LAS VEGAS — When it was over — with the Super Bowl confetti falling from the roof and Kansas City Chiefs fans chanting in unison at Allegiant Stadium — head coach Andy Reid spotted an offensive lineman's dream. His star defensive tackle, Chris Jones, was laying flat on his back on the turf, smiling in jubilation. So Reid did what any wise pulling guard might have done on an inside run play.
He bellyflopped on him.
“All right, big guy!” Reid hollered in joy as he pinned Jones down by the shoulders. “What do you think?! What do you think?!”
Finally, the man who is chiseling his bust into the Mount Rushmore of the NFL's best-ever head coaches got to his feet. As he helped Jones up, Reid used the player's momentum to pull him into his shoulder — embracing him in a snapshot that for all intents and purposes might have been one of their last moments in Kansas City. After all, the ticking clocks of both Reid and Jones had swirled all week leading into Sunday night's Super Bowl, with the coach's future a consistent topic of speculation, and the player's impending free agency hovering above the coming offseason.
At least one of those pressing questions seemed to be laid to rest on Sunday night after the Chiefs' 25-22 overtime win against the San Francisco 49ers. Jones? Time will tell. But Reid? Asked if he would affirm that he would return in 2024 coaching the Chiefs, he said he would.
“Yeah, I haven’t had time to think about it, but yeah, sure,” Reid said with a smile. “I get asked that — I’m mad at [Bill] Belichick and Pete [Carroll] because now I get asked all those questions.”
Frankly, it was the right time to invoke those kinds of names, because coaching longevity isn’t the only thing that binds them together. Now it’s the fabric of elite, unparalleled success that binds them: Rings, Lombardi Trophies, all-time winning percentages, Hall of Fame careers. Not just success measured in this time, but success measured in all time.
Belichick is the sitting chairman of the head coaching GOATs, with nine Super Bowl appearances and six Lombardis to his name. Pittsburgh Steelers legend Chuck Noll has four Super Bowl wins that put him near the head of the table. And then there is the fraternity of “three men, three rings” — which Reid joined on Sunday alongside Washington’s Joe Gibbs and the San Francisco 49ers’ Bill Walsh. But Reid also has something that sticks out amongst the entire group. Of the coaches with three or more Super Bowl rings, only Belichick, Reid and Noll managed to win back-to-back titles. Belichick did it in the 2003 and 2004 seasons, and Noll did it twice, in 1974 and 1975, then in 1978 and 1979.
On Sunday, Reid secured his back to back. And if the soon-to-be 66-year-old presses on, his ascent among the league’s GOAT coaches appears to have plenty of juice left in it. Especially with his 28-year old quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, who is well on the way in his own GOAT quest, stalking seven-time Super Bowl champ Tom Brady.
“It’s a little bit surreal,” Reid said Sunday night. “Back to back is rare air for this football team and this organization. I got asked so many times, ‘Is it a dynasty?’ I don’t know what a dynasty is. You guys, you have the thesaurus. You can figure it out. It’s a great win because I know how hard it is to do. And then how hard the season was — the ups and downs of the season, and how proud I am of the guys for just hanging with each other.”
Indeed, in many ways, this season is arguably Reid’s masterpiece. Largely because it was the first time he faced a maturation and chemistry process on both sides of the football. First with a defense that had young components growing together and then peaking as they entered the postseason, then with an offense that had teeter-tottered in and out of highs and lows as Mahomes and tight end Travis Kelce sought out reinforcement from a mishmash of different surrounding skill position players. Some were young. Some were not. All were parts trying to find a fit — which they did at the right time … and just enough to capture an overtime title.
Even the win over the 49ers on Sunday featured some hallmark moments, with Mahomes fighting his way through pressure, a running game that was struggling to break open big plays, and some early frustration on the part of Kelce that led him to scream and chest-bump Reid at one point and nearly knock him over. On any other team, with any other coach, it might have been a fracture point. On this one, Reid kept his cool and eventually Kelce was able to work into the game plan and deliver some critical moments. And afterward, in typical Andy Reid fashion, he essentially praised Kelce for it … after a lighthearted joke.
“He caught me off balance. I wasn’t watching. Cheap shot,” Reid said with a smile. “That’s right. He was really just like, ‘Just put me in, put me in, I’ll score. I’ll score.’ That’s really what it was. But I love that. It’s not the first time, so listen, I appreciate it.”
“They’re passionate players, man, and I love that. Even if they chest-bump me to the other side of the 50. I appreciate it. I just love that the guy wants to play and wants to be in there playing. And he knows I love that. It makes me feel young.”
Then Reid delivered a reminder.
“As much as he bumps into me, I get after him,” Reid said. “And we understand that.”
This is the microcosm that is Reid. The guy who took two different franchises to Super Bowls. Who refereed through the stressful intersection of Donovan McNabb and Terrell Owens with the Philadelphia Eagles. Who hit postseason ceiling after ceiling, until a need for something different ultimately cost him his job. And then he was the guy who spent a minuscule four days in retirement before landing with the Chiefs in the first of two pivot-point moments that would change the destiny of the franchise — and as this all unfurls, the entire AFC for decades.
Of course, it’s fair to point out the other necessity to all of this: Mahomes, who has four Super Bowl appearances and three wins to his name on this grand stage. The man who is stalking Brady’s greatness, but always seems to point to Reid first when others attempt to process how he has comes so far so fast. Just as he did Sunday night.
“I believe he’s the best coach of all time,” Mahomes said. “I know he doesn’t have the trophies yet, and I have a lot of respect for some of those great coaches, but [it’s] the way he’s able to navigate every single team he has and continue to have success no matter where he’s at. And for me, he brings out the best in me because he lets me be me. I think that’s important. He doesn’t try to make me anyone else. I don’t think I’d be the quarterback that I am if I didn’t have coach Reid being my head coach.”
That’s the kind of endorsement that carries weight. And it will only hit more heavily as Mahomes goes on to reshape the NFL for the next decade or more. For now, Reid is with him. And apparently for 2024, too. After that, who knows. For now, Lombardi No. 3 is just something that he wants to appreciate for the rare air that it creates around the Chiefs.
“This is a tough profession,” Reid said. “Competitive. The parity in this league is ridiculous. To watch your guys work and focus and all that, you just appreciate it. … I appreciated the first [win] because it took me 1,000 years to get into a Super Bowl and to at least be able to hold that Lombardi Trophy. I appreciate every day that I have to do this. I work for a great owner and great ownership family. Between [Chiefs President] Mark Donovan, [General Manager Brett] Veach and myself, we’re lucky to be Kansas City Chiefs.”