MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- "MAN ALIVE!" Andrew Walter Reid bellowed from his toes as he marched through his Kansas City Chiefs locker room, glowing like a teenager who had just scored a date with the prettiest girl in school. Reid had just finished handing out credit for this epic Super Bowl victory as easily as one would hand out a business card at a job fair, even giving a shoutout to Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie, the billionaire who fired him.
Man Alive! Those two shouted words on the way to his office said it all. Reid was letting it all out, all those seasons of chasing in vain that NFL grail that was finally, mercifully, in his hands. Reid ended his 20-year title drought by ending the Chiefs' 50-year title drought by coming from behind to beat Kyle Shanahan's 49ers 31-20.
After the game, still on the field, Reid kissed the Lombardi trophy and raised it to the South Florida sky, and then Andy did what Andy always does.
Andy said this wasn't about Andy. He talked about his whirling dervish of a quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, and the executive who long ago saw Mahomes as a developing Mozart, Brett Veach. He talked about the Hunt family, his assistants, his players in Kansas City, his players in Philly. If Andy went long enough at his news conference podium, he would've gotten around to thanking his mailman, too.
But if Reid thought he was getting away with his selfless act, sorry pal, that was a no-can-do on this forever Sunday night.
This one was about the human teddy bear with a rainforest for a mustache, the guy who once put away a 40-ounce steak in 19 minutes.
This one was all about Big Red.
"He's one of the best coaches of all time; he already was before we won this game," said Mahomes, the MVP of Super Bowl LIV. "But we wanted to get that trophy just because he deserved it. The work that he puts in day in and day out. He's there at like 3 in the morning, and he leaves at 11 [at night]. I don't think he sleeps. I've tried to beat him in, and I never can. He's someone that works harder than anyone I've ever known, and he deserves it."
The rifle-armed son of a former big league reliever, Mahomes said he had two goals when he became the starting quarterback of the Chiefs. One, to win the AFC championship and bring the Lamar Hunt Trophy back to the hometown of the late Chiefs owner who came up with the term "Super Bowl" for what has effectively become a national holiday.
"And the second-most important thing was to get Coach Reid a Super Bowl trophy," Mahomes said.
Will this liberating triumph change Coach Reid? What do you think? This is a man who said he celebrated his AFC title game victory over Tennessee -- which booked him a trip back to the Super Bowl for the first time in 15 years -- by eating a cheeseburger and then going to bed. "I'll have a double cheeseburger tonight," Reid said Sunday. "Extra cheese."
And why not? With this win, Reid finally proved that nice guys do indeed finish first, even if they have to wait a little while to get there. In the weeks leading up to his crowning career achievement, it was clear the 61-year-old Reid had already proven you can be almost universally admired and adored even if you don't finish first once across two decades as an NFL head coach.
But man, it will be so sweet for this grandfather of nine, the son of a Los Angeles-based doctor (his mother, Elizabeth) and a Hollywood set designer and artist (his father, Walter, a Navy veteran of World War II), to never again answer for his inability to win the big one over 14 seasons in Philadelphia, and then over his first six in Kansas City.
No more questions about time management, about choking in the playoffs, about Dee Ford lining up offside against New England, about watching his Eagles treat a two-score deficit late in their Super Bowl loss to the Patriots 15 years ago as an opportunity to move at a pace better suited for a ballroom walk-through.
Just like in that crushing defeat in Jacksonville in February 2005, Reid's team was down 10 points in the middle of the fourth quarter. Only this time his players ran a Showtime fastbreak through the league's most ferocious defense, led by a visionary, Mahomes, who handles the ball and passes it the way few quarterbacks ever have.
"Keep going," Reid told his players as they struggled to put points on the board. "We're going to be OK. We've done it before; we'll do it again."
Reid was a prophet carrying an oversize dinner menu for a play card. So now the questions will not be about Reid's failures. Instead, they'll ask Reid about the night he became football's champion, the night his 222nd career victory silenced all that noise about him being the sport's most prolific winner without a ring.
Now they'll ask Reid about the night he almost certainly sealed his future induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
"Nobody deserves this trophy more than Andy Reid," Chiefs owner Clark Hunt, son of Lamar, told the crowd and the Fox TV audience during the postgame ceremony.
"We got that ring for Big Red," Travis Kelce said. "He acts like a father figure to everyone in the building, and you appreciate that. ... We're married together forever now."
Many of Reid's friends and colleagues had spent the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl being asked how they would react in the event that Reid finally won a Super Bowl. Some predicted they would cry. All predicted they would be choked up, and as happy for Andy as Andy was for his wife, Tammy, his sons, Britt and Spencer, and his daughters, Crosby and Drew Ann, and all those wearing Chiefs jerseys around them.
