When Chiefs coach Andy Reid addressed his team Sunday afternoon, fewer than 24 hours after their devastating 22-21 home loss to the Tennessee Titans in an AFC Wild Card playoff game, there was not much hemming and hawing.
No, the message was short and direct. And while Reid did some things he always does — like thank them for their hard work and remind them of how close they are to achieving their goal of winning the Super Bowl — players could tell their head coach was as frustrated as they were.
“We know where he stands with letting a game like this slip away from us,” inside linebacker Derrick Johnson explained. “He puts a lot of pressure on himself. But at the same time, we’re players and we know that we’ve got to get it done. We didn’t. Today (stinks).”
Johnson said Reid’s demeanor Saturday night, when he addressed the team shortly after the game, was similar.
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“He let us know we let this one go,” Johnson said. “This one, from the coaching staff, to the players, we have to do better. Like, (blowing a) 21-3 (lead)? This can’t happen … this can’t happen.”
Now, with another offseason to ponder a premature postseason failure — the Chiefs have blown two leads of 18-plus points in their four postseason losses during Reid’s tenure — Reid and general manager Brett Veach are left to ponder how to fix multiple issues, among them:
▪ How will they fix the defense, which ranked 28th in the league in yards surrendered and has been gashed for an embarrassing average of 187 rushing yards in their last two postseason losses?
▪ Who will call plays in 2018, as the man Reid ceded play-calling to in December — offensive coordinator Matt Nagy — was expected to interview for the head coaching openings of the Bears and Colts on Sunday?
▪ Will a change at quarterback, to gunslinging rookie Patrick Mahomes, and the draft capital and cap space ($17 million) gained by trading starter Alex Smith, be enough to fortify multiple spots, including cornerback, defensive line and linebacker?
▪ And most importantly, how will this team build up enough mental toughness in year six of Reid’s tenure to shed its unsightly habit of delivering heartbreaking postseason losses to a fan base all too familiar with them?
Those are just some of the questions, or variations thereof, that Reid was asked in his annual postseason press conference Sunday afternoon, though Reid’s answers to such questions are unlikely to provide much relief to fans still raw from the Titans loss, otherwise known as “The Forward Progress Game.”
For instance, when asked about possible staff changes, particularly with a defense that has struggled against the run for two seasons now, Reid’s answer was ambiguous.
“I think I will just let that slide there — that is not where I am at,” Reid said. “Probably the wrong question to ask right about this time.”
When asked again, Reid didn’t offer much more.
“Listen, everything’s too fresh right now,” Reid said. “I can’t say that enough here.”
Reid did give a handful of compelling answers, however. While he continued his refusal to elaborate on who called the plays in the second half, when the Chiefs only gained 61 yards, his answer when asked if he plans to allow Nagy to call the offensive plays again next year, was a bit more illuminating.
“I don’t know about that part,” Reid said. “I thought he did a nice job, but I don’t know about that.”
And when asked whether he’d be comfortable with Mahomes potentially starting games in 2018 instead of Smith, Reid offered a response that could be seen as a rebuttal against the expectations of a Smith trade.
“I am not there — that is not where I am at,” Reid said of the possibility of a change at the position. “I can tell you what is real and that is he got to play, which was invaluable. He got the chance to be in a room with Alex Smith, which is invaluable. He loves to play the game. He got a chance to play a couple of weeks ago and did a nice job with it. I am not there with anything other than that. That is what is real right now.”
However, Reid did make it clear changes will be coming in some form or fashion, particularly with the on-field personnel.
“Some of the guys won’t be back,” Reid said. “That’s the nature of this business.”
It was a notion he even repeated to the team two hours later.
“He was saying we’re close, we’re right there,” cornerback Darrelle Revis said. “We’ve just got to continue to find the pieces we need to help us win.”
In the meantime, those involved will be stuck searching for those answers, the lingering bitterness of the Titans loss surely fueling the desire to do so.
“This team, we have something,” Johnson said. “We just … it’s too bad we didn’t take advantage this year.”