Brian Dawkins, on the phone from his home in Orlando, had a message for the Andy Reid haters, as Dawkins watched his former Eagles coach finally thrust the Lombardi Trophy aloft Sunday night at Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium. Reid’s 21-year quest as an NFL head coach — the first 14 spent with the Eagles — was complete.
“This has been a hump on his back. Quit questioning this man! This solidifies him as one of the best coaches in NFL history!” Dawkins said. “To see Big Red hold that dadgum Lombardi Trophy up … I’m just elated for him and his beautiful family, all those [nine] grandkids he’s always bragging about.”
Donovan McNabb felt the same way, watching from the Hard Rock seats, cheering for the Chiefs. Ditto Chad Lewis, at home in Orem, Utah, with his family. Ditto Ike Reese, in South Jersey.
None of them said they felt any mixed feelings as they watched Reid manage the clock and engineer a successful fourth-quarter comeback, down double digits, 15 years after he was unable to do that with the Eagles against New England, on that fateful, much-scrutinized night in Jacksonville, Fla. Reid even had two timeouts left when the orange Gatorade flowed down his neck.
“Unbelievable,” McNabb texted, with the SB LIV crowd too loud for a phone conversation. Reid had McNabb speak to the Chiefs on Thursday. “Great atmosphere, big fan following for the Chiefs. So happy for Andy and his football team. It was his time. So happy to be a part.”
Was McNabb thinking about Jacksonville during Sunday’s comeback, thinking about the TD drive that took too much time, before McNabb could find current K.C. wide receivers coach Greg Lewis for the final points of a looming 24-21 loss?
“It’s hard not to,” McNabb texted. “But nothing we can do now.”
Dawkins, McNabb and Lewis all said they never lost faith in Reid’s current team, even when Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes threw a bad interception, down 20-10 with 11 minutes, 57 seconds remaining.
Reese, though, said: “If I’m being honest, I was like, ‘Is this how it’s gonna end?’ ”
Reese said he’d thought going into the game that the only way the Chiefs could lose would be if Mahomes somehow wasn’t the MVP-level guy he has been all season, and Mahomes threw two picks for the first time since November 2018. He had a 65.8 passer rating after the second INT.
But Mahomes and the Chiefs trailed by double digits in every postseason game this season and ended up winning all three, the first time that has ever happened in the NFL.
“This was where they’d been the last two playoff games. Their speed was just able to make plays,” said Lewis, the former Eagles tight end who suffered a Lisfranc injury catching the game-winning touchdown pass in the NFC championship game 15 years ago and missed the Super Bowl XXXIX loss.
“Never lost faith,” McNabb texted.
“I had faith they’d be able to do something,” said Dawkins, the Hall of Fame safety. He said he didn’t consider either defense unbeatable, and he figured Mahomes would click into gear “at some point.”
“That’s what the Super Bowl is supposed to be, biting your nails to the end,” Dawkins said.
He said he thought the Chiefs would win when they made what Dawkins (and many observers) considered the game’s pivotal play — third-and-15 from their 35, Mahomes launched a bomb as he was being hit and Tyreek Hill caught it, 44 yards downfield, setting up the touchdown that pulled the Chiefs within 20-17 with 6 minutes, 13 seconds left.
“That gave them the momentum they needed,” Dawkins said.
The ex-Eagles saw Reid’s Chiefs take a 10-3 lead in the second quarter, going for it twice on fourth down and succeeding both times. But K.C. settled for a 10-10 halftime tie, Reid calling a no-chance screen on third-and-14 from the Chiefs’ 49, rather than letting Mahomes take a shot downfield.
Then the game took a hard turn in San Francisco’s direction, until Mahomes finally found Hill deep. After the ensuing Travis Kelce touchdown, it was three-and out for the 49ers, and suddenly, Reid was in a spot he couldn’t reach in Super Bowl XXXIX — he had the ball with a chance to take the lead and plenty of time left, Kansas City taking possession at its 35 with 5:10 left.
The Chiefs made taking the lead look easy. Maybe too easy, Mahomes’ 5-yard TD pass to Damien Williams leaving 2 minutes and 44 seconds on the clock, K.C. up 24-20.
But the Chiefs’ Frank Clark sacked Jimmy Garappolo on fourth-and-10, giving Kansas City the ball with the lead and 1:25 remaining, and Williams put the game away with a 38-yard touchdown run down the left sideline.
“We’re going bananas here,” Lewis reported. He called Reid and his wife, Tammy, “the best people in the business. They deserve it in every way.”
Lewis said he always thought Reid would someday win a Super Bowl as a head coach.
“He kept putting together good teams,” Lewis said. “With Mahomes playing like Donovan when [Reid] was with the Eagles, or [Brett] Favre when he was with the Packers … He just had a team right on the precipice, and they did it.”
Reese, a linebacker/special teams star 15 years ago and now a WIP radio host, yelled: “Are you kidding me? I was excited!” when asked what it was like to see Reid win it all.
“That was like the Eagles winning, as far as I was concerned,” Reese said. He said he had already texted Reid with his congratulations.
Dawkins and Reese wanted to make sure Steve Spagnuolo, their Super Bowl XXXIX linebackers coach, got credit for shutting down the 49ers in a fourth quarter the Chiefs won 21-0. Spagnuolo is now the Chiefs’ defensive coordinator.
“He and ‘Spags’ could do it again,” Dawkins noted, given that Mahomes is all of 24 years old.
Reid was probably a Hall of Fame coach without winning a Super Bowl. He is seventh in all-time regular-season wins, sixth if you add his playoff triumphs. Still, finally winning one “means everything to him,” Reese said.
Reese said he thought Reid was probably happy for himself, and for all the people who’d believed in him through the years. Indeed, on the postgame podium, Reid said: “I love these guys, and all the ones who came before.”
“This is our guy,” Reese said. “And now you all can see. We knew what he was.”