Guest of the League
THIS LEAGUE IS LAST YEAR'S OLD Est. 2017
One and Done - FFL: Week 4 | NFL: Superbowl

Chiefs coach Reid's patience in struggling players pays off

Tue Jan 26 2:05pm ET
By DAVE SKRETTA
AP Sports Writer

Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid walks on the field before the AFC championship NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills, Sunday, Jan. 24, 2021, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Reed Hoffmann)


Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Mecole Hardman (17) celebrates with teammate Byron Pringle (13) after catching a 3-yard touchdown pass during the first half of the AFC championship NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills, Sunday, Jan. 24, 2021, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)


Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Mecole Hardman (17) fumbles a punt in front of Buffalo Bills cornerback Siran Neal (33) during the first half of the AFC championship NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 24, 2021, in Kansas City, Mo. Buffalo recovered the fumble. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)


KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Mecole Hardman trudged to the sideline as the Bills trotted onto the field, then slumped onto the bench and tossed a huge Kansas City Chiefs coat over his head like a shroud as Buffalo took advantage of his fumbled punt for an easy touchdown.

It was an enormous mistake in the opening minutes of the AFC championship game on Sunday, and Chiefs coach Andy Reid could have easily given his young wide receiver the cold shoulder. Reid could have sent someone else back to field punts the rest of the game, or directed plays designed with Hardman in mind to his plethora of other playmakers.

Instead, the old coach went right back to him.

He had Patrick Mahomes throw a pass to Hardman two plays later, then capped the ensuing 80-yard drive by scripting an inside screen play for him that went for a touchdown. And when the Chiefs got the ball back again, the first play Reid called was an end-around that went for 50 yards, setting up another touchdown that gave Kansas City a 14-9 lead.

''They're going to be with me. They're going to keep me up, keep me motivated - make sure I don't have my head down,'' Hardman said. ''I was still mentally intact, but it's good the coaches still have confidence in you, call some plays for you to make some plays in the game. And the type of player I am, I'm going to take advantage of every opportunity I get.''

The Chiefs never trailed again in a 38-24 victory that sent the defending champions back to the Super Bowl.

It's not the first time that Reid has stuck with a struggling player. Whether it's a quarterback that throws an interception or a wide receiver that drops a pass, chances are good that Reid will call specific plays to get them right back in the game.

Want another example? Think back to Sept. 8, 2017, when Kareem Hunt fumbled on his very first NFL carry.

The third-round pick, now with the Cleveland Browns, had put the Chiefs in a bind in their season opener in New England with his first fumble since his freshman year of college. But rather than sit the rookie, Reid leaned on Hunt the rest of the way, and he responded by carrying 14 times for 148 yards, catching five passes for 98 yards and scoring three TDs.

Reid downplayed the pep talk he gave to Hardman after the latest gaffe - )Hardman has a troubling history of mistakes in the punt return game. But sometimes actions speak louder than words, and besides, he had special teams coordinator Dave Toub, wide receivers coach Greg Lewis and even quarterback Patrick Mahomes to help keep his spirits up.

''Listen, just bare down, focus, watch it all the way into the tuck. Basic fundamentals,'' Reid said. ''Dave is the one that talked to him about all that, Greg talked to him, and then he was thrown back out there and given another chance, and he's made plays the last couple years. He had a muff; keep him in and let's go. That's what we did, doggone it.''

Added his quarterback: ''I just told him to keep his head up. We've been in that situation before,'' Mahomes said. ''I told him he's going to make a play in this game that's going to change the game, and he made multiple of them.''

The Chiefs could need him to make a few more against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They have been without Sammy Watkins since Week 16 because of a calf injury, and the veteran wide receiver was a surprise scratch on Sunday, putting pressure on Hardman and fellow wide receiver Byron Pringle to continue to pick up the slack.

Good thing Hardman's feeling confident - thanks in large part to Reid - as Super Bowl practices get going.

''I think this team, we just have a goal in mind and we all want to achieve that goal, no matter what it takes,'' he said. ''We are a group of guys that want to be perfect and strive for that perfection, no matter what we do. We could have done that better, this better, we left too many plays out there (against Buffalo). We always want to improve on what we do, and that's what separates us. I think we're going to take that same mentality into the Super Bowl.''

