Kansas City gets its man, but history says Reid may not win big
The Kansas City Chiefs on Friday completed their whirlwind pursuit of Andy Reid and hired him as their next head coach, making the big, bold headline move in large part because they were drawn by his long NFL track record and history of winning in Philadelphia. On the surface, that much makes sense. Winners tend to keep winning, and past performance often does predict future results.
But historically speaking, the Chiefs probably aren't buying themselves a great shot to scale the NFL mountaintop and win a Super Bowl with Reid. While seven "re-tread'' coaches have won Super Bowls in their second NFL gig after not doing so in their first job -- including another former Eagles coach, Dick Vermeil -- none have done it while staying in their first job for anywhere remotely as long as Reid's 14 seasons in Philadelphia.
Meaning? It may be open to some interpretation, but history says Reid's best coaching work has likely been done, and he won't win a ring in his second NFL incarnation after going 0-for-14 in that department with the Eagles. Successful second acts happen frequently in the NFL coaching, but the league is still waiting for the first coach to come along and win a Super Bowl in his second job after going ringless in at least 10 seasons in his first assignment.
You can look it up. Of the seven coaches who won a Super Bowl in their second NFL stop, after failing to do so in their first, the longest tenure turned in was by Jacksonville's Tom Coughlin, who spent eight years leading the expansion Jaguars (1995-2002) before earning a pair of rings in his nine seasons with the Giants.
Don Shula's seven years in Baltimore (1963-69) before leading the Dolphins to glory in the early '70s comes next, tied by Vermeil's seven-season stint in Philadelphia (1976-82), which preceded his late-career comeback and a Super Bowl victory with the 1999 St. Louis Rams.
Next in line is Tony Dungy's six-year stay in Tampa Bay (1996-2001) before winning a ring in Indianapolis in 2006, Bill Belichick's five-year false start in Cleveland (1991-95) before his career resurrection and three-ring ceremony in New England, Jon Gruden's four seasons in Oakland (1998-2001) followed by a Super Bowl with the 2002 Bucs, and Mike Shanahan's back-to-back rings in Denver in the late '90s, after his brief, 20-game stay in Oakland in the late '80s.
(One tweener of a caveat: Weeb Ewbank spent nine years leading the Baltimore Colts from 1954 to '62 and won NFL titles in 1958 and 1959 in the pre-Super Bowl era; then led the AFL's New York Jets to their famous Super Bowl III upset of the Colts in his second head coaching stop. He remains the only coach to lead two different teams to NFL championships).
Even slicing the data a different way, coaches who spent tenures of significant length in one spot -- as Reid has done -- generally don't go elsewhere and enjoy the same level of success. Reid took the Eagles to one losing Super Bowl appearance and five NFC title games, winning 10 out of 19 playoff games in the process.
On the list of NFL coaches who spent at least 10 seasons with the same team at any point in their career, those who failed to match their earlier success in their next job(s) include luminaries like Green Bay's Curly Lambeau, Cleveland's Paul Brown, Denver's Dan Reeves, Chicago's Mike Ditka, Kansas City's Hank Stram, Kansas City's Marty Schottenheimer, New Orleans' Jim Mora and Minnesota's Dennis Green.
Washington's Mike Shanahan is currently working on getting the Redskins to the level he attained in his 14-season stay in Denver, and the same can be said for St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher, after spending 17 seasons and making one Super Bowl trip with the Oilers/Titans franchise, and Denver's John Fox, who took Carolina to one Super Bowl in his nine-year run in Charlotte.
In addition to Stram and Ditka, other Super Bowl winners like the Giants' Bill Parcells, Green Bay's Mike Holmgren, San Francisco's George Seifert, the Raiders' Tom Flores and the Packers' Vince Lombardi are also in the club of having never matched their earlier level of success in subsequent stops, although Lombardi died of cancer just one year into his Redskins tenure. And the list of men who have taken two different teams to the Super Bowl -- as Reid will be attempting to do in Kansas City -- is just five deep: Shula, Parcells, Reeves, Vermeil and Holmgren.
While the longevity of Reid's Philadelphia story is no doubt seen as a positive in Kansas City, it's entirely fair to ask which version of the Eagles' Reid will the Chiefs be getting?
You can draw a pretty clear line in his Eagles tenure between great success, and just moderate success. From his 1999 arrival until Philadelphia's Super Bowl season of 2004, the Eagles went 71-37 (.657) in those first six seasons, including a 7-5 record in the playoffs and five consecutive years of at least 11 victories. Philadelphia made those four NFC title game appearances and that one Super Bowl trip in that span.
But in the last eight years of his time in Philly, Reid's Eagles went just 69-65-1 (.515), with four playoff trips, one NFC title game berth, and a 3-4 record in the postseason. Only once did Reid post as many as 11 wins in a season, and three of his final six teams missed the playoffs.
The Chiefs continuing struggle to find a clear-cut answer at quarterback also sounds a lot like Reid's late Philadelphia experience. After drafting Donovan McNabb second overall in 1999 and riding him (for the most part) to eight playoff berths in 11 years, the Eagles of the past three years have bounced between Kevin Kolb, Michael Vick and now rookie Nick Foles at quarterback, earning just one playoff spot and zero playoff wins.
And then there's the open question of what might become of the Chiefs' Jamaal Charles-led running game, one of the few strengths of the team in 2012, in a Reid-built offense? Reid's lack of commitment to his rushing attack in Philadelphia over the years has been a near-constant, and even All-Pro running back LeSean McCoy has been forgotten or gone lightly used in Eagles game plans of the past three seasons or so. With so much roster-building still required in Kansas City, can the Chiefs afford to minimize one of their strongest assets?
Kansas City has landed the most proven name available on this year's coaching carousel. But Reid, even with his long and eventful track record, comes with no guarantee of recreating his Eagles success. Maybe another Dick Vermeil-like follow-up act looms for Reid in the Midwest, but history says there's a good chance his second-time-around experience won't be quite as Super.