Andy Reid Has A Heartbreaking Playoff Defeat to Thank For His Head Coaching Career

For the second straight coaching carousel, the outlook doesn’t look bright for Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy to land a head coaching gig. This despite the fact that his offense has put the Chiefs in a position to repeat as Super Bowl champions. Or perhaps it may be because of that.

Ironically, his chances at a head coaching position may have increased if the Chiefs had been eliminated by the end of the wild-card round. Just ask his boss in Kansas City, Andy Reid. He got his first NFL head coaching job thanks in part to a heartbreaking playoff loss in January 1999.

Andy Reid rises through the food chain

In 1992, a 34-year-old Andy Reid joined Mike Holmgren’s coaching staff with the Green Bay Packers, where he would serve as the tight ends coach. On that same coaching staff, at various points during Holmgren’s tenure, were fellow future NFL head coaches Jon Gruden, Steve Mariucci, Marty Mornhinweg, Ray Rhodes, and Mike Sherman.

The 1992 season would also see the rise of Brett Favre when he took over as the Packers’ starting quarterback in the third week. Favre would not relinquish that position until he left the team in 2008.

In 1996, the fifth season of the Holmgren regime, the Packers won their first Super Bowl title in 29 years. The following season, Reid’s duties increased, as he earned a promotion to quarterbacks coach. His predecessor, Marty Mornhinweg, departed for the San Francisco 49ers for the 1997 season to become offensive coordinator under another former Packers assistant, Steve Mariucci.

That season, the Packers returned to the Super Bowl, but lost in a 31-24 heartbreaker to the Denver Broncos.

A dramatic and controversial wild-card game

Packers-49ers 1998 NFC Wild Card Game
Garrison Hearst #20 of the San Francisco 49ers in action during the NFC Wild Card Game against the Green Bay Packers at 3Com Park in San Francisco, California. The 49ers defeated the Packers 30-27. | Todd Warshaw/Getty Images

In 1998, the Green Bay Packers were not quite the same team they were in years past. For the first time since 1994, they were not kings of the NFC Central. This season, the Minnesota Vikings and their record-setting offense defeated them twice.

Still, the Packers played well enough to earn the fifth seed in the NFC playoffs with an 11-5 record. This granted them a trip to Candlestick Park for the wild-card game on Jan. 3 against the San Francisco 49ers, an opponent they were very familiar with. The Packers had defeated the 49ers in the postseason in the past three consecutive seasons, including the previous year’s NFC Championship game.

This year would be very different. With 1:50 left, the Packers held a 27-23 lead. But Steve Young led the 49ers back down the field in a hurry, aided by a blown call on what appeared to be a fumble by wide receiver Terrell Owens. The officials could not review the play, as the NFL did not have instant replay until the following season.

With eight seconds left, Young threw the game-winning touchdown pass to Owens, a play that would go down in history as “The Catch II”. San Francisco won the game 30-27.

Andy lands in the right place at the right time


KC Chiefs Running Back Clyde Edwards-Helaire Just Sent Andy Reid the Best Message Possible

The loss turned out to be the end of an era for the Packers, as it freed up the schedules of both Holmgren and Reid. Eight days after the game, both went in separate directions. While Holmgren took the head coaching position with the Seattle Seahawks, Andy Reid became the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. According to a now-deleted article from the Kansas City Chiefs’ homepage, the Eagles’ hiring came in part from a personal recommendation from Holmgren himself.

It was a rare instance in NFL history when a team hired a head coach who had no experience as an offensive or defensive coordinator. While the move was seen as questionable at the time due to his lack of credentials, Reid suited the Eagles’ needs perfectly.

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.

Joe Banner, Eagles team president (2001-2012), as quoted by ESPN

In time, Reid proved to be exactly the right fit. By his second season, he would lead the Eagles to the playoffs. Reid’s Eagles would win six NFC East titles and advance to five NFC Championship games. His 2004 squad reached Super Bowl XXXIX, losing that game in a three-point squeaker to the Patriots.