Mahomes, Favre and other NFL stars reveal the larger-than-life tales behind Andy Reid

ByDavid Fleming ESPN logo
Thursday, October 3, 2019

ANDY REID WAS 9 when he orchestrated his first successful downfield bomb. The story goes like this: Standing atop Holly Knoll Drive, in the idyllic Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles, Reid and his gang of childhood friends dropped a shot-put into the gutter and let it go, hoping it would bounce harmlessly onto the curb below. They soon watched in paralyzed awe as it careened down the street, transforming into a cannonball with each successive rotation.

"You can picture it: bunch of guys standing around giggling -- 'This is gonna be good,'" says Pete Arbogast, who grew up on Holly Knoll and is now the voice of the USC Trojans. "It jumps the curb going 40 mph, goes airborne and, like a cannonball, BOOOOM, it goes through one car door and out the other. We all just went 'Ahhhh!' bumping into each other, and then scattered like cockroaches."

The cannonball tale is just one of many in the vibrant life of one of the NFL's winningest coaches. Running late for a summer baseball league game, Reid once drove his car straight to the mound, got out and started warming up. Working as a caterer at "The Tonight Show," he famously stiffed John Wayne when the Duke asked for more meatballs. And, of course, there's Reid's now-legendary appearance as a 13-year-old man-child in the 1971 Punt, Pass and Kick competition. Reid was so huge that he had to borrow a jersey from 6-foot-1, 207-pound Los Angeles Rams running back Les Josephson.

Although Reid, who will go for his 200th regular-season win against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, rarely divulges the Holly Knoll Drive side of his personality, his prolific career provides a treasure trove of insights and anecdotes from across the football landscape. So ESPN asked the people who know him best to help tell Reid's story: the larger-than-life childhood, the transformation at BYU, the triumph and tragedy in Philadelphia, the discovery and development of MVP Patrick Mahomes, and whether this partnership can produce the one thing that will surely shot-put Reid into the Hall of Fame: a Super Bowl ring.

A two-way lineman and straight-toe placekicker for John Marshall High School, Reid once broke a church window with an errant kick, but as a senior he lifted Marshall into the playoffs with a last-second game-winning field goal. Reid then attended nearby Glendale Community College for two seasons before transferring to BYU. Although his college playing career was plagued by a knee injury, BYU still had a profound effect on Reid's life. It was the place where he found his profession, his wife and his religion -- although he says he had to drive 30 miles to Heber City for a decent taco.

Rick Burkholder, Kansas City Chiefs trainer: His mom was a doctor and his dad was an artist. His mom had an unbelievable, analytical mind. And his father's side gave him his outside-the-box thinking. So he's got a little art and a little science in his football.

Jimmy Evangelatos, Glendale teammate and lifelong friend: He started as a journalism major at BYU and, because of his mom, was also thinking about premed. Andy didn't really know what he wanted to do, even at the end of his time at BYU. But he told me, "LaVell Edwards for some reason saw something in me and he came up to me one day and said, 'Andy, you know what you'd be good at? You'd be a good coach.'" And the light just kinda went on for him right then.

Jim McMahon, former BYU quarterback: I saw Andy recently, and I said, "Man, I wish you were this big when we were back at BYU. It would've taken defenders a little while longer to get around you." He was a heck of an athlete, and he had really good feet. I also think the philosophy we had at BYU stuck with him: that the quickest way to score is to throw the ball, and that's never going to change.

John Cicuto, former Glendale coach: He was a gigantic monster of a kid, with a big smiley baby face, from the time he was about 12. He used to drive his parents' 1920s Model A Ford to practice, and it was the funniest thing you've ever seen -- this big old guy driving this tiny little antique car. He took up almost the entire front seat.

Evangelatos: His personality, even as a blocker, was more intellectual. Defensive players, we hit somebody and we go crazy running around the field. Not Andy. He'd block someone literally off the field and just walk to the bench and sit down.

Burkholder: He had a grandfatherly way about him even when he was young.

