It’s amazing how quickly a legacy can change. How fast a narrative can flip. As sports fans we all know this, but sometimes a perfect reminder is dropped on our collective heads.
With 6:23 remaining in Super Bowl 54 and his team down 10 points, you could almost feel the Andy Reid jokes coming. "Great coach but can't win the big one, too conservative as a play caller, amazing scheme designer but horrible with game management."
Six minutes and twenty-three seconds is all it took. That fast, Andy Reid's legacy was forever cemented as an all-time great NFL Head Coach. From a bridesmaid to the bride. From a good coach to a sure fire Hall of Famer. Everyone loves the Andy Reid story now, as tributes to cheeseburgers and trophy wives flood social media. But if it was up to many of those same people praising Big Red now, Andy Reid and the Chiefs might not have had the opportunity to go on this post-season run for the ages.
That article is from November. Just over two months ago, questions were being asked about Andy Reid's tenure as Chiefs' Head Coach. It's a conversation the national media has had many times as well.
I don't want to come off as ignorant here. Sports are a results based business, and Andy Reid has certainly come up short plenty of times. But what's more frustrating: falling short or never having the opportunity? Ask Browns fans if they would sign up for the four straight Conference Championship games Reid took the Philadelphia Eagles to from 2001-2004? Ask the Detroit Lions if they would sneeze at the five playoff appearances Andy Reid had in his first six years in Kansas City. Coaches like Andy Reid provide consistent opportunity to have a chance every year. Too many franchises, from ownership to the fans, don't have patience with a coach they perceive as good, but not good enough. But when we see a guy like Andy Reid slay that final dragon, it's an important lesson in patience and continuity.
Some of the same people loving Andy Reid now wanted him fired after the Chiefs lost a home playoff game to the Steelers in 2016, when six Chris Boswell field goals were enough to send Kansas City packing as a one and done. Even more were ready to find a new coach after Marcus Mariota and the Titans won at Arrowhead Stadium in 2017, another one and done post-season performance by Coach Reid and company.
It's easy to skew the perspective of what constitutes a successful head coach. For some, consistently being in the hunt is never going to be enough. We see that here in Pittsburgh where, despite 13 years at the helm without a single losing season, many would happily see Mike Tomlin replaced. "Hasn't done enough in the playoffs lately. Only went to the Super Bowl with Cowher's players. Can't control his star players."
Our expectations are through the roof in Pittsburgh. The Standard is the Standard, right? However, if you take Bill Belichick out of the equation, guess how many current NFL Head Coaches have won more than one Super Bowl? The answer is zero. None. Nada. All these other 'great' coaches? One ring. Pete Carroll and Sean Payton are still looking for that second title. John Madden, Mike Holmgren, and Tony Dungy never lifted a second Lombardi. Even reigning NFL Coach of the Year John Harbaugh is still looking for his first post-season victory since 2014.
Kyle Shanahan is the new target now. Despite taking a team that won 4 games last season to the Super Bowl this year. Forgetting that Matt Ryan and the Falcons haven't been the same since Shanahan left Atlanta. "Kyle Shanahan's Reputation for Choking Will be Hard to Shake" is a real story I've seen shared multiple times this week on social media. Imagine thinking this is what Shanahan is and that he will never change. How could the third youngest coach in the NFL possibly get any better or evolve? No, that guy will never improve as a coach! Choker forever!
Now, I realize there are limits on how long you should be patient with a coach. Duh! It was time for Jason Garrett and the Cowboys to part ways. It was time for the Pirates and Clint Hurdle to move in a different direction. But that's a decision to make after a substantial period of time, because the alternative is to continuously shuffle the deck and try and land the right guy seemingly every year. Like the Cleveland Browns have tried and failed to do.
Coaching is hard, and winning consistently is even more difficult. Especially in the NFL where the sample size is so small and the playoffs are a single elimination tournament. The same people who ripped Andy Reid for years will now tell you he's one of the best coaches ever, and 6 minutes was all it took to change their mind.
I'm not naive enough to think Andy Reid finally winning the big one will cause some seismic shift in how we think about our coaches or how much patience we afford them. I just hope everyone keeps that same energy before they bury the next Andy Reid.
Wesley Uhler is the host of Steelers Blitz, Noon-2 on Steelers Nation Radio, and a Producer for ESPN Pittsburgh. You can find him on Twitter @WesleyUhler.
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