By Jason Keidel
If there’s no joy in Mudville, how solemn is Kansas City?
The Chiefs, the NFL’s morbid bridesmaids, lost again on Saturday — a shocking, galling loss to the Titans, in a game they led, 21-3, at halftime. The number not only reflected the score, but the chasm in talent between the two teams.
So, of course, the Chiefs didn’t score again and let the injury-plagued, offensively-hobbled Titans to crawl back and win, 22-21. It was the Chiefs’ sixth straight playoff loss at home, and fans must dig deep into the archives, when Joe Montana was quarterback, to recall the last time they left Arrowhead Stadium with a January win.
And the Monday morning QB’s are feasting on the playoff carrion. Get rid of everyone, especially head coach Andy Reid and his underwhelming quarterback, Alex Smith.
Hopefully, those who actually run the franchise take an epic breath, and count to 10, or whatever magical number will restore some sanity. While the morbid mood is quite understandable, the answer is not to can Reid or boot Smith.
Only four head coaches have lost at least an 18-point halftime lead in NFL playoff history. Andy Reid has lorded over two of them. No doubt Reid has a conflicted playoff resume, but the point is he has one. With the loss to the Titans, Reid now has an 11-13 postseason record. Not too many coaches can say they’ve been in a dozen playoff games, much less 24.
Please be careful what you wish for. You want to win a Super Bowl, your first since Hank Stram stormed the sidelines, imploring Len Dawson to “matriculate the football down the field.” But Reid, who has taken a team to a Super Bowl, still gives you your best shot. Reid has been an NFL head coach for 19 seasons, and has made the playoffs in 13 of them, with a regular-season record of 183-121, and a winning percentage of .602.
Since the HC and QB are vocationally tethered, and both Chiefs have a similar reputation, you can’t question Reid without musing over his signal-caller. Alex Smith is now officially branded a dreaded game manager and choke artist emeritus. Smith was so stellar in the first half that his second-half disappearance was startling. But that’s not a reason to jam the eject button.
Some say the argument to keep Reid is stronger than the one to keep Smith. Why? Smith passed for over 4,000 yards, 26 touchdowns, and five interceptions, the best TD-INT ratio in the sport. That’s the guy you can’t wait to ship to football Siberia? Like Reid, Smith has won over 60 percent of his starts (88-62-1). His record as QB of the Chiefs is 50-26 (a .657 winning percentage). He has thrown 183 touchdowns and 96 interceptions. Smith has played in two Pro Bowls — both as a Chief — and over the last two seasons has completed at least 67 percent of his passes. (Think the Jaguars would take that over Blake Bortles?)
Fans can’t wait to see Patrick Mahomes, the hot-shot rookie who can hurl a football longer than a zip code. First, Mahomes has yet to start a game, so don’t cast him for a bronzed bust yet. Second, the backup QB is always the most heralded player on the sideline. Ask the Bills how benching Tyrod Taylor — another locally maligned quarterback — worked out. His replacement threw five interceptions against the Chargers. Maybe Mahomes is the next franchise quarterback, but let him learn under Smith for another year or two, while Smith is still quite productive.
Still not satisfied… ask the Giants how benching Eli Manning turned out.
Not to play the Pollyanna, but for some context just consider the football mausoleum his Giants call home. MetLife Stadium isn’t just a January graveyard for a New York City football club, it’s a black hole for two NFL clubs. The Jets and Giants combined for an 8-24 record, all but eliminated from the playoffs by Halloween.
Would you rather be looking for Ben McAdoo’s successor or at least know you’re good for at least 10 wins next year and another playoff spot? Would you rather wonder how to get Todd Bowles a QB and some skill players, or get back to work with Alex Smith, Kareem Hunt, Travis Kelce, and Tyreek Hill, who will assure you playoff contention for years?
No doubt Chiefs fans are feeling a rather familiar, winter hangover. You have every right to criticize Andy Reid and Alex Smith. Pound your keyboards, speed-dial your local sports show, and let the Chiefs feel your justified pain. But if you want to feel more pain, then get rid of them, and join the Jets and Giants in football Siberia.
Jason writes a weekly column for CBS Local Sports. He is a native New Yorker, sans the elitist sensibilities, and believes there’s a world west of the Hudson River. A Yankees devotee and Steelers groupie, he has been scouring the forest of fertile NYC sports sections since the 1970s. He has written over 500 columns for WFAN/CBS NY, and also worked as a freelance writer for Sports Illustrated and Newsday subsidiary amNew York. He made his bones as a boxing writer, occasionally covering fights in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, but mostly inside Madison Square Garden. Follow him on Twitter @JasonKeidel.