Tom Holmoe, BYU teammate and current athletic director: We were both Lutherans when we started school. It's an odd story, the only two Lutherans up at BYU. We'd go to the Lutheran church, had to be the smallest Lutheran church in the world in Provo. I joined the [Mormon] church six years after I left school. Kind of like me, Andy fell in love with a girl [his wife, Tammy]. When I heard he wanted to get baptized, I said to him, "Andy, why are you doing this?" He said, "I really believe for me this is the way."

Evangelatos: Tammy is Andy's neck. He still has his brain and he makes decisions, sure, but she decides which way his head is pointed, what direction he's facing.

Holmoe: After BYU, the first place he went to coach was San Francisco State, where he and Tammy lived in this tiny place on campus and the coaches had to sell hot dogs on the quad to raise money for the program. You're going to think: "What kind of a program was this? What a sloppy job." But I'm telling you, Andy Reid sold more hot dogs than any coach in the history of San Francisco State.

Reid spent a decade grinding his way up the coaching ranks from San Francisco State to Northern Arizona, UTEP and Missouri. In the summer of 1992, Mike Holmgren hired Reid, his former grad assistant at BYU, to be the tight ends coach on his staff in Green Bay, setting up perhaps the greatest meet-cute between coaches in the history of the NFL.

Steve Mariucci, former Green Bay Packers quarterbacks coach: I'm in Green Bay, right after getting hired, staying at a motor lodge with my wife so we can go house-hunting in the morning. In the middle of the night, the fire alarm goes off. That damn thing would not turn off. So I open the door in my tighty-whities to see if there's smoke or people running down the hallway or whatever. I look down one way -- nothing. I look down the other way, and three doors down there's this big giant redhead -- it looked like a dang lion's head -- sticking out a door staring at me. I'm looking at him. He's staring at me. The alarm's still going off. He's in his underwear too. And I go: "Reid?" And he goes: "Mariucci?" And we both go, "Oh! Hey, how ya doing!?" and come marching out, hugging in the hallway in our underwear. Then he goes, "Hey, you wanna meet my wife?" So now the wives come out wrapped in blankets to meet each other, and there we are the four of us just gabbing away in our underwear with the fire alarm still going off.

Doug Pederson, Philadelphia Eagles coach: There's never a stone that's left unturned. Every stone has been turned over once, twice, three times. That's something people have talked about, but they really don't know the extent with Coach Reid. I go back to when I was a player. I was a quarterback in Green Bay, and he was the tight ends coach. One of the things he mentored me with that carries over to today is just the details of the work.

Mariucci: Holmgren threw us in the same office, which was more like a closet. So yeah, you get to know someone really well. But it was fun. We started from the bottom like you're supposed to. We coached against each other in T-ball. And we ate. We ate, man. One night we were at the Prime Quarter and we both order a giant 40-ounce steak. This thing is huge. The girl comes out and tells us if we eat this thing in under an hour you get your picture on the wall and a chef's hat and all that. Andy finished his in 19 minutes. I ate mine in 30. Our picture is still on the wall there.

Brett Favre, former Packers quarterback: We had the same chain crew for years, and one of them was a big overweight guy. So during a home game in the early 1990s, Andy is pacing up and down the sidelines with his headset on, and suddenly the cord catches and his head is yanked back hard. He looks to see who is on his cord and it's the overweight guy. Andy goes, "Hey, get off the cord, you fat-ass!" And the guy looks right back at Andy, confused, and he yells back, "Who you calling a fat-ass?!"

Mariucci: Andy's a big man, but he's a teddy bear and a gentleman. Seldom loses his cool. But one time at Lambeau, we were hurrying through the concourse from the coaches box down to the locker room during halftime, and things weren't going our way, and some fan said something to us. I don't know what it was -- "You suck, go back to college," maybe -- but whatever it was, it didn't sit well with Andy. It stopped him dead in his tracks, and his face turned the color of his hair and mustache. I have never seen him like this before, but he was so pissed, he stopped and kinda like bowed up on this guy. I don't want to say he was ready to fight, but he was ready to confront this guy. I had to run back and grab him by the shirt.

