KANSAS CITY, Mo. — There is no longer a football team at San Francisco State, the Gators long ago having given up on the pricy sport in favor of investing in their other athletic programs.
Andy Reid and Dirk Koetter will have to settle for Arrowhead Stadium for a reunion.
The Chiefs coach and his Tampa Bay counterpart were both on Vic Rowen’s staff in 1985, trying to learn the ropes after their own playing days. They would reunite a couple years later at Texas-El Paso, and remained joined at the hip at Missouri, before their paths finally began to diverge.
Reid headed for the NFL. Koetter stuck around the college game before making the leap.
"He’s one of the finest football coaches I’ve ever been around. His dad might be the best," Reid said. "We were little scrub buckets when we started off together, and we ended here, in Missouri, at the University of Missouri. I definitely saw him as a college coach and then, I figured if he got in the NFL, he would be the head coach there, too. He’s very, very good."
He’ll have to be at his best to figure out a way to outsmart Reid on Sunday.
The Chiefs (7-2) have ripped off five straight wins to climb into a tie atop the AFC West, not to mention join the pursuit of the No. 1 seed in the playoffs. Their defense has been downright dominant, their offense has done enough to get by, and the wins keep piling up.
"Andy is one of the best, if not the best coach, I’ve ever been around," said Koetter, who seemed unsurprised by Reid’s success. "His attention to detail, his ability to teach, the way he motivates guys — it was a great blessing for me to be able to work with him like I did."
Reid’s path after leaving Missouri took him to a successful run as an assistant in Green Bay, then his own 14-year run leading Philadelphia. But he seemed to be beaten down those last few years with the Eagles, and it took a move to Kansas City for him to feel rejuvenated.
Koetter has had his share of bumps, too. He was a rising star after turning Boise State into a powerhouse, but fell into years of mediocrity leading Arizona State. Stints as offensive coordinator in Jacksonville, Atlanta and Tampa Bay earned him the Buccaneers’ top job.
So far, Koetter also appears to be rejuvenated, too.
He has Tampa Bay off to an encouraging 4-5 record after a dominant win over the Bears , and the franchise is now eyeing its first winning season since 2010.
"I’m sure they think they can win the rest of their games," Chiefs wide receiver Chris Conley said.
But they can’t do that without beating Kansas City. Here are some of the keys to the game:
UNHEALTHY CHIEFS: Defensive tackle Jaye Howard has been dealing with a hip flexor, cornerback Marcus Peters with a hip pointer, linebacker Derrick Johnson with hamstring spasms, defensive tackle Dontari Poe with a sore knee, and wide receiver Jeremy Maclin with a groin strain.
It’s unclear whether any will be inactive Sunday.
SPEAKING OF HEALTH: Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston could make his season debut against the Buccaneers. The four-time Pro Bowl selection had surgery to repair his left ACL in February, and was added to the roster last week, though he remained inactive for their game at Carolina.
"He was feeling pretty good last week," Reid said. "We’ll just have to see."
ON THE OTHER SIDE, TOO: Tampa Bay running back Doug Martin expects to carry more of the load this weekend. He returned from a hamstring injury that cost him nearly two months to run for 33 yards against the Bears, giving the Buccaneers a big emotional lift.
"Getting his confidence back, I think that’s the No. 1 thing," Tampa Bay offensive coordinator Todd Monken said. "I think he’ll be able to build on that this week."
SCRAMBLE, SCRAMBLE: Tampa Bay’s Jameis Winston and the Chiefs’ Alex Smith are both threats with their legs, though the Buccaneers do more with designed plays to get their quarterback into space.
"He’s good outside the pocket," Koetter said. "He just has a real feel for that and is a guy that he’s a got a rare quality where he will run with it, but he’s always got his eyes down the field. A lot of times you find guys that don’t want to run it and you find guys that don’t want to throw it. He’s one of those guys that has a rare quality, he can do both."
EYES ON PETERS: Quarterbacks have avoided Peters after he piled up five interceptions in the first five games. He hasn’t had a pick in the past four, but a strip of Panthers wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin last week set up Kansas City’s winning field goal.
"He’s one of the best corners in the league. He has great eyes," Winston said. "He’s able to cover his man and keep his eyes in the backfield. He’s one of the best I’ve seen do it."