"Andy gave me a kiss right on the cheek when we won," said Dave Merritt, his defensive backs coach and an assistant who won two titles with Tom Coughlin's New York Giants. "As soon as it was over I thought about Andy's family, his kids, his wife, his cousins, his brothers, everyone associated with him. Not only Coach Reid became a world champ, they all became world champs. I was so moved watching Andy on the stage with his family around and all that confetti coming down on top of them."
REID'S FOOTBALL JOURNEY, which started in 1971 when an outsize 13-year-old famously wore a Rams uniform while competing in the punt, pass and kick competition, culminated at last on the biggest stage in sports. With the NFL celebrating an entire century of games, and with old haunts Bill Belichick and Tom Brady in the house for the ceremony, Reid was the right guy to lead the Chiefs to their first Super Bowl victory in a half-century. And San Francisco was a most appropriate full-circle opponent -- Reid worked his first real coaching job at San Francisco State, where he sold hot dogs to help raise money for the now-defunct Division II program. He has come a long way, baby, and his generosity of spirit made him relatable, huggable and easy to root for.
"Andy truly puts others before himself," says his former VP of player personnel in Philadelphia, Jason Licht, now the GM of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. "He's been wanting to win this for everybody else before he wants to win it for himself, and he's an unbelievable leader because of that. He's one of those leaders that when things aren't going well he takes all the blame, and when things are going good he gives credit to all the great work everyone else did. And that's why everybody loves playing for him, and goes the extra mile for him."
In the end, for Reid, it all comes back to trust and empowerment, and to letting his players breathe. In practice, his quarterback and receivers are permitted -- if not outright encouraged -- to close their eyes as they work on some creative pitching and catching. Mahomes says the everyday fun sanctioned by Reid "keeps us loose and ready to go on game days." No wonder that the quarterback, at age 24, is already on record saying he wants to spend his entire career in Kansas City.
Reid is one of the brilliant offensive minds of his generation, or of any generation, and yet his belief in freedom of expression works on the defensive side of the ball, too. "This is my third program in the league," Tyrann Mathieu says, "but I feel I can be myself here. ... [Reid] wants us to be comfortable, relaxed, at ease."
By all accounts, his insistence that his players stay true to themselves inspired them to play at the highest possible level, and doubled their affection for the coach who always looked as if he should be wearing a striped red and white jacket, red bow tie, and straw skimmer hat as part of a barbershop quartet.
"He tells them all the time in team meetings, 'Let your personality show,'" says Britt Reid, his father's linebackers coach. "I think that's important. You can't be someone you're not. If you want to play this game to the best of your ability, you've got to be you."
Sometimes Merritt will head out to practice and find his defensive backs working on moves that have nothing to do with containing opposing receivers. "They're dancing, the music is on, and they're going crazy on the sideline," Merritt says with a laugh. "But I can't say anything to them because the head coach said, 'Let your personalities show.'"
Britt says his father got his creativity from his own dad (Andy has a talent for drawing caricatures, including some of his youngest son, Spencer, a strength and conditioning coach at Colorado State), and his refined and calculating intellect from his mom, the radiologist. Those handed-down gifts have helped Reid coach his freewheeling Mozart at quarterback. Mahomes, Britt says, "has definitely reinvigorated him."
Nothing against Mahomes' predecessor, of course, as Alex Smith was a dignified winner in Kansas City who could not have handled the transition to the kid with any more grace. But Mahomes is a generational talent and an improvisational thinker who enables the artistic half of Reid's beautiful football mind to dream up all kinds of exotic route trees in the middle of the night.
"The thing people don't see about Andy is that this is still a kid's game to him," says Tom Melvin, Reid's assistant for more than two decades and an alumnus of his offensive line at San Francisco State. "And during a play in practice, Patrick will throw the ball and before it's caught he'll go, 'You like that throw, don't you?' He's playing a kid's game like a kid. So for Andy and Patrick, it's just playtime now."
It was playtime for all Chiefs during this championship run. The exclamation point was a fitting defeat of a team that suited up Dee Ford, the goat who allowed the GOAT, Tom Brady, to shake off what would've been a fatal interception last year and lead the Patriots to the AFC title. Sunday night, after winning the big game, Reid exonerated his former player for lining up where he did on the penalty, repeating for the 47th time, "It wasn't Dee Ford, it was all of us. ...We could've done four inches better."
It was just Andy being Andy, taking on the burden himself to avoid making anyone -- even a former player on the opposing team -- carry a heavier load than he needed to.
