MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – As his players mobbed him and confetti fell to the field at Hard Rock Stadium, having removed any and all arguments against his Hall of Fame status, Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid unleashed what appeared to be a guttural, primal scream, a release that was a career in the making.
Reid, 61, had reached the pinnacle of his profession in Super Bowl LIV, punctuating the NFL's 100th season with a dominating fourth-quarter performance that capped the Chiefs 31-20 victory over the San Francisco 49ers, doing so in a manner that ran counter to the many narratives about him that he's been hearing for decades now. It was an evening to end, once and for all, any suggestion that Reid is not a historically significant head coach for a multitude of reasons.
"He's one the greatest coaches of all time, and he already was before this game," wunderkind quarterback Patrick Mahomes said. "But he deserved this."
Reid, so you might have heard, chokes in the big games, yet he overcame a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter of the biggest game of his life, with Kansas City scoring 21 straight points to win the game. Reid, so they say, is too pass-happy and predictable at times, yet has called 19 runs to 25 passes through three quarters, remaining balanced throughout. His time management has been a cause of consternation at times, yet there was simply nothing to nitpick about this performance.
"I'm not sure it's all sunk in," Reid said, "but it's awesome."
The Chiefs used an epic fourth-quarter comeback to win their first Super Bowl title in 50 years and there's a lot to go over. Will Brinson and the Pick Six Podcast Superfriends break down everything about Chiefs-49ers in Super Bowl LIV; listen below and be sure to subscribe for daily NFL goodness fired into your eardrums.
If anything, Reid was the aggressor on Sunday night, out-maneuvering the 49ers master-technician, Kyle Shanahan, throughout. Reid's team converted two key fourth-down conversions in the first half, pushing for additional points when possible. Shanahan, meantime, wasn't nearly as proactive. His baffling decision not to call one of his three remaining timeouts late in the first half, after his defense had bottled up Kansas City yet again, allowed at least a minute to tick that robbed them of more chances to make scoring attempts.
This was an evening when not much came easily for the Chiefs usually potent attack, yet Reid and his players persevered. They had just one play over 15 yards in the first half. Mahomes, the eventual MVP (I would have voted for running back Damien Williams), was having the worst game of his career through three quarters.
"I tried to force some things and it led to turnovers," Mahomes said.
None of the Chiefs legion of star players was having a particularly strong game. The 49ers were starting to dominate in the trenches and Mahomes was constantly being flushed to one side, seeming more frustrated than ever before. It all began shifting, for good, when Mahomes lobbed up a 44-yard rainbow pass to Tyreek Hill on a third-and-15 from the Chiefs' 35 with about seven minutes play, keying an 83-yard touchdown drive that pulled Kansas City to within three points.
"That's just one of our third-down calls," Hill said.
Reid said: "I felt like if we could just find that accelerator we'd be okay."
Reid was willing to let Mahomes, the best player in this league right now, absorb more abuse than is the norm, with everything on the line. Mahomes had several designed runs around the goal line and other times was sprinting for his safety. It was a gritty performance all around. Nothing came particularly easy. Fitting for Reid.
He was always the hard-luck guy. Big Red. The lovable loser. So they'd have you believe. Going to four straight NFC Championship Games, and five overall, with the Eagles, yet none of them leading to a Lombardi Trophy, was supposed to define him. Losing yet another championship game, in the AFC this time, a year ago at home to the Patriots, added to the chorus.
"We were so close, so many times," Reid said of his time in Philadelphia.
In reality, Reid had already amassed a resume worthy of Canton. Only now, the naysayers have less to work with. Reid ranks seventh in the history of the game with 207 regular-season wins (207-128-1), with Paul Brown (213), and Curly Lambeau (226) clearly in his sights. This was Reid's 15th trip to the postseason; only Don Shula (19), Bill Belichick (18) and Tom Landry (18) have more. He has coached in 29 playoff games; Belichick, Landry, and Shula are the only men to ever coach in 30.
Reid's robust, and growing, coaching tree has already sprouted five current NFL coaches (John Harbaugh, Ron Rivera, Doug Pederson, Sean McDermott, and Matt Nagy), not to mention four other former assistants who were head coaches at some point (Pat Shurmur, Todd Bowles, Steve Spagnuolo, and Brad Childress). And it won't be that long before two more assistants on his current staff, Eric Bieniemy and Mike Kafka, lead their own teams as well.
Reid has been at the vanguard of offensive football since the point the Eagles hired him as formerly unheard of quarterback coach on Mike Holmgren's storied Packers staff. He was throwing on early downs and throwing a ton to running backs way before there was a widespread analytics community to espouse it. He has perpetually been developing and nurturing quarterbacks, and has led Donovan McNabb, Michael Vick, Alex Smith and now, Mahomes, to the best performances of their career. Reid even threw some Single-T looks from sixty-odd years ago into his Super Bowl playbook. He is an offensive mastermind.
He has also long been among the most beloved figures in this game, for the care he shows for others and his innate ability to teach. He overcame personal tragedy with rare grace when his son Garrett, then helping on the Eagles staff, overdosed at their training camp in 2012. The legion of coaches and players who swear by him continues to grow by the year.
"He acts like a father figure in the building to everybody, and you appreciate that" tight end Travis Kelce said.
"He's someone who works harder than anyone I know, and he deserved this," Mahomes said. "So I'm glad we were able to go out and get that trophy for him."
With Mahomes just 24 years old, and this offensive core all still every bit in their prime and with most signed to team-friendly contracts, the Chiefs aren't going away anytime soon. If Reid loses key assistants, he'll be just fine. That's been going on for 20 years now. He's not ready to stop coaching anytime soon. His legacy is still being written.
"You get one," Reid said, "You want to go get another one."
He very likely will.