KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The last remnants of Andy Reid's honeymoon in Kansas City officially ended on Sunday afternoon. The head coach lost whatever benefit of the doubt he had left once the lowly (and wounded) Chicago Bears scored an 18-17 victory over the Chiefs in Arrowhead Stadium. That loss wasn't the only bad one Reid has suffered in the past month, but it was a defeat that buried hope that his squad could turn around what quickly has become an incredibly disappointing season.
At 1-4, the Chiefs are just about invisible in the playoff picture. But the bigger issue revolves around Reid -- and his sidekick, general manager John Dorsey -- moving forward. This was supposed to be the year when it all came together for Reid in Kansas City, when two years of coaching and personnel moves gave birth to a team poised to claim the AFC West crown. All the Chiefs have at this point is an inept offense, an even worse defense and a substantial void created by the torn ACL that ended the season of Pro Bowl running back Jamaal Charles on Sunday.
Even worse, there are no easy fixes for what ails Kansas City. When asked how the Chiefs can improve, Reid could only offer the standard reply coaches give when they are running out of answers.
"We all need to pick it up," Reid told reporters during his Monday press conference. "You have to raise the level [of performance] and you have to do it right now, right now. That's how it works when you're 1-4. That's how it works."
It's bizarre to see Reid stuck in this situation, because his reputation suggested he would work wonders in Kansas City. That franchise was in disarray when he arrived in 2013, largely because former general manager Scott Pioli had run it into the ground. Reid brought instant credibility and a strong résumé forged during an impressive run with the Philadelphia Eagles. He had taken that team to one Super Bowl and five NFC Championship Games -- while winning six division titles -- in 14 seasons.
Reid excited the Kansas City fan base by inheriting a Chiefs squad that won just two games in 2012 and guiding it to 11 wins and a wild-card spot in his first season. There also wasn't too much grumbling when the Chiefs finished 9-7 last year, largely because people expected lesser results from a much tougher schedule. Year 3 under Reid is what everybody pointed to as the true litmus test for his reign. This was supposed to be when we all would see how far Reid and Dorsey had come in executing their vision for this franchise.
Well, there is no sense of a clear vision in Kansas City anymore. A nice opening-day win over the lousy Houston Texans has been followed by an embarrassing string of defeats. The Chiefs turned the ball over five times in front of the home folks during a 31-24 Thursday night loss to Denver. They looked uninspired in a 38-28 thrashing in Green Bay that wasn't nearly as close as the score suggests. The Chiefs also only managed seven field goals in a 36-21 loss at Cincinnati. And then came the kicker last Sunday, when Bears quarterback Jay Cutler rallied his lifeless team from a 14-point deficit -- on the road -- to secure Chicago's second win of the season.
As has been his style, Reid's been quick to point the finger at himself, with his team playing worse in each passing week. What is becoming more apparent is that his biggest challenge will be keeping this team focused and committed as this season continues.
"There is a time that, obviously, your character is tested, right?" Reid said. "So there are not a lot of people patting you on the back and saying how good you're doing. You've got to reach a little deeper and pull together and good things can happen when you do that."
Actually, good things are likelier to happen when there's plenty of talent to help right the ship. That's the first thing to realize about what Reid is now facing in Kansas City: This team isn't nearly as strong in the personnel department as some (including this writer) believed going into this season. Quarterback Alex Smith has faced his own share of criticism -- both for his lack of aggressiveness downfield and his inability to impact games -- but there are several other issues plaguing the Chiefs. The most noteworthy is that Smith is playing behind an offensive line that is making a strong case for being the worst in the NFL.
If that's not bad enough, a defense that seemingly had the potential to be a top-five unit has allowed 28.6 points per game. Unlike the offense, this isn't a group lacking in players who arrived with high expectations. Six members of that defense were selected in the first round of the NFL draft, while five have appeared in at least one Pro Bowl. They should be doing for Kansas City what Denver's defense is doing for that franchise -- setting an undeniable tone and making enough plays to win games.
The scary part for Reid is that it's reaching a point where he will have to make some extremely tough decisions. The Chiefs have invested plenty in Smith -- they traded two high-value picks to acquire him from the San Francisco 49ers two years ago and also gave him a four-year, $68-million extension in 2014 -- but he's played poorly enough lately to make one wonder if Reid really can stick with him long-term. Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton also has had enough ups and downs that his future should be uncertain. He's shown an inability to adjust at times and his defense rarely steps up when facing a quarterback who isn't on the level of a Brian Hoyer or Ryan Fitzpatrick.
The work Dorsey has done in the front office is more mystifying. Pioli was a disaster overall as a general manager, but he deserves credit for supplying Reid with some of his best players, including nose tackle Dontari Poe, outside linebacker Justin Houston and safety Eric Berry. Other key performers -- Charles, inside linebacker Derrick Johnson and outside linebacker Tamba Hali -- arrived when Carl Peterson was the team's general manager. Aside from rookie cornerback Marcus Peters and emerging tight end Travis Kelce, Dorsey hasn't unearthed any impact players in the draft. Hell, his first two first-round picks (right tackle Eric Fisher, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2013 NFL Draft, and outside linebacker Dee Ford) have yet to do anything memorable.
It's those facts that critics are looking at now when assessing the Chiefs. There's just as much talk about Reid's reputation for mismanaging the clock at critical moments and how unprepared this team looked for both of its prime-time games (against Denver and Green Bay). Reid has been around long enough to know this comes with the territory. He faced plenty of tough times in Philadelphia and somehow managed to pull through when other coaches might have been axed.
Still, this is starting to feel a little different in Kansas City. Reid is starting to look less like the man who made Philadelphia a perennial contender and more like yet another talented head coach who can't duplicate his success with a second franchise (a group that includes George Seifert, Mike Shanahan and Dennis Green). It's also becoming harder to recall the good vibes that followed Reid to Kansas City, when he arrived as a savior blessed with both experience and answers. Sadly, as this season continues on, he's only creating more questions about his current reign moving forward.