When the Kansas City Chiefs travel to O.co Coliseum this weekend and the 3:05 p.m. CT kickoff between the bitter AFC West rivals takes place, the weather elements likely won't be anywhere near what Chiefs head coach Andy Reid's team experienced at FedExField in Week 13.
When the Chiefs awoke last Sunday morning, snow was flying and the Washington Redskins grounds crew did its best to keep the field as dry as possible, a thankless task as the snow fell at a steady pace and continued to do so well into the third quarter. Fortunately for the Chiefs, they have just the personnel to prepare the team for the severest of conditions, led by equipment manager Allen Wright.
Chiefs head coach Andy Reid highlighted the crucial role Wright and his staff played in the team's 45-10 victory.
"I would like to give just a mention, Allen Wright, our equipment guy ended up changing the studs on all the cleats, just before the game," coach Reid said. "I mean it looked like an assembly line in there, just taking the shorter studs out and putting the longer ones in. I think that was a factor. We were able to function at a high level in bad weather conditions and a field that was, just from the weather, a bit soft and still maintain our speed, balance and moving abilities."
In his 30th year with the Chiefs, Wright has seen his share of football fields and each in various conditions, but nothing was quite like what he walked onto Sunday, hours before Quintin Demps received the opening kickoff.
"Well, the conditions were as bad as field conditions can be, without it being a driving rainstorm," Wright said. "It almost made it easier, because it was extremely soft from the beginning; it made the decision process a lot easier than when you have to make those decisions, throughout the course of the game."
Wright and his staff assessed the field conditions, during their pregame protocol.
"We always go out and take a look at it, especially, if you're on the road," Wright said of his routine. "Most of the places, I know fairly well; we go to Oakland every year and so, you have an idea of what to expect. You always need to go out and take a look at it. I talk to the visiting team's equipment manager to see if they've re-sodded, see what the conditions they've had are. Even this week, before we went, I called the equipment managers of the last two opponents that had been there, found out what they had done, and also, you never quit educating yourself. I actually called the equipment manager at Iowa State this past week, as well as KU; they were in some conditions up there for the Iowa State game two weeks ago that was the coldest game in history that they had ever had. I was kind of curious to find out what they had done for footing and what worked for them. I think it's important for us to always find out what other people are doing to educate ourselves to help us prepare ourselves for our games."
With plan in hand, Wright and his crew went to work as if on a NASCAR pit crew, changing cleats feverishly before the game, after testing the cleats on the field, himself, which coach Reid alluded to.
"Allen puts on the cleats and goes out and tests the turf," coach Reid said. "Not that he is Jamaal (Charles), but he gets out there and he moves around a little bit with the cleats on, just to get a feel of the surface. Then, he comes back and gets with players and they ended up changing them out, right before the game. They had the rivets and drills to buzz those things off and put the new ones on. We went with a little longer cleat, and I thought it was a factor. I wouldn't mention it if I didn't think it was a factor."
Wright described the different cleat options he had to choose from, before the game.
"There are different sized cleats and what is called a detachable cleat and there are different shoes. We have shoes for different conditions and we have different sized cleats within those shoes. We actually have shoes that we wear for a frozen field, which is more of a turf-type shoe and we have removable cleats to use the different lengths, determined by the softness of the field."
Allen and his staff were able to showcase their skills in changing all the cleats and doing so at a rapid speed, thanks to the trust of the team's head coach.
"This is the first time we have been in this situation with this coaching staff," Wright said. "Every head coach has a different approach to that; coach Reid is one that trusts people to do their job. The biggest compliment I can receive is that my staff went out there and we did our job to make sure the field conditions were a non-issue. That's the first time a head coach has given me the acknowledgement for doing it, which I appreciate very much. I feel a little strange about it, simply because I was doing my job."
Wright spoke to how vital his staff is, putting in tireless hours to make sure the team has everything it needs to succeed.
"It used to be, people thought of the equipment manager as the old crusty guy behind the window that you had to turn in a pair of socks to get a pair of socks," Wright said. "The truth is, this industry has grown so much in the last 20 years that it takes four of us full-time to have our own set of responsibilities to make this thing work. My responsibilities are no more important than whoever the fourth guy is on my staff. Everything that they do, if it's Jimmy (White) in his maintenance of the helmets and shoulder pads, or Kyle (Crumbaugh), what he does with the jerseys and cloth, or "Schrop" (Chris Shropshire), what he does for practices, it comes together as a department that I've never been so proud of."
Wright and his staff prepared the Chiefs to succeed, thanks to diligent preparation.
"We went into those conditions, this past weekend, extremely prepared," Wright said. "There's so much that goes into us being here to support the players, whatever they need to do their job, as well as coaches; it might be something as simple as getting coach (Gary) Gibbs a pen that writes in the rain to Jamaal and keeping him warm with the types of clothes that we give him to do his job, or if it's the shoes or the footing on game day. My whole staff is a veteran group. They know as much or more than I do. I get the accolades, but the truth is, it's all of us; it's the whole department."
The team's Week 14 win was Wright's 506th game with the Chiefs. Six games ago, coach Reid made sure everyone on the team knew the milestone Wright had achieved.
"This organization right now is at a place that it has never been before," Wright said. We are run by a group of really neat, energetic people, starting from the top with Clark Hunt and his family, (Chiefs GM) John Dorsey, (Chiefs president) Mark Donovan and coach Reid. This place has an energy about it that it's never had before. It's really exciting to come in here on a daily basis. It's a really neat environment and I think people are really going to be excited about where this place is headed; people are really going to enjoy it."
Speaking on behalf of the entire Chiefs Kingdom, thanks to you, Allen, "Schrop", Kyle, Jimmy and the rest of your devoted staff, each equipping the Chiefs players and coaches to continue to do what they've done, provide an unforgettable season!