Despite bringing two different NFL teams to five conference championship games over a two-decade career as an NFL head coach, Andy Reid of the Kansas City Chiefs had made it to the Super Bowl just once.
But now, he’s brought his team to the championship game for the second straight season — and his Chiefs are looking to become the first team to repeat as NFL champions since the New England Patriots knocked off Reid’s Philadelphia Eagles 16 years ago.
Reminded on Tuesday that recent Super Bowl-winning coaches have tended to be in their 50s and 60s, Reid acknowledged his age.
“I’m still part of the Geritol crew,” he chuckled. “We are a little bit older. There is experience that comes with that — and I guess wisdom with age — but there are a lot of good young football coaches out there that I look forward to seeing continue to grow in this business. We’re lucky to have them in the National Football League.
“By chance, a few of the older guys have gotten to this point. I’d probably attribute that to players — and a little bit of experience there. In my case, I’m fortunate to have a heck of a staff that I’ve been able to accumulate here for the last couple of years.”
But part of Reid’s success also comes from his unique approach with players and coaches. After becoming Chiefs head coach in 2013, he’s earned a reputation as a player’s coach — someone players say they play with instead of for. Reid said that for him, it comes down to treating others as you would like to be treated.
“I think we all want to be treated a certain way,” he said. “If not, I know how I like to be treated: ‘Tell me what I need to do to get better at what I’m trying to get accomplished.’
“You don’t necessarily have to yell and scream at me to get me to do something better; I don’t think that’s necessarily the best approach. And I think after a little while, I know [that] I would just turn that person off and not listen to anything they said.
“So I kind of go about it that way. I just try to treat people the way they want to be treated. Whether it’s through what I’ve learned in church or family, I think we’re here as teachers. And that’s what I do.
“I look at myself as a teacher of — in my case — men. Young men. And whether it’s on the field or off the field, if I can give them any experience that I might have had to help them become better players — or husbands or fathers, whatever it might be — I try to do that.”
This doesn’t line up with the way we traditionally think of football coaches: hard-driving taskmasters who instill discipline in their players. But in Kansas City, Reid’s approach quickly paid dividends. After the team had finished 2-14 in 2012, he and new general manager John Dorsey made relatively few personnel moves — the most noteworthy being the acquisition of veteran quarterback Alex Smith to stabilize the offense — and immediately took the team to the playoffs with an 11-5 record.
Kansas City just kept winning, reaching the postseason in seven of Reid’s eight seasons. After 2017, Patrick Mahomes replaced Smith. In 2019, Steve Spagnuolo replaced Bob Sutton as defensive coordinator. A year ago, the Chiefs won their first Super Bowl in 50 years — and after turning in the best record in franchise history and winning their fifth-straight division title, they now find themselves in a position to repeat as champions.
And through it all, the soft-spoken Reid has continued to just keep it real.
“What I do is communicate,” he said. “I think if you tell the person the truth — whether it’s a positive with their personality or play or a negative with their personality or play. I think you keep that in an open form; [it’s] how you’d raise a child or [be in] a marriage or any relationship with another human being.”
Reid said that he’s learned that he doesn’t need to motivate his players; they’re already wired that way.
“I’m in a business where these guys want to be the best; that’s what they want to do,” he explained. “They don’t want to be embarrassed. They don’t want to embarrass themselves or their families. They don’t want to do that; it’s just not what they want to do. The thing I’ve found with great players is they want you to give them one more thing so they can even be greater. That’s the way I approach it.”