KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The boxing adage says styles make fights, and if any heavyweight match up fits that adage in today’s NFL, it’s the defensive mind of the Patriots’ Bill Belichick versus the offensive creativity of the Chiefs’ Andy Reid.
“He’s great man and a tremendous coach and a good friend,” Belichick said of Reid this week.” I’ll be glad when this game is over with it, I don’t really enjoy competing against him.”
Reid shares the sentiment right back.
“He’s a phenomenal coach, great human being, does a heck of a job with his team,” Reid said. “To be able to sustain as long as he’s sustained is really something. That’s a phenomenal thing in this profession.”
Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid and New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick shake hands following the Chiefs 41-14 win over the Patriots on Sept. 29, 2014. (Photo courtesy Patriots PR, Patriots.com)
Thursday’s game matches up the two active coaches with the most career wins. Belichick ranks fourth all-time with 263 wins. Reid entered the top 10 all time at the end of last season with his 184 career wins.
That sets up a star-power matchup not often seen in the NFL. It marks the first time in 12 years two coaches ranking among the NFL’s all-time top ten in career wins face one another. The last such meeting took place in 2005 the Dallas Cowboys led by Bill Parcells faced Marty Schottenheimer’s San Diego Chargers.
The friendly rivalry’s history proves very unfriendly to Reid. He owns just one win in six career meetings. His friend in New England also dealt Reid perhaps his most significant loss, a 24-21 defeat in Super Bowl XXXIX. It’s the closest Reid ever came to hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.
The one win came on a nationally televised Monday Night Football blowout, with the Chiefs knocking Tom Brady from the game and rolling to a 41-14 romp. That win more than any other in Reid’s second season announced that the Chiefs and Big Red were back as players on the national stage.
“We’ve always had great battles with them,” Belichick said. “I don’t think anybody – I can’t think of too many teams that have handled us better than the way they handled us in 2014.”
Now the Chiefs hope to repeat that magic on the NFL’s opening night.
“You love it,” Reid said. “You love competition. If you’re in this business that’s what you thrive on.”
The last time Reid faced Belichick, injuries hamstrung the Chiefs. Second-year running back Charcandrick West assumed the load in the backfield with Jamaal Charles and Spencer Ware out of action. An ankle injury hobbled Jeremy Maclin, leaving Alex Smith with veteran Jason Avant, second-receiver Albert Wilson and rookie Chris Conley as his targets. The Patriots bracketed tight end Travis Kelce all day long.
Reid carries a reputation for winning games when he has time to prepare. He’s 16-2 in his career during the regular season with a bye week, given two weeks to prepare a game plan.
This time Reid had four months to prepare for New England. The team began preparing on the field for this game going all the way back to the offseason training program.
He also has Tyreek Hill, and Smith expects the versatile and talented speedster to play a prominent role.
“There haven’t been many things that we’ve asked him to do that he’s failed at,” Smith said. “We move him around and do different things and he’s so fluid and natural at almost all of them.”
Watching Reid devise creative ways to utilize Hill and free up Kelce is enough of a reason to watch the Chiefs roll out it’s full of flavor offense.
Then consider the other side. One of the best defensive minds in the NFL just spent four months thinking of ways to mitigate the impact of Hill.
“It’s a lot of stress on your team,” Belichick said of defending Hill. “It’s not like you just matchup one guy on him.”
Reid has seen enough of Belichick’s defense over the years to know that he hasn’t seen it all yet.
“Normally the are a few changeups,” Reid said. “They’ve had six months or so to change things up and give you a few different looks.”
After Reid and Belichick exchanges their jabs in the early rounds of Thursday’s game, both coaches know they may have to slug it out at the end doing what they do best.
“There’s a lot of ways to make it look different,” Belichick said, “but it’s really the same to force different defensive adjustments or different personnel groups or run the same play but it’s on a different guy so the same player can’t really repeat his read on the play. He does a great job of that.”
Reid expects the same from Belichick in turn.
“When it probably gets down to crunch time, you go back to things you’re familiar with,” Reid said. “You’re going to get a few wrinkles.”