Analysis | How Andy Reid stacks up against the greatest coaches in NFL history

Analysis | How Andy Reid stacks up against the greatest coaches in NFL history

Tooba Shakir 54 years ago 0 1

The Kansas City Chiefs made it clear they’ve established a modern pro football dynasty with their Super Bowl victory over the San Francisco 49ers, the franchise’s third title in five years. Andy Reid became the fifth NFL head coach to win three Super Bowls, joining Bill Belichick, Chuck Noll, Bill Walsh and Joe Gibbs, and of those coaches only Reid, Belichick and Noll managed to win back-to-back titles. (Belichick did it in the 2003 and 2004 seasons and Noll did it twice, in 1974 and 1975, then again in 1978 and 1979.)

Reid is also the only coach in NFL history to have won 100 games with two different franchises, and his latest triumph ratcheted up the rhetoric about his standing.

“I believe he’s the best coach of all time,” Chiefs quarterback and three-time Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes said. “I know he doesn’t have the trophies yet, and I have a lot of respect for some of those great coaches, but [it’s] the way he’s able to navigate every single team he has and continue to have success no matter where he’s at.”

Of course a quarterback is going to lobby for his coach, but the numbers make it clear that Reid is now in elite company. Only Don Shula (328), George Halas (318) and Belichick (302) have won more NFL games than Reid, who is up to 258 victories. With the Chiefs averaging almost 12 wins per season since he arrived in 2013, the 65-year-old Reid could conceivably get to the top of the leader board if he wants to continue coaching through Mahomes’s prime.

His winning percentage trails the three men ahead of him, but no active coach has a higher win rate (including the playoffs) since 2002, when the league expanded to 32 teams, and only Belichick has more wins by at least two touchdowns than Reid over the past 22 years. Reid is also tied with Shula and Belichick for most seasons reaching the playoffs (19) all time.

Then there is his playoff record. Belichick is the only coach with more postseason victories — he has 31, five more than Reid — but no one has more playoff victories since 2013, Reid’s first year with the Chiefs. (Kansas City is 16-7 in the postseason in that span, while the Patriots are 13-5; no other team has more than 10 playoff wins.) His Chiefs are also 4-2 in the playoffs as underdogs, including two Super Bowl victories, and only Belichick and Shula have more wins in conference championship games.

“He might be the greatest coach of all time,” Michael Vick, one of Reid’s quarterbacks in Philadelphia, said before Reid won his third title. “You don’t have to win championships to be considered. You know, I understand Belichick and [Tom] Brady and that whole dynamic. But coach did it in Philly, and then he doing it in K.C.”

How can you piece out the impact of a coach on a team’s success aside from mere wins and losses? The expected points added statistic — which accounts for the down, distance and field position of each play — can provide at least one method. Reid’s Chiefs teams have scored five more points per game than expected, according to data from TruMedia. Most of that is thanks to Mahomes, but Reid’s teams consistently overachieve, according to that metric.

For example, from 2013 to 2016, before Mahomes’s arrival, Reid’s Chiefs teams had the NFL’s sixth-best defense during the regular season and playoffs, per expected points added. During his 14 seasons in Philadelphia, the Eagles’ defense ranked fifth in expected points added. And since 2013, no one has coached their team to a higher net expected points per game, using both offense and defense, than Reid.

His teams have exceeded the expectations of betting markets, too. He won 130 regular season games in Philadelphia, slightly more than the 128.5 wins that preseason betting markets would have forecast, per data from NFL analyst Aaron Schatz. More notably, his Chiefs have won 128 regular season games, while betting markets would have projected just 107.5.

For Reid to be considered the greatest coach of all time — at least outside his quarterbacks room — he would probably have to close in on Shula’s win record. Belichick seemed set to launch a serious effort at that mark, but he’s out of a job and still 26 wins behind. Reid is 70 wins back of Shula, but with the rate his teams have won, it isn’t impossible.

One way we can forecast his chances is by using the favorite toy, a formula created by baseball analyst Bill James that calculates the probability a person (in any sport) achieves a cumulative statistical goal (the formula breakdown is below).

By this method, Reid would have to coach at least six more years to have better than a 50-50 chance at catching Shula; a seventh season improves those chances to 72 percent. If Reid decides to coach for eight more seasons, his chances of becoming the all-time wins leader would rise to 89 percent. This assumes the Chiefs will win an average of 12 games per year — a lofty but perhaps realistic goal, at least for the foreseeable future. Oddsmakers at DraftKings opened the betting market for the Chiefs’ regular season win total in 2024 at 10½ games, with prices heavily shaded to the over.

It will probably be hard for Reid to match Belichick’s titles, Shula’s wins or George Halas’s winning percentage (.682, the highest of any coach with at least 125 wins). But if Reid keeps stacking up accomplishments, his former quarterbacks won’t be the only ones comparing him to the NFL’s coaching legends.

The favorite toy formula has four inputs:

  1. Number needed to achieve goal. In this case it is 70 wins for Reid.
  2. Projected seasons remaining for the player, calculated by the formula (24 minus .6 (age)). This part was created for players but Reid, who will turn 66 in March, is presumably returning next season, with the possibility of a few more seasons after that. For the purposes of this exercise, we will give Reid five to eight more years of coaching.
  3. Established level for that statistic. James forecasts this as (last season x 3+second to last season x 2+third to last season)/6. The Chiefs won 12 games in 2021, 14 games in 2022 and 11 games in 2023, making Reid’s established level about 12.2 wins per season under this formula.
  4. Projected remaining total, which is simply the last two numbers multiplied.

The chance of getting to the goal is then determined by the following:

[Projected remaining total — (Number needed/2) / Number needed]

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