Can Andy Elevate?

Andy Reid is a very good football coach. One of the best in the NFL over the past 15 years. In his 14 years as the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, he oversaw the most consistently competitive stretch the franchise had seen since before the Super Bowl Era. In his first season at the helm for the Kansas City Chiefs, Reid has righted the ship and restored one of the NFL’s proudest franchises to a culture of winning football. He has taken quarterbacks like Donovan McNabb, Alex Smith, and Post-Prison Mike Vick and made them look like stars. In his career as a head coach, he has done everything but win a Super Bowl. When someone has been at it as long as Andy Reid, the question changes, perhaps unfairly, from “when will he” to “is he even capable of winning a Super Bowl?”

Andy Reid was hired by the Chiefs less than a week after being fired by the Eagles. Often times, coaches who have been in one place for a long time like Reid was will take a year away from the game and come back recharged with their pick of the litter of the coaching vacancies the following year. Tom Coughlin took a year off after the Jacksonville Jaguars fired him and landed on his feet with the New York Giants. Jeff Fisher took a break after 17 seasons with the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans before getting back into coaching with the St. Louis Rams. Mike Shanahan took a year off after being dismissed by the Denver Broncos and landed the most sought after coaching gig that year in the Washington Redskins. Nobody would have blamed Andy for wanting time away from football after 14 grueling years in a city that demands the best from its teams all the time, especially after the death of his son in the summer of 2012. The relationship had run its course in Philly, and both Reid and the Eagles knew it was time to go in a different direction. People around the NFL still knew Reid could coach, and every team with an available head coaching position was calling him along with University of Oregon coach Chip Kelly. When the dust settled, Andy Reid was in Kansas City, and Kelly had taken Reid’s old job in the City of Brotherly Love.

Reid’s predecessors in Kansas City, former head coach Romeo Crennel and former general manager Scott Pioli, had managed to build a very good defense, and load the roster with some explosives offensive talent, but their downfall would be their inability to acquire or develop a franchise quarterback. Reid and the Chiefs traded for Alex Smith in the offseason, a former first overall pick who slowly developed into a good NFL starter before getting the Drew Bledsoe Treatment in favor of the younger Colin Kaepernick by the San Francisco 49ers last year. Kaepernick led the Niners to a Super Bowl appearance, so Smith became trade bait. With a stellar defense and a serviceable QB, Reid and the Chiefs were ready to compete in 2013. The second week of the season, the Chiefs went into Philadelphia and earned a dominant win for Andy against his old employer on the same night the Eagles retired Donovan McNabb’s #5. Chip Kelly’s innovative high tempo offense didn’t look like it had graduated from college yet and was no match for the formidable Kansas City defense. The following week, the Chiefs became the first team to clinch a better season than they had in 2012 (2-14) when they won the third game of the season. Their hot start and their becoming the last undefeated team gave Chiefs fans hopes for more than just a winning season and a playoff berth. After winning just two games last year, the Lamar Hunt trophy, named for their founding owner, and a trip to the Super Bowl felt like reasonable expectations.

During his tenure in Philly, Andy Reid took the Eagles to the playoffs nine times, the NFC Championship Game five times, and the Super Bowl once. In Super Bowl XXXIX, the New England Patriots outlasted the Eagles and the game ended on an interception by Rodney Harrison as McNabb struggled to lead the Eagles in a final scoring drive. For Bill Belichick and the Pats, it was their third Super Bowl victory in four years. For Reid and the Eagles, it capped off five years of being close, but not close enough. Reid and McNabb would reach the NFC Championship one more time in 2009, but were defeated by Kurt Warner’s Arizona Cardinals, who were on a lightning-in-a-bottle playoff run that January.

The Chiefs are currently on a three game losing streak, which includes two losses at they hands of the division rival Denver Broncos. Peyton Manning demonstrated an ability to throw on Kansas City’s defense with relative ease in the second half on Sunday, and it looks like the magic of the first half of the season is fading fast. The Chiefs will be a playoff team, but gamblers everywhere are losing confidence in this team’s ability to finish. If Reid has one major flaw as a coach, it’s his ability to handle high leverage moments late in games. This does not bode well for the Chiefs in January. To reach the Super Bowl, Reid’s team would need to beat New England or Denver or both. Anything can happen in football, but until Andy wins the last game of the season, there will always be pundits and fans questioning whether or not he has it in him. I hope he gets there someday, but I’m not sold that this is his year.

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