feels that he’s that way — and probably keep working all the way through his career, getting better. The great ones do that. You saw that with Brett Favre when we were together: give him one more thing. ’Just give me one more thing, Coach — to make me even better than what I am.’ And that’s how this kid’s wired.”
As then as you might expect from coaches whose relationship began in Green Bay, the conversation turned to the Week 9 matchup between the Chiefs and Packers — specifically the one between Mahomes and reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers.
“We’ve got some good quarterback matchups — that being one of them,” remarked Reid. “Rodgers is going to go down as one of the all-time best ever. I know those two have a relationship — they do those commercials together — and so there’ll be that nice competition between those two. And obviously they’ve got a bunch of good players, so we’ll have to be ready for that one.”
But for now, the focus is on what the team’s offensive line will look like when they open the season against the Cleveland Browns in Week 1.