PHOENIX — In the few moments that the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles shared a stage earlier this week, Andy Reid greeted the handful of Philly players he still knew with bear hugs. There is no shortage of affection for Reid at this Super Bowl. The Eagles’ Brandon Graham said he still feels indebted to Reid for drafting him in 2010. The Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes tried to convince his teammates to wear fake mustaches when they landed here in an homage to Reid. Jeffrey Lurie, the Eagles owner who hired and then fired Reid, recalled everything from how impressive Reid was when the Eagles interviewed him for the job to how, when Reid made his first Super Bowl appearance with the Chiefs three years ago, Lurie exhorted the coach to finally win the title that eluded him in Philadelphia. Lurie was so thrilled for Reid when Kansas City prevailed that he cried tears of joy that night while Reid celebrated.
Reid, who led the Eagles from 1999 through 2012 and has been with the Chiefs since 2013, is the only coach to take two teams to four straight conference championship games, a monumental accomplishment on its own. But his résumé was finally capped when he won Super Bowl LIV with the Chiefs at the conclusion of the 2019 season. Reid was the sentimental favorite in that game, and seemingly everybody in the NFL who was not connected to the San Francisco 49ers was openly rooting for Reid to finally achieve the only professional accomplishment that had escaped one of the most respected and well-liked people in coaching.
Things have changed heading into Super Bowl LVII. Reid is no longer the sentimental favorite. He is still well-liked, of course, but he has his title. He coaches the best quarterback in football. The Chiefs were the best team in the AFC this season. After they face the Eagles on Sunday, they will have been to three of the last four Super Bowls (including LV, when they fell to the Buccaneers). In the post Belichick-Brady era, Reid leads the team that is the closest thing to a dynasty the NFL has. And now Reid is reaching for something that is historically even more elusive than a first title: a second.
Only 13 coaches in NFL history have won two Super Bowls. Only four — Chuck Noll, Joe Gibbs, Bill Walsh and Bill Belichick, all giants of the game — have won more than two. The current thinking is not that Reid has anything left to prove, but that he has a chance to put himself among coaching’s ultra elite.
“Don’t worry for Andy,” Lurie said this week. “He’s going to win more than one. I just don’t want it to be this Sunday.”
It is tempting to think that winning his first Super Bowl may have liberated Reid, and maybe that helps explain the breathtaking fearlessness of his play-calling, the snow globe whirling huddle play, the hook-and-ladders in the playoffs. But Reid has always been a mad scientist of offense. Those who have worked with him recall walking into his office on a Monday morning, his whiteboard already filled with dozens of color-coded lines, the product of one of his sleepless nights. And they predict that there is more where the outside-the-box plays came from, that Reid is almost certainly setting up something that is still to come, another iteration of a play design from his fertile mind.
It is not so much that Reid has been freed from the yoke of pressure to win. Instead, those who know him best say Reid is only further motivated after winning the first one to win more. Reid is now fifth on the all-time wins list as a head coach (268), and he is second in all-time playoff wins (21), trailing only Belichick (31). Reid is the only coach in NFL history with at least 10 playoff victories for multiple teams. When his longtime friend, NFL Network analyst and former NFL head coach Steve Mariucci (who was on the same staff as Reid in Green Bay in the 1990s), mentions those figures to Reid, he is often unaware of them. But he wants more trophies.
“I think there is massive relief in Andy that he was not just getting close but actually had the thrill of holding the trophy,” said Joe Banner, the Eagles former president, who served in that role for much of Reid’s time in Philadelphia. “But he’s one of these guys that the desire to win the next one is even more intense. He got a taste as a head coach and realized how incredible it feels.”
While Lurie believed Reid was a Hall of Fame-worthy coach even before he won the Super Bowl, Banner admits that the league-wide perception of a coach is greatly enhanced by a first Super Bowl win and is further amplified by any number of titles greater than one. Most impressive to Banner is that Reid rebuilt two teams and within a couple of years had them in the conference championship games, and then was able to maintain that success. Going to 10 conference championship games, with the chance to win a second Super Bowl — on Sunday or in a coming season — already puts Reid in the conversation of being among the best coaches in history.
“To win that conversation, you need to win another Super Bowl or two,” Banner said.
That does not feel like much of a reach, because everything is set up for Reid and the Chiefs to continue winning for the foreseeable future. Nothing can be assured in the NFL, but Mahomes is only 27 and just won his second MVP award, the Chiefs are back in the Super Bowl despite losing Tyreek Hill and they incorporated some young players on defense this season. Perhaps most importantly, they have already given Mahomes a blockbuster contract and have figured out how to construct a roster and integrate new players to keep the team at its peak. That is a task that still awaits potential rivals like the Bengals, Ravens and Eagles, among others. The Chiefs, meanwhile, enjoy stability at their two most important positions.
“Andy is 64 and has a quarterback,” Mariucci said. “You would have to have your head examined to break it up. Ride this wave as long as you can.”
There are very few coaches who can appreciate the position Reid is in right now. Former Giants coach Tom Coughlin is one of them. Coughlin said winning his first Super Bowl, at the end of the 2007 season, did not change him. He moved on so quickly from Super Bowl XLII, in fact, that he went to the dentist hours after the victory parade ended.
“Your competitive juices are flowing,” said Coughlin, who also won Super Bowl XLVI four years later. “He is focused on winning, winning, winning. He’s not interested in the other stuff. He is a guy who knows what it’s like to lose one. He is not thinking of anything but winning the game. The enhancement of his legacy? He’ll worry about that later.”
It is true that there are many similarities between Reid this week, ahead of his third Super Bowl with Kansas City, and the Reid who brought the Chiefs to Miami three years ago. He arrived at Super Bowl Opening Night this week wearing a red and white shirt that was only one step removed from his preferred Tommy Bahama wardrobe. His wife, Tammy, stood just to the side during his interview session. He answered a lot of questions about cheeseburgers. And while he conceded that he is probably on the shorter end of his remaining career timeline than the longer end, he scoffed at the idea that his long-awaited success has made him a fundamentally different coach. Maybe older and grayer, but he is Big Red just the same.
“Different? How am I different than when we won the first Super Bowl?” Reid said this week. “The team’s different. I’m probably similar to what I was then. I probably have less hair.”
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