MIAMI – David Merritt likes to say he has two sets of children. The first group consists of his three sons and two daughters. But it's the second group that Merritt, the Kansas City Chiefs' defensive backs coach, showed off to his players last week. That group is comprised solely of the two Super Bowl rings he won as a Giants assistant coach.
"I took a picture and I told them, 'Look, I have twins, and here are the twins,'" Merritt said. "Of course, all those guys are like, 'Wow.' But I said, 'I'm pregnant and I'm waiting for my third baby to be birthed February 2. So, just letting you all know, I'm pregnant with a little ruby baby that's going to come.'"
Merritt hopes for the arrival of child - uh, ring – No. 3 on Sunday, when the Chiefs face the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LIV. Merritt was the Giants' secondary/safeties coach when they won Super Bowls XLII and XLVI and now has an opportunity to celebrate another championship.
"It is so real again, just being able to see these young men and their faces, to be able to experience this, those who haven't experienced it," Merritt said. "It is so fulfilling for me because what I tried to do the past two, three weeks is I tried to paint a picture for my players about everything that was going to happen. I went through A to Z. The last part I have to hit with my players is talking about the White House. But I went through the fact that when you get to the Super Bowl, this is what's going to happen.
"The one thing I told these guys, and we did an exercise at the Giants, is you have to be able to breathe. You have to be able to find a quiet place, your safe place, where you can close your eyes for a couple of seconds and just take deep breaths. I said, 'Because it's a natural tendency to be so excited about everything that's going on.' That's one of the things that I gave the guys is breathe. But I'm just so happy and thrilled for these guys. It's beautiful."
Merritt's 14 seasons (2004-17) with the Giants make him one of the longest-tenured assistant coaches in franchise history. His first job was defensive assistant/quality control coach in Tom Coughlin's first season. Merritt began coaching the safeties in 2006, a job he held for 12 years.
"I know that my time there is done for now, and I'm with the Chiefs," Merritt said. "But I still remember John Mara mentioning to me that, 'Coaches have left here and have circled back around.' When he said that to me in his office, I smiled at him. I said, 'Yes, sir.' But 14 years in a place, my wife, I had to drag her from the house. Yolanda did not want to leave. I said, 'Baby, it's time for a change.' She was upset with me, but it was the best thing for us at the time because I became too comfortable in that role that I was in. Guys would come in, they would pick on, 'Aw man, you've been here as long as cockroaches have been' or whatever it may be. All the jokes. It was like, 'You know what? It's time for a change.' I'm glad I did. I'm glad it happened, though. But I love the New York Giants. I love the Mara family and the Tisch family. It has been a wonderful, wonderful career for David and Yolanda Merritt, I can tell you that."
One coach who circled back was Steve Spagnuolo, who inherited Merritt when he arrived in 2007 to begin the first of his two stints as defensive coordinator. Both coaches departed the Giants after the 2017 season. Merritt spent the next year with the Arizona Cardinals. When Andy Reid hired Spagnuolo as Kansas City's new coordinator last year, Merritt soon joined them – though he did take a quick detour.
"I signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars for 10 days with Tom Coughlin (executive vice president of football operations). I never even worked there. I was in Arizona and next thing you know, (coach) Doug Marrone is calling me saying that, 'Andy Reid wants to pull you to his staff in Kansas City.' I'm sitting here like, 'Okay, I haven't even spoken with Spags.' Spags didn't even tell me he was coming up here to interview for the job. I'm like, 'Okay.' Doug said, 'Well look, I'm going to let you go. Tom is going to give you permission to go and Andy is supposed to call you.' Andy Reid called me, sure enough, the next day.
"Spags had gotten the job and then I guess he told Andy, 'Look, you need to go get Dave Merritt.' Doug, when he called me, the first thing he asked me was, 'Have you spoken with Spags?' I said 'No, I haven't spoken to Steve.' I didn't know that he had taken the job here in Kansas City. Everything worked out, though."
That's an understatement. The Chiefs won the AFC West with a 12-4 record, earned a first-round bye when New England lost its regular-season finale and hosted the AFC Championship Game when top-seeded Baltimore lost in the divisional round. They overcame deficits against both Houston and Tennessee to advance to their first Super Bowl in 50 years.
Led by strong safety Tyrann Mathieu, Merritt's secondary helped Kansas City finish eighth in the NFL in pass defense, allowing 221.4 yards a game.
Now Merritt has a chance to win his third Super Bowl ring and second working with Spagnuolo, who he said has changed from when they first worked together 13 years ago.
"He actually trusts me now," Merritt said. "He'll say, 'Dave, what are we doing now?' 'Alright coach, this is the coverage we're doing. 'Okay.' He listens now. It was funny, we were watching film a couple of weeks ago, and I was talking about the Honey Badger (Mathieu) and how he's so ornery. Spags was like, 'You know what? I remember I used to be that way when I was in my 20s.' I said 'Used to? You still are.'
"Spags has gotten wiser, and he knows how relate to the players better. The players trust him. I'm not saying they didn't trust him back then, but it was just such a different group that you dealt with back then because you had the Michael Strahans, you had the veteran leadership. This group is so young."
But not so young they can't birth another ring for David Merritt.