Super Bowl 2023: Andy Reid, Eagles reunited 10 years since their split bore fruit for both
Over 14 years, the marriage was often good. At times, it was even great. But it never reached the ultimate peak.
So each spouse found a new partner, and alas, they learned of even greater heights.
No, we’re not talking about your friend’s cousin’s brother-in-law.
We’re talking about Andy Reid and the Philadelphia Eagles — and the split that left each, then and now, better than they’d perhaps realized they could become.
Reid’s Kansas City Chiefs outlasted the Cincinnati Bengals, 23-20, on Sunday night to win the AFC championship. Three hours earlier, head coach Nick Sirianni and the Philadelphia Eagles had trounced the San Francisco 49ers, 31-7 in the NFC title game.
Now, a Super Bowl face-off of old fellows awaits.
“I had a great time there,” Reid said Sunday night after the Chiefs’ latest win. “Fourteen years. Long time, no?”
Younger NFL fans may associate Reid primarily as the Kansas City Chiefs head coach who won the 2019 season's Super Bowl, as the mastermind offensive schemer who has augmented rather than hindered the success of the best quarterback in the league, Patrick Mahomes.
The Reid-Mahomes duo (and the other 50-plus players, and dozens of coaches, and front-office staffers that compose the Chiefs organization) have advanced to five straight AFC championship game appearances and now three Super Bowl berths in the past four years.
But as they look ahead to the opponent that awaits in Glendale, Arizona, they’ll also look back.
Because before there was Reid and Mahomes, before there was Mahomes the NFL player (much less Mahomes the NFL MVP), there was Andy Reid, 14-year head coach of the Eagles.
The Eagles were regularly competitive in that stretch. Their records merited playoff appearances in nine of Reid’s 14 seasons, and six division titles, including four straight. (In fact, the NFC East title has not been successfully defended since that 2001-04 Philadelphia stretch.) Five times, the Eagles competed in a conference title game — a frequency hard for Dallas Cowboys fans, whose team’s drought is 27 years and counting, to imagine.
Reid’s Eagles lost their lone Super Bowl trip to Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots following the 2004 season.
But on Dec. 31, 2012, after a 4-12 season succeeded an 8-8 campaign, Eagles team owner Jeffrey Lurie said it was time “to move in a new direction.”
Reid to Eagles: ‘I wish you a big ring’
The ending was softer than NFL splits often are.
Lurie called Reid “a gem of a person … not only an outstanding coach, but an outstanding person” as the team dismissed their more-than-decade leader.
“This man was amazing to work with, smart and dedicated himself,” Lurie said. “I look forward to the day when everyone welcomes him back into the Eagles Hall of Fame because that’s inevitable.”
Reid, too, called his Eagles tenure “the greatest 14 years of my life” as he exited while noting “sometimes change is good.”
The Chiefs hired Reid as their head coach five days later.
But Reid’s parting wish to Philadelphia came mostly true shortly after his departure.
“I know the next guy that comes in will be phenomenal,” he told the Eagles. “The ultimate goal is a Super Bowl. Everybody in this room, I wish you a big ring on the finger in the near future.”
The Eagles would need two more head coaches (and an interim) before Doug Pederson, whom Reid beat in this year's divisional round, brought the Lombardi Trophy home to Philadelphia. But Reid’s prayer for a title in the “near future” took roughly five years to materialize.
And two seasons later, Reid and his Chiefs were hoisting their own. They’d return to the big stage in consecutive years and, now, for a third time in four go-arounds.
This year, the nostalgia is different.
Reid not first NFL coach to face former team in Super Bowl
Reid is not the first NFL head coach to coach a Super Bowl against a team for which he was formerly head coach.
Jon Gruden coached the then-Oakland Raiders from 1998-2001 before guiding the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a Super Bowl win over the Raiders the season immediately after departing.
Seattle Seahawks head man Pete Carroll coached the New England Patriots from 1997-99 before completing the 2013 season with a title game against the Patriots. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady’s team ultimately trumped Seattle.
In the 1998 season, Dan Reeves coached the Atlanta Falcons to the Super Bowl where they fell to the Denver Broncos, with whom Reeves infamously lost three Super Bowl blowouts in the 1980s.
Now, Reid faces his former team on the biggest stage. The overwhelming majority of Philadelphia’s roster has turned over, only seven roster players even in the league when Reid last coached the Eagles.
But three holdovers remain from drafts under Reid: center Jason Kelce, defensive end Brandon Graham and defensive tackle Fletcher Cox.
Reid now coaches Kelce’s brother Travis, the four-time All-Pro tight end who chipped in 78 yards and a touchdown to Sunday’s win.
“Ha ha,” Reid deadpanned when asked about the brothers’ Super Bowl face-off. “I have invested time in both of those two, so I feel like I’m part of the family.”
Storylines will abound when the Eagles and Chiefs compete in two weeks, from mobile quarterbacks to nasty defensive lines to the diverse roster-building strategies these two franchises embraced. Family reunions will begin with the Kelce brothers. They’ll continue on to Reid and the Eagles.
The reunion of the divorce need not be awkward or bitter. The marriage featured plenty of success, and each spouse has established rhythm with an even more apt partner since. The Super Bowl ring that Reid wished for the Eagles when they split has arrived. Reid, too, has been fitted for jewelry. Further bling is one win away — for either Reid or the Eagles, but not both.
“I’m happy for them,” Reid said of the Eagles. “I’m happy for the city. They’re passionate. They love football.
“I can’t wait till Kansas City and Philly clash. I mean, it’s gonna be awesome. What a great Super Bowl it’ll be.”
Follow Yahoo Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein