When Andy Reid was an assistant coach at Northern Arizona in 1986, Dave Toub had recently joined Bob Stull’s staff at Texas-El Paso and took Reid out for lunch as a prospective offensive-line coach.
“Guess I must have said something good,” Toub said, laughing, in a 2016 interview with The Star. “We hit it off, too, right away.”
From El Paso to Columbia, Missouri, to Philadelphia, they’ve worked together nearly ever since, with the exception of Toub’s stint in Chicago from 2004-2012 before he rejoined Reid in Kansas City as special-teams coordinator.
Other than Reid’s son, Britt, the Chiefs’ linebackers coach, and whatever the exact timing was of some cameo appearances from then-interloper Steve Spagnuolo, nobody on Reid’s staff has known him longer.
Certainly, no one has spent more time working directly with Reid, and few have more firsthand appreciation of Reid’s coaching journey.
So pardon Toub if he gets sentimental at the prospect of Reid coaching the Chiefs to victory in the AFC Championship Game against Tennessee on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium – and the potential for Reid to then win his first Super Bowl.
“I’ve thought about this a lot. Nobody deserves it more than Andy. He’s such a great coach …” Toub said Thursday. “I don’t know if I’d stop crying. I’d probably hug him forever.”
Toub wouldn’t be alone.
Right alongside, perhaps weeping and at least figuratively embracing Reid would be plenty in a city looking for its first Super Bowl victory, or even appearance, in 50 years. And you can bet an organization that Reid revived and his players, whom Reid is known for treating as grown men, would feel the same.
“It would be amazing, obviously,” said quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who laughed when then asked if he’d be happier for himself or Reid. “I’d probably be happier for him, for sure. But I think I (would) be pretty happy, too, for myself.”
Elated, too, would be people Reid grew up with in Los Angeles and fans from Dick Vermeil to Stull and those on his considerable coaching tree. So would legions of former players and their families, like the ones he’s stayed close with from Mizzou and doubtless from his days with the Eagles. And, heck, maybe even some who played for him in his first full-time coaching gig at San Francisco State – where Reid and former Tampa Bay coach Dirk Koetter sold hot dogs amid campus protests to supplement the football “budget” and taught classes and took 10-hour bus rides and made about $22,000 a year.
For that matter, many Eagles fans with whom I grew up or went to college are among others in the Philadelphia area on Team Reid, as are plenty of national NFL broadcasters and perhaps others in the sports media he once wanted to be part of to the point he wrote columns for the Provo Daily Herald when he was a senior at Brigham Young.
There are plenty of reasons for this outpouring, of course. Starting with the fact that Reid is a genuinely decent and empathetic person, something that’s evident in how he deals with all people and perhaps can be glimpsed in his engagement with Special Olympics Missouri.
And because it’s understood he’s a terrific coach, with the seventh-most wins in NFL history, the sort of steady presence from which the team took its cue to not panic when down 24-0 in last week’s 51-31 AFC Divisional victory over Houston and a vibrant offensive mind further animated by his synergy with Mahomes.
“He’s like a magician when he’s calling plays. Even at practice, he’s calling plays and just drawing them up like he’s (Harry) Houdini or something,” receiver Tyreek Hill said of Reid.
Hill perhaps inadvertently was invoking the illusionist and escape artist … or perhaps it was an apt parallel, after all, for someone whose array of plays often are the essence of deception.
“You never know where the ball is coming, because you have Sammy (Watkins) going on a shallow cross or you have me going on a post, you have (Travis) Kelce going across the field, you’ve got Mecole (Hardman) doing some kind of crazy route, ‘D-Rob’ (Demarcus Robinson) doing a crazy route, ‘D-Will’ (Damien Williams) faking,” Hill said. “You’ve got all kinds of crazy stuff, and to mix all of that in with an MVP quarterback, you can do whatever you want.”
That’s a lot to admire and root for.
But maybe the most substantial reason many want to see Reid to win it all is simply that he hasn’t before, the missing jewel in a career that seemingly already has him bound for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Reid is 220-142 overall in his NFL career, but he’s just 13-14 in the postseason and 1-4 in conference title games after last season’s 37-31 overtime loss to the Patriots. His lone Super Bowl was a 24-21 loss to the Patriots in 2005, a game forever remembered for Reid’s curious clock management.
Perhaps making the void all the more pronounced, three of Reid’s former assistants have gone on to win Super Bowls.
To be sure, Reid has encountered some bizarre postseason misfortunes just in his time in Kansas City: from Andrew Luck fumbling to himself as the Colts rallied from down 38-10 to win 45-44 … to Marcus Mariota completing a pass to himself as the Titans came back from down 21-3 to win 22-21 … to insane interpretations of “forward progress” … to, of course, the Dee Ford offside and lost coin flip and ensuing defensive meltdown last season.
This time around, at least to this point, fate seems to be smiling at Reid and the Chiefs.
What appeared at Denver to be a devastating knee injury to Mahomes proved just a bump in the road. The Dolphins somehow upended New England to give the Chiefs a last-minute No. 2 seed and a bye, and the Titans beat the Ravens to enable the Chiefs to play at home on Sunday, too.
Now the Chiefs have to funnel that luck into what figures to be a grueling matchup against the Titans, who beat the Chiefs 35-32 earlier in the season and against whom Reid is 1-8 in his career.
Because of Mahomes and all the other stars and emerging stars on a team whose defensive liabilities have been muted by the hiring of Spagnuolo and the additions of Tyrann Mathieu and Frank Clark, the window of opportunity figures to remain plenty open for the Chiefs these next few years regardless of what happens on Sunday.
Moreover, if the Chiefs do win Sunday and go on to win the Super Bowl, history shows that plenty of coaches win more than one after years of waiting. Guy named John Wooden went from 1946 to 1963 before winning the first of 10 national titles in 12 seasons.
Just the same, you never know when things will align so well again.
And first things first.
“He needs that,” Toub said. “He needs this.”