TAMPA — There are only 32 NFL head coaches, and two shared an office in 1985 as young assistant coaches at Division II San Francisco State.
And as the Bucs' Dirk Koetter and the Chiefs' Andy Reid meet for the first time Sunday as NFL head coaches, it's yet another intersection of their coaching tracks.
Both have fond memories of their roots in San Francisco with the now-defunct Golden Gators football program, selling hot dogs on Thursdays on the campus quad to raise money, riding buses to road games, and getting a $24,000 salary.
Koetter left after a year for a job at UTEP as quarterbacks coach, and when the Miners needed an offensive line coach a year later, in 1987, he recommended his former colleague.
"Dirk said 'You need to interview Andy Reid. We worked together at San Francisco State,' " said Bob Stull, then UTEP's head coach and now its athletic director, who is close friends with both. "I was an offensive line guy, so we brought him in, and I hit him with an offensive line question. Two hours later, I was pretty convinced he knew what he was talking about.
"Both of them, No. 1, had a passion for the sport, and No. 2, they were on the cutting edge of what was going on as far as technique and strategy and schemes. … They could communicate well with players, and they had a great work ethic. Both of them were great hires, obviously."
UTEP won 10 games in 1988, and Koetter and Reid followed Stull to Missouri for three years, which included the infamous "Fifth Down" loss to Colorado in 1990.
Also part of Sunday's reunion are Chiefs special teams coordinator Dave Toub, who was with Koetter and Reid at UTEP and Missouri, and Kansas City tight ends coach Tom Melvin, who was a graduate assistant with them in San Francisco.
For all of them, it's good to appreciate the days when their only perk was being able to coach football.
"Any day you got to do that, no matter what level, was a great day," Melvin said. "I can't go by a barbecue without twitching, but that was our recruiting money, selling hot dogs. We had this old Car 15, out of the San Francisco State motor pool, a Dodge Dart with 300,000 miles on it, and that's what we had to take recruits around (the city) in. … It had holes in the floorboards. It was awesome."
Koetter, 57, and Reid, 58, have faced each other twice in the NFL before. When Reid was head coach of the Eagles, he beat the Jaguars, with Koetter as their offensive coordinator, 28-3 in 2010, and the Falcons, with Koetter running the offense, beat Philadelphia 30-17 in 2012. Their friendship has carried over with each coaching stop.
"I think Andy Reid is one of the best football coaches I know," Koetter said this week. "Andy's just a terrific coach, father, husband. Just a first-class guy. I was fortunate to be with him in three different spots."
Reid even went up against Koetter's father, Jim, who was head coach at Idaho State when he was an assistant at Northern Arizona. Koetter's wife, Kim, and Reid's wife, Tammy, have known each other as long, so the families have remained close as well.
"I love (Koetter)," Reid said Wednesday. "We were little scrub buckets when we started off together. … Our families, our wives are good friends, so I think the world of him. I think he's a great football coach. He comes from great stock. His dad might be the best coach I've ever been around."
Reid went to the Packers in 1992 and became head coach of the Eagles in 1999. He is 15th in the league in career wins and is on his way to his 11th 10-win season. Koetter coached in college longer, spending nine years as a head coach before heading to the NFL in 2007, and he spent another nine as an NFL offensive coordinator before getting the Bucs' job this year.
Said Koetter of Reid: "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."
Contact Greg Auman at [email protected] and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.