KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — When Andy Reid stepped in front of the microphones after a heartbreaking loss to the Bears a couple of weeks ago, the Chiefs coach directed all the blame for it directly at himself.
He didn’t have his players prepared.
He didn’t call smart plays.
He didn’t do his job.
In some ways, Reid was simply acknowledging his own failures at an early junction of what is quickly becoming a lost season.
In other ways, he was protecting his players, shielding them from the torrent of criticism over another poor performance that afternoon in Arrowhead Stadium.
Either way, Reid’s response didn’t surprise quarterback Alex Smith.
“I think that’s the way coach is. He’s very accountable,” Smith told The Associated Press on Wednesday. “He steps up. I think he does — yeah, he takes a lot of pride in what he does. The way we started, (he is) extremely frustrated, you know? Not happy with where we’re at.”
Where that is now, after another loss last weekend in Minnesota, is 1-5.
It’s the first time in 17 years as an NFL head coach that Reid managed one win in the first six games, and comes just two years after a 6-0 start to his tenure in Kansas City. Only three times in Philadelphia did he even start 2-4, and none of those seasons ended with winning records.
In other words, the Chiefs are two games away from the midway point of their season, and already their playoff hopes have faded away — even as their neighbors across the parking lot, the Kansas City Royals, press on in their own postseason.
“Well, we’re sitting here and we’re 1-5. That’s real. And we’re not playing very well as a football team,” Reid said. “As a coach, you’re a problem solver, and I have to solve the problems and get that done quick here.”
The first order of business is to identify the problems, and that is no easy task.
Sure, an obvious answer is injuries. Pro Bowl running back Jamaal Charles is done for the season after surgery to repair a torn ACL. Nose tackle Dontari Poe, defensive tackle Mike DeVito and numerous others have struggled through a litany of injuries already this season.
But every team deals with injuries. The Steelers, sitting 4-2, are preparing to start third-string quarterback Landry Jones on Sunday in Kansas City, while the Bears had numerous players on the bench when they rallied for their last-second win over the Chiefs.
Talent doesn’t seem to be the answer, either. Justin Houston is coming off a 22-sack season, and the Chiefs signed Jeremy Maclin and others to upgrade their roster last offseason.
Smith believes the answer is a tired but true cliche: It comes down to execution.
“This building all has that attitude that we’re all accountable for this,” Smith said, “that we’ve all had a hand in it. But collectively, that’s how we’re all going to get out of it.”
One thing that Reid continues to believe in is consistency, even if doing the same thing has so far produced the same dreadful results. Kansas City has lost its past five games since beating Houston in Week 1, a stretch marked by penalties, turnovers and few big plays.
“Well, as far as the schedule, you don’t mess around too much with the schedule,” he said. “Then you have people late and that becomes an issue. You keep that the same. Within the scheme, that’s more of where you work it. If there’s an issue there, you work it through, and you’re going to present it to them. But I wouldn’t change your schedule part of it.”
So what about changing the lineup? The roster? The way playing time is divided?
“We’re about playing everybody, or have played everybody,” Reid said, pausing to ponder the sorry state of affairs just six games into the season.
“Things are close, one play here or there that matters,” Reid continued. “That’s really where we have to focus. Whether it’s a play call or an opportunity to make a play if the play works that’s called, we all have to step up and get over that hump. It’s a very fine line between winning and losing in this league.”
Notes: DeVito and WR Jeremy Maclin are going through the NFL concussion protocol. Neither of them practiced Wednesday. Also out of practice were LBs Tamba Hali (knee) and Ramik Wilson (knee and ankle). … RB Jamaal Charles had surgery to repair his right ACL on Tuesday. The procedure was done by Dr. James Andrews, who repaired Charles’s left ACL four years ago. “The reports were good,” Reid said.