A few years back, I spent some time with Andy Reid reflecting on his fleeting aspirations to a sportswriting career when he was a senior football player at Brigham Young and writing a weekly column for the Provo Daily Herald. Somehow we got talking about how he would have covered these Chiefs teams.
“They’d be fun articles to read. You’d look forward to reading them,” he said, smiling and adding, “They’d be colorful. Colorful. I’d use my imagination and not just write from a script.”
Which begged the question: Why doesn’t that sort of color and Reid’s keen sense of humor show up more often when the Chiefs’ coach speaks with the media?
Answer: Because he appreciates the power of words.
“Words can affect a lot of people. We know that. And the person who has the pen last wins,” he said. “Even if you come back with a rebuttal from my side, it’s not going to hold weight.
“Even if you come back and erase publicly what you said as a mistake, it’s still going to stick with what was originally said and written. So you’ve got to be measured. You’ve got to think before you talk.”
That meticulous approach lends a certain dimension and context to Reid’s public complaints about the eruption of penalty calls against right tackle Jawaan Taylor — complaints that certainly could provoke the NFL to fine Reid for violating its rules against criticizing officiating.
His restraint is such a part of Reid’s public persona that you can know his comments on Sunday and particularly those cranked up to 11 on Monday were purposeful in support of Taylor and questioning a number of debatable calls on him.
It’s not the first time Reid has questioned officials, but he’s typically more nuanced than this:
“They’ve got an eye on him, and they better keep an eye on everybody else, too,” Reid said Monday. “Because it’s to the point of being ridiculous.”
Provocative words that go against the grain of the rule, per the NFL Game Operations Manual as it relates to sportsmanship and respect being at the core of the game:
“This commitment is particularly important in the context of our Game Officials,” the NFL writes. “Public criticism of our Game Officials has long been unacceptable in any forum. Such public criticism is prohibited because it calls into question the integrity of, and public confidence in, our game.”
Reid knows this and seldom tempts that line as he has now.
But since he also is somewhere between a steward and even a guardian of the game, he must reckon it’s worth the risk.
Because fine or not, his words figure to carry a certain clout in the ongoing controversy over whether Taylor is a scoff-rule or being unfairly picked on … or, more realistically, somewhere in between.
At least the words should resonate from the man who has coached his teams to more victories (271) than all but three men in NFL history and served for years on the NFL Competition Committee Coaches Subcommittee tasked with addressing “competitive issues” among other aspects of the game.
In a sense, this whole issue is at the crux of who Reid is as a coach. On one hand, he remains demanding of the player. On the other, he is demonstrating that he has his back.
While Reid has repeatedly made it clear Taylor has to make corrections, he’s now saying the problem also is in how he’s being scrutinized.
To his insinuation: Taylor was penalized 19 times in 49 career starts in Jacksonville but seven times in his first three games with the Chiefs.
All in the wake of NBC broadcaster Cris Collinsworth and rules analyst Terry McAulay frequently saying Taylor was lined up illegally and others suggesting he was jumping the snap count during the NFL season opener against Detroit.
The league then made alignment a point of emphasis to all 32 teams the next week through training tape that repeatedly used Taylor as an example, according to Sports Illustrated.
Days later, Taylor was flagged a staggering five times Sept. 17 at Jacksonville. Then on Sunday it was twice more, each for lining up off the line of scrimmage, in the Chiefs’ 41-10 victory over the visiting Chicago Bears.
“He might be being picked on just a little bit here, I felt today,” Reid said Sunday. “I thought they did a good job the week before, but today I thought it was too much.”
Reid punctuated the point with his patented shutdown wave-away and added, “I wasn’t seeing it. But, still, we’ve got to keep working on that and get through this.”
Indeed, that’s part of the trick here:
Dean Blandino, formerly the NFL’s vice president of officiating and now a rules analyst for Fox Sports, said through a “33rd Team” video that Taylor has strayed from being on the line of scrimmage …
But that he also has plenty of company getting away with it.
Specifically, Blandino said he can’t dispute what Patrick Mahomes described after the game: “I watch a lot of tape, and (Taylor is) no deeper than any other tackle in the league. There’s other guys that are even further back than he is.”
Meanwhile … Per the reporting of The Star’s Jesse Newell via NFLpenalties.com, only four times this season have offensive tackles been named on illegal formation calls. Three have been on Taylor.
And so the beat goes on:
Taylor, who otherwise has been about all that the Chiefs would hope, has some key elements of his game to keep scrubbing up.
But so does, it seems, the NFL.
Something Reid felt duty-bound to address.
First, and still, with Taylor, but now through this, too.
It’s a blurry line a coach or player walks in these cases. Not so much about being fined or not, really, as for what they stand.
Much as it might also serve his team’s interests, Reid also can be understood to be speaking up on principle on something that the NFL needs to address more broadly … and equitably.
Whether the league considers that something to fine him for is one thing. But how it affects the way Taylor is being obsessed over — and even Taylor’s mindset in having Reid back him — is quite another.
Ends that justify the means from a man who minces zero words.