Chiefs’ Andy Reid Explains WR Mecole Hardman’s Demotion

Getty Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Mecole Hardman.

After starting the season as the Kansas City Chiefs‘ No. 2 wide receiver, Mecole Hardman has taken a backseat to other pass-catchers on the depth chart. And it’s to the point where he apparently has taken a full-on demotion based on his Week 13 snap count.

In Week 10 against the Las Vegas Raiders, Hardman played his lowest offensive snap count of the season, which was nearly half of what he had typically played in a game up until that point in the season (24). In Week 11 against the Dallas Cowboys, Hardman’s snap count was half of what it was in Week 10 (12). Coming out of the bye week, Hardman registered a new season-low snap count on offense in Week 13 against the Denver Broncos (9), per Pro Football Reference.

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This apparent demotion on offense has been paired with a demotion on special teams, as Hardman took a backseat to cornerback Mike Hughes as the primary punt returner in Week 11, which was the first time in Hardman’s NFL career that he didn’t play a single special teams snap.

The word “apparent” keeps being used in reference to Hardman’s demotion on offense because, well, if you ask head coach Andy Reid, the steady decline in playing time for Hardman is just a matter of circumstance.


Reid on Hardman: Sometimes Those Things Happen

When asked why Hardman’s role has diminished on offense following Kansas City’s 22-9 victory over the Broncos in Week 13, Big Red downplayed it.

“Sometimes it works out that way. We still have a lot of trust in Mecole, and other weeks it will be higher. It’s just the way it worked out. Sometimes those things happen,” Reid said on Monday, December 6.


Decrease for Hardman, Increase for Pringle

Reid won’t admit that Hardman has experienced a demotion within Kansas City’s offense. But the fact that one wide receiver has experienced season-high snaps counts over the last three games makes one think that it’s no luck of the draw that Hardman’s role in the offense has diminished over the past month.

Third-year wideout Byron Pringle’s role on offense has increased during the same time span that Hardman’s role has decreased. In Week 10 against Las Vegas, Pringle experienced a season-high snap count on offense (46). In Week 11 against Dallas, his snap count dipped slightly (40), but it was still his third-highest of the season. Then in Week 13 against Denver, Pringle had a slight uptick in snaps (41), however, it was the highest percentage of snaps he had played in a single game based on the team’s total offensive snap count (72%), according to Pro Football Reference.

“He had a drop and then he had a catch and then he had a drop, and then he came back and made one of the bigger plays of the game. He’s a consistent player,” Reid said of Pringle during his postgame press conference on Sunday, December 5. “You’re going to have days like that things don’t go absolutely right, but you’ve got to keep pushing through, and that’s what he did. He’s the epitome of that. He’s going to work his tail off. You guys know him, but he’s going to work his tail off until he gets it right. He’s not going to give up on himself.”

While Pringle still has a lot of work to do in order to become a consistent and reliable target for quarterback Patrick Mahomes, he has shown enough up until this point to merit more playing time.

Through 12 games, Pringle has already set career-highs in targets (36), catches (24), yards (352), and touchdowns (3) for a single season. He’s also doing great work as the team’s primary kick returner, registering 482 yards on 19 returns, both of which are also career-highs, per Pro Football Reference.

Pringle’s ascension is very promising. But the decline of Hardman — a former second-round pick that came into the league with high expectations as he was inserted into the league’s most potent offense — is disappointing, to say the least.

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