The Kansas City Chiefs announced, via the team's website, the hiring of Brad Childress to be the team’s “spread game analyst/special projects” coach. It’s a very odd title for a coach and one that is also difficult to decipher. Will Childress be coaching players or just breaking down film and working with the coaching staff? It’s tough to know exactly what the Chiefs have envisioned for the position.
Despite Philadelphia having a 29th-ranked scoring offense in 2012, Reid has basically brought with him his entire offensive coaching staff. Unlike the other hires though, Childress was an important part of Reid’s early success in Philadelphia and not his failures of the past few seasons.
What is a “spread game analyst,” and do the Chiefs need one, or is Reid is just giving another one of his buddies a job? At this stage of the offseason, Childress wasn’t going to land a coordinator or head-coaching position at the NFL or college level. Reid could have brought Childress in simply to give him an extra set of eyes.
Let’s not discount that Childress developed Donovan McNabb and went to the playoffs with Gus Frerotte and Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback, so maybe he’s just a little something extra to make sure the trade for Alex Smith pays off. If there is one thing the Chiefs know, it’s the importance of having a successful quarterback.
The “spread game” in Childress’ title refers to the spread offense which happens to be what Smith ran at Utah under Urban Meyer. It's a strategy that is finding its way into NFL offenses with increasing regularity. The read-option is probably the most popular running play out of the spread, and it's one of the things that led to Smith losing his job to Colin Kaepernick.
Reid’s replacement in Philadelphia —Chip Kelly—is considered one of the pioneers of the zone-read or spread-option offense. With so many college and high school teams using the spread offense, it makes sense why the NFL would have interest in it. The spread-option look might be a fad, but the spread in a generic sense isn't going anywhere.
Mike Shanahan, who like Andy Reid, is a disciple of the West Coast Offense, used the read-option as part of his offense after drafting Robert Griffin III. Shannahan was basically willing to adjust his scheme to his players.
The read-option is just one of the many variations of the spread offense. The Air Raid variant and the Pistol formation are two other "spread" offenses that have found their way into the NFL game.
The concepts of the spread offense are not all that different from the West Coast Offense, with the idea being to force the defense to cover the entire field. Each variation of the spread offense simply deploys different methodologies to accomplish the same goal.
While Smith is athletic enough to occasionally run the zone-read, that’s not going to a big part of his game unless the Chiefs want to get him hurt. It's more likely that Childress is going to examine some of the passing concepts of the spread to use in Reid’s passing attack.
Reid is smart enough to know that you can’t use the same offense for 20 years in the NFL. The game changes over time and coaches must evolve and adapt. Reid’s willingness to explore elements of the spread that is growing in popularly shows that he’s willing to adapt his offense to his players.
Reid was in Philadelphia so long that most of the players drafted were schematic fits for his offense, but that's not the case with the Chiefs. Reid inherited players who were already on the roster and he's also added a lot of new pieces. Maximizing the talents of all his players is going to be vital to his success.
What better person to be analyzing the spread offense and suggesting how it can be incorporated into the offense than a trusted friend? The Chiefs may have given Childress a unique title to represent how truly unique his position will be in the NFL. But they are at least trying to be forward-thinking, which is how the best franchises in the NFL stay on top.