The Kansas City Chiefs have been a dynamic team when it comes to scoring in more ways than one. Part of that in the past was special teams, too, which we don’t really see anymore.

The problem isn’t with the coaching. For starters, special teams coach Dave Toub has been with Andy Reid since Reid’s arrival in 2013. Meaning, Toub has been a part of many special moments in the return game.

And as we saw in Week 9 against the Tennessee Titans, Toub can get crafty on special teams. He is still very adept at creating opportunities for players to score in that area.

I think while the special teams return units have struggled this year, something like that can help them break one off in the future, or even catch the opposing team off guard and get a big gain. Just like they used to.

It’s not really personnel issues, either. The Chiefs have -and have had- more-than-capable players who had a ton of success returning both kicks and punts.

Fortunately, Reid gave us some great insight as to why the Chiefs haven’t had a kick or punt return go for a touchdown since 2020.

“Yeah, some of its rules too, they change to try to protect the guys,” Andy Reid said on Wednesday. “A lot of injuries that have taken place in the kicking game, so they moved that around. (Assistant Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator) Dave’s (Toub) a good one to talk to because he’s on that committee where they talk about all that stuff.

“But I still think it’s a viable part of the game and I still think you make plays there. When you have the ball and the opportunity to block, tackle, those fundamentals become very important on special teams. Return – your blocking in space has to be very good. That takes skill and work, so we need to get better at it.”

Reid’s teams have always had solid-to-elite special teams play. Going all the way back to his days with the Eagles.

From 1999-2012, when Reid was head coach of the Eagles, the team finished with 13 total return touchdowns, which tied for 12th-most during that span. Their nine punt return touchdowns tied for the fourth-most over the course of those 14 seasons.

The Eagles saw four kickoffs go for touchdowns, as well, but the 2010 rule change that required kickoffs start at the 35 instead of the 25 wiped out a lot of kick return touchdowns. Especially for the Eagles, who saw zero kick returns go for six points under Reid from 2010-2012.

Things picked up for Reid’s special teams when he joined the Chiefs. From 2013-2017, before the NFL changed kickoff rules again in 2018, the Chiefs had 10 total returns, which led the NFL outright. The four kick returns tied for second-most and the six punt returns led the league, as well.

But since the 2018 changes, the Chiefs have just four total kick returns in a five-season span, including two kick returns and two punt returns apiece. This comes after the aforementioned 10 total returns over the previous five-season span.

It’s important to note the Chiefs’ four total returns since 2018 are tied for the league lead, but at the same time, before 2021, Reid hadn’t seen a return-less season as Chiefs head coach since 2015.

And he definitely hasn’t seen consecutive seasons in which KC remained return-less. That’s obviously in play over these final eight games.

Reid is right that the rules have changed quite a bit. And it’s obviously the newest changes that have had the biggest effect.

While that shouldn’t be an excuse for a lack of production, it’s certainly the reality of the situation. Life is much harder to score on special teams, these days. And it’s hurt the Chiefs in this specific regard.

And things could get even harder regarding more changes in the future. Per an earlier report from the Washington Post, the NFL is looking at making rule changes to the punt return play with the similar goal that championed the kick return changes: player safety.

“We’re going to be working with all the special team coaches,”  Troy Vincent, the league’s executive vice president of football operations said. “We really need to figure out that play, not just from an injury standpoint [but] penalties as well. But we have to break that down at every level — every block, every position — to see what we can come up [with] and do the analysis as we did a few years back on kickoffs.

“When we just think about where we were, it was the concussions at that particular time that we just said, ‘Hey, we have to do something.’ The video showed: That play needs to be out of the game. That block needs to be out of the game. We have to go through that same kind of analysis. And I just remember pulling information back from 1937 and the evolution of the kickoff. We have to do the same thing with the punt play.”

Featured Image Via Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

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