Maybe we are destined to have a chicken-or-the egg conversation about them sometime, too. It seems inevitable, if go back across the annals of the NFL. Does the coach make the quarterback? Does the quarterback make the coach? Can one exist in a vacuum without the other? And if given truth serum … would either even want to try?
That is where we are with Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes now. Their shared history already has yielded two Super Bowl championships, and by the close of business Sunday, there may well be a third. Theirs already has been one of the most fruitful partnerships in the sport’s history. They can climb that list a little bit more in Las Vegas.
“It’s been a joy watching him become the quarterback he’s become,” Reid said earlier this week in the lead-up to Super Bowl 2024. “And it’s privilege to be able to work with him as closely as I have.”
Earlier this year, Mahomes tried to pinpoint what impresses him most about working with Reid.
“He lets you be you,” Mahomes said in October. “He doesn’t try to make you be this system quarterback or make you do what his offense wants to do. He makes the offense around the quarterback and around the players that he has. And I think you see that as he evolves with every team that he has every single year.”
The Mahomes-Reid pairing, as of this moment, is the most successful QB-coach duo of all time, with an 88-25 record (playoffs included), for a winning percentage of .779. That puts them just ahead of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady (.774), and Vince Lombardi and Bart Starr (.770).
The mutual respect and affection that Mahomes and Reid have for each other seems to closely resemble what Starr and Lombardi had. The circumstances were different — Starr was a third-string quarterback when Lombardi showed up in Green Bay, and he always wondered aloud what might have become of him if the Packers hadn’t hired Lombardi off the Giants’ staff in 1959.
“We had a connection, there was no question about that,” Starr said in 1992. “How do you explain it? We were from different backgrounds. It could have been a disaster, if you think about it too much. But we just seemed to work well together, as if we were always supposed to work together.”
Brady-Belichick was glorious (or, depending on how you feel about the Patriots, infuriating) to watch for damn near 20 years, even if that particular alliance seemed to sour as it got older — and then Brady added an extra one at Tampa Bay that Belichick had nothing to do with. Still, history is destined to look favorably on them.
In truth, a number of the best QB-coach cooperatives haven’t exactly been bromances. Terry Bradshaw used to rankle Chuck Noll with his early-career propensity for turnovers, and Noll actually benched Bradshaw early in their first Super Bowl season, which bothered Bradshaw for years. Joe Montana and Bill Walsh weren’t always on the same page. It seemed to take Tom Landry longer than just about anyone else on Earth to realize Roger Staubach should be his QB1.
It was probably a stroke of great good fortune for Mahomes that he landed in the NFL with Reid as his first coach, since Reid was already considered one of the defining offensive minds of his coaching generation. But it was really a masterstroke of luck for Reid that Mahomes wound up a Chief.
Reid had won a lot of games with Donovan McNabb in Philadelphia, and when he arrived in Kansas City, he turned the Chiefs around immediately by tapping into Alex Smith’s talents as a game manager. But when a coach finds himself working with a generational talent … well, it’s wise to listen to the words of Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who’s already coached almost all of David Robinson’s and Tim Duncan’s careers, and is now on the ground floor for Victor Wembanyama:
“You just hope,” Popovich said dryly, “that you don’t screw it up.”
Reid hasn’t screwed this up. Neither has Mahomes. Sunday, they hope to take a third trip to the highest peak in the sport by winning a football game, something they’ve done as a twosome better than any other in history.