When Chiefs coach Andy Reid was asked recently about his sterling record on challenges this season he is seven for eight, including two that directly or indirectly led to touchdowns he nodded and chuckled.
For a second, you think that Reid a man not especially prone to candor during his news conferences is tempted to maybe-kinda-sorta-crow about it.
No dice. Hes been doing this coaching thing long enough to know better.
Youre stretching, Reid said with a grin. I appreciate the cookie there. Yeah, Im proud of that, I guess. Im proud of the guys upstairs. I have a lot of trust in them. They know what theyre talking about when they look at those (replays) and evaluate them.
Reid is referring to tight ends coach Tom Melvin and spread-game analyst/special-projects coach Brad Childress, both of whom sit in the coaches box during games. And while the Chiefs did not make either available for this story they do not let the majority of their assistants speak during the course of the season, with rare exceptions its clear Reid has put his trust in both of them when it comes to bang-bang calls that might be worth throwing the red challenge flag.
Melvin, who had served on Reids staff during the entirety of his 14-year tenure in Philadelphia, seems to have Reids ear, in particular.
There are a lot of eyes up there, obviously, Reid said, but Tom is the one that has headed it up over the years.
Reid also has the benefit of looking at replays himself on the stadium monitors. But thats not always a simple proposition, especially on the road.
Sometimes they dont come up as quick in other arenas as they do here, Reid said with a chuckle.
But whatever system Reid has used when deciding to make challenges, its hard to argue with the results, even if some players admit they dont necessarily know all the ins and outs of what all goes into Reids challenge decisions.
Im not totally sure on how it works, quarterback Alex Smith said, but I do feel like what they do have set up (works). They make quick decisions, decisive decisions and have been on top of it. Thats a tough thing to manage in the middle of the game.
Reids record with challenges this season has also helped him earn the trust of players such as receiver Dexter McCluster, whose first punt-return touchdown of the season an 89-yarder in week four against the New York Giants was set up by a successful challenge by Reid, who turned a first-down catch by the Giants into fourth and 1 and ensuing punt by challenging the spot of the ball.
Ill tell you, he has a good eye, McCluster said of Reid. And it all comes down to trust. I mean, he asks us, Did you catch the ball or did you get the ball out? And if he has that gut feeling, hes gonna go with it. Hes been good so far.
But theres a flip side of that for players, too. In the Chiefs first game against Denver, tight end Anthony Fasano caught a pass in the end zone but was ruled out of bounds.
Now, one might naturally think Fasano would lobby Reid to throw the challenge flag on that play.
No no, I didnt want to go (to him) there in case I was wrong, Fasano said with a laugh. If you dont really know you have to (be careful). But if you know you know, I think its your duty to go help him or the team out.
Fasano wasnt confident enough in the outcome to go to his coach in that instance, but it turned out OK anyway, as Reid won the challenge and overturned the call.
It certainly gets emotional on the field everybody feels like they made the play and sometimes the camera can show otherwise, Smith said. But I think (Reid) does a great job of listening and taking in all the information and then making a decision.
For that, Reid made it clear that he has Melvin, Childress and the rest of the staff upstairs to thank. And dont be fooled by his initial reluctance to take pride in it, either; hes been coaching long enough to know that he should be grateful for the way his challenges have worked out this season.
Ive had a few in my career where they could go the other way and its gone the other way, Reid said. So I appreciate the ones that do go our way.