MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – The procession of love for the old coach began the instant the final pass of Super Bowl LIV harmlessly fell to the Hard Rock Stadium turf.
It was Sunday at 10:11 p.m., and while the sun had long descended, the celebration of the old coach was just beginning.
His son came over first, his left arm wrapped tightly around the coach’s thick neck that was still freshly drenched in orange Gatorade. His head athletic trainer and longtime right-hand man soon joined him, followed by his longtime friend and defensive coordinator.
All took turns embracing Andy Reid, letting him know how much they love and appreciate him. And at that very moment, a blizzard of red and gold confetti fell all around him, and the love of Reid’s life — his wife of nearly 40 years, Tammy — wrapped herself around him, solidifying the realization that the moment that had been so elusive for so long, was, in fact, real.
The game clock, displayed in both end zones, read zero. The scoreboard read Chiefs 31, 49ers 20. And Andy Reid, the man who could not win the big game, Andy Reid, the man who could not manage the clock well enough to be a champion, had finally done both.
Those narratives were dead, his legacy secure. And Reid’s 222nd win was undoubtedly his sweetest, as the game’s greatest active coach to never win a Super Bowl was suddenly, in one fell swoop, no longer a part of that bit of coaching infamy.
“Love this guy right here, man,” Reid said, gesturing to his quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who was standing nearby during his live postgame television interview. “And all those guys that came before, love you too, man.”
Reid consistently expressed happiness at the achievement in a similar manner, but beyond that, steadfastly refused to make the championship about him. This came as little surprise to Chiefs athletic trainer Rick Burkholder, one of Reid’s closest confidants.
“Listen, Andy ... he’s like a father, a grandfather,” Burkholder told Yahoo Sports. “I said, ‘I want to win this for you.’ And he was like, ‘No, I want to win it for everybody.’
“This is Andy’s deal, and why it’s so special — Andy Reid will never take credit. He’ll always take blame and give credit to everybody else. Tonight, we will all give him credit. And it’s the first time we’re able to do that.”
Burkholder has seen Reid at his lowest. The two have been together for two decades, which means Burkholder had a front-row view of all those tough losses over the years. And while Reid may be a rock on the outside, his friend is one of the few who know how much they affected him.
“Andy takes every loss hard,” Burkholder said. “I know the fans don’t understand it. Like, I love the man and I see him everyday, like five times a day, but after a loss I don’t want to see him. And I ride on the bus with him, and I say very little to him.”
“He was devastated for all of us,” Burkholder said. “That Super Bowl loss we had in Philadelphia? That was hard for me to see him because I felt so bad for him.”
In a private moment in that locker room in 2005, Reid assured Burkholder that they’d get back to the championship game.
“He said ‘Listen man, we’re getting back on the horse — we’re gonna win this thing,’” Burkholder recalled. “And 15 years later, we won it, bro.”
Multiple Chiefs were so happy Sunday night to congratulate their 61-year-old coach, including the team’s general manager Brett Veach, who sidled up to Reid after victory was assured and shed tears with his mentor.
“A lot of long nights, a lot of talks … it all paid off,” Veach told Reid, his voice cracking as he recalled it to Yahoo Sports. “I told him, ‘I love you, and it’s been the greatest honor of my life to help you get a ring.’”
Veach, like Burkholder, has seen the graceful way Reid has handled his past disappointments, of which there were many on the way to reaching seven conference championship games but not getting over the Super Bowl hump until his 21st season as an NFL head coach.
“Real knows real, and these guys can see through bulls---,” Veach said. “And Andy Reid, he’s just a quality human being that people love.”
Certainly his players do. On the flight to Miami, nearly two dozen of them wore Hawaiian shirts — a Reid favorite — as an homage to their coach.
“There’s no greater feeling to know that when they make ‘A Football Life’ for Andy Reid, we’re gonna be in it,” fullback Anthony Sherman said, referencing the documentary series. “And that’s what I told the special teams guys this week. I said, ‘Listen, they’re gonna make ‘A Football Life’ for Coach Reid, and let’s be a highlight in those reels for this game.’”
Indeed. In the meantime, there was still plenty of celebrating to do Sunday night, long after the final whistle had blown. While players and staffers gleefully danced, granted interviews and posed for photos with the Lombardi Trophy in the Chiefs’ spacious locker room, you’d be hard-pressed to find a Chief who didn’t also seek out the head coach and congratulate him.
That includes Reid’s son Britt, who serves as an outside linebackers coach. The two hugged, almost immediately after the final whistle.
“I love you man, you deserve this,” Britt recalled telling his father. And when asked what Reid said back, Britt made it clear that in this moment between father and son, words weren’t needed.
“Nothing. He was just smiling.”
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