Reid spent seven seasons in Green Bay during a stretch when the Packers reached two Super Bowls, winning one, and Favre earned three straight league MVPs. On Jan. 11, 1999, after Holmgren jumped to Seattle, the Eagles announced they had hired Reid as their 20th head coach. The Eagles' unique job search and a series of then-unorthodox interviews helped Reid, a relative unknown at the time, beat out Jim Haslett for the job. The Eagles' offer made Reid, then 40, the second-youngest head coach in the NFL (behind Jon Gruden) and the first to make the jump from QB coach to head coach without any experience as a coordinator.

Joe Banner, former Eagles president: We made a list of every coach that had been to at least two Super Bowls, going back to the Bill Walshes and the Joe Gibbses, and we tried to study what they had in common. Some were older, younger, offensive-minded, defense, ran the ball, passed the ball; what they had in common had nothing to do with football. ... So I started calling GMs and asking, "Do you have anyone on your staff that the players complain about because he's so obsessed with details?"

And in comes Andy to our interview with a giant book -- they are common now but not back then -- and this book is 5 inches thick and had everything laid out in such detail, about every part of how he'd run the team. I mean, everything: from how he'd run camp, to his top 10 candidates for every assistant-coaching position, and summaries, honestly, summaries of every opening speech of every coach he had ever worked for.

Merrill Reese, Eagles play-by-play announcer: We took phone calls at the first Andy Reid Show. We did it live at training camp, and a caller said, "Hi, Andy, I'm so-and-so from wherever. I figured out your problem: Your jockey shorts are on too tight." That was the last time we ever took a live call.

Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers coach: He's got this great, dry sense of humor that most people don't get to see. And when he gives you that look of his, that wry half smile, half wink, flat mustache smile, just by doing that, that's enough. He doesn't have to say anything else. The more you know Andy, the more you know what that smile means.

Pat Shurmur, New York Giants coach: When I was his quarterbacks coach, for my summer project, it was to go through every pass and write out in extreme detail the quarterback's progression on every throw vs. Cover 1, Cover 2, Cover 3, Cover 4. ... It took me eight weeks. Over and over and over. It was a project for me as a coach to learn it, and it was his way of teaching it. Now I make the young coaches I'm around do it too.

Vinny Curry, Eagles defensive end: It didn't matter if you were new to the team, that man knew your name, your family's names, where you were from, everything. He would just call random guys up -- undrafted guys -- and ask them, "Hey, how's Betty?" And guys would be like, "Oh s---, how did he know? Big Red just asked me how my mom is doing."

Rivera: I feel like everyone who has ever worked for Andy has a story about him giving them a book. In the middle of camp, Andy calls me into his suite, reaches down and pulls out Bill Walsh's "Finding the Winning Edge" and says, "Go get a copy of this book. It's kind of a coaching bible in the NFL." I start reading it, and all of a sudden I see the parallels between the way Walsh did things and the way Andy was doing things. The big thing I learned from that book, and from Andy, is that the West Coast is not necessarily just a philosophy on offense as much as it is a philosophy on how the team should be run and organized.

Chris Ballard, Colts general manager: I'd sit down in his office, we'd start talking and the next thing I know it would be two hours later. You don't interrupt a brilliant mind by taking notes, so afterward I'd run back to my office and write relentlessly, trying to remember everything he said and taught me. It's called KC Notes, and I still read from it today.

With the second pick in the 1999 draft, pundits and fans in Philadelphia were certain the Eagles were going to select Texas running back Ricky Williams. Instead, Reid was adamant about taking Syracuse QB Donovan McNabb because of his skills, his ability to make plays on his own and a personality -- part joker, part general -- that reminded the coach of Favre.

Banner: Andy was more responsible for picking Donovan McNabb than anyone. If we had the first pick in that draft, Andy would have picked Donovan. You take the wrong QB there, or a running back, and the next decade of Eagles history would look completely different.

