Chiefs brain trust remains big reason for Super Bowl success

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Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, right, talks with defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo during an NFL football practice in Tempe, Ariz., Thursday, Feb. 9, 2023. The Chiefs will play against the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl 57 on Sunday. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – The Kansas City Chiefs have two assistants on their coaching staff that have been head coaches in the NFL, and another one that has been interviewed — and passed over — for top jobs too many times to count.

That's some pretty good brainpower helping out Chiefs coach Andy Reid when they play the Philadelphia Eagles, led by Nick Sirianni and their talented but undeniably young coaching staff, in the Super Bowl on Sunday.

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“I will tell you, I've been fortunate to have great coaches," said Reid, whose staffs over the years have included Ravens coach John Harbaugh, Commanders coach Ron Rivera, Jaguars coach Doug Pederson and Bills coach Sean McDermott.

And plenty of other coaches — Todd Bowles, Pat Shurmur, Leslie Frazier — that also have been NFL head coaches.

“Assistants work their tails off,” Reid said, “and normally if you have good coaches and good players, that's a combination for success. Mentors, I've had a bunch of them. I was lucky to have great coaches and then all the way through college.”

Perhaps that is why Reid invests himself so much in helping his own assistants climb the coaching ladder.

And why, when they fall as all coaches eventually do, they often return to his side.

That was the case with Matt Nagy and Steve Spagnuolo.

Nagy got his start in the NFL as Reid's coaching intern during his days in Philadelphia, then followed Big Red to Kansas City in 2013. He began there as the quarterbacks coach, rose to offensive coordinator when Pederson departed for his own head coaching job, then took the top job with the Bears a couple of years later.

Nagy went to the playoffs twice in four years before he was fired. Now, he's back in KC as the quarterbacks coach.

“Listen, I think he's a great coach,” Reid said. “I think he knows people, handles people well. He's a good teacher. The players respond to his approach. And he had a relationship with Pat Mahomes, and so it was just a natural fit for him to come back here.

"It was just a matter of, (if) he wanted to sit out a year or get back into it as an assistant coach, and so he did. He wanted to jump back in and go. And we're sure glad to get him.”

Spagnuolo likewise got his NFL start with Reid in Philadelphia before a coaching odyssey that took him to the head job with the Rams and an interim stint coaching the Giants. But the defensive guru was passed over for the full-time job in New York, he landed back with Reid, who in 2019 needed someone to revamp his defense.

With his unconventional, blitzing and aggressive approach, Spagnuolo has done precisely that in Kansas City.

“Steve's very creative. Very smart. A tribute to Springfield College, right?" said Reid, referring to the small Division III school where Spagnuolo played wide receiver. “He's been in the league and had a great tutor in Jim Johnson when he was young, and he's been able to build off that scheme and been very innovative with it.”

Then there's Eric Bieniemy, the would-be head coach, who helps Reid orchestrate the Chiefs' high-flying offense.

During his five seasons as offensive coordinator, the Chiefs have never finished worse than fifth in total offense. They've been to every AFC title game played during that stretch, won three conference championships and have a chance to bring home a second Lombardi Trophy, all while Mahomes celebrates winning his second MVP award.

Bieniemy is still in the running for the job in Indianapolis, a search that has been put on hold until after the Super Bowl.

"I knew what a great coach Eric was and thought he would get an opportunity. I’ve continued to think that," said Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt, who next to Reid is perhaps Bieniemy's biggest champion. "At this point, he’s maybe been through too many hiring cycles and it’s almost become a little bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy that he’s not getting the opportunity.”

Some critics say the Chiefs offense has been so successful because of Reid, one of the league's brilliant minds, and that Bieniemy needs to go elsewhere and escape his shadow.

To that extent, his name has been linked to offensive coordinator openings with the Commanders and Ravens.

“I know he’s still interested and he would do a fantastic job (as a head coach)," Hunt said. “And I’m glad he’s going to have the stage that he’ll have on Sunday to once again show what a tremendous offensive coordinator he is.”


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