The Chiefs' Super Bowl brain trust involves former head coaches on each side of the ball

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Patrick Mahomes remembers what Matt Nagy was like when he first arrived in Kansas City in 2017, just a fresh-faced rookie quarterback whose stardom was still very much in the future.

Nagy was the Chiefs' offensive coordinator at the time, and they spent countless hours together in meetings, practices and even on planes traveling to games.

Nagy left after that season for Chicago, where he spent four years as the Bears' head coach.

But when he was fired in 2021, despite an NFC North title and two playoff appearances, Nagy returned to Kansas City and began to work with Mahomes again.

Only now, Nagy possessed the rare experience of having been an NFL head coach.

“I mean, you learn. You learn the good and the bad,” Mahomes said Thursday, “and he got to be around other coaches as well, so he has different ideas he brings, and you could see that last year and you can see it this year.”

Nagy was promoted back to offensive coordinator this past offseason, when Eric Bieniemy left for the same job in Washington. And that made the Chiefs exceptionally unique in that they had two ex-head coaches as coordinators.

Steve Spagnuolo, who led the Rams for three seasons and was an interim coach of the Giants, has run their defense the past five years.

No other team in the NFL this past season had two former head coaches as coordinators, unless you count the Patriots and 49ers, who will face the Chiefs in the Super Bowl on Feb. 11 in Las Vegas.

New England had Bill O'Brien in charge of the offense while Bill Belichick was the de facto defensive coordinator, while San Francisco has Steve Wilks running the defensive side while coach Kyle Shanahan mostly runs the offense.

“I think what you have,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said, “is that both Nags and Spags are good leaders. And they're not afraid to make decisions. Sometimes coordinators that haven't sat in that seat are afraid to do that. Both of them do a nice job with that.

"They've done a very good job with it, actually.”

The Chiefs' offense has gone through fits and starts this season, but it has peaked at just the right time, helping them to beat Miami, Buffalo and Baltimore on the way back to the Super Bowl.

Their defense has been spectacular the entire way, though, ranking second in total defense while helping to keep Kansas City afloat as its offense tried to find its way.

“We really believe in our leaders, Spags and the coaches he has in place,” Chiefs linebacker Drue Tranquill said. “There are times in football, whether it's high school or college or the professional level, where you're just not sure about the game plan, and that hasn't happened this year. When we go into a game, we're like, ‘This is going to work.’”

The situation in Kansas City is hardly unprecedented; the Steelers had former Chiefs coach Todd Haley running their offense and former Bengals coach Dick LeBeau their defense from 2012-14. But it is rare, and in a lot of ways a luxury.

Reid knows that whenever Nagy or Spagnuolo offer their opinions, they come with the knowledge of having been in his shoes.

“I'd change a lot of what happened of wishing we had won more, and could've done more,” Nagy admitted not long ago, when asked to reflect on a 34-31 record but an 0-2 playoff mark in Chicago.

“But I learned a lot and that part I wouldn't change. I think I got to be able to self-reflect on where I went wrong and how I could've been better.”

He's taken that experience back to Kansas City, and it has been evident in the conviction he has had running the offense. A good example came during the AFC title game, when the Chiefs were trying to preserve their lead and run out the clock.

“He makes me do a little sheet where I pick plays for certain situations,” Mahomes explained, "and he went right to it, the play he gave to me. We were comfortable with it, went out and executed the play. Stuff like that is important.

“He had success as a head coach,” Mahomes continued, “and he had some times where he didn't have as much success. But he learned from those times and he came back, and I think he's been a better coach because of that. That's what you have to do in this league, playing or coaching or whatever it is. You learn from your success and you learn from the things that you don't do so well, and you try to be better the next opportunity that you get.”