Bob LaMonte, agent: You would not have seen McNabb blossom the way he did without Doug Pederson being there to play quarterback for the Eagles in 1999 and survive the beating he had to take, because they weren't ready and Andy wisely didn't play McNabb. They had lost their first four, and it was 10-0 Cowboys at the half. I'm on the sideline, and fans are yelling, "Play McNabb! F--- Reid! Play McNabb! F--- Reid!" And literally there's batteries coming down at halftime onto the field, and I'm saying to myself, "Please play McNabb in the second half so you won't get killed." Andy doesn't play McNabb. He plays Pederson, and lo and behold they rally and miraculously defeat them 13-10. It was kind of like Andy Reid saying, "I'm going to do what I'm going to do, and I don't care what you guys are thinking."

Starting in 2001, Reid guided the Eagles to four straight NFC Championship Games, and in 2005 they faced the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX. With under six minutes to play, the Eagles got the ball back trailing 24-14, but Reid badly mismanaged the clock, waiting until after the two-minute warning to take a shot downfield. McNabb eventually threw a 30-yard touchdown pass, but when the Eagles got the ball back with 46 seconds left, they wasted half that clock time on a 1-yard completion. Two plays later, the game -- one that helped define Reid's career-long struggle with clock management -- ended on an interception.

Banner: That night was the first moment I had ever seen him look like he felt a little beaten. He always has such a strong presence to him -- stands up tall, takes charge. That was the only time I've ever looked at him and said, "Oh, wow, he's actually human." The Super Bowl was torture. It's still hard to verbalize what that felt like. ... Instead of feeling the exhilaration you had dreamed your whole life of feeling, all you feel is indescribable pain. People say it's like having your heart ripped out, but that doesn't even begin to describe the pain and the stress.

In the early morning of Aug. 5, 2012, tragedy struck. After a long battle with drug addiction, Reid's oldest son, Garrett, was found dead from an accidental heroin overdose in his dorm room at the Eagles' training camp at Lehigh University. He was 29.

Trent Cole, former Eagles defensive end: I was on the steps of the dorm waiting for him. About 5 o'clock in the morning. First one up. Me and Garrett worked out in the morning at training camp. The trainer came, tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Garrett passed." I have never seen a team so sad, because even though Garrett wasn't a football player, he was like a brother to us. A black cloud or something just came over. I couldn't eat. The man across from me couldn't eat. It was that bad. With Andy, we're all family, so if Andy Reid hurts, we all hurt.

Banner: I remember the funeral vividly. It was a testament to him and all relationships he's built in and out of the NFL. The line just went on forever. The room was huge, and they took all the partitions down and expanded it in every way that they could and it still couldn't handle everyone who wanted to support Andy.

Mariucci (through tears): Andy didn't speak, didn't do the eulogy. The minister did that. I can't blame him. It was all too shocking and difficult to do. I don't think we said a word to each other, just hugged for a very long time.

Fletcher Cox, Eagles defensive tackle: I had lost my grandmom and had to go home my rookie year to attend the funeral, and Andy and I were talking about how important family is. And then not even a week or so later he had the death of his son. I'll always remember that conversation with him.

Burkholder: It was hard for me to be a part of that. But I'm grateful that I was. That was a life-changing moment for me. None of us want to relive that day. None of us want to go back in time, but I'm telling you, I grew up as a man during that time, just being with him and watching how he handled himself, his family, his football team, how he handled everything.

Banner: I just hugged him. It was tremendously emotional. But he was Andy. You could hear the pain in his voice but the resolve too. There was irrefutable sadness in him, and at the same time he was undeterred, driving forward.

Cole: I've had family members die. That might have been worse. We lost a brother. He was no different from us. Doesn't matter what they say about what was going on, this and that, he is still a good person in my eyes and he's in a better place.

John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens coach: I always saw this 3-by-5 card right behind his desk. It had two words written on it: Don't judge. And I never asked him about it, that I can remember, just because it was pretty clear-cut what that means. It's a biblical principle, but the point of the whole thing was: Take people for who they are and for where they're at in their life -- as football players, as coaches, whatever -- and let them be who they are.

Mariucci: Andy's a compassionate guy. You see it in how he handles players he's had who have been down and out, and he's one of those guys who believes very strongly in second chances in life. Some guys are not willing to do that. But he tries to help guys who have had indiscretions. Just guys that he takes under his wing and tries to help them through. It's a unique quality. And I think that goes back to Garrett.