Top Headlines
The Paur Report

Interview with a Champ

Player Notes
DeVonta Smith Jan 26 2:10pm ET

Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith, the 2020 Heisman Trophy winner and one of the top prospects in the 2021 NFL draft, declined to be weighed or measured for height at the Senior Bowl weigh-in on Tuesday. However, he plans to do so at Alabama's pro-day workout this spring. He was listed at 6-foot-1, 175 pounds during the season, and his size is his lone scouting concern heading to the next level. Smith has 9 3/8-inch hands, 31 1/3-inch arms and a wingspan of 78 1/2. The talented pass-catcher injured a finger in the national championship game against Ohio State and will not compete in practices or the game this week. Smith caught 117 passes for 1,856 yards and 23 touchdowns as a senior and is projected to be a top-10 pick in the first round because of his exceptional route-running skills and strong, sure hands.

From RotoBaller

Aaron Rodgers Jan 26 2:00pm ET

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was uncertain about his future with the team after the NFC Championship loss to the Buccaneers on Sunday, but chief executive officer Mark Murphy said the team won't let him go. "There's no way in heck Aaron is not gonna be on the Packers," Murphy said. "He's going to be the MVP of the league, might have had his best year ever, he's our unquestioned leader, and we're not idiots." Rodgers is 37 years old and has three years left on his deal after the Packers drafted his expected successor, Jordan Love, in the first round last year. Green Bay won't take on a huge dead salary cap number in 2021, but they could go in another direction in 2022 when his number drops to $17.2 million. After his MVP season, Rodgers isn't going anywhere just yet and will be more expensive in 2021 fantasy drafts as a QB1 than he was heading into the 2020 season.

From RotoBaller

Antonio Brown Jan 26 11:40am ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown (knee) and rookie safety Antoine Winfield Jr. (ankle) are expected to be ready to play in the Super Bowl against the Kansas City Chiefs on Feb. 7, according to sources. Both players missed the NFC Championship win over the Packers. Brown was injured in the Divisional Round against the Saints and played just a handful of snaps in the second half. The 32-year-old had five touchdowns in his last five games and will be a touchdown-dependent fantasy play in the Super Bowl. His return could mean fewer looks for Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Scotty Miller. Winfield was injured in practice late last week and was unable to play on Sunday. His return to Tampa's secondary will be a welcomed addition as the Bucs attempt to slow down KC's high-flying aerial attack with Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce.

From RotoBaller

Sammy Watkins Jan 26 11:30am ET

Kansas City Chiefs running back Le'Veon Bell (knee) and wide receiver Sammy Watkins (calf) are expected to be ready to play in the Super Bowl against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Feb. 7, according to sources. Both players were inactive for the AFC Championship win over Buffalo. Watkins played in just 10 games during the regular season and also missed time with a sore hamstring and didn't play in either of KC's playoff games. He finished the regular season with 37 catches for 421 yards and two touchdowns and will be a boom/bust dart throw in DFS for the big game. Mecole Hardman will be a much more attractive play than Watkins. Bell had 254 rushing yards in nine games for the Chiefs and will likely see scraps behind rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Darrel Williams against Tampa.

From RotoBaller

Martavis Bryant Jan 26 3:13am ET

Free-agent WR Martavis Bryant (Raiders) signed with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League Monday, Jan. 25.

From TheHuddle

Cordarrelle Patterson Jan 25 10:53pm ET

Chicago Bears impending free-agent RB/WR Cordarrelle Patterson is likely a player the Bears will look to re-sign this offseason.

From TheHuddle

Marvin Jones Jan 25 10:13pm ET

Detroit Lions impending free-agent WR Marvin Jones could be an option for the Tennessee Titans if the Titans decide not to re-sign impending free-agent WR Corey Davis this offseason, in the opinion of ESPN.com's Turron Davenport.

Fantasy Spin: Jones is coming off a terrific season and should receive interest from multiple teams in free agency. He would be a starter if he signed with the Titans and can be at least a No. 3 fantasy receiver no matter where he signs.

From TheHuddle

Jordan Whitehead Jan 25 6:53pm ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers S Jordan Whitehead's (shoulder) availability for Super Bowl LV is uncertain at this point because of the shoulder injury he suffered during the NFC Championship game, according to head coach Bruce Arians.

