January 3, 2014

Bob Lutz: Reid gives Chiefs reason for confidence

The Chiefs won’t have the best quarterback on the field Saturday in Indianapolis when they meet the Colts in an AFC wild-card game.

The Chiefs won’t have the best quarterback on the field Saturday in Indianapolis when they meet the Colts in an AFC wild-card game.

Kansas City is an underdog and lost to the Colts, 23-7, at Arrowhead Stadium two weeks ago.

The Chiefs have been banged up and after a 9-0 start lost five of their final seven. What had been a soft schedule, the skeptics say, turned hard and Kansas City wilted.

KC will encounter a hostile crowd and a rising star in quarterback Andrew Luck. The Colts’ defense has given up only 20 points in the last three games and stymied the Chiefs after an early Jamaal Charles touchdown.

There are so many things that pointed to an Indianapolis victory.

And then there is Andy Reid.

The Chiefs have him. The Colts do not.

Reid has given Kansas City a credibility it has lacked for years. Since Dick Vermeil retired, really.

The Chiefs gave the coaching job to Herm Edwards after Vermeil left, then embarked on a 15-33 journey over three seasons.

Todd Haley came aboard in 2009 and lacked the coaching maturity to be successful. He was at odds with his team and was axed with three games to play in 2011. He finished his Chiefs run at 19-26.

Then there was Romeo Crennel. Everybody loves Romeo and he engineered that gargantuan 19-14 upset of the 13-0 Green Bay Packers late in the 2011 season. On that day, Crennel assured that he would be back in 2012, probably against the better judgment of the folks who made that decision. And sure enough, the Chiefs were awful last season, finishing 2-14.

After trying to cut corners for eight years, the Chiefs finally got serious about finding a coach. And they found Reid, who had worn out his welcome in Philadelphia after a 4-12 season in 2012. He needed a change, the Eagles needed a change, the Chiefs needed a change.

And Kansas City finally has a coach with a pedigree.

Reid has been in these spots before. Many times. In 14 seasons with the Eagles, he coached in 19 playoff games. His team won 10 of those and Philly played in Super Bowl XXXIX after the 2004 season, losing to the New England Patriots.

Edwards, Haley and Crennel could have coached a million years and not gotten Kansas City to a Super Bowl. But with Reid in charge, things that didn’t used to seem possible for the Chiefs seem possible.

Even a win Saturday in Indianapolis.

Reid caught some flak last week for resting his starters. But it turned out great. The Chiefs nearly knocked off San Diego with mostly second-stringers and those starters got a bye week that normally doesn’t exist for a wild-card team.

The Chiefs will look more like themselves with Justin Houston and, most likely, Tamba Hali back in the defensive mix after battling late-season injuries. Houston, especially, gives Kansas City a meaner disposition.

And, of course, Kansas City has the indomitable Charles in the offensive backfield. Charles would make a lot of coaches look good, yet the Chiefs were not even able to win much with Charles. Until now.

They’re 11-5. That’s nine games better than 2012. Strong schedule, weak schedule, whatever. It’s a noteworthy improvement and Reid deserves much of the credit.

It’s obvious watching him coach that Kansas City has been Reid’s saving grace. He’s rejuvenated and determined.

Reid had nine winning seasons in Philadelphia and won 37 more games than he lost. From 2000 through 2008, the Eagles were in 17 playoff games.

Indianapolis coach Chuck Pagano is officially 22-10 with the Colts, although he missed 12 games last season while being treated for leukemia as Bruce Arians took over.

Pagano, though, hasn’t been where Reid has been. If the Chiefs were depending on someone like Herm Edwards, Todd Haley or Romeo Crennel, there probably wouldn’t be much hope.

Finally, though, Kansas City got serious about trying to win. Reid is the kind of coach who legitimately can chase down a Super Bowl. He doesn’t have a championship yet, but it’s not crazy to think he can get one with the Chiefs.

And that’s the biggest difference in this Kansas City team and those of the past seven years. Reid has stature. He has a resume. He has had success.

So Kansas City will take the field at Lucas Oil Stadium with a coach who has been there before. The Chiefs have a proven leader who can be trusted by fans, front office and, most of all, players.

Will KC win? That’s a far fetch given that Indianapolis is at home, beat the Chiefs convincingly two weeks ago and has one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks, Andrew Luck. But the experienced Reid gives Kansas City a legitimate chance. He was hired for games like this.

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