Super Bowl coaches Andy Reid, Bruce Arians ready to let it all hang out
Having a great QB makes every coach a little bolder, but aggressiveness has paid particularly big dividends for Reid and Arians. In the Super Bowl, however, trusting your gut comes with an even higher risk.
Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians’ aggressive coaching philosophy — ‘‘no risk it, no biscuit’’ — is an extension of his philosophy on life.
‘‘I think it all started when I was young,’’ Arians said. ‘‘One of my coaches put the poem ‘If’ by Rudyard Kipling in our playbook, and it just talks about not being afraid to throw your hat in the ring — fail or win, bounce back and keep on going. I do apply it to everyday life. You’re not guaranteed the next day.
‘‘I hit a lot of balls in the water going for it in two (shots), knowing I can’t get there. But I ain’t gonna get there unless I try. And that one out of 10 that makes it, it’s a great feeling. That’s how I live life.’’
Aggressiveness and risk-taking have served Arians well as an NFL coach. Chiefs coach Andy Reid — emboldened by a well-grooved, top-flight offense with an all-world quarterback — lives by a similar philosophy and also has benefitted from taking chances that put pressure on his opponent.
In fact, while coaches have to balance the reward with the risk, aggressiveness has been rewarded and conservative strategy penalized throughout these playoffs.
• Reid against the Browns: On a fourth-and-one from his own 48 with 1:14 left and a 22-17 lead against the Browns in the AFC divisional playoffs, Reid went for the first down with Chad Henne at quarterback and got it when Henne threw a five-yard pass to Tyreek Hill.
• Arians against the Packers: Facing a fourth-and-four from the Packers’ 45 with 13 seconds left in the first half in the NFC Championship Game, Arians went for the first down and got it when Tom Brady threw a six-yard pass to Leonard Fournette. One play later, Brady threw a 39-yard touchdown pass to Scotty Miller for a touchdown that gave the Bucs a 21-10 halftime lead.
• Packers coach Matt LaFleur against the Bucs: With 2:09 left in the game and the Packers trailing 31-23, LaFleur elected to kick a field goal on a fourth-and-eight from the Bucs’ 8 instead of going for a touchdown and two-point conversion that could have tied the score. The Packers never got the ball back.
• Bills coach Sean McDermott against the Chiefs: With the Bills trailing 21-9 and facing a fourth-and-goal from the Chiefs’ 2 with 14 seconds left in the first half, McDermott kicked the field goal instead of going for the touchdown. The Bills lost 38-24.
• Titans coach Mike Vrabel against the Ravens: With the Titans trailing 17-13 and facing a fourth-and-two from the Ravens’ 40 with 10:06 left in the fourth quarter, Vrabel punted. The Titans gained 25 yards in field position but gave up a field-goal drive and lost 20-13.
But even for coaches such as Arians and Reid, the Super Bowl presents a new challenge in being as aggressive as they’ve been. It’s the biggest game in football, obviously, and the stakes are higher than ever. Both coaches, however, have an assassin on the other sideline: the Bucs’ Brady and the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes.
‘‘Every game, you have a feel for it on the sideline how it’s going, how your defense is playing,’’ Arians said. ‘‘Are the risks worth the reward? I can’t say we ever go in there [thinking], ‘Hey, we’re just throwing caution to the wind today.’ A lot of it is just gut feelings as the game is going along.’’
Reid against Arians will be an interesting game within the game, two coaches who know the value of trusting your talent and putting pressure on your opponent. One will win; one will lose. But the lesson that got them here is ever-valuable: Don’t be afraid to fail.