Unlike many head coaches in the National Football League, Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid has always been willing to evolve. That's what's gotten the 62-year-old coach, who won his first Super Bowl as a head coach last season, to where he is today. He's changed to make the most out of whatever situation he's been in.
But when his team was faced with a crucial fourth-and-1 from their own 48-yard line to seal the game against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, Reid stood pat, so to speak, without quarterback Patrick Mahomes in the huddle.
This wasn't the first time Reid and the Chiefs were faced with this situation to seal a game. Just 35 days prior to the Chiefs' divisional-round showdown with the Browns, Kansas City was in a tussle with the Miami Dolphins at the site of their first Super Bowl win in 50 years.
With 2:31 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Chiefs needed to convert a fourth-and-1 from the Miami 40-yard line to help seal their victory. On that play, Mahomes took the snap and sprinted out to his right and found wide receiver Tyreek Hill on a short flood route where Hill gained the first down and more.
Just over a month later, backup quarterback Chad Henne took the snap against the Browns on fourth-and-1, sprinted out to his right, and found wide receiver Tyreek Hill on a short flood route where Hill gained the first down and fell to the ground to ice the game.
After having some time to digest the result of Sunday's win, Reid said on Monday his thoughts on going for it of fourth down never altered while the situation might have changed.
“Well listen, I think all of us as coaches — offensive coaches, head coaches, whoever is making that decision for that team — will tell you that the philosophy hasn’t necessarily changed, but you’re going to evaluate things that might change around your thinking," Reid said.
This season, the Chiefs have attempted 16 fourth-down conversions. On nine of those plays, Reid has called for a pass with 56% of their converted fourth downs coming through the air.
When Reid was asked about his philosophies on fourth down, he was quick to credit his roots.
“Well, I went to BYU, so every down is a throwing down," Reid said with a smirk. "...I think if you have confidence in it, then it’s really no different than the run. I mean, you’re in today’s world. So, anyways, I feel good.”
And that holds true as Reid's evolution and innovation as a play-caller and playmaker isn't something new. In 2004, Reid was in his sixth season as an NFL head coach and the game was in the midst of a pass-heavy transition.
While the league only passed the ball an average of 61 times more than they ran the ball, Reid's Philadelphia Eagles squad ran 171 more run plays than run plays.
Reid has always been above the league average in terms of the pass-run split. This season, the Chiefs have attempted 227 more passes than runs, which is 195 more than the league average.
While other coaches around the league are seemingly stuck in their ways, Reid has risen to the top of the NFL — and stayed there — thanks to his ability to evolve throughout his coaching career. Against the Browns, he had faith in what worked a month earlier: trust your players, push against conventional wisdom, and end the game with the ball in your hands.