Chiefs' Dave Toub could follow John Harbaugh's path in NFL

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Andy Reid has called Dave Toub the best special teams coach in the NFL, and his work with the Kansas City Chiefs this season has done nothing to dispute the assessment.

He works daily with one of the league's best punters in Dustin Colquitt. One of the best kickers in Cairo Santos. One of the best return men in Tyreek Hill. And Toub's creativity in designing an audacious fake punt helped the Chiefs win a crucial game in Atlanta.

The downside to all of that? Toub could soon be a head coach elsewhere.

The San Diego Chargers have requested permission to interview him for their vacancy, and the Denver Broncos are among other teams that could follow suit during the league's wooing period this week.

''Listen, I'm all for it,'' Reid said Tuesday. ''Some of the teams that are talking to us are the ones we play, but it's just one of those deals, man.''

It's rare for a special teams coach to make the jump to being an NFL head coach - the typical path involves being an offensive or defense coordinator. But it's also not unprecedented, with two coaches having roots in special teams turning out to be two of the league's best coaches.

One is the Patriots' Bill Belichick, who was an assistant special teams coach for the Lions in 1976 and then worked with the Giants' special teams from 1979-85. The other is Baltimore's John Harbaugh, whose first job in the NFL was handling the special teams for Reid in Philadelphia from 1998-2007.

The two have combined to win five Super Bowls since 2001.

''I said it with Harbs, the special teams coaches are a unique breed,'' Reid said as the Chiefs were enjoying their playoff bye week. ''They probably don't get enough credit for what they do and what they deal with. They have to deal with the media, with the offensive side and defensive side, and the special teams players that make your team. They have to deal with the whole gamut there.

''As a tight ends coach you might have a great day,'' Reid explained, ''but a special teams coach is like a head coach. There's always some phase that wasn't quite right that you have to deal with.''

While offensive and defensive coordinators tend to be more visible assistant coaches, the reality is special teams coordinators are forced to handle much of what they do and a whole lot more.

They need to teach tackling and coverage, just like a defensive coach. They need to teach execution of punt fakes and other gadget plays. And to top it off, they have to handle all the kicking units.

All while dealing with players from across the entire roster.

''Dave understands all those different positions,'' Reid said. ''He's going to play to your strength and try to work on getting you better at your weakness, and kind of give you an opportunity to exploit that, to really show that off.''

Toub said he doesn't think about becoming a head coach ''every day,'' but it's something that has crossed his mind. He presided over special teams units in Chicago that featured Devin Hester, and now has built a group in Kansas City that is arguably the envy of the league.

It wouldn't be a stretch to say that he's ready for a new challenge.

''It's something that if it happens, it happens. I just like the fact that more special teams coaches are being recognized as guys that could be head coaches,'' Toub said. ''If you look at three of the interim coaches this year, they're special teams guys. The awareness is getting better, and I think somebody is going to pull the trigger on a guy.''

Might as well be on him, right?

''It's not something I think about every day,'' Toub insisted. ''I have my hands full with this job.''

The Chiefs will not know their divisional playoff opponent until this weekend, and by that point Toub could be on the short list for a job elsewhere. But whatever happens, Toub intends to keep putting together game plans that have given opponents fits all year.

''I'm partial,'' Reid said, ''but I think he's the best in the business.''

NOTES: Backup LB Dadi Nicolas tore his patellar tendon on Sunday against San Diego and will miss the playoffs, Reid said. Nicolas had mostly worked on special teams. ... Reid is giving his players the rest of the week off. Coaches are also getting a few days off before resuming work later this week.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide — from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Grant Wahl, Andy Staples and more — delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.