LAS VEGAS — We see him in these combo-meal nuggies commercials with Patrick Mahomes and show up modeling those Hawaiian shirts, and it is impossible not to root for a man — who has endured the tragic loss of a 29-year-old son to a heroin overdose 12 years ago and the incarceration of another son — and somehow summoned the strength to keep on marching toward Canton.
He was the perfect coach at the perfect time for Mahomes, drawing up the perfect offense for him. The perfect coach to steer the Chiefs ship through the three-ring Taylor Swift circus, as Reid tries to join Joe Gibbs and Bill Walsh in the exclusive three-ring coaches club that trails just Chuck Noll (four) and Bill Belichick (six).
Reid turns 66 next month and is the oldest coach in the league now, and no one among the Chiefs wants to ponder the bittersweet scenario of life without Andy, should he yet decide to ride off into the sunset with back-to-back championships and forego the chance for a three-peat as John Elway did.
If Mahomes is the face of the franchise, then we can look at Andy Reid as the grandfatherly face of triumph over tragedy, the face of “good things come to those who wait.” And the same players who wanted to win that first one for him when he was 61 want to win that third one for him Sunday night at Allegiant Stadium against the 49ers.
To a man, they revere him, and want to keep on revering him.
“His ability to lead men in this industry … it’s not easy to get grown men to rally behind you, he’s gotta be a special individual to do that,” Travis Kelce said. “His ability to do that is at a Hall of Fame-level.”
I asked Kelce if he thinks his coach loves the game too much to walk away from it, should he get to hoist another Lombardi Trophy.
“I think he’s got a lot of years left, yeah,” Kelce told me (and everyone else within earshot at his podium).
I asked: So you’d be surprised if he walked?
“I’d be surprised as anybody else,” Kelce said.
So would ownership. Clark Hunt on Tuesday told Chris Russo of Mad Dog Sports: “We have that conversation each offseason, and so, you know, that’s a conversation we’ll have at the end of the year. But I’m not expecting him to retire. He loves what he’s doing. I know he’s energized by the team that he has. I know he loves coaching Patrick Mahomes. He’s got a generational quarterback. So, I look forward to having Andy as our head coach for many more years.”
What you see with Andy Reid is what you get: football, family, faith … and cheeseburgers.
“He doesn’t switch it up, man,” Kelce said. “He knows one way, and that’s being himself. That’s why we love him, man. And that goes along with being that leader. He never falls away from being himself, he’s always gonna be real to who he is.”
Reid lost star receiver Tyreek Hill to the Dolphins and won his second Super Bowl anyway. He lost offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy to the Commanders and has the Chiefs back in the Super Bowl in what has arguably been the greatest coaching job of his career. The Chiefs were wobbling following an ugly Christmas Day loss to the Raiders. Reid never panicked, never flinched. It’s never been his style.
“His motivation is to put a challenge right on the table and say, ‘This is what we gotta do, this is what I need you to do, and how are you gonna figure it out? And I’m challenging you to do that,’ ” Kelce said.
Kelce left the University of Cincinnati with a wild-child reputation, and he recalls Reid sitting him down and laying down the law.
“More than once,” Kelce said. “I love him for it. He helped me grow as a man, as an individual, both professionally and off the field. It’s just been fun growing in this offense and in this organization with him kind of being here from the jump.”
Kelce recalls the first message sent his rookie way.
“He brought me into his office, and he let me know that the sense of urgency to play was right now. ‘I need you now. I need you to be a professional. I need you to grow up and be this guy that we think you can be,’ ” Kelce recalled. “That kind of set the tone of like, all right, he sees greatness. If he sees that, I would be silly not to exceed those expectations or at least meet those expectations that he has.”
Defensive end George Karlaftis won a Super Bowl as a rookie last year.
“We have a lot of respect for him. Everybody’s like, ‘We don’t really want to disappoint Coach Reid,’ whenever he says something, you do it, no questions asked,” Karlaftis said.
Don’t bother asking him about any dynasty.
“When you’re in the mix of things like we are, you don’t really look at that,” Karlaftis said. “I think if you make that your focus, you probably are gonna have a problem in getting knocked off whatever pedestal people think you’re on. We’re focusing on this game here against a great football team, and it’s gonna [take] all our energy to do well against them.”
Reid is the same guy every day.
“At the end of the day,” tight end Blake Bell said, “everyone wants to play for him, and everyone wants to give their all for him.”
For longer than one last game.