It would be fair to say that the Kansas City Chiefs’ special teams coordinator, Dave Toub, has seen a lot during his long football career.
An offensive lineman at the University of Texas-El Paso, he was taken by the Philadelphia Eagles in the ninth round of the 1985 NFL Draft. While he never made the Eagles’ roster — or the roster of the 1986 Los Angeles Rams — he made his way back to Philadelphia in 2001 as an assistant special teams coach under head coach Andy Reid after he and Reid had both been assistant coaches at UTEP and the University of Missouri. He joined Lovie Smith’s original Chicago Bears staff in 2004 — and re-joined Reid in Kansas City after Smith was fired after the 2012 season.
With that resume — and his additional status as Reid’s assistant head coach — he is uniquely qualified to reflect on the Chiefs’ unusual 2023 season as the team prepares for Super Bowl LVIII against the San Francisco 49ers on February 11.
“It’s been a crazy year,” he told Kansas City reporters on Friday. “You know, we get everybody’s best shot.”
After an odd scheduling quirk that gave the Chiefs less rest than their opponents for six consecutive weeks beginning in Week 11, Toub believes the team was at a crossroads.
“Just the way the season went, it was a struggle at a lot of times, you know, to be able to get to the point where we’re at,” he noted. “We knew our backs were to the wall, and we had to win on the road.”
Entering the season’s eighth week, the Chiefs had taken a firm grip on the AFC West with a 6-1 record — and then lost five of its next eight. Still, a 25-17 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 17 had clinched Kansas City’s eighth consecutive division title — and the AFC’s No. 3 seed.
So even though the team’s final regular-season matchup — a 13-12 road win against the Los Angeles Chargers — was meaningless in terms of postseason seeding, Toub has come to believe it was a turning point.
“A lot of people probably won’t believe this,” he cautioned, “but [in] that game — where our backups had to play, and our starters were watching — [the starters] watched how [the backups] competed on the road.
“I think it made everybody come together as a football team — because coming up to that point, we were winning a game, losing a game, winning a game, losing a game. That was the first time we won a game [and then] won a game, you know — and then we got on a streak right there.”
Going into that game, the team’s chance to win the Super Bowl was calculated to be just 4%. But the team has now won five straight — including road upsets against the AFC’s first and second seeds — and is now hoping to win its third Super Bowl in five seasons.
To be sure, credit for much of that falls on the Chiefs’ players — especially stars like quarterback Patrick Mahomes, tight end Travis Kelce and defensive tackle Chris Jones. But Toub would argue that Kansas City’s success comes from the top down. Even when the chips are down, Reid’s steady hand is a big reason why the team can so consistently find the means to win.
“That’s the thing about him,” remarked Toub. “He’s very even-keel; [he] stays the same. Obviously, on a plane [after a win], he’s a little bit more happy — you know what I mean? But yeah — he’s the same. He’s consistent; the guys know what to expect.
“He’s not going to go crazy in the locker room because things aren’t going right. He’s going to let the guys coach — and then tell them what they need to do.
“[He’s] simple. [He] doesn’t make big long speeches. And it really works in the NFL; it’s really sustainable the way he coaches.”
The proof of that sustainability is found in the team’s record of success under Reid. Since he became the head coach in 2013, the Chiefs have assembled a combined record of 143-58-0. During that time, no NFL team has a better record. Since Mahomes has become the starter, the team has appeared in six straight AFC championships, winning four of them over the last five seasons.
And now — for the second time during those five seasons — the team has a chance to win back-to-back Super Bowl championships for the first time since the New England Patriots did it after the 2004 season.
And through it all, Reid will stay the same.
“When good things happen,” said Toub, “he’s not going crazy, either.”