After Garrett's death, the 2012 Eagles staggered through a 4-12 season, dropping 11 of their last 12 and culminating with a humiliating 42-7 loss to the Giants. A day later, the Eagles reluctantly fired Reid, the winningest coach in team history. Owner Jeffrey Lurie called Reid's induction into the Eagles Hall of Fame "inevitable," and afterReid met with the team for the last time, players sent him off with a standing ovation. Although he was owed $6 million in 2013, Reid had already been assembling a new coaching staff in anticipation of the Eagles' move. A person close to Reid says that upon returning to Philadelphia after the loss to the Giants, jets from three teams were already waiting to fly him off for interviews. Ultimately, he chose Kansas City. The Chiefs had finished 2-14 in 2012 and had had one winning season in the previous five years. In 2013, under Reid, they went 11-5.

Burkholder: The day we were leaving Philly, when the party was officially over in Philly, my two daughters called me and said, "We want to see Coach Reid." And I said, "Why?" And they said, "What if we never get to see him again?" I mean, these are 12-year-old and 9-year-old girls. So I called him and I said, "I know you're having a hell of a day, but my girls want to see you." And he goes, "Bring 'em up."

Banner: When he left Philly, there were several of us strongly encouraging him to take some time off, to catch his breath. Mike Holmgren told me, "I'm telling him the same thing, but he's not listening to me either." I asked him, "You OK? You need time?" And he said, "No, I'm good." He was quickly looking forward to the next thing, which is not to say that he wasn't still suffering, but he was like, "I have to do what I have to do to keep going."

Evangelatos: I asked him how he picked the Chiefs, and he said, "There's just something magical about Kansas City."

LaMonte: Very rarely you get what we call a resurrection coach: Holmgren to Green Bay, Reid to Philly, Sean McVay to L.A. These coaches resurrect their franchises. And those are the guys that become legendary. They're generational.

Burkholder: In 2015 we started 1-5, and there was fricking panic in this building except for one person. Andy stood up in front of that team and said, "Look, no one's losing their job, no one's getting fired, no one's getting demoted or cut. We're not gonna change a thing. We're just gonna practice harder and believe in each other and get this right." The team was looking around like they didn't know a coach could be that way -- steady and even -- without having to yell or scream or cuss. Ten wins later, we're 11-5 and in the playoffs. ... I would have bet a million dollars that we couldn't do that with that ballclub. But we did.

In the 2017 draft, the Chiefs shocked the NFL by trading two first-round picks and a third-round pick to the Buffalo Bills to move up to 10th and select little-known Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes. It was the first time since 1983 that the Chiefs had drafted a quarterback in Round 1, and the reactions were mixed at best about how good Mahomes could be.

McMahon: I asked him about the Alex Smith trade. I said, "Hey, do you have a guy to fill his shoes?" And he looks at me and goes, "Oh yeah, we're going to be just fine."

Banner: If there's a better evaluator of QBs than Andy Reid, I can't figure out who it could possibly be. He just has a strong sense of the things he's looking for -- intelligence, accuracy, leadership -- and he can decipher those qualities. I watched him put grades on quarterbacks for 14 years, and year after year he was almost never wrong. So it wasn't surprising to me at all when he ended up with Mahomes, or how that's worked out, even though there were a lot of people across the league shaking their heads at the time.

Mariucci: Andy was around with Favre when Brett grew up and was MVP of the league -- three times in a row. We had the youngest QBs in the league. They were all babies. Not sure any of them were even shaving yet. So Andy saw what it took for a young guy to grow up to be a great QB: to keep working hard, to not be too full of himself, a kid who loves life and loves football. And Patrick Mahomes is built the same way.

Steve Spagnuolo, Chiefs defensive coordinator: I feel a sense there's a more relaxed Andy Reid who is enjoying what he's doing tremendously. I really see that. We are in offices that back up to each other, side by side, so we can both look out the window and see the same thing. And we're both early-morning guys. When I look out the window and see a beautiful sunrise, I'll take a picture of it and text it to Andy, who is literally on the other side of the wall looking at the same thing. Sometimes you get to where Andy and I are in our careers, you start to really appreciate the small moments. After I send the sunrise picture, always, a comment comes back or a smiley face or a text that says something like, "We have the greatest jobs in America."

