It’s a short list. Too short. Some 55 years and 859 games into the party, only three coaches in Kansas City Chiefs history, a power trio, have managed winning seasons during their third season at the wheel.
As trivia goes, it’s pretty low-hanging fruit: The first two names out of the hat are iconic — Hank Stram and Marty Schottenheimer — and the third (Dick Vermeil) evokes mostly the warm and the fuzzy, playoffs notwithstanding.
Enter Andy Reid.
Well, allegedly. Presumably. Despite the fact that able bodies on the offensive line keep toppling like so many bowling pins, the closer we get to September, the more enamored the cognoscenti become with the Chiefs as a sleeper choice to win the AFC West. (Lookin’ at you, Gil Brandt.)
That, and picking Denver is boring.
Regardless, no matter far out on the limb you climb, this much is clear enough: Year 3 could darn well define the Reid Era, such as it is.
If 2015 rocks, up go the chances for a Year 5, 6 or 7. If the engine never turns over, for whatever reason, out come the Alex Smith skeptics (again) and the John Dorsey draft skeptics (also again), torches at the ready.
And so the Chiefs open the Arrowhead Stadium portion of their calendar — and there are only five shots, two of them exhibitions, before November 10, so enjoy ‘em while you’ve got ‘em — Friday with a preseason tilt against defending NFC champion Seattle, two clubs with smash-mouth defenses and caviar dreams.
If you’re a Seahawks fan, the hopes are sky-high, aimed at unfinished business, settling old February scores, exorcising the ghosts of the goal-line handoff that never was.
But what of the locals? Where’s the bar for Big Red?
In Philadelphia, if Year 2 (2000) was when Reid affirmed the Eagles’ rebuild (11-5, an six-game improvement over the previous season), Year 3 (2001) was when Gang Green served notice to the rest of the football world that they had staying power. After an 11-5 regular season, Philly clubbed Tampa Bay in a Wild-Card matchup, then kiboshed the Bears in Chicago, the franchise’s first road postseason victory since 1992-‘93, to advance to the 2001-‘02 NFC title game in St. Louis. In what would, in hindsight, prove to be the beginning of the end for The Greatest Show On Turf, the Rams topped the Eagles, 29-24. While the Rams faded back into football wallflower mode, Philly would reach the playoffs the next three years straight, culminating with a berth in Super Bowl XXXIX in February 2005.
Of course, that was Year 6, and there hasn’t been a Year 6 in the Paris of the Plains since Martyball in 1994. The previous three coaches B.A. — Before Andy — crashed and burned so badly in Year 2 or Year 3 (Herm Edwards, Todd Haley and Romeo Crennel) that they didn’t see a Year 4.
From 1983-2012, five Chiefs pilots reached a third year, but only one — Vermeil in 2003 — improved on their winning percentage from the season before. Over those two decades, the typical Chiefs coach actually dipped 0.6 wins, on average, from Year 2 to Year 3.
In other words, if the stars and tackles are aligned, Reid has a chance to carve out a little history. Better yet, he’s got a chance to change it.
Photos: Courtesy of Mark J. Rebllas USA Today Sports Images