Andy Reid’s Championship Odyssey
Few coaches have been as successful in the regular season as Andy Reid. Unfortunately, his fortunes have been less than stellar in the postseason. He led the Philadelphia Eagles to the NFC Championship Game five times but did not win the Super Bowl in his lone appearance. Upon being hired by the Chiefs in 2013 he quickly rebuilt the franchise and has been a regular in the playoffs. Due to his diligent work, the Chiefs are hosting the AFC Championship Game for the first time in franchise history. Will this be the year that Andy Reid finally hoists the Lombardi Trophy?
Reid began his NFL coaching career in Green Bay where he won a Super Bowl in 1996 while coaching a highly successful offense led by quarterback Brett Favre. After a successful stint with the Packers, Reid was hired as the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles in 1999. At the time the Eagles were a directionless franchise in desperate need of new leadership. It was a trying first year but Reid did draft quarterback Donovan McNabb who proved to be the franchise quarterback the team craved.
On the Threshold:
Starting in 2001, the Eagles played in the NFC Championship Game four straight years, including three at home. In the first of those years, the Eagles faced the Rams who were widely known as the Greatest Show on Turf for their high scoring offense. The Eagles fought hard but lost in a shockingly close 29-24.
The following year the Eagles hosted the NFC Championship Game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who had the league’s top defense. In the last game ever played in Veterans Stadium, the Eagles could not overcome the physical Buccaneers and lost 27-10.
The Eagles opened newly opened Lincoln Financial Field in style by earning the top seed in the playoffs. They hosted the Carolina Panthers in the NFC Championship game and a hard-hitting defensive performance ensued. The Panthers outlasted the Eagles 14-3, deflating the city of Philadelphia’s hopes once again.
The Eagles came back the following year determined to reach the Super Bowl. They tore through their schedule and earned the top seed again with an impressive 13-3 record. After decimating the Minnesota Vikings they turned their sites on the Atlanta Falcons and their dynamic quarterback Michael Vick. Playing without star receiver Terrell Owens the Eagles gave a total team effort and won 27-10. Andy Reid had finally led the Eagles to the Super Bowl.
Standing in the Eagles way from their first Super Bowl title was the New England Patriots who were in the midst of a dynasty. Despite a valiant effort from Owens, who played on a leg broken just seven weeks earlier, the Eagles could not overcome an excellent Patriots squad and lost 24-21.
Like many Super Bowl losers, the Eagles suffered through a Super Bowl hangover in 2005 and lost Owens in the process. During the season Owens and McNabb lost their once great chemistry and Owens was released by the Eagles due to behavior detrimental to the team. The Eagles failed to make the playoffs that season and did not win a playoff game until 2008.
The 2008 season was Reid’s last best chance to win a Super Bowl in Philadelphia. The Eagles fought through a tumultuous season which saw the momentary benching of McNabb. They clawed their way through the playoffs and reached the NFC Championship Game for the fifth time in the decade.
Their opponent this time was the Arizona Cardinals who were playing and hosting the first NFC Championship Game in franchise history. The Cardinals were ready for a fight and were led by quarterback Kurt Warner and receiver Larry Fitzgerald. Arizona stormed to a 24-6 halftime lead but the Eagles fought back to take a 25-24 lead. The Cardinals refused to quit and took a 32-25 lead late in the fourth quarter. The Eagles final possession ended in a turnover and Andy Reid was once again left to wonder what went wrong.
It is believed that coaches have around 10 years before they start to lose their team’s confidence. Andy Reid’s tenure in Philadelphia was no exception but may have been the turning point in his career. Following early playoff exits in 2009 and 2010 the Eagles began to decline. Their core started to age and the team started to lose faith in Reid. Due to this imminent situation, they failed to make the playoffs in Reid’s final two years with the team. After a 4-12 disaster in 2012 Reid was fired and many wondered if he had anything left to give the game. He would prove the skeptics wrong in Kansas City.
The Chiefs had been a directionless franchise for years. They had not made the AFC Championship Game since 1993 and had just completed a pitiful 2-14 season. They lacked leadership at head coach and quarterback and hoped that hiring Andy Reid would be what the franchise needed.
Shortly upon being hired he traded for quarterback Alex Smith. The Chiefs started the 2013 season with nine straight wins in the midst of an easy schedule. However, this was the year when the Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning set all kinds of offensive records and the Chiefs were unable to overcome their AFC West nemesis.
They made the playoffs but lost to the Indianapolis Colts in the Wild Card Round despite leading by 28 points. The season was not a total loss as 10 Chiefs were invited to the Pro Bowl.
After failing to make the playoffs in 2014 the Chiefs returned in 2015. They faced off against the Houston Texans who were vanquished 30-0. They next traveled to Foxborough, Massachusetts to battle the Patriots in the divisional round. It was a hard fought battle and the Chiefs found themselves facing a 14 point deficit late in the fourth quarter. Instead of using a no-huddle offense to score points faster the Chiefs elected to take their time marching down the field. They lost to the Patriots 27-20 and Reid’s problems with the Patriots continued.
The Chiefs came back even stronger in 2016 and won their first AFC West title since 2010. They even earned the second seed in the playoffs and hosted the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Divisional Round. Despite not allowing a touchdown the Chiefs lost 18-16.
In 2017 Reid drafted quarterback Patrick Mahomes in the first round despite still having veteran quarterback Alex Smith on the roster. Smith led the team to another division championship but they lost in the Wild Card Round to the Tennessee Titans 22-21.
Champions at Last?
In the 2018 offseason, the Chiefs traded Smith to the Redskins effectively handing Mahomes the offense. The season felt different from the very beginning. In the second game of the season, Mahomes passed for six touchdowns against the Steelers. The Chiefs tore through their schedule and produced some great shootouts against the Patriots (43-40) and the Los Angeles Rams (54-51). Despite losing to both teams the Chiefs did not allow that sentiment to linger and took a hold of the top seed in the playoffs. Along the way, Mahomes became just the third quarterback to throw 50 touchdowns and joined the ever-growing club of 5,000-yard seasons.
This team feels different than Reid’s other title hopeful teams. Despite losing running back Kareem Hunt due to a domestic violence incident the Chiefs are one of the NFL’s best offenses. Mahomes has tight end Travis Kelce and receiver Tyreek Hill to choose from. The Chiefs defense is led by outside linebackers Justin Houston and Dee Ford both of whom bring big-play potential every game. With a raucous home crowd and fiercely cold weather, this seems to be one of the best chances Reid has ever had at winning a Super Bowl as a head coach. To do so he must overcome his nemesis Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots. It is now or never for Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs.