With NFL focused on the next hot young coach, senior citizens Andy Reid and Bruce Arians thrive

Frank Schwab
·3 min read

Sean McVay’s success in his early 30s famously started a gold rush for the next young, dashing NFL head coach. It seemed like the less experience an assistant had, the more attractive he was. As long as he had some connection to McVay.

Experience matters though. Just look at the Super Bowl.

On one sideline of Super Bowl will be Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid, who will turn 63 years old on March 19. On the other will be Bruce Arians with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who is 68 and didn’t even get a chance to be a head coach until he was in his 60s.

Score one for the old guys. Or, as Reid called it Tuesday, the “Geritol crew.”

Andy Reid, Bruce Arians bring experience

Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid speaks to the media in advance of Super Bowl LV. (Steve Sanders/Kansas City Chiefs via AP)
Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid speaks to the media in advance of Super Bowl LV. (Steve Sanders/Kansas City Chiefs via AP)

Youthful energy and swagger is an asset. But when Arians starts talking about advice he got from Bear Bryant that he still takes with him, it’s a reminder that all of the lessons picked up through decades in the game matters too.

“He’ll see a thing here or there and say ‘Hey, maybe you should think of doing this, this and this because this happened to me in 19-whenever,’” Buccaneers offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich said.

Both coaches are great connecting with their players, despite the age difference. Arians can be critical and blunt about it, but his players understand where he’s coming from and respect him. Reid is more laid back. He talked on Tuesday about being a teacher and how yelling at players doesn’t work for him. That could be a reason he fits so well with 25-year-old star quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

Despite differing styles, they each have decades of experience in the game and that is a big reason they’re the last two coaches standing this season.

“I’m still part of the ‘Geritol Crew’ and we are a little bit older, and there is experience that comes with that and I guess they say wisdom with age,” Reid said on Tuesday. “A lot of good young football coaches out there that I look forward to seeing continue to grow in this business. We’re lucky to have them in the National Football League. By chance, a few of the older guys have gotten to this point. I attribute that to good players and then a little bit of experience there.”

Older coaches have had success

Arians and Reid aren’t rare cases.

Since Mike McCarthy led the Green Bay Packers to a Super Bowl XLV at age 47, every Super Bowl-winning coach has been at least 50 years old. Six of the nine winning coaches since then have been at least 60. (Bill Belichick winning multiple titles after age 60 helps.)

Arians can be the oldest coach to ever win a Super Bowl, passing Belichick’s record. Belichick became the oldest coach to win a Super Bowl when he outcoached McVay’s Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII. Arians would beat his mark by about two years.

There are things that Reid and Arians have picked up that are invaluable. Arians was an assistant under Bryant, arguably the greatest college coach ever. Reid coached under Mike Holmgren, who had just been on Bill Walsh’s staff before joining the Green Bay Packers. They have balanced keeping up with changes in the game and staying fresh while still relying on wisdom accumulated through old lessons. Having diverse staffs — not just with race and gender but also with age — likely helps both coaches too.

Tom Brady gets a lot of attention for his age, as he’ll be the oldest quarterback in Super Bowl history. But the coaches on each side also show it doesn’t necessarily have to be a young man’s game.

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