A week from Sunday, the Kansas City Chiefs will do something they haven’t done for fifty years: play for an NFL championship.
While the Chiefs aren’t the team that has gone the longest between Super Bowl appearances — the New York Jets hold that dubious distinction, having not appeared in a Super Bowl since quarterback Joe Namath led them to victory in Super Bowl III — they’ve been gone long enough for it to be a big storyline as the Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers prepare for Super Bowl LIV.
And there’s another storyline, too: this isn’t the first Super Bowl in which Chiefs head coach Andy Reid has appeared. In the 2004 season, Reid’s Philadelphia Eagles made it to Super Bowl XXXIX, where they lost to the New England Patriots 24-21.
A couple of times this week, Reid has been asked what details he remembers about that game 15 years ago — and the preparation that led up to it — and he has said that he can’t recall much about it.
But on Friday, he said he always remembers the losses.
”The crazy part about this business is you remember all those,” he told reporters. “You remember all the losses. Sometimes they’ll overlap some of the wins. But you learn to get over it — and you move on.
“Every loss should hurt,” he added, “because you should be exhausting yourself for that game. So it should be that way [even] for a regular-season game. This is an emotional sport — an exhausting sport — that way. So you put your heart into it — and if you do it right, you should feel [a loss]. And it should last — to a point.
“You’re not going to jump off the bridge because you lost — but you’ll feel it, right?”
Chiefs fans are familiar with the emotion. Many longtime fans can recite chapter-and-verse of what went wrong in numerous Chiefs losses — especially in the postseason — from years (or even decades) ago. It might be that only a Super Bowl win will allow those memories to fade.
That might be the case for Reid, too. After 21 years as a head coach, he possesses a regular-season winning percentage better than all but a half-dozen others in league history — but it took last Sunday’s win in the AFC championship to get him to back to .500 in the postseason.
Fans of both the Chiefs and Eagles — along with numerous friends, former assistants (and mentors) across the league — are all pulling for Reid to finally win a championship.
“I do appreciate all of that,” he said. “The people who have reached out? It’s been great. It’s been an unbelievable experience.”
But Reid is pretty sure they all know how he’s wired.
“They also know I’m going to get ready for the game. It’s that time. There are a lot of outside influences that take place, and you’ve got to kind of stay focused on it. When it’s all said and done, you can deal with all that. But right now, I try to stay as tunnel-vision as possible.”
Reid understands, however, that there’s more at stake than just his own legacy. It was Bobby Bell — one of seven future members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame who played on the team’s 1969 championship squad — who presented the AFC’s Lamar Hunt Trophy to the team last Sunday.
And that’s just the way Reid — and the Chiefs — wanted it.
“They had some great talent there on that football team; it was obvious by the championship,” said Reid. “He’s around [the team] — as a lot of [former] players are. We encourage that. We like having the guys here. They bring great history and energy to the guys.”
”There’s great history here,” said Reid, “when you think about Lamar Hunt and all he did for the National Football League — for the AFL and the merger of the two leagues — and how he handled himself after the merge took place; the leadership he presented there.
“Then you look about where Clark Hunt has taken it from there. He’s done a great job with it. It’s family-strong; you know that. I saw him in a lot of meetings and had a chance to witness that down at the owner’s meetings. They’re strong. You get a great feeling of foundation. And then you look at our players — they feel that.”
Whether a desire to change their own history — and that of their coach — will help propel the team to its second Super Bowl win remains to be seen; Reid and his players understand that it will take more than that to reach their goal.
But if it can play a role in winning a championship, the Chiefs — and their head coach — have it to burn.