Banner: Having grandchildren was a big moment in Andy's life. Someone who cares so much about family and went through what he did with his son -- grandkids brought a whole new element of joy to his life. When you work in the NFL, you have a job that you are unbelievably lucky to have, a job that almost everyone wishes they had, but there's a lot of stress and it's hard to get away from. So something that puts your humanity front and center, like the joy and innocence of grandkids, it provided some joy that mitigated the hardness that people who have done what he's been doing for 15 to 20 years start to feel.

Mariucci: Andy's found a little fountain of youth with this quarterback and this young football team. He loves to be the mad scientist with his offense. People want to talk about his legacy, but I think he's just getting started.

Mahomes: He listens and he understands what each QB is good at and what each QB needs to improve on. He doesn't put the QB in a bad situation. No matter who the quarterback, no matter what his skill set is, he designs the offense around that. That's different than what a lot of other coaches do. They run their offense and insert the quarterback into it.

Favre: It's simple. He calls plays that expose the strengths of his players.

Burkholder: I've never seen Andy sit down during a game, so the first time he went and sat down with Mahomes on the bench during a game, as a medical guy, my immediate thinking was, "Is there something wrong with him?" I don't say anything. I just watch him, and he's teaching this kid like when I was a little kid and my dad sat down with me after baseball practice. That's the grandfather part of Andy. That's the part that's different than before.

Tom Melvin, Chiefs tight ends coach: In Philly he ended up being the GM and had to give up some of the football to do that. It got away from him. It's like in the business world when you keep getting elevated to the point where you are out of touch with the day-to-day stuff the company does. So now, coming here, it's all football for Andy and the gleam is back. ... He's like a kid in a candy store. Now he's got a big whiteboard in his office that's just completely covered with plays and ideas.

Mahomes: He has those little note cards in his pocket -- he has like a thousand of those things, and he'll pull one out to show me the idea and ask me if I could do it, and most of the time I do. And there's times when I see something or I'll draw up something and ask if we can try it, and he'll give me a yes or that kind of yes with that look that doesn't really mean yes. I've gotten a couple of those, but most of the time he incorporates the plays that I like, and we're always adding news plays together.

Harbaugh: This guy is on the cutting edge of offensive football year after year with different offensive coordinators. Then they leave and go out and do the same thing around the league. So he's the top coach in football, in that sense.

Mitchell Schwartz, Chiefs tackle: He's an O-lineman at heart, and he still has that O-lineman wry sense of humor and view of the world. Only now the former O-lineman in him shows up the most in his playcalling. All the shots we take downfield. That aggressive attacking mentality was always something he played with on the field, but now he gets to put it into his downfield passing attack.

Mahomes: We meet every Friday in his office, and it's just the two of us and we go through the whole game plan, play by play. He might give me ideas from games he just watched, or I'll give him ideas, and he has that board in his office full of plays and ideas and he listens and combines it all into the master game plan every single week. ... It's a favorite time of the week. I can see the vision he has for the game. It gives us both a better understanding of what we're going to do on the field. A lot of times in games I know what he's going to call before he even calls it because we are so in tune with the game plan.

Behind league MVP Mahomes and Reid, the Chiefs advanced to the 2018 AFC Championship Game, which they appeared to have won when, with a four-point lead and under a minute to play, Tom Brady threw an interception. The turnover that would have sent Reid and the Chiefs to the Super Bowl, however, was nullified by an offside penalty on Chiefs defensive endDee Ford. New England went on to score on that drive and win the game 37-31 in overtime.

Spagnuolo: I talked to him three days after the loss to the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game. I don't think the conversation ever went back to the game. All he wanted to talk about was going forward. Typical Andy.

Burkholder: He's really close with [Bill] Belichick. People in the football world think they're enemies. They're not. They're two brilliant leaders. They love to compete against each other, but they're good friends. You think they share ideas? I think they do. They just have two different styles of leadership, but both work.

Schwartz: The outside world was talking about the offside thing with the Patriots, but he was talking about how everyone in this room was probably 4 inches off at some point in the game. We all could have been 4 inches better. That was his message.

