The iconic image of Andy Reid, the 61-year-old coach who has the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl, doesnt picture him standing, scowling or stomping on the sidelines this season. Its from a 1971 Punt, Pass and Kick competition. Reid was such a large teenager that he needed to borrow the uniform of an actual NFL player. He dwarfed his fellow adolescents, who appeared to be a different, much smaller species than him.This was the first time the football world laid eyes on Andy Reid, and he looked and acted unlike anyone else around him. Thats still true. Reid has become the most creative mind in football because he has continued to behave as the games ultimate outsider.
The Chiefs presence in this Super Bowl, and their success with Patrick Mahomes, can be traced back to this self-awareness that has become the crux of Reids philosophy. He has evolved into the games pre-eminent offensive mind precisely because he was willing to consider outsider ideas that his counterparts ignored. He has no ego, says Chiefs general manager Brett Veach.
Hes been that way for almost his entire life. Reid was the kid who looked unlike anyone else in Punt, Pass and Kick. He was a non-Mormon who went to Brigham Young University. He roamed the fringes of college football until he was given a lowly assistant job in the NFL. He rose so quickly that when the Philadelphia Eagles hired him in 1999, he was the rare head coach who had never even been a coordinator.
In his 21 years as a head coach14 in Philadelphia and the last seven in Kansas CityReid has made the playoffs 15 times. The only thing missing from his résumé is a title. And thats something he can correct Sunday when his Chiefs take on the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LIV.
The people who know him best say that Reids success has always been derived from a willingness to incorporate unusual, often unpopular perspectives. In effect, he became one of the smartest people in football by never acting like he was one of them.
Some of these coaches in the NFL, college or high school are so tied up in themselves and how great they are, says Tom Holmoe, Reids former college teammate and current BYU athletic director. He can use, feel and experience things that other people would be shut off to.
Holmoe and Reid came to BYU as Lutherans at a school where only a fraction of the students arent Mormon. Reid grew up in Los Angeles, attended community college and transferred to the Provo, Utah college that happened to be one of the best places on earth to study football. The teams coach was Lavell Edwards, who was at the forefront of the pass-heavy offenses that would challenge decades of football orthodoxy. Edwardss coaching tree spawned the likes of Super Bowl champion head coach Mike Holmgren, and Edwardss style paved the road for philosophies like the Air Raid, which would turn out to be pretty important to Reid decades later.
It also provided the gateway for Reids entry into the coaching world. Reid spent a decade as an assistant on notable staffs at BYU, San Francisco State, Northern Arizona, UTEP and Missouri until Holmgren called in 1992. He wanted Reid to coach for the Green Bay Packers.
The unusual thing throughout Reids coaching odyssey was how this offensive line coach obsessed about things beyond the offensive line. He took meticulous notes on the best passing route combinations, conditioning exercises and when it was preferable to travel via bus or plane. Seven years later, that uniquely curated collection of ideas is what convinced the Eagles to hire Reid.
But the Eagles started his first year 0-4. In the fifth game, they were down 10-0 at halftime to the Cowboys, and the notoriously impatient fan base revolted over Reids refusal to play Donovan McNabb, the quarterback he had taken with the No. 2 overall pick.
Youre having batteries, beers, rocks thrown onto the field to the chant, of Play McNabb! F Reid, says Bob Lamonte, Reids agent. Im his agent and friend, and I wanted him to play McNabb.
Reid ignored the chantsand perhaps his own safetybecause he saw the bigger picture. He knew that playing McNabb might stunt his development. By the time the game was over, the quarterback Reid played instead, Doug Pederson, had led Philadelphia to a raucous comeback. (Eagles fans now know Pederson as the coach of an Eagles team that won the Super Bowl two years ago.)
In 14 years with the Eagles, mostly with McNabb under center, Reid took the team to five NFC Championship games and one Super Bowl, and his cutting-edge mind-set is what Clark Hunt was looking for in 2013. The Chiefs owner believed his team was talentedit had sent six players to the Pro Bowlbut finished just 2-14. Hunt was quickly validated when Reid acquired quarterback Alex Smith and then got to work studying the schemes that made Smith a star in college and a former No. 1 pick.
Suddenly, words like run-pass option that were still alien to most NFL teams became part of the normal lexicon in Kansas City before any other NFL city. [Elsewhere] it seemed like there was more of a disdain for what was happening in college with all the spread offenses, Hunt said.
The philosophy put Reid at the head of the curve. While the rest of the NFL viewed the innovative college schemes as gimmicky hokum, he incorporated them into the Chiefs playbook. In his first season, the Chiefs improved from 2-14 to 11-5. A few years later, this quarterback who had been previously viewed as a bust led the NFL in passer rating.
Reid didnt simply tolerate these newfangled ideas. He actively sought them out and learned them better than almost anyone in his position. For two years, Reid hired Chris Ault, the progenitor of the Pistol offense at the University of Nevada, far beyond the NFLs mainstream, to consult with his team. You just couldnt help but notice that he is not afraid of change, Ault says.
And his willingness to change with the times is what led the Chiefs to this Super Bowl.
The NFL wasnt convinced by Mahomes before the 2017 draft. Despite his overwhelming talent, some doubted his success at Texas Tech, where he thrived in the pass-heavy, Air Raid offense. Reid knew better. The Chiefs made a trade for the No. 10 pick so they could snag him.
There are others who said Patricks coming from an offense thats never really produced a starting quality quarterback, Hunt says. Andy looked at it and saw the opportunities and all the things he could do with Patricks skill-set.
The bet paid off quickly. In their second season together, Mahomes became the MVP. In their third, Mahomes and Reid are headed to the Super Bowl.
Share Your Thoughts
What is your prediction for the Super Bowl? Join the discussion.
Write to Andrew Beaton at
Copyright ©2019 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8