When Kansas City players and coaches left the field at halftime Sunday, their chances of winning a second Super Bowl in four years seemed remote. They were down by 10 points. Patrick Mahomes had just re-injured his right ankle. And their opponent, the Philadelphia Eagles, owned the first 30 minutes.
So there was little hope. At least, that’s what we thought.
But what we saw from the Kansas City Chiefs in the second half, quite frankly, didn’t amaze me. And it didn’t because of Andy Reid. I was there when we hired him as our head coach in Philadelphia 25 years ago. I watched him grow into the job. Then I watched him succeed, going to four NFC conference championship games and five in eight years.
Now I’ve seen him go to five more championship contests, albeit in a different conference and with a different team, and three Super Bowls in four seasons … and what I can tell you is what I felt watching that second half of Super Bowl LVII.
Never underestimate Andy Reid.
We didn’t when we hired him as a virtual unknown. We’d just fired Ray Rhodes as our head coach and were one of eight teams looking for a replacement when we took a flyer on Andy. We were the only club to interview him, and you don’t have to look far for an explanation: He wasn’t a coordinator. He was a quarterbacks coach who’d been an offensive line and quarterbacks coach.
So while everyone else was looking for coordinators, we wanted someone different. We were looking for the best leader.
I can’t emphasize how important that was to us. I’m not sure who turned us on to Andy, but I do know that once we began asking about him, we liked what we heard. We were looking for a candidate so obsessed with every minor detail that he drove others around him crazy, mostly because we found that was a quality unusually successful coaches possessed, and Andy was that guy.
We didn’t really care about philosophy. We were more interested in a strong conviction about what it was the candidate believed he could do. You can’t be a successful leader if you aren’t able to easily and clearly articulate where you’re trying to lead people. Plus, we wanted someone who had a knack for evaluating assistants and managing them.
So we weren’t asking typical questions.
When we interviewed Andy, I remember those qualities jumping out at us. He has a presence about him - and I’m not talking about a physical presence - that is overwhelming. He speaks so confidently that you immediately feel that this is not only someone you’d follow but someone who won’t have trouble getting others to follow, too.
Which is what I thought about when I saw Kansas City get off the mat Sunday, put up 24 second-half points and emerge victorious. I know, history told us it wasn’t supposed to happen. But history doesn’t account for someone who has players respond as Andy can ... and has.
I think back to our 2002 season when Donovan McNabb, then our starting quarterback, injured his right ankle in a Week 11 game vs. Arizona. We had a team we thought had a real chance to win the Super Bowl, with Ty Detmer and A.J. Feeley as our backup quarterbacks. I’ll never forget standing outside the X-ray room with Andy that day, waiting on the results, when the trainer emerged and told us the ankle was broken.
Donovan’s season was over.
Andy asked the appropriate questions like: Is he going to be OK? What can we do for him? Will he need surgery? Then he turned to me and said, “We’re still going to achieve all the goals we had. It’s just going to be harder. We have a lot of people who will have to do more than expected, but we’re going to achieve it.”
And you know something? He was right. We won five of our last six starts, Donovan returned for the playoffs, and we reached the conference championship game.
It’s that attitude that must have permeated the Chiefs’ locker room Sunday. I’ve gotten to know Andy as well as anyone outside his family over the years, and he carries himself like that on every issue. Furthermore, he does it in a way where nobody doubts him. Everyone jumps on board and tries to make it happen.
You look at Super Bowl LVII and what occurred - or didn’t - in the first half, and I can’t think of more than a couple of coaches in my lifetime who’d go into that locker room actually believing they’d return to win the game. But there’s no doubt the Chiefs returned with that conviction.
Andy has a strong relationship with his players, and they respect him as a person, leader and coach. Essentially, they believe in him. Yes, it’s good to have Patrick Mahomes on your side, but I believe that part of the reason players didn’t doubt themselves when they fell behind Sunday was that they didn’t doubt Andy.
When you play for him, you never feel you can’t overcome the next obstacle.
I saw it when Detmer and Feeley took over in Philadelphia, and I saw it when Mahomes took command Sunday. Andy sends a message to players that he trusts them, and they, in turn, trust him. The result is a success so rare that I’m confident we’re not done seeing Andy and Patrick Mahomes holding Super Bowl trophies.
Far from it. They’re going to go down in history as two of the best to ever do what they’re doing. And they’re going to be together as long as Andy decides he wants to keep coaching.
Joe Banner is a former front office executive for the Philadelphia Eagles and Cleveland Browns. He was a part of an Eagles franchise that made a Super Bowl and played in four NFC Championship Games. Follow him on Twitter at @JoeBanner13