<
>

Andy Reid has waited his entire career for the 2018 Chiefs

This is the team Andy Reid has always wanted to coach, one that is so dynamic offensively it can overcome any obstacle. Cary Edmondson/USA TODAY Sports

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- For 14 years Joe Banner worked side-by-side with Andy Reid to build the Philadelphia Eagles, Banner as president and Reid as head coach.

Banner knows well the kind of team Reid has in his mind's eye, the type he always has wanted to coach: One so dynamic and versatile on offense that it can overcome any obstacle an opposing defense can present and possibly carry the team to a Super Bowl championship.

Reid, a few times, has been close to having that kind of team, particularly when he was with the Eagles. You don't get to be the eighth winningest coach in NFL history without some good teams. But he has never quite been there.

Until now.

Finally, in his 20th season as an NFL head coach and sixth with the Kansas City Chiefs, Reid has the team he has been waiting for.

play
0:46

Reid speaks highly of Chiefs after win over Ravens

Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid speaks to the media after his team defeats the Ravens in overtime 27-24.

"From the outside, I view this as the best team he's had," Banner said. "Clearly, it's the most fun and exciting team. I talk to him sometimes and watch him coach. He seems to be having a lot of fun.

"He really loves offensive football. He loves being able to be progressive and aggressive and innovative and he's got every tool he could possibly look for to do anything he could possibly want to do. That's got to be a lot of fun."

The Chiefs are 11-2 heading into Thursday night's game (8:20 p.m. ET, Fox) against the Los Angeles Chargers at Arrowhead Stadium. They have the best record in the AFC and appear to be stronger contenders for the conference championship than they've been since Reid joined the Chiefs in 2013.

The Chiefs are far from a perfect team. Their offense has to generate a lot of points because the defense yields them almost as fast. One off day from the offense in the playoffs and the Chiefs will likely lose. They also lost one of their best players two weeks ago when they released running back Kareem Hunt after video surfaced of him shoving and kicking a woman. The Chiefs have moved on in two games without Hunt, but none of their remaining backs are as versatile or as much of a big-play threat.

Still, they've won the two games without Hunt and appear on track for a Super Bowl run. But this isn't just about Reid's best team or the one that might give him his best chance to win a Super Bowl. That's part of it, but this team also gives him the best chance to play the game the way he wants to.

"The key ingredients in today's football are having a great quarterback, a strong offensive line and the ability to put up a ton of points," Banner said. "Their defense may not be quite as strong as some he's had, but [it] does have the ability to pressure the quarterback, which can help you get through some tough moments."

"He really loves offensive football. He loves being able to be progressive and aggressive and innovative and he's got every tool he could possibly look for to do anything he could possibly want to do." Joe Banner on Andy Reid

Hunt is gone but an excellent group of receivers, including Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, remain. In Patrick Mahomes, Reid has a dynamic quarterback like he's never had before. While Donovan McNabb in Philadelphia and Alex Smith with the Chiefs were good players, Mahomes is a generational talent.

The Chiefs lead the league in scoring at more than 36 points per game. They've scored at least 26 points in every game and at least 30 in all but three.

"Look at how they can win games now in particular and how balanced they've become on offense, how multifaceted they've become on offense," said ESPN NFL analyst Louis Riddick, who worked with Reid with the Eagles as a scout for five seasons. "They can truly play the kind of football that Andy wants to play.

"Normally, he would like to throw the football, get a big lead on you and then grind you down with the running game. Then on defense, that allows you to kind of play a little more one-dimensional, meaning they can just rush the passer."

That's exactly how the Chiefs have won eight of their games. They moved to sizable early leads against the Chargers, Steelers, 49ers, Jaguars, Bengals, Broncos, Browns and Raiders. They had to sweat the finish of some of those games after the defense allowed the opponents some late offensive success.

That formula freed the defense to do what it does best, which is rush the passer. The Chiefs have 42 sacks, second best in the league.

It has never been this way for Reid. He has never had a team lead the league in scoring or average more than 27.4 points per game.

He has tried most of his career to get there. Most of his best offensive teams until this year were with Philadelphia, where he had McNabb and receivers such as DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Brent Celek.

The Chiefs in his first five seasons in Kansas City had some great moments offensively with Smith at quarterback, but also some slumps. They are just one year removed from a three-game stretch in which the Chiefs scored 36 points -- total.

"It's a terrible feeling for a coach and a playcaller to look at your play card and say, 'I'm not sure what we can make work' and that's kind of what we went through last year," said Brad Childress, a Chiefs assistant coach for the past five seasons and now the head coach with Atlanta in the Alliance for American Football. "But now, I don't think there's any place on Andy's card that he can't drop his finger and say, 'We can run this and run it right now and make this work' regardless of which receivers they have in the game.

"That's rare. There are a lot more times when you look at those hundreds of plays on the card and say, 'Damn, what play can I call here to get us a completion?' He doesn't feel that now in the very, very least. The play may be an incompletion, but he can't be thinking it's hard to find something that's going to work."

Perhaps fearful of putting pressure on a player he has now or offending ones he used to have, Reid won't talk publicly about whether this season's team has more capability than others he has coached.

"I love the group," he said. "I can't tell you I didn't enjoy having Jeremy Maclin and Desean Jackson and Celek running around. That wasn't bad. I've been blessed that way. But I like this group."

Those close to him see it.

"Andy does a good job of guarding his emotions, as we all know," Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt said. "But just being around him, and I think everybody in the building would say this, he's definitely excited about the football team that he has. He's obviously a very creative mind on the offensive side and I think the skill players we have, not only Patrick but really all the skill players, are really letting him show the full extent of his playbook."

Kansas City's continued problems on defense are threatening a potentially good thing. The Chiefs scored 40 points in one of their losses and 51 in the other.

"I'd suspect he's a smidge nervous about whether he paid enough attention to the defense as he really needed to in order to win it all," Banner said. "My own opinion is yes, but I know he's always kind of looking at where there's a weakness and trying to figure out how to fix it. I suspect that leaves him slightly nervous in terms of going all the way."

But the Chiefs have been good enough offensively to outscore their defensive deficiencies 11 times. Both of their losses have come by three points on the road to opponents that will win their respective divisions.

They may be good enough for the first time in Reid's career to score enough to win all through the postseason.

"It's hard to picture who's going to beat them, frankly," Banner said. "We had a lot of close calls in Philly. He's had some good teams in Kansas City. But I do think he's got the best chance he's had. Mahomes is a unique guy in terms of the things he brings. We never had a team with the Eagles that could light it up the way they are now."