Around the time Andy Reid made his first national television appearance, as a 13-year-old competing in a Punt, Pass & Kick competition on Monday Night Football, he also was gazing into his future, and perhaps sowing its seeds, without even knowing it.
Not merely from that night at the Los Angeles Coliseum, from where it’s still hard to unsee the image of Reid as a colossus towering over a nearby competitor he wants you to know was five years younger and in another competitive bracket.
In junior high school and on into high school, Reid traveled a number of times some 50 miles from his home on Holly Knoll Drive in Los Angeles to Thousand Oaks to watch training camps of the Dallas Cowboys coached by Tom Landry.
“Very impressed by how they operated,” the Chiefs coach said Wednesday. “Phenomenal coach. Phenomenal teams. Loved watching.”
Reid smiled and shrugged off the notion that those trips perhaps planted some sort of suggestion.
So we’ll consider it purely coincidence, albeit a fascinating one, that all these decades later Reid now has matched the legendary Landry with 270 career victories (including regular season and postseason games).
That means they’re tied for fourth on the NFL career list as the Chiefs prepare to play host on Sunday to the Chicago Bears, who were founded by NFL pillar George “Papa Bear” Halas — who happens to be next on the list with 324 wins.
Ahead of them are only Don Shula, with 347, and Bill Belichick with 329.
Which got us thinking:
While we know past performance is no guarantee of future success, you can see a path for the 65-year-old Reid to surpass all three barring any health issues.
Consider that since Reid arrived in Kansas City his teams have won an average of 12.9 games a season (including the playoffs).
Consider that since superstar Patrick Mahomes became QB1 in 2018, the Chiefs have averaged 15 wins a season (including the postseason).
Assume for argument’s sake that the Chiefs (1-1) will win their Reid-average 12 more games this season, including the playoffs.
That would leave Reid with 282 victories — 65 behind Shula.
If Reid were to coach five more seasons with reasonably similar success to his recent past, and that’s obviously no sure thing even with Mahomes, he’d actually surpass Shula.
As for Belichick? How much longer the 71-year-old will continue is a matter of conjecture. But it also bears mention that he’s 25-27 since Tom Brady left after the 2019 season.
Reid is too process-driven and respectful of the game, its history and his forefathers and peers to think in these terms, of course. Ask him about legacy, and the answer would only be about today or the next game.
But this next game also features another nice cosmic connection of sorts. With a victory on Sunday, Reid would move a step closer on the ledger to Halas.
While Reid knows Halas’ daughter, Virginia Halas McCaskey, the 100-year-old principal owner of the Bears, he never knew Halas, who died in 1983.
But Halas, like Landry, also left a significant impression on Reid when he was growing up. And that went beyond the virtual NFL historian understanding that Halas was a “great innovator.”
Reid’s mother, Elizabeth, was a radiologist. In his teens, Reid has described in the past, he was introduced to a medical colleague of hers: Danny Fortmann, a Pro Football Hall of Famer who went on to become the team physician for the Los Angeles Rams.
Reid bonded with Fortmann and learned something that stayed with him. Something that speaks to a substantial part of his success as a coach.
When Fortmann was drafted out of Colgate by the Bears in 1936, he was conflicted over whether to play pro football or go to medical school. Despite scheduling conflicts, Halas supported his aspirations to do both — for which Fortmann was forever grateful.
“Halas is the salt of the earth. There is nobody I admire and respect more than him,” Fortmann told the Los Angeles Times after he was named to the Hall of Fame in 1965.
He added, “Halas is very firm and tough-minded, but he’s eminently fair and a master of psychology. He knows how to handle men. That’s the secret of his success in 45 years of coaching.”
From his college coaching days, including as a Mizzou assistant (1989-1991), to the present, virtually anyone who’s been coached by Reid would say the same thing about him because of an abiding ability to connect that seems both innate and instilled.
Reid, after all, is the son of a doctor and an artist. He’s naturally affable when he’s not guarding state secrets on the job. And he grew up going to a high school, John Marshall, that he considered a melting pot of Black, Asian, Hispanic and Middle Eastern teammates with a Japanese head football coach.
“I see humans,” he said in 2020. “I’m not looking at the wrapper.”
Like he saw in the person of former Chiefs lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, who like Fortmann sought a future in medicine. Because of having known Fortmann and what Halas meant to him, Reid liked the idea of helping Duvernay-Tardif realize his dreams when the Chiefs debated drafting him in 2014 … and while others scoffed.
“He was the only one who trusted me with medical school and saw the medical school thing as a positive thing,” Duvernay-Tardif said in a video interview with The Star in 2021. “And he’s been there every step of the way.”
That helps explain why Reid was the sentimental favorite around the NFL for Super Bowl LIV, and it illuminates the way his players responded to him in the locker room after Super Bowl LVII.
As Mahomes put it on Sunday when I asked him about the latest Reid milestone, Reid obviously has mastered the X’s and O’s and is a tremendous innovator.
To say nothing of the uncanny connection he has with Mahomes.
But if you want to know what’s enabled him to reach this pinnacle with a chance for so much more, it’s this:
“The person. I think the person is what makes him so special,” Mahomes said. “The way he’s able to relate to everybody. Everybody in this locker room will say the same thing; y’all know that.
“Whenever you have a head coach that you can really relate to and know that he loves you and wants the best for you, you go out there and give everything you have.”
All of which has taken Reid to a tier above virtually every coach in NFL history when it comes to overall victories and Super Bowls won; only four men have more of those.
How many more he’ll be part of can’t be known, of course.
But it’s fitting testimony to the six degrees of Andy Reid that he enjoys these improbable connections to long-departed giants of the game that he now stands between.