From Special Teams to Super Bowl: The Journey of Andy Reid and John Harbaugh

PHILADELPHIA — The upcoming NFC Championship game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Baltimore Ravens marks a unique meeting between two NFL coaching giants, Andy Reid and John Harbaugh. While their paths initially crossed through a connection with Jack Harbaugh, the circumstances were significantly different. Reid and Jack had a friendship stemming from Reid’s time as a graduate assistant at BYU, where he met Jack through former BYU coach LaVell Edwards. This friendship eventually led Reid to Jack’s eldest son, John.

Before this crucial moment in their coaching careers, Harbaugh faced uncertainty about his future in the NFL. In 1998, Harbaugh joined the Philadelphia Eagles as the special teams coach under head coach Ray Rhodes. Unfortunately, the Eagles had one of their worst seasons, finishing with a 3-13 record and resulting in Rhodes’ firing. As a new head coach was set to take over and form his own staff, Reed played a pivotal role in Harbaugh retaining his position, recognizing his talents.

Harbaugh proved his worth as one of Reid’s top assistants over the following nine years. He excelled not only as a special teams coach but also earned a reputation as a respected coach within the organization. Hugh Douglas, who played for both Reid and Harbaugh in Philadelphia, praised Harbaugh’s leadership skills and ability to command respect from players.

During Harbaugh’s tenure in Philadelphia, Reid’s assistants began receiving coordinator jobs across the NFL, with Brad Childress being the only one at the time to secure a head coaching position. Harbaugh expressed his desire to become a head coach himself, and Reid advised him to coach a position to gain experience. Harbaugh then started coaching the defensive backs. This guidance, along with his football background and strong family ties to the sport, set Harbaugh on his path to success.

Harbaugh’s journey in Baltimore was relatively quick, as he led the Ravens to the AFC Championship game in his first year as head coach in 2008. The team continued its success, culminating in a Super Bowl XLVII victory. Harbaugh became the first of Reid’s assistants to win a Super Bowl. He carried with him the important lesson Reid taught him about not judging people and treating everyone with respect and open communication.

Reid, meanwhile, faced the challenge of rebuilding his coaching career after leaving the Eagles and finding success in Kansas City. He won two Super Bowl titles and reached six consecutive conference championship games with the Chiefs. Reid’s ability to build a strong team culture and develop talented players, including star quarterback Patrick Mahomes, highlights his coaching prowess.

Both Reid and Harbaugh were fortunate to work for organizations that allowed them the time and patience to build the cultures they envisioned. Philadelphia was a prestigious franchise during Reid’s tenure, and now Kansas City and Baltimore hold that same status with Reid and Harbaugh at the helm. Harbaugh’s growth from a special teams coach to a Super Bowl-winning head coach is a testament to his journey and dedication to the sport.

As the Chiefs and Ravens prepare to face off in the NFC Championship game, the meeting between Reid and Harbaugh is a testament to their coaching legacies and the impact they have made on the NFL.