KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- No matter where he goes on the Kansas City Chiefs' practice field, Alex Smith has had his human shadow following. Andy Reid casts a larger silhouette than Smith, but the quarterback doesn't mind the fact nothing he does escapes the watchful eye of his coach.
“Certainly, very hands-on," said Smith, one of the Chiefs' first player acquisitions after Reid's arrival in Kansas City in January. “He's standing right behind me, every single play with me, in the huddle at practice and he sees it all. He’s about as hands-on as it gets."
That was the idea when Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt and Reid agreed to the contract that would bring the coach to Kansas City. Reid would shed some of the personnel responsibilities he had during his last few seasons as coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, a move that would allow him to resume a more hands-on approach to coaching.
Shortly after hiring Reid, Hunt brought in a general manager, John Dorsey, who had 20 years of scouting experience with the Green Bay Packers. The plan was then put into place.
“He mentioned to me [during the job interview] that over his last several years in Philadelphia that he had assumed too many roles and had gotten too far away from coaching," Hunt said. “He wanted to return to being able to fully concentrate on coaching. The way we restructured the organizational chart in Kansas City with Andy and John Dorsey being on equal levels and reporting to me has given him that opportunity and he’s fully embraced it."
Reid had the worst of his 14 years with the Eagles last season, when they went 4-12. After being fired at the end of the season, Reid knew he wanted to get right back to coaching.
The move to Kansas City seems to have energized Reid. He has attacked the job vigorously, and the Chiefs, 2-0 heading into Thursday night's game in Philadelphia against Reid's former team, already have won as many games as they did in all of 2012.
“I’m enjoying this," Reid said. “I am enjoying it. It's good to be back coaching a little more than I was doing before, on the field coaching with the offense than maybe what I was doing before.
“Sometimes change can be good. I enjoyed that [personnel] phase for the time that I did it. I’m enjoying this part, too. It’s different. It’s just a little bit different. I was a little more involved with the personnel there. It’s good to have John here doing that. I have ultimate trust in him. Not that I didn't in Philadelphia. That’s not what I’m saying, but I also trust that he has it under control."
The Chiefs have been refreshed by the change as well. They won a weak AFC West in 2010 with a 10-6 record, but bowed out of the playoffs meekly with a lopsided home loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
Otherwise, there has been little but hopelessness for the past several seasons. Beginning in 2006, the Chiefs started every season 0-2 or worse, with 2010 being the exception.
The Chiefs had many good young players last season. Six, an unheard of number for a 2-14 team, went to the Pro Bowl.
But a startling lack of direction left the franchise faltering. Reid has provided that direction.
“Andy has put his full heart and effort into it," Hunt said. “I didn't expect anything less from him, based on what I heard during the interview process. But seeing it in person has been exciting.
“I think the players have felt his energy and his passion as well. It’s shown in the energy they’re playing with and the tempo they’re playing with. I really think that’s a reflection of Andy’s personality. They transferred what they learned on the practice field to the preseason games. We saw an improvement throughout the preseason. They were just prepared. They were ready to go and very confident in what they were supposed to do. That carried over now to the regular season."
Smith, who joined the Chiefs via a trade with San Francisco in March, was one of the players who needed the fresh start provided by Reid. Now in his ninth NFL season, Smith is a hardened veteran, having been put through an ever-changing series of coaches and offensive systems for the first several years of his career until Jim Harbaugh arrived as the 49ers' coach in 2011.
Harbaugh provided him with some long-awaited stability until Smith got hurt, then was benched midway through last season in favor of Colin Kaepernick. So Smith is learning from being in the constant presence of Reid, who calls the plays and spends all of his practice time watching over the offense.
“I’ve just been trying to soak it up," Smith said. “[Reid has] a lot of knowledge from over the years. There have been a lot of different quarterbacks he’s coached [who had] different strengths, different tools.
“He does a great job of seeing things fundamentally: my feet, my posture, my weight. He sees all of that. And then the X's and O's, not just on the offense, but on the defense. He has a great understanding of defenses. For me, I’m just trying to learn."