On Jan. 4, 2013, Andy Reid was limping away from the Philadelphia Eagles, coming off a 4-12 season and being fired. The Kansas City Chiefs were in even worse shape. They went 2-14 in 2012.
On that day, the Chiefs hired Reid. The words “Super Bowl” were not mentioned during his introductory news conference a few days later. Both sides were just looking for some way out of the darkness.
“We were blessed to be there and sometimes change is good,” Reid said when announced as Chiefs coach, “change will be tremendous for the Philadelphia Eagles and on the other hand, it will be terrific for the Kansas City Chiefs.”
On Sunday, seven years after coming to Kansas City, Reid had his redemption and the Chiefs had snapped one of the most miserable droughts in the NFL.
The Chiefs are going back to the Super Bowl for the first time in 50 years. They overcame another slow start and beat the Tennessee Titans 35-24 in the AFC championship game to advance to Super Bowl LIV.
The most compelling figure of this season’s Super Bowl could be Reid, who is still looking for a ring to validate a great career, and made some tough decisions that led to this trip to the NFL’s title game.
Andy Reid’s offseason moves lead to AFC title
Last season in the AFC championship game, the Chiefs couldn’t get a stop on third-and-10 when they needed it. The Patriots controlled the game on offense and Tom Brady came up with some huge third-down passes when he needed them. New England won in overtime. The Chiefs defense couldn’t keep the Patriots out of the end zone on the first drive of overtime, and Patrick Mahomes never got a possession.
Reid didn’t run it back even though the Chiefs were 12-4, the AFC’s No. 1 seed and one play away from a Super Bowl last season. Reid made the tough call to fire defensive coordinator Bob Sutton. He traded Dee Ford, and traded for Frank Clark as the team shifted to new coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s new 4-3 scheme. The Chiefs also signed safety Tyrann Mathieu as part of the defensive makeover.
Patrick Mahomes's life and football career
Patrick Mahomes's life and football career
Polo down since I was a baby! #Tbt #babypic
Me and my cousin Brayden #tbt
Thankful for the woman who gave me life today! #50HappyDays #Day20
The day I met the man himself. Derek Jeter a great inspiration! #tbt
Elite 11 camp! #greatday
Take me back to 7on7 so I can do this whole year again #dub #memories
American state bank player of the year! #blessed #grateful
Senior year!!!! #catsnation #turnup #classof2014
Prom with the best prom date you could ask for! ♥️😎♥️ #Prom2k14
About a month away until I move in! #gunsup #TTU18
On that grind again! ⚾️
Happy Valentine's Day to my two favs! ❤️
FILE - In this Oct. 24, 2015, file photo, Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes (5) passes in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game against Oklahoma in Norman, Okla. Texas Tech’s success this year rests on the shoulders of its junior QB. Last year, Mahomes led the Big 12 in pass attempts (573), passing yards (4,653), passing touchdowns (36), total yards (5,109) and total touchdowns (46). (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)
Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes II stands on the sidelines after getting injured during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Iowa State, Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016, in Ames, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes II celebrates after Tech defeated Baylor in an NCAA college football game Friday, Nov. 25, 2016, in Arlington, Texas. Texas Tech won 54-35. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 03: Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes answers questions from the media during the NFL Scouting Combine on March 3, 2017 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, IN. (Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Awesome experience at espn today!
PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 27: The Kansas City Chiefs select Patrick Mahomes of Texas Tech with the 10th pick at the 2017 NFL Draft at the 2017 NFL Draft Theater on April 27, 2017 in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
This moment right here!!! Thank you to everyone who has show me support through the years! Glad to be apart of #ChiefsKingdom
KANSAS CITY, MO - MAY 07: Quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) throws a pass during the Chiefs Rookie Camp on May 7, 2017 at One Arrowhead Drive in Kansas City, MO. (Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) signals before throwing to Marcus Kemp for a touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers during the second half of an NFL preseason football game in Kansas City, Mo., Friday, Aug. 11, 2017. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)
FILE - In this Aug. 25, 2017, file photo, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback quarterback Alex Smith, right, stands on the sideline with backup quarterback Patrick Mahomes, left, in the second half of an NFL football preseason game in Seattle. The Kansas City Chiefs have one of the league's nastiest, youngest defenses but also the specter of instability with first-round pick Patrick Mahomes waiting to succeed QB Alex Smith. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
FILE - In this Dec. 16, 2017, file photo, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) stands with teammates during the first half of an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Chargers in Kansas City, Mo. The countdown to the Mahomes era in Kansas City is down to six weeks, with no apparent caveats. The Chiefs' trade of Alex Smith to Washington becomes official in March, but already the Chiefs are preparing for life under a new QB. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga, File)
FILE - In this Dec. 31, 2017, file photo, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) throws a pass as Denver Broncos defensive back Dymonte Thomas (35) chases him during the first half of an NFL football game in Denver. The Chiefs’ hotshot quarterback takes his record-setting show to Denver on Monday night to face the Broncos, the team he made his debut against in Week 17 last season. But whereas that game was mostly meaningless, with Kansas City assured of its playoff positioning and the Broncos’ season over, the trip back holds plenty of significance for both clubs. (AP Photo/Joe Mahoney, File)
Focus... #TeamBose #SoundSport wireless
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) throws a touchdown pass to wide receiver Demarcus Robinson, unseen, during the second half of an NFL football game against the Oakland Raiders in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Dec. 30, 2018. With the throw, Patrick Mahomes joins Peyton Manning & Tom Brady as the only players with 50+ pass touchdowns in a single season in NFL history. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - JANUARY 20: Patrick Mahomes #15 of the Kansas City Chiefs celebrates with Travis Kelce #87 after scoring a touchdown in the third quarter against the New England Patriots during the AFC Championship Game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 20, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - JANUARY 20: Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) on the sidelines in the third quarter of the AFC Championship Game game between the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs on January 20, 2019 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, MO. (Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 30: Patrick Mahomes attends Miami Heat v New York Knicks game at Madison Square Garden on March 30, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by James Devaney/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - JUNE 07: Patrick Mahomes steps up to the plate while playing in the celebrity softball game at Kauffman Stadium during the Big Slick Celebrity Weekend benefiting Children's Mercy Hospital of Kansas City on June 07, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Kyle Rivas/Getty Images)
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes during the first half of an NFL football game against the Oakland Raiders Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 15: Patrick Mahomes #15 of the Kansas City Chiefs looks on from the bench against the Oakland Raiders during the third quarter of an NFL football game at RingCentral Coliseum on September 15, 2019 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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Kansas City’s offense, led by the great Mahomes, will be the story of the Super Bowl. And Reid deserves a lot of credit for that brilliant offense. But the reason Kansas City took the next step was the defensive improvement, and credit Reid for that too.
On Sunday the Chiefs didn’t start well, for the second straight week. When Titans offensive lineman Dennis Kelly caught a touchdown, the Chiefs trailed 17-7. That’s not a bad deficit for their great offense, but at that point Derrick Henry was finding rushing lanes and Ryan Tannehill was distributing the ball everywhere. The Chiefs’ offense is never really a question, but at that moment, it was fair to wonder if the Chiefs defense could do its part. 1`
Then, just like last week against the Texans, the Chiefs defense flipped a switch.
Suddenly, the unstoppable Henry was being hit hard at the line. The Titans receivers weren’t getting open anymore. Over a key stretch as the game turned, the Titans had three possessions (not counting a kneel-down at the end of the first half) and had two first downs. All three possessions ended in punts.
You can’t beat the Chiefs with punts. Their offense isn’t going to come up empty on too many drives. The Chiefs don’t need to be dominant on defense. They just need to get a few stops, and they got that job done.
Reid can change legacy with one title
When Mahomes hit Sammy Watkins on a 60-yard touchdown with 7:33 left, Chiefs fans could finally let it sink in. They were finally going back to the Super Bowl.
Reid has been to a Super Bowl before, of course. He made one Super Bowl with the Eagles, and lost to New England. He had a remarkable run in Philadelphia, rebuilding that proud franchise just like he has done in Kansas City. He just couldn’t get the ultimate prize and win a Super Bowl.
Reid has the seventh-most wins in NFL history but no championship. All six coaches ahead of him on the list — Don Shula, George Halas, Bill Belichick, Tom Landry, Curly Lambeau and Paul Brown — have multiple championships. They’re all NFL legends.
Reid’s legacy hasn’t been written, and even if he wins a Super Bowl it might not be the final chapter. He has a chance to put all the jokes about his playoff failures and time management far behind him. No matter what happens in South Florida at Super Bowl LIV in two weeks, you’d figure Reid and Mahomes will keep the Chiefs in contention for a while.
But one Super Bowl ring changes everything for Reid. He has pushed the right buttons to rebuild the Chiefs from that 2-14 nightmare to one of the best teams in football, and for the first time in many of their lives, Chiefs fans can get ready to watch their team in a Super Bowl.