From TheHuddle

Mark Andrews Jan 25 6:33pm ET

Baltimore Ravens TE Mark Andrews is one of the players the team will try to sign to a contract extension, according to general manager Eric DeCosta.

Fantasy Spin: Andrews is a big part of the passing game for the Ravens and probably will receive a new deal at some point this offseason. He should be a weekly starting option in fantasy leagues in 2021.

From TheHuddle

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Jan 25 4:30pm ET

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense was shredded by Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill in the first quarter of their Week 12 matchup, as Hill went off for 203 yards on seven catches and two touchdowns. Cornerback Carlton Davis was left on an island with Hill, and it didn't yield pretty results. "We'll help a little bit more than we did in that ballgame," Bucs head coach Bruce Arians said. Tampa's D allowed 462 yards passing to quarterback Patrick Mahomes and three touchdowns. Hill finished with 269 yards and three touchdowns on 13 catches (only 59 yards in the second half). Tight end Travis Kelce had eight catches for 82 yards. With offensive tackles Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz out, Bucs pass-rushers Shaquil Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul must get pressure on Mahomes to have a chance at getting last year's Super Bowl MVP out of his rhythm.

From RotoBaller

Cole Beasley Jan 25 4:20pm ET

Buffalo Bills wide receiver Cole Beasley (leg) suffered a broken fibula in the Week 16 game against the New England Patriots. Beasley sat out the regular season finale in Week 17 before catching 14 passes for 145 yards in three postseason games against the Colts, Ravens and Chiefs. "It was bad the first game I played but after that, you take a few meds and suck it up," Beasley said with a chuckle. The injury wasn't a full break, but Beasley said it was painful in the wild-card win over the Colts. The 31-year-old veteran hauled in seven of his nine targets for 88 yards in the AFC Championship loss to the Chiefs on Sunday. Beasley set career-highs in catches (82), targets (107), receiving yards (967) and yards per catch (11.8) while visiting the end zone four times in 15 regular season games in 2020. He'll be back as Josh Allen's most trusted third-down weapon in 2021 and will be more expensive in PPR leagues as a result of his career-best season.

From RotoBaller

Lamar Jackson Jan 25 4:10pm ET

Baltimore Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta said that the team could reach a long-term contract extension with quarterback Lamar Jackson this offseason, and the GM plans to speak to the reigning NFL MVP in the next 10 days. Jackson just finished his third season and will command at least $40 million per season on an extension. He's scheduled to make $1.77 million in 2021 on the final year of his rookie deal, which currently ranks 25th among QBs in base salary. "[He] certainly deserves a contract," DeCosta said. Jackson has won more games (30) than any other QB since he took over as the team's starter in 2018 and became the fastest QB in history to reach 30 regular season wins (37 games). Jackson is also the first in NFL history to produce 5,000 yards passing and 2,500 yards rushing in his first three seasons. The young signal-caller has been more effective with his legs than his arm and has won just one playoff game, but Jackson should be locked up long term in Baltimore and will be a top-five fantasy QB yet again in 2021.

From RotoBaller

Leslie Frazier Jan 25 3:23pm ET

Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier and Baltimore Ravens assistant head coach/wide receivers coach David Culley are expected to interview for a second time for the Houston Texans head coaching vacancy, according to multiple sources. Frazier is expected to interview Tuesday, Jan. 26, while Culley's interview date has yet to be disclosed.

From TheHuddle

Cole Beasley Jan 25 2:23pm ET

Buffalo Bills WR Cole Beasley (leg) told reporters Monday, Jan. 25, that he broke his fibula in Week 16 but that it wasn't a full break. He also added that he won't need surgery.

Fantasy Spin: Considering he was able to play with the injury throughout the postseason, Beasley should be ready for offseason work if the league allows teams to hold OTAs and minicamps. Otherwise, he should be fine well in advance of training camp. Beasley just finished the season in which he set career highs with 82 catches and 967 yards. He should be viewed as a low-end WR3/high-end WR4 in fantasy drafts this spring and summer.

