My Sympathies Towards Andy Reid
The Kansas City Chiefs haven’t seen many glorious years since the run the franchise had in the 1960s with head coach Hank Stram and quarterback Len Dawson, with 1969 being their only Super Bowl win. Andy Reid was supposed to change that. This season, Reid coached the Chiefs to the best record in the American Football Conference (AFC), going 12-4 in the regular season. The Chiefs also had a breakout star quarterback in Patrick Mahomes, who led the NFL with 50 touchdown passes and finished the season as the front-runner for the MVP of the league. Andy Reid hasn’t had a quarterback as great and explosive as Patrick Mahomes since he was an offensive coach with the Green Bay Packers and Brett Favre in the 1990s. The Chiefs also displayed various weapons on offense, including world-class speedster in Tyreek Hill and a nightmare match-up in tight end Travis Kelce (too big for defensive backs, too fast for linebackers). Finally, this looked to be the year that the team would return to the championship and take home the Lombardi Trophy.
On Sunday, Jan. 20, the Chiefs played the New England Patriots for the right to go to the Super Bowl. The game went back and forth and could have gone either way, but the Patriots pulled it off in overtime with a final score of 37-31. As someone who picked the Patriots to win that game, I was actually rooting for the Chiefs and wanted to see Andy Reid and the Chiefs avenge those previous defeats and come out victorious. Granted, the officiating in the game wasn’t up to par, giving New England numerous breaks. Granted, the Chiefs were trailing 14-0 at halftime and they had to play catch up the rest of the game. Granted, Bill Belichick might be the greatest head coach of all time and Tom Brady might be the greatest quarterback of all time (in my opinion both are the greatest). Granted, defensive coordinator Bob Sutton was making terrible decisions on the defensive side of the ball, giving the Patriots many big plays, including key third downs and long conversions (Bob Sutton has since been relieved of his coaching duties). Granted, the overtime rule meant that as soon as New England won the coin toss they would be able to get the ball, march down the field and win without letting the Chiefs get the ball. But this was the Chiefs year. They had won their first playoff game at home for the first time in over twenty-five (1993) years the week before. Andy Reid didn’t even choke the game away as he was calling plays aggressively and coaching very well on that Sunday. Why did their season have to end like this?
Andy Reid has a legacy of failure in the playoffs and terrible coaching defeats; there’s no way around it. He’s 12-14 in the postseason, including 1-5 in conference championship games, and the one time he made it to the Super Bowl he lost to Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. Some of these losses are on him, especially the ones that occurred in Kansas City. In the wild-card round in 2014 against the Colts, the Chiefs had a 28 point lead in the 3rd quarter only to lose 45-44. In the divisional round against both the Patriots (2016) and Steelers (2017), the Chiefs were down two scores in the 4th quarter but Andy Reid didn’t gameplan with any sense of urgency. While he lead the Chiefs to scoring drives, both these drives were time-consuming — both drives took over fives minutes — and left no time on the clock for Kansas City to score again, leading to losses against New England 27-20 and to Pittsburgh 18-16. In the 2018 wild-card round against the Tennessee Titans, the Chiefs had a 21-3 lead at halftime but didn’t run out the game clock and let the Titans come back and win 22-21.
This postseason record, however, does not reflect Andy Reid as the coach he really is, and it pains me to know that he can’t get over the hump and win a Super Bowl. The innovations Andy Reid has contributed to the NFL are just incredible. For starters, he is a branch off of the Mike Holmgren family tree which is known for the evolution of the West Coast offense. However, Andy Reid has spun off of the Holmgren branch and created his own tree for offense and head coaching alike. Andy Reid is also known for watching film from every level (including the high school ranks) and isn’t afraid to incorporate something he sees into his own offense. A few years ago, Reid gave his assistant coaches more responsibility and lessened his own power, allowing him to focus more on innovating schemes, creative plays, and greater play calls. During some coaching meetings with his offensive coaches, Reid doesn’t focus on film or player personnel. Instead, he simply discusses ways they can improve their offense and opens the floor for input and creativity.
What really upsets me, however, about Andy Reid’s legacy of defeat is his coaching tree: his assistant coaches who have gone on to become head coaches of other teams. Not only does Reid have one of the most successful coaching trees in the NFL but some of his previous assistants — John Harbaugh and Doug Peterson — have become head coaches and won the Super Bowl, Harbaugh with the Ravens (Super Bowl 47) and Pederson with the Eagles (Super Bowl 52). His assistants have taken the ideas and innovation that Andy Reid has instilled in them and used them to become successful head coaches. Some of Reid’s disciples have noted how much he cares about each of his players and coaches. Ron Rivera once said in an interview that after taking a head coaching job in Carolina, Reid gave him a call and asked how he was doing and if he needed advice with the demands of being a head coach. There is also a rumor going around that Reid helped Doug Peterson land quarterback Nick Foles, indirectly leading the Eagles to their first Super Bowl championship in franchise history.
In a league where dominance comes and goes — unless you are Tom Brady and Bill Belichick — you never know how big your window is to win a championship. This may have been the best chance the Chiefs had to win a Super Bowl. In fact, it may have been their only chance. With so much turnover every year, it’s very possible that the rest of the division or conference plays better next season and the Chiefs won’t be as dominant as they were this season. At the same time, for as long as I have been watching football, I can say confidently that as long as you have Andy Reid as a head coach you have a chance to win it all. Still, I won’t believe they can win the big game until they finally do so.
Photo Caption: Andy Reid
Photo Credit: Wikipedia Commons