Editor's Note: Dan Pompei will be writing a weekly column for Bleacher Report in which he examines the week that was in the NFL.
Earlier this week, Andy Reid spoke at a local chamber of commerce gathering.
The 55-year old first-year head coach of the Chiefs was asked if his new players look at him any differently than his players did in the past.
He gave that little grin and told the crowd that when players meet him now, they look at him like a character from a Madden video game. He joked they think of him like an old pop star.
The perception of Reid has changed. And so has the reality.
I have known Reid since he was an assistant in Green Bay. The truth is he is exactly the same guy now as he as then.
But he is not the same coach. He has evolved, as all the great ones do.
Back in the offseason, many suspected Reid was going to turn the Chiefs into the Midwest Eagles. After all, he brought in 23 coaches, players or staff members who worked with him at one point in Philadelphia.
But he isn’t going about his business the same way he did with the Eagles. In Philadelphia, Reid was heavily involved in the front office. He had effectively been the team’s general manager as well as head coach since 2001. And when he wasn’t wearing his GM’s cap, he was playing front office referee.
In Kansas City, he is content to be supported by a strong front office that includes general manager John Dorsey, football administration director Trip MacCracken, player personnel director Chris Ballard, pro scouting director Will Lewis and college scouting director Marvin Allen.
Reid subsequently is spending less time doing front office work and more time coaching.
“After about four or five years in Philly, he backed away a little from the offense and kind of let Brad Childress and Marty Mornhinweg and those guys run the show,” said Chiefs assistant head coach David Culley, who was with Reid for 14 years in Philadelphia. “Right now, he is back full throttle in our offense, and I’ve never seen him happier. He’s involved in our game-planning, he’s involved in everything we do in our offensive meetings. During the offseason for the first time in a few years he was in our [offensive] meetings.”
It is fitting that Reid has returned to his grass roots in this state, where he coached offensive line for the University of Missouri before being claimed by the NFL.
But he has changed quite a bit since those days.
The old West Coast Offense disciple hired Chris Ault, the father of the Pistol formation, and is using quarterback Alex Smith in ways he never dreamed of using Donovan McNabb. Matt Bowen wrote about it here.
Reid’s thinking: Smith has a history of playing in the Pistol and running some read-option going back to his days with Urban Meyer at Utah. He’s comfortable in it, and he’s mobile. Plus, Reid figured, so many kids coming out of college are experienced in this style of offense, and they should be able to pick it up quickly.
In Philadelphia, Reid had been criticized from time to time for not running the ball more. But he never had Jamaal Charles in Philadelphia. This year, the Chiefs rank ninth in the NFL in run attempts after three games.
“This football team last year was one of the best rushing teams in the NFL, and obviously Jamaal was a big part of that,” Culley said. “Andy saw that, and he has emphasized catching out of the backfield too. Coach has utilized Jamaal’s talents very well.”
Reid also is running a 3-4 defense for the first time. He identified that the Chiefs had strong 3-4 defensive personnel, including linebackers Justin Houston and Tamba Hali and nose tackle Dontari Poe. So he hired a 3-4 coordinator in Bob Sutton and is doing it Sutton’s way.
A lot of new head coaches insist on tearing down all that existed previously and doing it the way they think is best. What Reid is doing with the Chiefs is the essence of coaching. It is what Bum Phillips famously referred to when speaking of Don Shula. “He can take his’n and beat your’n. Or he can take your’n and beat his’n,” Phillips said.
Fresh off a payback victory over the Eagles, Reid has the Chiefs at 3-0 as they prepare for a Sunday scuffle with the Giants, another team with which he is quite familiar. But this doesn’t seem like the same old, same old.
Culley used the word “rejuvenated” to describe him. A former front office coworker said he was “revitalized.” A third former associate said he “has a new lease on life.”
“I’m having a blast,” is what Reid has told friends.
*Now that DT Henry Melton is out for the year, the Bears need to find a replacement. Taking his place in the starting lineup will be Nate Collins. And taking his place on the roster likely will be undrafted rookie Zach Minter. But one source suggests the player who may replace Melton from a production standpoint could be Stephen Paea.
Melton has played 3-technique and Paea mostly has played nose tackle. But Paea has come on strong in his third season. In addition to being the Bears’ most effective defensive lineman this year, he also is the team’s best interior rusher. One of the reasons the Bears drafted Paea is he has versatility to play either position. Playing him more at 3-technique while playing Collins at nose could give the Bears their best combination.
*Even though Josh Gordon had 146 receiving yards Sunday and the Browns wideout clearly has the ability to develop into a consistent playmaker, his trade value is limited, according to a sampling of front office men. The problem is Gordon has a history of missteps, and he is one misstep away from a one-year suspension. “Can a leopard change its spots?” one said. “It would be tough to hang your hat on him.”
The consensus is Gordon would be worth no more than a conditional mid-round pick. Considering his potential, and the fact that the Browns used a second-round supplemental pick to select him, trading him might not make a lot of sense. All that being said, all it takes is one team to think differently. The latest is that Browns coach Rob Chudzinski has told Gordon that he won't be traded, per Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal.