From TheHuddle

Justin Herbert Jan 25 12:10pm ET

The Philadelphia Eagles agreed to terms with former Los Angeles Chargers offensive coordinator Shane Steichen on Monday as their new offensive coordinator, according to a source. Steichen was key in the development of rookie quarterback Justin Herbert in 2020. New head coach Nick Sirianni and Steichen worked together with the Chargers for four years until Sirianni left for the Colts in 2018. Steichen started coaching in the NFL in Cleveland in 2013 as a quality control coach. He left for San Diego the following season and was their quality control coach for 2014-15. The 35-year-old took over the Chargers offense last season and helped nurture Herbert to a record-setting rookie season. Steichen will try and help Carson Wentz rebuild after the worst season of his career.

From RotoBaller

Justin Herbert Jan 25 12:00pm ET

New Orleans Saints quarterbacks coach Joe Lombardi is expected to become the new offensive coordinator of the Los Angeles Chargers, according to sources. New head coach Brandon Staley played under Lombardi for one year at Mercyhurst University in 2005 when Lombardi was the offensive coordinator. Lombardi is the grandson of Hall of Fame coach Vince Lombardi and was the offensive coordinator for the Lions in 2014-15, but he was fired after a 1-6 start in his second year. He started his NFL career as a defensive assistant with the Falcons in 2006 before being hired by the Saints as an offensive assistant in 2007. Lombardi spent 12 seasons working with head coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees in New Orleans and has also tutored QBs Teddy Bridgewater, Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston in recent seasons. He'll be tasked with working with Justin Herbert, who became the youngest QB in history to throw 30 touchdowns in his rookie season.

From RotoBaller

Aaron Rodgers Jan 25 11:50am ET

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was uncertain about his future after the team's 31-26 loss to the Buccaneers in the NFC Championship on Sunday. The 37-year-old is expected to win the MVP this year and is under contract through the 2023 season via the $134 million extension he signed in 2018. But the Packers also drafted Jordan Love, Rodgers' possible replacement, in the first round last year. Rodgers threw 48 touchdowns and only five interceptions in the regular season in 2020, but he also became the first QB in NFL history to lose four straight appearances in a conference championship. If Green Bay were to move on from Rodgers this offseason, they'd save just $4.76 million on the salary cap and would have $31.556 million in dead money. Rodgers may be contemplating retirement, but the Packers want him back and he'd be a high-end QB1 if he does return after going 33-for-48 for 346 yards, three touchdowns and one interception in the loss to Tampa to end the season.

From RotoBaller

Joey Bosa Jan 25 11:50am ET

The Los Angeles Chargers are hiring Denver Broncos defensive backs coach Renaldo Hill as their new defensive coordinator on Monday, according to sources. Hill worked with head coach Brandon Staley in Denver in 2019 and played in the league for a decade. Staley said last week that he will be making the defensive play calls in his first season as head coach in LA. Hill will be replacing Gus Bradley, who left to become the defensive coordinator for the Las Vegas Raiders. Hill will help oversee a defense that ranked 10th in the NFL last year and features three-time Pro Bowl defensive end Joey Bosa, rookie linebacker Kenneth Murray Jr. and standout safety Derwin James, who missed all of 2020 with a knee injury.

From RotoBaller

Lamar Jackson Jan 25 10:23am ET

Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson could sign an extension this offseason, according to general manager Eric DeCosta, who will begin talks with Jackson in 10 days.

Fantasy Spin: Jackson ended up the QB10 in traditional leagues as he missed a game due to COVID-19. With the emergence of Josh Allen, Justin Herbert and others, the position has become pretty loaded. Dak Prescott (leg) is expected back to join the flux of QB1s. A midrange QB1 is probably where Jackson is supposed to be considering the plights he faces through the air. Don't overdraft him for the rushing numbers next season because the gap has narrowed.

From TheHuddle

Josh Allen Jan 24 10:33pm ET

Buffalo Bills QB Josh Allen completed 28 of his 48 passes for 287 yards, two touchdowns and an interception and rushed seven times for 88 yards in a 38-24 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game Sunday, Jan. 24. RB Devin Singletary was bottled up, rushing for 17 yards and six carries and gaining nine yards on two catches. WR Cole Beasley had seven grabs for 88 yards, WR Stefon Diggs had six receptions on 11 targets for 77 yards, and TE Dawson Knox caught six balls for 42 yards and a touchdown. WR Isaiah McKenzie caught a six-yard touchdown pass on his only reception, and RB T.J. Yeldon had seven touches for 56 total yards. S Jordan Poyer led the defense with eight tackles, including six solo stops.

From TheHuddle