Andy Reid, the coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, has won more than 250 games in his career, fourth all-time, which puts him high on any list of the N.F.L.’s greatest coaches. Most of the others in that pantheon are men who personify the sport’s militaristic soul — Vince Lombardi,
for example, the fabled coach of the 1960s-era Green Bay Packers, or Reid’s contemporary, the grim Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots. But Reid is no Lombardi or Belichick; he’s Steve Jobs. He’s a designer, a tinkerer, a product engineer who imbues his football with creativity and even an occasional touch of whimsy.
To take his measure is like looking into a kaleidoscope. Adjust the view, and you get different images. He’s the jolliest fat man in America — renowned for his appetite and for being the wryly comic figure in TV ads for State Farm and Snickers — or the saddest. He’s a father figure to his players, and he’s the father of two sons who have faced serious criminal charges, one now dead from a heroin overdose and the other in prison after grievously injuring a little girl while driving drunk. He controls everything. And he controls nothing
The constant is Reid’s football genius. Football is, of course, one of America’s great distractions, and Reid’s version — fast, inventive, wide-open, surprising — is the most distracting of all. It simultaneously separates you from your day-to-day concerns while making you forget about the sport’s pathologies. At one point in the Chiefs’ final game of the 2022-23 regular season, for example,
all 11 players on offense gathered in a huddle, then locked arms and began circling rapidly before scurrying to the line of scrimmage and running a trick play. (Reid has said they are not trick plays if you practice them.) The center snapped the ball to a running back, who pitched it to the Chiefs’ magician of a quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, who then threw it across the field to a wide-open receiver. The next day’s sports coverage likened the presnap dance to a game of Ring Around the Rosie.