*Brian Hoyer’s big day in Minnesota did not surprise one veteran front office man. He expected as much, given that Hoyer was so well schooled by Bill Belichick and company in New England. “You knew he would have the pre-snap stuff down, be disciplined and make good decisions,” he said of the Browns QB. The issue for Hoyer and the Browns is if he can sustain a high level of play for more than a game or two.
*Julio Jones is leading the NFL in receiving yards and on pace for 1,989 yards, which would be the most productive season by a receiver in NFL history. What’s different for Jones? The third-year Falcons player is looking more and more like a veteran, according to those who have been around him every day. Falcons sources say Jones is running routes better, and he has the belief that there is no cornerback who can stop him. Plus he and quarterback Matt Ryan are in sync like never before.
*The Colts are not surprised that Ahmad Bradshaw was the running back who stood out for them in San Francisco. In fact, they believe Bradshaw’s presence should bring out the best in newly acquired Trent Richardson. How is that? Bradshaw’s professionalism and desire should provide Richardson with a good blueprint on how to do it, and his production should spur Richardson to compete harder than he’s had to in the past.
Remember the Name: Joique Bell
When the Lions acquired Reggie Bush in the offseason, some suspected they might end up with the most productive receiving back in the league.
So far, they do have the most productive receiving back in the league. Except the most productive back is Joique Bell, with 177 receiving yards.
Bell also has more scrimmage yards than all but 11 players in the league.
Which leads to the question, who is Joique Bell?
Everyone in NFL front offices knows who he is, and not just because he’s played on a lot of their teams. Bell was at the Senior Bowl and combine in 2010 after winning the Harlon Hill Trophy as the best player in Division II. At Wayne State, he had 8,055 all-purpose yards, ninth-best in NCAA history.
But he ran a 4.68 40-yard dash at the combine and went undrafted. Prior to the draft, I had one scouting director tell me he thought Bell could go in the fifth round. “There is nothing rare about him, and he is limited with his speed and burst,” he said at the time. So he was not surprised to see him passed over.
“He always had the small-school stigma,” one general manager said. “But he ran hard and was an efficient pass-catcher and could block.”
Before Bell took his first NFL handoff, he was cut four times and had been part of five teams entering his third pro season. He went from the Bills to the Eagles to the Colts to the Eagles to the Saints before winding up in Detroit.
For some players, that’s not a bad way to go. “He was from a small school and needed development,” said an AFC personnel man. “Then he needed opportunity. You could see him flash early. He ran hard and he had traits. He’s not a starter-level talent. But he could be a good contributor in a running back by committee situation.”
There are a lot of Joique Bells who never see the light of day in the NFL. He was fortunate to be developed, to find the right situation and to be given an opportunity. On the flip side, there are a lot of running backs who run slow 40s and end up being fine NFL players.
It’s starting to look as if Bell slipped through the cracks and ended up right where he belongs.
Front Office Man You Should Know: Lionel Vital
If you are looking for a future general manager, you might want to look at the Atlanta Falcons.
The team has become somewhat of a general manager pipeline in recent years, as Dave Caldwell, Les Snead and Phil Emery have become GMs after serving as assistants under Thomas Dimitroff.
Next in line should be director of player personnel Lionel Vital. He was promoted from associate director of player personnel after Caldwell left. And he clearly earned the position.
During his 22 seasons in NFL front offices, Vital has contributed to teams that have a cumulative .577 winning percentage.
He has worked with some of the most respected team builders in the league, including three general managers (Dimitroff, Scott Pioli and Ozzie Newsome) who have won three executive of the year awards between them, a Hall of Fame head coach (Bill Parcells) and another who clearly is headed to Canton (Bill Belichick).
Vital had a lot of influence in building the teams that will be on the field in the Falcons and Patriots game Sunday night. Among the players he had a hand in acquiring who are expected to participate include Tom Brady, Vince Wilfork, Asante Samuel, Matt Ryan and Julio Jones.
He also was involved in the drafting of Jonathan Ogden, Ray Lewis, Haloti Ngata and Richard Seymour.
*Sean Gilbert says if he were in charge of the NFLPA, he’d propose allowing an 18-game season in exchange for owners giving players free agency after three years. The way I see it, having select players make more money is a poor trade-off for more injuries and a lesser product.
*If you came to Earth from outer space and wanted to know what football was, you would read The King of Sports by Gregg Easterbrook. This thoughtful new book gives an excellent big-picture look at the sport and where it is in 2013, from popularity to cultural context to money to safety issues to criminal behavior to player exploitation.
*Josh Freeman was given a quick hook by Greg Schiano this week, but really, the Bucs QB has been losing his job little by little for the past 33 months.
*It’s true that the Broncos decide who will run the ball on the goal line based on careful deliberation and study, not rock, paper, scissors. There also is no truth to the rumor that the team used rock, paper, scissors during the Elvis Dumervil negotiations.
*Ray Lewis thinks the Ravens miss his leadership. The Ravens think they do not miss Lewis’ logic.
*Finally, if anyone should be fined for a flagrant blow to the head this week, it is a player called Sweet Pea.