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Andy Reid’s Master Game Plan Won the Chiefs the Super Bowl—and Secured His Legacy

This season was always going to be a test for Reid and Patrick Mahomes, with a newly retooled offense that prioritized precision over explosivity. But as the coach showed Sunday night, he was more than up to the challenge—just as he’s been his whole career.

AP Images/Getty Images/Ringer illustration

Sunday afternoon, there was only one active NFL coach who had won multiple Super Bowls. Now, there are two.

Andy Reid joined a select group on Sunday night when his Chiefs beat his former team, the Philadelphia Eagles, 38-35, to secure Kansas City’s second championship in four seasons—and the second championship of Reid’s 24-year career as a head coach. Reid is now the 14th head coach in NFL history to win multiple Super Bowls. Two are active: Reid and Bill Belichick. Of the 12 that aren’t, nine are already in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Reid is also one of only nine coaches to make it to four or more Super Bowls—again, of the seven that are retired, six are Hall of Famers.

Reid secured his second ring in the only way he ever could: with a master class of an offensive performance. The Chiefs ran a successful play on over 57 percent of their snaps on Sunday (a successful play here defined as generating positive expected points); that is the sixth-best offensive performance of any team in any game this season.

Everything was working for the Chiefs—and I mean everything. They ran the ball with ease, averaging 6.1 yards per carry, their highest single-game mark of the season. Rookie running back Isiah Pacheco, a seventh-round pick who earned the role of primary ballcarrier with his play this season, careened off of Eagles defenders and consistently rumbled for tough, physical yardage.

Kansas City’s retooled offensive line—four of the five starters were acquired in the past two years—paved the way in the running game while delivering stout protection in the passing game. The Eagles’ vaunted pass rush, which ranks third in NFL history in total sacks, did not sack Patrick Mahomes in this game. Philly had a pressure rate of just 26 percent, snapping the team’s eight-game streak of pressuring the quarterback on at least a third of his dropbacks.

Reid did a lot to help the offensive line, both by running the football to stay ahead of the sticks and out of clear pass rush situations, and by throwing the ball underneath to achieve the exact same effect. Mahomes averaged 6.2 air yards per attempt, well below his season average (7.1); he attempted only one pass of 20 or more yards downfield, the second-lowest mark of any game this season. This game was one of only six in the past three seasons in which the Chiefs failed to pick up more than 25 yards on a pass attempt.

At first blush, it would seem like the Eagles defense limited Mahomes—but anyone who watched the game knows that simply wasn’t the case. Mahomes diced up the unit peacefully and effortlessly. He threw over the middle of the field all game long, but still rarely had to test tight windows or throw with pressure in his face. In terms of the weight on his shoulders, this was one of the lightest games of Mahomes’s career.

None of this detracts from Mahomes, who won NFL MVP this season and Super Bowl MVP on Sunday night. Instead, it contributes to the case for Reid as one of the greats and a defining coach of this generation. Many head coaches blessed with a quarterback like Mahomes would not have made the choices that Reid has made over the past few offseasons. Where others would have continued pushing all of their chips in on a hyper-explosive, spread-n-shred passing attack—and understandably so—Reid went another direction.

The Chiefs invested in a run-blocking offensive line featuring Orlando Brown Jr., Creed Humphrey, and Trey Smith; they changed their running scheme to incorporate more college-inspired runs from shotgun that could better integrate into their passing game. This past offseason, they traded star wide receiver Tyreek Hill away, preferring a receiver-by-committee approach, and Mahomes’s depth of target and explosive pass rates dropped to the lowest figures of his career. The Chiefs spent over 40 percent of their snaps in multiple tight end sets this year, up dramatically from 28 percent last season. Kansas City still led the league in neutral down pass rate, of course—you still want to throw the ball a lot when Mahomes is getting the snap. But how the Chiefs threw the ball changed.

The logic here was simple, but still bold. With a quarterback like Mahomes and a play caller like Reid, the Chiefs could create a great passing offense, no matter what. They didn’t need to spend huge money on Hill or load up on star pass catchers to make the passing game go. They just needed their two pillars.

They were correct. Consider the touchdowns that Reid generated in the passing game Sunday (I say Reid because while Mahomes’ throw on the Travis Kelce touchdown was certainly pretty, all three of these scores were primarily the product of great scheming).

On Mahomes’s second and third touchdowns of the game, the Chiefs run very similar looks. They motion speedy receivers Kadarius Toney and Skyy Moore at the snap, and it looks like each is going to run across the formation in jet motion. But once they get behind another Chiefs receiver in a stack alignment, the ball is snapped, and each one whips back the way they came. The Eagles are not prepared for this on either drive, leading to two wide-open touchdowns.

On the first score, the play doesn’t look the same, but the theory behind it still is. Kelce motions to a stack alignment just as Toney and Moore would do on the later touchdowns, but this time, he isn’t sprinting—he’s just waiting. The Chiefs know that the Eagles will rotate a safety down to ignore the point man in the bunch and press Kelce, so Mahomes waits for him to beat press coverage and drops a rainbow right into his mitts. Again: easy six.

When asked about these plays in his postgame availability, Reid waved off the question, mentioning the young guys on his offensive coaching staff that help install plays during the week. “My assistant coaches are unbelievable,” Reid said. “I give them a game plan and they coordinate the thing. All these young guys I’ve got contribute, so they’ve all got their spot in which they put plays in: [running back coach] Greg Lewis, [pass game analyst/assistant quarterbacks coach] David Girardi—they all added plays in there and they all work. They never tell me which one does it, but these plays show up.”

Even if Reid didn’t draw up the exact plays, it’s still his staff working in his offense, and at this point, that offense speaks for itself. So does its mastermind’s résumé. Now that a second ring is under his belt, Reid officially has a Hall of Fame series of accomplishments. But he was asked about that, too, postgame and he waved it off—literally waving his hand when asked about joining the 13 previous coaches to win multiple Super Bowls. “I’m honored to be whatever,” Reid said. “I don’t even know that stuff, but I’m honored to be in that.”

It’s all love and gratitude when the Super Bowl winners speak at their podiums. Everyone is the greatest, everyone is coming back next year. And it’s all deferment, too—everyone wants to talk about how good their teammates and coaches are. But even with all of those caveats, there’s one more quote that seems necessary to include in a commemoration of Reid and the season he put together with the Chiefs. It came from defensive end Frank Clark, who was asked about what he loves most about Reid. This was his response:

The thing about Andy Reid that I love the most is his will, his grit, his understanding of his players. He understands his players. He’s not one of those coaches, one of those white-collar coaches. He came from the ghetto, came from East L.A. So he understands the kid from South Central. He understands the kid from the hood in Cleveland. He gets it. …

I felt like I needed to get grounded. Y’all know, I lost my father in a fire a few years ago, so a lot of the authoritative figures, I’m the authority in my life for the most part. When you become the guy, when you become the one in your family, you become that authority figure. … But just having a guy like Andy Reid in a time where I felt like I needed somebody to sit me down and tell me you need to keep going harder. You’re not finished. You’ve got a championship, if you finish there you’re a fool. To keep on going. I thank him for challenging me to do that. He brought the best out of me this year.

I wager if you could ask Andy Reid what he values most between coaching that great offense, securing that second ring and elite status, or having the impact on his players that Clark described, he would pick the third one without hesitating. It’s handy for us in the media or as fans, when we go to discuss Reid’s legacy, that we can now call him a two-time Super Bowl winner; designer of one of the league’s great offenses yet again. But most importantly, Reid loves his players and is loved by his players. Everything else is just a product of that.