The reasons for the Chiefs regression is somewhat confounding if one only looks at surface-level at the talent and coaching on the Chiefs, which is largely still in place led by Hall of Fame Coach Andy Reid and young quarterback phenom Patrick Mahomes. However looking beyond talent may provide some clarity on other reasons for the struggles.
There have been signs of complacency, lack of focus and lack of leadership. These are crucial red flags if organizations and individuals in and outside of sports wish to sustain success after achieving a lofty goal.
- Complacency – This is a natural human reaction to success, and can be deceptively difficult to avoid. The Chiefs coined the phrase “Run it Back” after their Super Bowl Championship in 2019 to make a statement that they intended to win two straight. They came very close, playing in their second straight Super Bowl before losing in dominant fashion to Tom Brady’s Buccaneers. But they continued to look back at their success of the last two years as a reference point instead of looking forward to a new goal to determine what it will take to achieve it in 2021. The competitive landscape has become much more challenging this year in the AFC. People should celebrate their success, especially such special achievements, but if they establish a goal to sustain or repeat it, then they need to embrace the fact that it will be a bigger challenge the next time based on fighting complacency alone.
- Lack of Focus – There are some events in our personal lives that are just going to overshadow even the most important moments in our professional lives. When Andy Reid’s son Britt caused a tragic accident while under the influence that profoundly did harm to a family the week of the second Super Bowl, it was natural for the head coach to lose focus for that game, and possibly much longer. Reid didn’t make his usual innovative adjustments Chiefs’ fans could depend on that game. And this year, as opponents have adjusted their defenses to take away the long and dynamic passing game of Mahomes and Tyrek Hill, the Chiefs seemingly are struggling to adjust still. In fact, since Britt Reid was actually a member of the Chiefs’ coaching staff, maybe the tragedy has had more impact on focus from the entire staff than anyone has imagined.
- Lack of Leadership – Mahomes was practically infallible his first three years. He was dynamic, talented, innovative and accountable. He still is. He’s just facing a higher level of competition and he’s trying to do too much to raise his own performance. He’s still very young so his default is to work harder and more. But as a leader, instead of trying to do too much himself, he needs to work with the coaches to teach his teammates to adjust their game to the competition. As incredible as Mahomes is, he is part of team that has to work together. Without that, he will just be a proflic passer without the team success he enjoyed from 2018-20.
The Chiefs have a mature, incredibly capable head coach in Reid. He is seasoned and smart. He will use his leadership skills to turn this around and get the team to the playoffs. And in Mahomes, Reid has a young maturing leader who continues to learn. He is the epitome of accountability and because of that he may be taking on too much of the burden himself. When he learns to delegate the responsibility to his teammates, the entire team will get better and back on the right path.
With the struggles of this season, the two Super Bowls may seem long past to the Chiefs. And that may be a good thing while they are still playing. They can look back on them as special times during the off-seasons and when they retire. That way, they can put all their focus and energy on a future goal instead of a past accomplishment. Maybe instead of Run it Back, Run it Forward.