Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid stands on the sidelines during a game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey on November 19, 2017. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Chiefs stand atop the AFC with a 7-1 record with the highest-scoring offense in the league in head coach Andy Reid's 20th season as head coach. Club chairman and CEO Clark Hunt believes this season will be the best of Reid's six campaigns with the club.
"We've gotten off to a number of great starts over the last six years," Hunt said. "Certainly I would say this is probably the best job he's done from a coaching standpoint, he and his staff. The way that we've dominated the AFC West I think just really speaks to the quality of coach that Andy is and we're very, very lucky to have him."
The Chiefs raced out to a 5-0 start and hold the second-best record in the league thanks in large part to the explosive start of quarterback Patrick Mahomes. The first-year starter tossed four touchdowns in Sunday's 30-20 victory against the Broncos, giving him 26 on the seasons. He's just four touchdowns from tying the franchise record of 30 touchdown passes in a season set by Len Dawson in 1964.
Hunt credits Reid for turning Mahomes into the league's most-promising young quarterback.
"We knew that Patrick was very talented but any time that an NFL team goes with a young quarterback, usually it's a very challenging endeavor," Hunt said. "Sometimes it takes time, several years, but as we've seen, Andy had Patrick ready to go Week 1. He's played outstanding, perhaps at an MVP-caliber, for the first eight weeks and I think that credit goes to Andy and his staff."
Hunt said the speed with which Mahomes picked up the offense impresses him, as does his ability to both deliver throws from the pocket as well as freelancing when necessary. But it's the leadership of the 23-year-old quarterback that surprises him the most.
"Very, very challenging for a young quarterback, 22-, 23-years old to be able to step into an NFL locker room and almost overnight become one of the leaders of the team and he's done that," Hunt said. "I think he has a tremendous amount of humility and that's really helped him. That's caused his teammates to gravitate towards him and that's something that's going to help us not only this year, but down the stretch."
Now Reid must figure out how to keep the party going. Last year's squad also started 5-0 and stood 6-2 at the season's midpoint. But the Chiefs lost four straight games opening the second half, putting a damper on a promising start to the campaign.
With defensive coordinators across the league striving to solve the riddle of Mahomes and the Chiefs offense, Reid feels the necessity to keep evolving.
"We kind of bank on what we have installed in the OTAs and during camp," Reid said. "We're able to draw from that a little bit. We are always trying to give you a different look so that when you get here, you don't have to go back or run out of things. We keep it pretty fresh and it keeps the guys fresh every week."
But don't expect the Chiefs to stray far from the formula that worked through the first eight weeks.
"Are you going to change everything? No team's going to do that," Reid said. "We throw enough things in there for them to have some fun with it and work with it."
As for the second half of the season and a likely playoff run, Reid knows the job remains far from finished. Yet he likes where this team stands. The defense certainly can improve, ranking 21st in the league allowing 25.6 points per game. He believes as the group of young players and newcomers gel together, communication will improve and the defense can increase its efficiency and consistency.
As for the league's top-scoring offense, Reid says everyone enjoys playing together and it shows on the field.
"I think collectively, special teams, offense, defense, everyone wants to be a part of it, yet they're not a selfish group," Reid said. "They are willing to spread the wealth. Everyone knows they are going to have an opportunity to play and when they do, let's roll. I have been pleased with that."
Hunt says he sees a new side to Reid this season. His stoic head coach normally shields his emotions, but Hunt sees a new excitement about this season and the prospects down the road.
"But just being around him, and I think everybody in the building would say this, he's definitely excited about the football team that he has," Hunt said. "He's obviously a very creative mind on the offensive side and I think the skill players that we have, not only Patrick but all the skill players, are really letting him show the full extent of his playbook. I think that has him really excited."
--LB Anthony Hitchens exited Sunday's victory against Denver with sore ribs after taking a helmet to his midsection on a tackle. Head coach Andy Reid said Hitchens underwent preliminary tests after the game and "it looked like we are heading in the right direction," he said. Reid expects Hitchens to be okay but it wouldn't be a surprise if he missed this week's game at Cleveland.
--LB Frank Zombo suffered a hamstring injury in Sunday's game that could keep him on the sidelines for a bit. The Chiefs signed Zombo two weeks ago with Tanoh Kpassagnon and Justin Houston both dealing with injuries. The availability of Houston for this week's game at Cleveland may dictate if the Chiefs make a move to add an additional outside linebacker to the roster.
--LG Cam Erving left Sunday's game with a shoulder injury but looks likely to return to practice as normal on Wednesday.
--WR Tyreek Hill exited the game against Denver with a groin injury, but the issue does not expect to keep him out of the Week 9 game at Cleveland.
--C Mitch Morse remains in the league's concussion protocol, and his availability for practice on Wednesday should determine his status for Week 9. Austin Reiter made his second career start on Sunday as the new backup for Morse at center.
--S Daniel Sorensen continues practicing with the club as he prepares to return from injured reserve. The club still has two weeks before they must return Sorensen to the active roster.