Mahomes: You could tell he understood how bad that hurt, losing a game that close to the Super Bowl, that close to the ultimate goal of getting there and winning that game. He told us to use it as motivation and as a learning experience for a lot of guys on our team who had not been in an AFC Championship Game before. Going into this season, we understand what it takes, each and every week, to get ourselves back in that position. And when we get there, we're gonna find a way to win it this time.

In anticipation of Reid's 200th regular-season win, trying to define his impact on the game, Rivera, who started as a linebackers coach on Reid's 1999 staff, searches for a picture on his cellphone from the 2016 NFL combine in Indianapolis. The photo is from a dinner reunion of Reid's Eagles staff, and of the nine coaches huddled around Reid, seven of them have been NFL head coaches. (Overall, 10 of Reid's former assistants have become head coaches and two of them have won Lombardi trophies.)

Still, all six of the coaches ahead of a 200-win Reid on the all-time wins list --Don Shula, George Halas, Belichick, Tom Landry, Curly Lambeau, Paul Brown-- have won at least two championships. Reid, meanwhile, is still looking for his first. Yet, even if he never wins a Super Bowl, those close to him insist his impact on the game, as an offensive innovator and a mentor, will be more profound than even Belichick's. The Patriots coach has six Super Bowl rings, but with virtually no coaching tree, his legacy might not extend far beyond his own career. "The people Andy's influenced are literally everywhere in this league," Ballard says. "You combine that with the winning he's done, it's an amazing feat."

Burkholder: He's probably had as much of an effect on my life as anybody but my father. Twenty-one years, he's been through it all. Great teams, the playoffs, through hell with injuries and deaths and victories and losses and everything but a Super Bowl win. If he wins a world championship, he's an automatic into Canton.

Mariucci: He is just very quietly climbing up into the upper echelon of coaches. Take Bill Belichick out of the equation because that's just ridiculous what he's done. Now look at the rest of them. Who's got a résumé like Andy? The wins and the coaching tree? No one.

Burkholder: I've known Shady [LeSean McCoy] since high school. And when he chose to sign here, I said, "Why us, bro? Is it because of Pat [Mahomes]?" And he goes, "Pat? No, man, it's because of Andy." How many people take less money and a backup role just to play for a man? In this day and age? I don't think that happens. ... Terrell Owens came to our hotel in Los Angeles last year just to see Andy. T.O. -- the guy Andy fired -- wanted to come see him and talk to him. Think about that. You want to talk about legacy? Andy's been in the NFL for 21 years, and I don't think he has a single enemy.

LaMonte: At the end of the day, Andy Reid's tree in both general managers and head coaches dwarfs Holmgren's. Dwarfs it. He's had an impact on football that is so amazing; his development of not just coaches but managerial people is beyond belief.

Burkholder: We went to see [Eagles Hall of Fame safety] Brian Dawkins at the gold jacket dinner before he was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Andy tells the driver, "Take us to where the Hall of Famers are." They have their own dinner before the official gold jacket dinner. Andy gets out of the SUV and there's security at the door, but when the gold jacket guys and the commissioner see him, they all get up, come out and start hugging him. Then I realize: They're treating him like he's already a gold jacket guy.

Reese: Andy is underrated as a coach because he never won the Super Bowl. But Dick Vermeil once said to me, "If a college basketball coach had taken his team to four Final Fours in a row, he would be considered an amazing coach. Do you know how hard it is to go to five NFC Championship Games? And he did it."

Burkholder: If he wins the Super Bowl, I will sit right down on the field there, hopefully in Miami, and cry like a baby. He deserves this. He's got a chance. He just needs to win it one time. But for Andy, it's about so much more than that. If he wins a world championship, you will see so many people and players from all over the league come out of the woodwork to celebrate not just a Hall of Fame coach but a Hall of Fame person. That's the best way to understand him and his impact: Watch how many people, and how deeply it affects them, when Andy Reid holds up the Lombardi trophy.

Additional reporting by Tim McManus, Jordan Raanan, Jamison Hensley and Jeff Dickerson

Related Video