KANSAS CITY, Mo. — In the hours following his greatest professional accomplishment in 15 years, Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid celebrated in a simple, but fitting, manner.
"I had a cheeseburger and went to bed,” Reid said Monday with a gleam and a chuckle.
The same can’t be said for the men in his locker room, the ones who played their tails off for him in the Chiefs’ 35-24 win over the Tennessee Titans in the AFC championship game.
For them, winning for Reid, one of the greatest coaches to never win a Super Bowl, was a personal mission, just as much as it was for his legion of supporters throughout the organization, all of whom praise Reid for charting a steady upward path since his Kansas City arrival in 2013 following a miserable 2-14 season.
You don’t have to look far in the NFL to find someone Reid has positively affected, ranging from the people who played for him, to an opposing coach who has sprung from his prodigious coaching tree, to even people who have benefitted from the 61-year-old’s advice (hey, lasting 20 years as an NFL head coach isn’t easy).
Even the man he beat Sunday, Tennessee coach Mike Vrabel, also a former Chief, falls under one of those categories.
“I try to be gracious in victory and gracious in defeat — I can’t say enough about Andy, his family, the Hunt family, the organization I played for two years,” Vrabel said. “I am happy for Andy. I am happy for some of those players that I know on that football team. They deserve to go play for the championship.”
This explains the deluge of texts Reid received after the AFC title game, with the old coach, true to form, going out of his way to respond to everyone before his Monday afternoon news conference, 19 hours later.
“Just before I got here I answered every one of them — I had quite a few texts,” Reid said. “I appreciate every one of them. It’s a small fraternity and a great fraternity. We’re all trying to do what’s best for this league because of the way we’re treated.”
One of the first people to congratulate him Sunday, and one of the happiest, was Chiefs general manager Brett Veach. The longtime front-office executive under Reid dating back to Reid’s time in Philly ascended to his current position before the 2018 season, and together they worked to turn a playoff roster into a Super Bowl one.
Several of Veach’s offseason additions played a huge role in Sunday’s outcome, from defensive end Frank Clark to safety Tyrann Mathieu. Veach also played a prominent role in delivering Reid his football muse, quarterback Patrick Mahomes, in the 2017 NFL draft. So to the 42-year-old, seeing his mentor win his second conference title was special.
“It means the world to me — he’s given me every opportunity and he believed in me,” Veach said. “Back when I was a coaching assistant, he taught me everything I know. He has always been my biggest supporter.
“Even in the offseason, when I would go to him with a Frank Clark trade idea or a Tyrann Mathieu signing, he didn’t even have to do any additional work. He was like, ‘I trust you, just go do it. I believe in you. I believe in your staff.’ It motivates you knowing he has so much faith in you. That’s why he is so successful. He surrounds himself with good people he believes in and lets them go do their thing.”
Veach added another sentiment, one that amid all the joy for their bespectacled coach who is affectionately known as “Big Red,” became a locker room theme.
“When I first started out, he believed in me and it motivates me to bust my tail every day and emulate his work ethic,” Veach said. “That’s why we know we are not done yet. We have one more game to go.”
That’s why, amid all the joy that came with earning the franchise’s first trip to the Super Bowl in 50 years, of casting out all postseason demons, many Chiefs coaches, executives and players still displayed a curious level of calm after the win, a reflection of a realization that they still felt unfulfilled.
It’s not a coincidence that many of those players were the team leaders. Like Mahomes, who enthusiastically noted after the game just seconds before lifting the Lamar Hunt Trophy, that the Chiefs weren’t done yet, and that they’re “going to get it.”
Like Mathieu, who touted his coach’s Hall of Fame resume after the game and added that he loved him for letting players be themselves, but correctly noted that if they “don’t show up in the next game, it’ll be the same narrative.”
Or even tight end Travis Kelce, who added that they know they’re still playing for the one thing that has eluded Reid his entire head coaching career.
“I love Coach Reid — he is definitely a part of the motivation,” Kelce said. “We are sick of hearing what the media says about him and how he can’t get the big one done. You know what? We knocked a big one off the list. We got the Lamar Hunt trophy back here in Kansas City for the Hunt family. We still have one more goal to knock off the list.”
And guess what? While all the postseason heartbreak the Chiefs have endured before Mahomes was brutal, the flipside of that is that the players who were part of those horrific playoff losses with Reid now get to use them as motivation.
“You remember them all,” fullback Anthony Sherman, who has been a Chief since 2013, told Yahoo Sports. “I mean, for us to be able to right the ship [now], and for us to be able to right that and get to where we wanted to be this whole time … I’m more excited for Coach Reid, and to give him another opportunity to get what he deserves in his career. He is one of the best coaches in the NFL, ever. But he won’t be put in that category until we get him a win.”
Not that you’ll ever get Reid to talk about that aspect of it. Everyone knows he needs a Super Bowl victory as a head coach to solidify his legacy, but every time he gets asked about it, he deflects the importance of the moment to his players, coaches and boss, team chairman Clark Hunt. It’s why Hunt threw that love back Reid’s way.
“Andy was very nice to mention how happy he was to win this for our family — I think the same is true for us, we’re just as happy for Andy in having a chance to win a Super Bowl,” Hunt said. “He’s one of the greatest coaches in the history of the NFL. He is without a doubt a Pro Football Hall of Famer. He’s going to get to go to his second Super Bowl and hopefully get a victory this time. As a family, we’re as excited for him to get this opportunity as he is to give this trophy to us.”
So yes, for these Chiefs, there’s definitely still more to accomplish, a sense that they’re not done yet. And it’s a feeling that permeated even the most intimate moments of the celebration.
On the sideline Sunday, as the final seconds ticked off the clock, Veach sidled up to Reid on the sideline, embraced his mentor and told him the only two things that were left on his mind.
“I love you Big Red,” Veach told him. “We’ve got one more to go.”
“I love you man,” Reid replied. “Let’s do it.”
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