The Kansas City Chiefs will host an AFC divisional round playoff game on Sunday, and it will give Doug Pederson hope – and evidence – for what he’s trying to build in Philadelphia.
Pederson’s only two NFL coaching stints came with the Eagles and the Chiefs, both under Andy Reid. He joined the Eagles’ coaching staff when Reid was already 10 years into his coaching tenure, but he helped Reid install a new program in Kansas City in 2013.
They inherited a team that went 2-14 in 2012. The Chiefs have had four winning seasons under Reid, reaching the playoffs three times and averaging 10.75 wins per season. This season was their best one yet, with a 12-4 record and a first-round bye. So what can Pederson take from Kansas City’s success in Year 4?
“Well, I think, number one, you look at them, and of course I was there for three years, just the progression of Alex [Smith] in the system and how well now he is managing and playing quarterback with that team,” Pederson said. “The youth that the Chiefs have brought in, the [Travis] Kelces and the [Albert] Wilsons, the guys you see on offense that are really beginning to take stride and understand their roles, there's something to be said about being in a system for multiple years, and now they're in that year four, and things are really beginning to take off.”
Pederson noted how they also had the same defensive scheme in place for the entire time with coordinator Bob Sutton, so they have been able to develop players within the same scheme. It’s a “simple” scheme for the players, and it features “great pass rushers.” The staff continuity has meant that they could find players who fit their defense and not deviate to different schemes and player prototypes, like the Eagles have done in recent years.
Although Reid inherited a roster with six Pro Bowlers, most of Kansas City’s roster arrived during his tenure. Every offensive starter was acquired since 2013, and only three defensive starters pre-date Reid. (Those starters are nose tackle Dontari Poe, outside linebacker Justin Houston, and safety Eric Berry – all difference-makers. Linebacker Derrick Johnson was also in this group before a December injury. Veteran Tambi Hali is not technically a starter, but he’s also a key piece to the defense that was inherited.) But this roster was mostly built by general manager John Dorsey and Reid, and Pederson continued pointing to the continuity as a reason for their success.
Eagles quarterback Chase Daniel, who was in Kansas City from 2013-2015 before following Pederson to Philadelphia, said it was apparent in 2013 what the Chiefs were developing. He’s not surprised what how it looks four years later. Daniel said the same formula could be applied in Philadelphia.
“Year two will be building on the scheme, guys getting more comfortable with what the coaches are expecting of them, and really, adding more to the offense as we go along,” Daniel said. “Because I think we have a pretty good feel for what guys in this locker room could do. I’m sure there will be pieces added through free agency and the draft, which is nice, but I think the people in the locker room have a good feel for what they’re good at, the coaches do as well.
“…Let’s hope we got a lot of the same guys here in the locker room. I think they’re very aware we have the right pieces in place. We need a few here and there – you’re always looking to improve at every position – but I definitely think we have a good thing going. We just have to build on it. This offseason is crucial for us because guys have been here, done it, because we can get down to the nitty-gritty and go to work.”
The Chiefs went with a different route a quarterback than the Eagles, acquiring veteran Alex Smith in 2013 instead of developing a rookie quarterback. So in that sense, the Eagles’ rebuild more closely resembles to what Reid did in Philadelphia in 1999 than in Kansas City in 2013. But Pederson saw the value of drafting and developing players within the same system and supplementing parts when upgrades were needed. The Chiefs signed Jeremy Maclin and Mitchell Schwartz as key pieces in free agency to complement six offensive starters and seven defensive starters were drafted since 2013. The starting lineup includes all of their first-round picks, both of their second-round picks, and three of their third-round picks. That is further evidence of the Eagles must hit on their high draft picks.
One of the common knocks on the Pederson hire was that the Eagles were trying to find another Reid. That would seem to be a pretty good strategy, though, considering Reid’s 18 years of success with two organizations. Pederson wasn’t around for much of Reid’s time in Philadelphia, but the Eagles would be well served if Pederson can apply what he observed in Kansas City.
“Those are all recipes for success,” Pederson said, “but the fact is they've been together now for a few years, and they kind of know the ins and outs of everything that's going on.”