INDIANAPOLIS — When Andy Reid walked into Lucas Oil Stadium for the first time this week at the NFL Scouting Combine, he couldn’t help but remember his last visit to the house that Peyton Manning built.
That was back on January 4, when he brought the Kansas City Chiefs to town to face the Colts in a first-round game in the AFC playoffs. Reid’s team built a 28-point lead with just over 28 minutes to play in the game, and ended up losing to Andrew Luck and the Colts 45-44 in one of the biggest postseason meltdowns in NFL history.
“It was a little rough the last time here,” Reid said. “We are trying to smooth that over right now. It was a rough day, but there are some great things we can learn from that as a young football team, and we will learn from it.”
It’s only in the last few weeks that Reid and his coaching staff began dissecting every moment of an 11-5 season that ended with the postseason disappointment.
“We are doing our self-scout evaluations right now and looking at that (collapse against the Colts),” Reid said. “It starts with me looking at myself, the coaches looking at themselves and then looking where we can make changes scheme-wise and where we can put players in better positions to make plays … We know we have to improve.”
Reid and general manager John Dorsey are working to build off the good that came from taking a team that finished 2-14 in 2012 and a year later went 11-5 and made the AFC playoffs. Over the years the NFL has had quite a few one-year turnarounds that went backward in the next season. A recent example would be the Minnesota Vikings, a team that went 3-13 in 2009, jumped to 10-6 the next season and fell to 5-11 in 2011. The Miami Dolphins finished 1-15 in 2007, went 11-5 the next season and dropped back to a 7-9 record in 2009.
The first step for the Chiefs’ hierarchy in keeping the momentum going forward will be to improve the talent on their roster. That starts with identifying their own free agents that they want to keep, and then evaluating the league’s other available players that can help the cause and come at a worthy price.
Starters from last season that will become unrestricted free agents in March are left tackle Branden Albert, right guard Geoff Schwartz, receiver-returner Dexter McCluster, inside linebacker Akeem Jordan and free safety Kendrick Lewis.
Even if the salary cap comes in at a predicted $130 million, Reid and Dorsey will not have an abundance of room under the league’s salary cap for a free-agent spending spree. It’s the NFL Draft where they plan to build on the Chiefs’ 2013 success.
“I’m not a big free agency guy,” Reid said. “I’m lucky enough to be with John and that’s his feeling. I think you can plug things here or there, but if you think you are going to make a team out of free agents, I don’t think that necessarily works.”
Last year, the Chiefs came to the combine as owners of the No. 1 selection in the draft. They grabbed offensive tackle Eric Fisher out of Central Michigan and watched him struggle early in the season playing right tackle before improving his performances over the last half of the season.
Reid indicated there are no second thoughts about picking Fisher.
“I think it all points up for him,” Reid said. “He took a step from a little bit smaller school into the NFL and he handled it and as the season went on he excelled. We are looking forward to him having an offseason where he can lift and get stronger and improve.
“You feel like he’s wired to do that.”