Since new Kansas City Chiefs outside linebackers coach Ken Flajole came to town in order to replace Britt Reid — who left the team under tragic circumstances just before the Super Bowl — little attention has been given to his hiring.
But on Thursday, Flajole (which is pronounced FLAY-juhl) and his immediate superiors — defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and head coach Andy Reid — all met with local reporters in Zoom conference calls.
And we learned a few things.
“I was with him for a long time at the college level — and then he was with Spags at the college level for a stop and in the NFL,” Reid said of his new assistant. “One unique thing about that defensive staff is that you throw Ken in the mix, [linebackers coach] Matt House has been with him and [defensive line coach] Brendan Daly’s been with him. They all kind of know each other.”
And Reid said the connections didn’t end there.
“Sam Madison played with Spags and Dave Merritt worked with Spags in New York. So there’s a tie-in there — a connection. And so they can get a lot of work done and give the players a lot of good information; they kind of know what [the] others are thinking.”
“Ken and I have known each other for a long time,” said Spagnuolo. “Andy Reid knew him way before I did. But I got to know him at the same time I got to know Andy: when they were on the staff at UTEP together — and Missouri. He’s been in the league a long time — he was the defensive coordinator for us in St. Louis.”
But Spagnuolo also made it clear that he considers Flajole someone to whom he should be listening.
“I’ve just got a great deal of respect for him. He’s going to be a great sounding board for me; another set of eyes [from] somebody that’s had a lot of experience in this league. And on game day, I know Ken; we were together on the sideline. He’s really good on game day [with] sorting things out: run schemes and what the offense is trying to do to us. So I’m looking forward to that.”
“Spags has a lot of trust in him, obviously — and rightly so,” noted Reid. “Spags can give him projects or whatever. He’s coaching the outside linebackers right now, but [Spagnuolo] trusts him for doing projects.”
When he took his turn at the podium, Flajole didn’t talk like a man whose main job was coaching a subset of linebackers.
“Matt House and I have been together at a couple of different spots. We were together at Carolina and with the St. Louis Rams. So I’m kind of the substitute teacher in some respects. But listen: it’s great to have those young [linebackers Willie Gay Jr. and Nick Bolton] — get them indoctrinated in the scheme and try to bring them along. But you know, Matt does a great job with them; I’m just really impressed. I think he’s a quality football coach. I chime in and give me two cents when it’s appropriate, but I don’t want to discount what he’s done in the room, too.”
In fact, the 66-year-old Flajole — who has accumulated 41 years of coaching experience — talked a bit more like an undrafted rookie who is willing to do whatever it takes to make the team’s roster.
“I’m open to anything he wants me to do,” he said of the “special projects” Spagnuolo might give him. “I really feel like there’s a way for me to lighten their loads a little bit — so to speak — during the course of the season. I’ve been a coordinator. I’ve been a position coach. So I know the time constraints that go into those guys doing what they do — and at the high level that they do it. So if that means that I’m drawing cards at night for the next day’s practice — or if Steve needs me to research third down and maybe categorize protections — things like that, I’m really going to say that I’m going to try to be a jack-of-all-trades and somehow find time that I can help them.”
From his own experience, Flajole said he knows how valuable that could be.
“A lot of times, you get through looking at tape, it’s late at night and you’ve got to draw the cards for the next day — and then you’re saying to yourself, ‘I’ve got to get ready for my meeting the next day.’ Hopefully I can take some of that stuff off of them, so that they can pay a little bit more attention to making sure they’re ready for their meeting the next day — and that they’re fresh to do it. They’re not coming in to the office looking like they’ve been awake for the last 72 hours.”
But Flajole also wanted to make it clear that helping his old friends wasn’t the only reason he decided to come to Kansas City.
“I think the big thing is the quality of the organization,” he explained. “As a coach that’s a little bit longer in his career, the ability to win — and win now — that’s always important. And probably last but not least: my wife got tired of seeing me sitting around the house, so she told me to go out and get a job.”
Welcome to Kansas City, Coach.