KANSAS CITY, Mo. — David Culley spent 18 seasons as an assistant coach on Andy Reid’s staff.
Their working relationship started in 1999 when Reid was hired as Philadelphia’s coach and brought Culley aboard as wide receivers coach, a role he filled through Reid’s entire tenure with the Eagles.
Culley was promoted to senior offensive assistant for the final two seasons in Philly from 2011-12 then joined Reid in Kansas City, where he served as assistant head coach and wide receivers coach from 2013-16.
After nearly two decades, and with Reid's blessing, Culley went to Buffalo to coach quarterbacks for another former Reid assistant, Sean McDermott, for two seasons before landing in Baltimore.
With the Ravens, Culley spent two seasons as an assistant coach, wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator under yet another former Reid assistant, John Harbaugh.
That led to his opportunity as head coach of the Houston Texans.
Culley’s first season — against the backdrop of Pro Bowl quarterback Deshaun Watson’s off-field troubles and de facto suspension — has been a struggle, but he can do Reid a huge favor Sunday against the Tennessee Titans.
The Texans (4-12) wrap up 2021 at noon Sunday against the Titans (11-5), who need a win to clinch the No. 1 overall seed in the AFC.
If Houston, which stunned Tennessee 22-13 on Nov. 21 in Nashville, can pull off another upset, it opens the door for Kansas City to claim the top seed — and all-important first-round bye — with a win at Denver.
The Chiefs have whipped up on the Broncos lately, winning 12 straight against their AFC West rivals dating back to Sept. 17, 2015, but nothing is guaranteed this weekend — for Kansas City or Tennessee.
“We’ve got to play well,” Reid said. “I think both teams are going to try to win the game, so we’re right in that position where we need to do that.”
The Chiefs are 0-3 this season against AFC teams that have already clinched a playoff berth — losing 38-20 versus Buffalo in Week 5, 27-3 at Tennessee in Week 7 and 34-31 at Cincinnati last Sunday.
“It’s great competition,” Reid said. “These teams have done a nice job of bringing in good players. We have some good young quarterbacks in the league right now to kind of fill in for the old guys that are leaving, so it’s great for the NFL, it’s great for the fans and great for competition.”
Of course, the Broncos, who haven’t had a winning season since 2016 and will finish last in the AFC West for the second straight season, aren’t one of those teams.
Still, embattled Denver coach Vic Fangio seems to corral quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs’ offense as well as any coach in the NFL.
“I think guys are ready to go,” Mahomes said. "We understand that we can still go out there and do whatever we want to do, it’s just going to take us being better and better each and every week. We know it’s still going to be a tough game this week in the Broncos, playing in Denver. It’s always a tough game, so we’re just going to focus on trying to win this week, and we’ll let the playoffs handle itself.”
Kansas City Chiefs (11-5) at Denver Broncos (7-9)
Series record (last meeting): Chiefs lead 68-54 (Chiefs, W 22-9)
When (TV/radio): 3:30 p.m. (ESPN and ABC/WDAF-106.5 FM)
TV commentators: Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit, Laura Rutledge, John Parry
Spanish-language radio: KPRS-103.3 HD2