KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Think about this: You’ve got a better chance of dating a millionaire than to pull off what Andy Reid is about to pull off.
Oh, love is strange, sure, but the NFL is far, far stranger. Consider: From 1989-2011, a span of 25 seasons, a generation, the league has fielded 733 teams. Of those, 24 clubs finished with two wins or less in an NFL year. And of those 24, only four posted winning records the very next year.
And of those four, only two — the 2008 Dolphins and the 2012 Colts — reached the postseason.
So, basically, that’s two out of 733, or one in every 367 teams. To put that number in context, the chances of you writing a New York Times best-seller is 1 in 220. The chance that your kid is a genius is 1 in 250. The chance of dying from falling down is 1 in 246. The chance of being audited by the IRS is 1 in 175. The chance of being on a plane with a drunken pilot is 1 in 117.
The ratio of a zero-win, one-win, or two-win NFL team reaching the postseason the next year is 1 for every 367 clubs. The chances of dating a millionaire are 1 in 215.
Make it happen, cap’n.
“It’s the expectations around here,” offensive tackle Donald Stephenson says of his 10-3 Kansas City Chiefs, the ultimate Reid restoration project. “It’s changed a lot. Coach Reid’s come in with a lot of confidence — he expects us to play that way, (to) carry ourselves that way.”
So while sentiment is starting to bubble up for the revival of Carolina’s Panthers under Ron Rivera (which wasn’t expected) or the dominance of Seattle’s Seahawks under Pete Carroll (which was), the conversation for the NFL’s Coach of the Year should be short.
Actually, the conversation was over about five weeks ago.
Because, at least in terms of this season, this calendar, there’s Reid … and there’s everyone else.
Before this fall, no Chiefs coach had ever won the award, which is stunning, considering the caliber of headsets to come through town, from Hank Stram to Marty Schottenheimer to Dick Vermeil.
Before this fall, no NFL team had ever held the No. 1 pick in April, only to open up the very next campaign with a 9-0 start.
Before this fall, no major North American professional sports franchise (as in, the “Big Four” of the NFL, MLB, NBA and the NHL) had ever opened a season 9-0 after offering up that league’s worst record the previous year.
We’ve seen worst-to-first; in the NFL, given the scheduling and draft paradigms, those kind of jumps (and corresponding falls) happen annually. It’s part of the frustration or part of the charm, depending on which direction your particular escalator happens to be going.
But we’ve rarely seen a club vault from rock-bottom to freaking rock stars in a heartbeat.
Over the last 20 seasons, since free agency in the NFL came into full bloom, the league has really witnessed something similar only a handful of times: the ’99 Colts (three wins to 13); the ’99 Rams (four wins to 13); the ’08 Dolphins (one win to 11); maybe last year’s Indianapolis bunch (two wins to 11). Reid is a cat’s whisker away from piloting just the third NFL team in the last 26 years from the outhouse (zero to two wins) to the postseason penthouse.
Pick a narrative, any narrative. You want history? You want pathos? A year ago, Reid lost one of his sons, and a Philly franchise he’d helped to rebuild was beginning to wither again. He needed a fresh start. The Chiefs in 2012 had to contend with a fan base in open revolt, comical play on the field and tragedy off of it. They needed a fresh outlook.
“He’s depending on us,” Stephenson says of his coach. “The expectations around here are different. You’ve got to handle the challenge.”
Which they have, of course. Splendidly. On Sunday, the Chiefs tied the ’63 Raiders and ’75 Colts for the third-most wins by an NFL team that had won two or fewer the previous year. Of the aforementioned NFL teams in the nada-to-two-win club, the average victory total the following year for those same squads? Six. The Chiefs are sitting at 10, with three weeks — and three winnable tilts — to go.
If The Andy Gang can sweep, they’ll become the first team in the modern NFL era to register a +11 win differential (two to 13) from one season to the next. With the Raiders (4-9) and Chargers (6-7) left on the dance card, it’s hard not to like Reid’s odds. Or, for that matter, his body of work.
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.