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What a Super Bowl Title Means for Andy Reid’s Legacy

The Chiefs head coach was already one of the greats of his era. Now we have to consider him among the all-time best.

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

“I didn’t spend the night with the trophy,” Andy Reid said one day after winning his first Super Bowl. “I spent the night with my trophy wife.”

Reid has always been focused on the people around him. He deflected all talk about his legacy leading up to Super Bowl LIV by saying it was about the team. But Reid’s players did not shy away from how important it was to them to win it for Big Red.

“It puts all doubt aside,” Patrick Mahomes said after the game. “He’s one of the best coaches of all time, and he already was before this.”

Reid was already considered one of the greats of his era before winning the Super Bowl, but his legacy was complicated by numerous playoff losses in occasionally baffling fashion. The Super Bowl win removes the but from Reid’s coaching legacy. Now with the trophy in hand and a ring to come, we can look at just where Reid fits among the all-time greats.

Vince Lombardi, Bill Walsh, and John Madden coached for 10 seasons. Reid has 10 division titles. He already has 21 years as a head coach under his (large) belt, and Reid has made the playoffs in 15 of those 21 seasons. He has more total wins than Madden and Lombardi combined. He has won more playoff games than every coach in NFL history except Bill Belichick, Don Shula, and Tom Landry. Reid has made only two Super Bowls, but he has made seven conference championship games, or one every three seasons he has been a coach. If “Andy Reid–coached teams” were an NFL franchise, it would be tied for the 11th-most conference title game appearances. He has more playoff games in the 21st century than every franchise except the Patriots.

More impressive than his ceiling has been his floor. Reid has just three seasons below .500 in his 21 seasons, the same number Bill Walsh had in 10 seasons. Reid is almost always in the playoffs. His rate of making the playoffs is higher than that of every Hall of Fame coach except for Madden and Tony Dungy. In a league in which the only thing harder than making the playoffs is making it back, Reid makes the postseason more often than LeBron James hits free throws (71 percent vs. 69 percent).

Reid’s career is different from that of many Hall of Fame coaches because of his success with two organizations. He is one of just seven head coaches to make the Super Bowl with two different teams.

The Philadelphia Eagles won their division six times in the first 66 years before hiring Andy Reid but then won the division five times in Reid’s first eight seasons. Reid’s Eagles were the only team in the last 20 years other than the Patriots to make a conference title game three consecutive times (they did it four times in a row). Next season, the Chiefs could be the third team to do so.

Reid’s turnaround in Kansas City was remarkable for its speed, totality, and flexibility. He inherited a dark situation in Kansas City when he took over in 2013. The year before, the Chiefs went 2-14 and allegations arose that the front office had wiretapped phones in the Chiefs headquarters to spy on coaches. In December 2012, Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher shot and killed Kasandra Perkins, the mother of his child, then drove to Arrowhead Stadium and shot himself in the head in front of general manager Scott Pioli and head coach Romeo Crennel. With the organization at rock bottom, owner Clark Hunt let Pioli and Crennel go and hired Reid, who had just been fired after 130 wins in 14 years with the Eagles. Four months earlier, Reid’s son died after accidentally overdosing at Philadelphia’s training camp.

”Coming here they had issues here where they could heal me and I could heal them,” Reid told NBC’s Peter King last week. “It was kind of a joint union there.”

Reid turned the Chiefs around immediately. They went from 2-14 before he arrived to 11-5 and a playoff spot in his first season. The Chiefs finished in second place in the AFC West in each of his first three seasons in Kansas City before taking over the division for four consecutive titles and a combined record of 46-18 in the past four seasons. That stretch is the best four-year period by winning percentage the Chiefs have had in 50 years.

The manner in which Reid turned the team around was also remarkable. The Chiefs scored the fewest points and turned the ball over more often than any team in 2012. In Reid’s first year, the Chiefs scored the sixth-most points and had the fifth-lowest turnover rate. And then, in 2018, he reinvented the team again, transforming from one centered around ball control and field position under Alex Smith into a high-flying butterfly with Patrick Mahomes taking snaps. In 2016, the Chiefs ranked no. 24 in passing touchdowns (19), went 12-4, and won the AFC West. Two seasons later, in 2018, the Chiefs ranked no. 1 in passing touchdowns (50), went 12-4, and won the AFC West. Many coaches can win, but few can adapt to different types of ways to win as well as Reid has in his career.

While he’ll likely never pass Belichick in any of these categories, Reid’s separated himself with his coaching tree. Philadelphia’s Doug Pederson, Baltimore’s John Harbaugh, Washington’s Ron Rivera, and Chicago’s Matt Nagy all worked directly with Reid, and they have two Super Bowl wins and four Coach of the Year Awards between them. Whereas Belichick’s assistants so often flail once they leave the nest, Reid’s flourish.

The most fascinating part of Reid’s career is what comes next. There is an inclination to say this is just the beginning of Reid’s success with Kansas City. It sounds sappy, but it might be true. Mahomes is the first player to win regular-season MVP and a Super Bowl before turning 25 (not to mention the Super Bowl MVP award). In a league where a top-three quarterback is usually enough to coast to double-digit wins, Reid’s place on the all-time leaderboards could rise. Reid currently ranks no. 6 all-time in playoff wins. Chuck Noll, Joe Gibbs, Don Shula, and Tom Landry are all within five playoff victories. Reid could realistically finish his career second in playoff wins to Bill Belichick. Reid is already tied for the fourth-most playoff seasons, and all-time leader Don Shula is just four playoff seasons ahead of him (which he accomplished in 33 years of coaching versus Reid’s 21 years). If wins are what matter, Reid is a handful of years from passing Tom Landry for the fourth most ever. After the game, Reid said he was going to enjoy the win—for a short time.

“I’ll step back for a little bit and then we’ll get back at it,” Reid said. “We need another one.”