How Andy Reid’s simplification helped get Chiefs’ offense on track

Coach Andy Reid decided to reduce the amount of words for the plays he called and the Kansas City Chiefs offense is rolling again.

LAS VEGAS — Oftentimes, change is born out of necessity.

In the NFL, changes happen every week. Sometimes they work. Sometimes they don’t. In the case of Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, he made a decision that appears to have panned out and may be what helps the Chiefs win a third Super Bowl in five years when they face the San Francisco 49ers Sunday at Allegiant Stadium.

The Raiders were in Arrowhead Stadium on Christmas Day and the Kansas City offense was struggling, in part due to Maxx Crosby and the schemes cooked up by defensive coordinator Patrick Graham, but also to the complicated play-calling that was structured by Reid.

Patrick Mahomes is a smart guy. But even he was having trouble communicating what Reid and offensive coordinator Matt Nagy was telling him. Basically, the plays were so long in their verbiage that by the time Mahomes disseminated the information to the 10 other guys in he huddle, it didn’t leave him much time to read the defense, audible if necessary and it made things a bit helter-skelter, if not predictable.

So Reid decided to condense the play-calling words but keep the play itself intact. The Chiefs still fell to the Raiders, 20-14, but they regained their offensive footing. They’ve averaged 21 points in each of their last five games, all wins, including back-to-back playoff road wins over Buffalo (24-17) and Baltimore (17-10) to earn their spot in Super Bowl LVIII Sunday against San Francisco. And with the way the Kansas City defense has been playing, 21 points by the Chiefs’ offense just might be enough.

“It’s something we felt we needed to do,” Reid said earlier in the week. “We were struggling in a couple of areas so we shortened up the information we sent to Patrick. The plays didn’t change. Just how we called them to him.”

Mahomes said it was the right thing to do.
“I think we always were on the same page with the game plan,” Mahomes said. “It was all about trying to do what we were best at. 

“I wish we had done it a little bit earlier, but it’s part of the process. The goal is to be playing our best at the end of the year.”

The Chiefs’ defense has been excellent all season. But the offense will have to contribute and Reid, who grew up in Los Angeles, attended Glendale Community College and was going to the L.A. Coliseum to watch the Rams and USC football since he was 5 years old, is going to make the hard decisions on what to call and he and Nagy will need to be on the same page.

“Most of what I hear in the headset is Matt,” Mahomes said. “That’s the great thing about Coach Reid. He doles out responsibility to his coordinators and let’s them do their job. But I know that if it’s going to be 51 percent, that’s going to be Coach Reid making that decision.”

Noah Gray, Kansas City’s back-up tight end, said it’s about preparedness that allowed Reid to shift gears and change things up. 

“I think Coach Reid and his staff do a phenomenal job each week preparing us with the game plan,” Gray said. “The guys buy in to whatever Coach Reid wants us to do.

“We definitely saw the difference against the Raiders and then the following week (against Cincinnati).”  

Marquez Valdes-Scantling, the Chiefs veteran wide receiver, said having a collective high football I.Q. helped the offense quickly adjust.

“We have a real good offense and Coach Reid is one of the smartest guys ever,” he said. “I think they were trying to find different ways to get everybody involved.

“To be able to go in and simplify things, get back to playing fast and play the way we can, it really helped us. Getting the play in quicker, processing the information faster allowed us to change things if we needed to.”

It certainly helped Mahomes regain the pace of play he enjoys implementing. The Chiefs run a very diverse yet complex offense, one that utilizes a lot of looks, a lot of motion and different sets. In Mahomes, they are blessed to have a quarterback who knows how to quickly process information and at the same time is given the freedom to improvise if necessary.

Everyone marvels at Mahomes’ ability to extend plays with his legs. In truth, he’s extending plays with his brain because he’s thinking a couple steps ahead of those who are trying to stop him. 

And that’s the challenge for San Francisco come Sunday. The 49ers are going have to find a way to slow down Mahomes now that his coach is no longer doing it to him. In Kansas City, efficiency has become the mantra.