FOR THE RECORD: Reid's user-friendly practices shouldn't suggest that good ol' Andy is running the league's answer to Club Med. He no longer has the GM responsibilities he had in Philadelphia, yet Reid still works absurdly long hours, even by NFL standards, and expects his assistants and front-office people to keep up. Licht said Reid slept in that office three or four nights a week in Philly, and it's obvious that nothing much has changed in Kansas City.
But Reid's near-maniacal devotion to his craft, and to every imaginable game-prep detail, has never twisted him into an angry or paranoid mess. He can be stern with players and staffers when necessary, but Licht described him as a coach with "a relaxed California swag and chill way about him."
"Andy can get along with anybody," Licht says. "He has a way of coming into your office, sitting down, and realizing when somebody needs to get his mind off things. He'll talk about anything and everything, and you love being around him. When he's putting in all those hours, you just didn't want to let him down and not be there in case he had a question for you. You didn't want to miss the opportunity to have another five or 15 minutes of bonding with him."
Merritt sees the same man in Kansas City that Licht saw in Philly, and it comes as no surprise. "Leslie Frazier told me about him 20 years ago," Merritt says of the former Eagles assistant. "He said, 'Dave, if you ever get a chance to work with Andy Reid, don't ever turn it down.'"
He didn't, not after taking a call from Reid in the middle of a golf round and, by his estimation, completing contract talks between a pitch and a putt. Merritt's experiences with his new boss are quite different from those he had in New York. Coughlin, he reminds, was an iron-fisted ruler who fined Giants for wearing the wrong socks in hotel lobbies. Reid responds to relatively benign rules violations more like a nurturing father.
"Another thing I learned is that Andy really trusts us to coach these players, and that gives you so much confidence as an assistant," Merritt says. "With Tom Coughlin, we had staff meetings every day, sometimes twice a day, three times a day. I've never seen a coach operate the way Andy operates, where we go through the week and never have a staff meeting."
REID'S STORY PROBABLY makes you feel good inside, unless you're a fan of the 49ers or someone who lost a few bucks betting that their defense would win San Francisco its sixth Lombardi trophy. Who couldn't feel good about an NFL head coach who still occasionally drives the Ford Model A his father bought after the war for $25? And besides, we all sorta needed a story like this at the end of a heartbreaking week in sports.
Andy Reid personally knew Kobe Bryant, another tough guy with Philly roots, and would talk about him here and there at the Eagles' facility. "He would just say of Kobe, 'That's a good dude, man. That's a good dude,'" Licht recalls. "People who know Andy know that's high praise for him."
Asked during Super Bowl week about the helicopter crash that killed the Lakers legend, his teenage daughter Gianna and seven other passengers, Reid predicted the Bryant family would "get back into the swing of life and do great things." Just like the Reids did after one of their sons, Garrett, died of an accidental heroin overdose during training camp in 2012.
Later that year, Andy ignored friends' suggestions that he should take a year off to regroup after the Eagles fired him. Instead, he immediately filled the opening in Kansas City, where linebacker Jovan Belcher had just killed his girlfriend before taking his own life in the team parking lot. Reid needed the Chiefs as much as the Chiefs needed him. Andy immediately added to his staff his second-oldest of three sons, Britt, despite his own past of drug and gun charges and jail time.
Sunday night, Britt was on the winning Super Bowl side as a sober linebackers coach for his old man.
What a moment for Kansas City. What a week for the Reids. The Chiefs honored Reid at the start of Super Bowl week by wearing his cherished Hawaiian shirts and Air Force 1 sneakers, and they honored him again at the end of Super Bowl week by scoring more points than the 49ers scored.
"An-dy ... An-dy ... An-dy," the Chiefs fans chanted in the final seconds of Sunday's game. Reid was Gatorade-d by his players. It was all hugs and kisses and confetti from there.
"Hey, how about those Chieeeeeeeeeeefs!" Reid roared to the crowd during the ceremony as he wore his white championship cap. Tammy Reid had described her husband as "calm as a cucumber" in the lead-up to the game, and soon enough Reid was in his news conference already talking about a potential title No. 2.
"I'm really excited about it," Reid said. "You get one, you want to go get another one."
When he was done at the microphone, Andy loaded himself into a golf cart with Tammy, the woman he still calls his girlfriend, and headed for the locker room.
He will surely spend the coming days handing out credit to everyone who has helped him in his eight college and pro jobs, and way back to his time as a student-athlete and aspiring sportswriter at Brigham Young. Back then, Reid wrote columns for The Provo Daily Herald. All these years later, that young journalist inside the old coach knows exactly how this story needs to be written.
Above all, Super Bowl LIV belongs to a vital member of the Kansas City Chiefs. The one in Andy Reid's mirror.