PROVO — It's an NFL story few BYU football fans may know, but it involves three famous Cougars.
In 1997, former BYU offensive lineman and assistant coach Andy Reid was an assistant with the Green Bay Packers when he approached a stunning fork in the road. Standing at the fork were Steve Young and Young's former quarterbacks coach with both BYU and the San Francisco 49ers, Mike Holmgren.
By 1997, Holmgren was Green Bay's head coach. The story begins when the 49ers gave their head coaching job to Steve Mariucci. Mariucci had worked with Reid under Holmgren in Green Bay, and he asked Holmgren for permission to hire Reid as his quarterbacks coach — for his former BYU teammate, Steve Young.
Under NFL rules at the time, Holmgren could — and did — refuse to let Reid go. Reid was upset, Holmgren said, but Holmgren elevated to him to quarterbacks coach — for Brett Favre — and promised to help him land a head coaching job.
So Reid had no say in which fork in the road he would take, though in hindsight it appeared to be a win-win. That year, 1997, Young led the NFL in completion percentage while Favre led the league in touchdown passes. In 1998, Young led the league in touchdown passes and Favre was tops in completion percentage.
In 1999, Holmgren had interviews scheduled for the head coaching jobs in Seattle and Philadelphia. He took the Seattle job and told Philadelphia to hire Reid, who became the first in 10 years to ascend straight from position coach to head coach without being a coordinator.