MIAMI -- If there was one thing Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce knew, it was that he wasn't going to waste his moment. His team was in the midst of the postgame celebration following their AFC championship win over the Tennessee Titans when CBS broadcaster Jim Nantz asked Kelce about his excitement. After Kelce answered, he made a subtle move that seemed to catch Nantz off guard -- he actually grabbed the microphone and pulled it closer before Nantz could edge away. Nantz apparently was smart enough to play along with a situation that was heading off script in a hurry.
It was at that point when Kelce -- as his eyes widened and a sly smile appeared on his face -- told the crowd that little would change about the Chiefs' fun-loving ways as they prepared for Super Bowl LIV. He then bellowed a lyric from the same Beastie Boys song that played inside Arrowhead Stadium after every Chiefs touchdown this season.
"You gotta fight ...," Kelce yelled to the crazed audience. "For your right ... To PAAAAAARRRRTY!!!"
"It was a blast," Kelce said when asked about his impromptu move. "It was a feeling I've never felt before. In terms of trying to steal the mic, I wasn't trying to steal the mic. I just didn't want Nantz to take it away before I hit the punchline. I wanted to make sure I got everything out that I needed."
That quest to enjoy the moment isn't something that is reserved for Kelce, a player who has built his reputation around being a free spirit. The Chiefs' entire image now revolves around an unspoken edict that the more personality they show, the better it is for everyone. Whether it's shimmying after touchdowns, talking trash during press conferences or mimicking their head coach -- as some players did when they arrived in Miami wearing the same Tommy Bahama shirts that have long been a wardrobe staple of Andy Reid -- no team in the NFL has more fun than the Chiefs. They even engaged in a pre-game snowball fight before beating Denver in a blizzard earlier this season.
Some of that exuberance comes from age. The Chiefs are a young team with plenty of players who don't feel any need to live a buttoned-down existence. More of it comes from the approach Reid has taken to handling this current bunch. He understands that all players need a certain amount of freedom, and he's more than willing to give it to them.
"When you get them all together, they all kind of feed off each other," Reid said, when asked about how he supports players expressing themselves. "That is kind of this age, this time of life, (in the year) 2020. This is how it has evolved since I came in the league. We were barely getting cell phones back then. Now, you give them a break so that they can be on the cell phone. It's a different world. But they do have a great personality. I've said from the time I've been a head coach, 'Let your personality show.' That's part of this thing, not only as a player on the field, but also when you're off."
Reid certainly has practiced what he's preached. When the team was preparing to meet the Titans before the AFC Championship Game, two separate star players made comments that sparked controversy. First, wide receiver Tyreek Hill said there wasn't a group of defensive backs in the league that could stop the Chiefs receivers. Then, defensive end Frank Clark knocked TitansPro Bowl running back Derrick Henry, saying the same 6-foot-3, 247-pound man who led the league in rushing should be running much harder for someone so large.
Reid never said a word about the bulletin-board material. His team responded, too, as Hill scored two first-half touchdowns against Tennessee and Clark led a defense that held Henry to just 69 rushing yards on 19 carries. If you watched the game closely, you could see plenty of other revealing theatrics, whether it was Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieupointing to the side of his helmet as a way of saying he was in the Titans' heads to Kansas City wide receiver Sammy Watkins waving goodbye to Tennessee CB Logan Ryan while scoring on a game-clinching 60-yard touchdown reception.
It's also not just the skill players who let their hair down on game days. After the Chiefs scored one of their seven straight touchdowns in a 51-31 win over Houston in the Divisional Round, mild-mannered left tackle Eric Fisher grabbed a couple beers from some fans, crushed them in his hands and let the beverages spray into the air as his teammates celebrated near the stands. When asked about the proliferation of personality on this team, Clark said it just comes naturally. It's basically a manifestation of all the work these players put in during the week.
"It comes from confidence," Clark said. "It comes from preparation, how you prepare. When you see stuff on film, and it doesn't lie to you, sometimes that's what happens. You trust that when you go on the field and hope it doesn't backfire. Sometimes it does. Guys lose. But your preparation, if you trust it and you're confident, it pays you back with victories and making plays. I feel like we're confident because our coaches trust us. We feel that."
Reid's belief in letting players be themselves can be traced back to the lessons he learned from his old bosses. When he was an assistant for Mike Holmgren in Green Bay in the 1990s, that team had a three-time MVP quarterback who played with a childlike exuberance (Brett Favre) and a Hall of Fame defensive lineman who devoutly preached his religious beliefs to anyone within an earshot (Reggie White). Those two became the foundational pieces of a Super Bowl champion. Much of Green Bay's success resulted from the chemistry they created through the acceptance everyone felt in that locker room.
Reid quickly became known as player-friendly head coach when he got his shot to lead the Philadelphia Eagles in 1999. He didn't complain when quarterback Donovan McNabb moonwalked after touchdown runs. He didn't mind when star safety Brian Dawkins rolled around in pre-game introductions in order to cultivate his game-day alter ego, the Marvel Comics X-Men hero known as Wolverine. If that's what it took for his players to feel comfortable, Reid was all about it.
"Andy has always been that way," said Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, who played running back for the Eagles in 1999. "It's important for players to be who they are. That's how they got this far in the league. You always want to allow guys to be themselves while also understanding the importance of playing within the boundaries of how we do things. When you do that, guys play free. But they also understand that we're going to do it the right way -- by playing for each other."
Reid's faith in letting players be themselves was even more pronounced when he arrived in Kansas City in 2013. He inherited a team that had never felt comfortable doing that under the previous regime. Former general manager Scott Pioli and head coach Todd Haley frowned on players saying too much to the media and certainly weren't cool with anybody displaying too much personality. That's why Reid's stance was even more refreshing and critical to this team's eventual success.
It's not that Reid doesn't understand boundaries. A few years ago, he had to have some serious discussions with Kelce after the Pro Bowl tight end started drawing penalties for being too emotional. The Chiefs also traded Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Peters after the 2017 season because of his inability to control his temper. As Reid said, "You still have to stop at the red light, but you can let your personality show. There's nothing wrong with that."
The Chiefs have become such a loose team that there isn't much that rattles them. When they trailed by 24 points midway through the first half of that AFC divisional win over the Texans, they never let their confidence fade and ultimately rebounded with 41 unanswered points. They were just as upbeat heading into the AFC title game, as star quarterback Patrick Mahomes whipped passes behind his back in warm-up drills during practice and his receivers danced to rap music blaring from the speakers. It's hard to think this franchise's first Super Bowl appearance in 50 years is now going to unnerve them.
If anything, the Chiefs are savoring the chance to have this type of spotlight shining on them. You could sense it when Kelce grabbed that microphone, and it was there once more when Clark walked into a press conference room last week wearing a hooded sweatshirt that had a picture of President Donald Trump and Kanye West posing together. The caption underneath the photo said, "Never Forget."
When asked about the sweatshirt, Clark grinned and said a friend in Los Angeles made it for him. He then added that, "You all know the moment when Donald Trump met Kanye. It was a very historical moment in our history." Clark then waited a moment for the humor to settle into his audience. Like Kelce -- or any savvy comedian for that matter -- he knew how to make the most of his opportunity.
That's what these Kansas City Chiefs have been doing all year: Showing and telling the world exactly what they're about.
"The best thing about this team is we let our personalities show," Mahomes said. "We are who we are. We go out there, we play football and we love doing it. And we're going to enjoy playing this game together every single time we get the opportunity to."