How Andy Reid reacted to Travis Kelce’s tantrum and why it reflects Super Bowl repeat

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Almost instantaneously as Chiefs’ running back Isiah Pacheco was losing a fumble in the first half of the Super Bowl LVIII on Sunday night, you’ve seen over and over by now, tight end Travis Kelce went berserk on coach Andy Reid on the sideline.

It was an appalling scene, really, and Kelce might well have toppled the 65-year-old Reid with his juvenile rampage, presumably over not being on the field for the crucial play.

But Reid merely was jostled, not knocked off his moorings — a metaphor for how his unflappable and resolute persona helped Reid absorb a season of immense challenges and crazy twists and channel it all into one of the great feats in the history of the game.

After the instant classic 25-22 overtime victory over San Francisco made the Chiefs the first team to repeat as champions in nearly two decades, Patrick Mahomes called the game a microcosm of the season. He meant it in terms of the struggles along the way — particularly the foreboding 11-6 regular-season marked by self-destructive offensive lapses.

But his words also spoke to the rock that is Reid ... and how he stilled turbulent waters to navigate a flawed and vulnerable team to a third Super Bowl crown in five seasons — a dynamic nicely capped by overcoming a double-digit deficit on Sunday.

In the process, the win didn’t simply reflect Reid’s prodigious acumen as an innovator and tactician.

It reflected who he is to the utmost.

A coach who keeps his head (almost always) when all about him are losing theirs … whose greatest fulfillment truly comes from what he brings out in others … who stays with players scorned by many fans (the Chiefs’ touchdowns on Sunday were scored by much-maligned Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Mecole Hardman) … and who understands at the heart of it all is seeing each player as his own person.

Take it from Mahomes, the personification of Reid’s vision, who after the game called Reid the greatest coach of all-time.

“He brings out the best in me because he lets me be me,” Mahomes said after earning his third Super Bowl MVP honor. “I think that’s important; he doesn’t try to make me anyone else … I don’t think I’d be the quarterback that I am if I didn’t have Coach Reid being my head coach.”

Kelce will tell you the same even if he looked less than grateful in the cauldron of the moment — one of a number of his altercations with Reid over the years.

No one has pushed Reid more than Kelce on his mantra of “let your personality show,” but Reid also has cuffed Kelce at times and has a keen grasp of what he’s dealing with.

“As much as he bumps into me, I get after him. And we understand that,” Reid said, smiling and adding, “He just caught me off-balance.”

Even so, Reid scarcely reacted in the moment that he later kiddingly called a “cheap shot.” Kelce, whom Reid said apologized shortly thereafter, was back on the field immediately the next time the Chiefs had the ball.

After the game, Reid was quick to joke about what had happened even before being asked about it. He appreciated the passion of his team, he’d say, “even if they chest bump me to the other side of the 50-yard line. Kelce, he added, “makes me feel young.”

Indeed, after the game Reid seemed immersed in a fountain of youth.

At one point the normally reserved coach was cavorting on the field with defensive end Chris Jones, piling on him like another player might. In another scene, he indulged the moment by kissing the Lombardi Trophy … albeit at the insistence of his wife, Tammy.

On the postgame podium, his face exuded an indescribable joy — the sort you can really only feel when it’s about what you achieved with others and being part of something bigger than yourself.

The most fundamental element of this astounding time, though, is Reid. He now trails only Bill Belichick (six) and Chuck Noll (four) in Super Bowl victories and is on trajectory toward becoming the winningest overall coach in league history (his 284 victories are 64 from breaking Don Shula’s record) depending on how much longer he’ll coach.

Amid unsubstantiated speculation that he may consider retiring after this season, the likes of Chiefs chairman and CEO Clark Hunt, general manager Brett Veach, Mahomes and Kelce all scoffed at the idea over the last few days. For reasons that are unclear, Reid continues to be cryptic in his responses but seemed to verify he’ll return when asked Sunday night.

“I haven’t had time to think about it,” he said, smiling, “but yeah, yeah, yeah. Sure.”

Barring any health issues, it’s hard to fathom why Reid possibly would retire now as he’s enjoying success scant few in the history of the NFL have ever realized. Much of his Pro Football Hall of Fame-bound distinctions have come with the Chiefs after his distinguished time in Philadelphia nonetheless left him with the label of not being able to win the big one.

So he appreciated the first Super Bowl victory, also over the 49ers in Super Bowl LIV, because it took “a thousand years” to win it. And, of course, he relished last season’s Super Bowl win over the Eagles, a game that might be considered his masterpiece.

But he appreciated this one for a few other reasons, starting with the sheer improbability in a league so geared toward parity that “it’s ridiculous,” as he put it.

“It’s a little bit surreal …,” he said, bringing up the oft-asked matter of what constitutes a dynasty and playfully adding, “I don’t know what a dynasty is … You have the thesaurus, you can figure it out.”

Whatever the malleable definition of a sports dynasty might constitute, it ought to include the example of the 2023-2024 Chiefs.

Its offensive deficiencies long loomed as a seemingly fatal flaw. So much so that it got tiresome to hear Reid say they were only a tick or tweak off week after week … and have the same things (particularly penalties and dropped passes) happen over and over.

“There was a point this season where everybody left us for dead,” safety Justin Reid said, “and we were on our own.”

Andy Reid’s optimism and faith resounded, though. When he casually said last week that he never feels like an underdog going into a game, it was testimony to the quiet confidence and calming constancy that reverberated with this team.

Not to mention at the very top.

“Andy’s head was never down. He never doubted the team. He and his staff just kept teaching,” Hunt said after the Chiefs beat the Ravens in the AFC Championship Game.

He added, “After a tough game when we meet in his locker room … some of us in there have our heads down. Andy’s never one of those guys. He’s already looking forward to the next week.”

When Hunt was asked what made him feel this might still be possible after the Chiefs fell to 9-6 with a shoddy 20-14 loss to the Raiders on Christmas Day, he didn’t say the marvel of Mahomes.

He said Reid and his staff.

“One of the things that I think they’re best at is being consistent no matter what’s going on,” Hunt said. “And that’s an important message when you’re being successful. It’s also even more important, I think, when things are not working for you.”

Being consistent in message, though, doesn’t mean not adapting.

While Reid can rightly be criticized for not making adjustments sooner, he certainly made them in time — particularly after the Raiders game that also featured a disconcerting kerfuffle between Reid and Kelce.

In the aftermath, Reid and his staff tweaked the offense by reducing play calling verbiage, substitution patterns and focal points to better contour it with the defense that emerged as the strength of this team.

Presto, the very team that had lost four of six games to that point out of nowhere won its final six.

But it wasn’t out of nowhere at all.

Turned out it was in them all along, just waiting to be coaxed out by a coach whose strategic brilliance is animated by his true genius: knowing how to connect and roll with (among others) his players — even when he has to absorb a jolt now and then.