Inside the Eagles: For Reid, the travails of being a father

Posted: August 06, 2012

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - It was a father-to-father conversation and not a coach-to-reporter one.

The public Andy Reid is much different from the private one, and when you cover the Eagles for a living you occasionally get a glimpse of the coach off the field.

In March, the NFL owners meetings were held in West Palm Beach, Fla., and I attended the three-day event on assignment. On the second day, the league hosts an off-the-record party that coaches, front-office personnel, and reporters alike are invited to attend.

Reid, in his familiar casual wear - Tommy Bahama Hawaiian shirt, cargo shorts, and flip flops - sat at one table with his wife, Tammy. I walked up to the Reids, asked to join them, and Andy pulled out a chair.

For the next hour and a half the subject of football rarely came up. He asked about my wife and three sons and the difficulties of working a job with unfriendly family hours. I asked about his family in turn. Knowing Reid's sons' troubles with drug addiction, I remarked that both seemed to have overcome their pasts.

"They grow up," Reid said, "but you never stop worrying about them."

I thought about that conversation after Eagles general manager Howie Roseman announced that Garrett Reid, Andy's eldest son, was found dead Sunday morning in a Lehigh University dorm room.

Lehigh police said there was no indication of a suicide or foul play, which significantly narrowed the causes for Garrett Reid's death at 29. He seemed to have adjusted to life without drugs.

Since his release from prison in 2009, Garrett Reid had become a fixture at Eagles practices, helping with chores such as holding the first-down marker to eventually working with players as part of the team's strength and conditioning staff.

Britt Reid, whose struggles with addiction were not as intense as Garrett's, was also around the team not long after he got out of prison. But he left soon to become a graduate assistant at Temple. Garrett Reid remained with the team until Sunday's tragic end. It was as if Andy Reid wanted to keep his most troubled son in sight.

But for the first time since the winter of 2007, when he took a leave to tend to his sons' plight, Reid left the Eagles on Sunday to be with his family. It would be completely understandable if he never returns.

Football, though, is Reid's addiction. If anyone thought for a second that he would call it quits - and, really, those close to him never thought he would - owner Jeffrey Lurie dispelled the idea when he said that Reid already was talking about returning this week.

Grief is handled in many different ways, and Reid apparently will channel his into coaching the Eagles for his 14th season. He's not the first NFL coach to do so after the death of a son.

Tony Dungy returned to coaching a week after his son, James, committed suicide in December 2005. Dungy's Colts went on to win the Super Bowl the next season. He stayed in Indianapolis for two more seasons but has not returned to coaching since.

Joe Philbin, the Packers' offensive coordinator, took only a few days off after the body of his 21-year-old son, Michael, was pulled from an icy Wisconsin river in January. He coached in an NFC divisional playoff game against the New York Giants, and Green Bay lost. Philbin is now the head coach of the Dolphins.

It's a hard life, coaching. Long hours. Lots of travel. Ungodly pressure. This season was supposed to be the season of reckoning for Reid. After 13 seasons without a Super Bowl, and after last year's 8-8 finish, the 54-year-old coach's future in Philadelphia seemed as fuzzy as ever.

The questions about his prospects beyond this season - he has two years left on his contract - have come like rapid fire since Lurie announced in January that Reid was staying. And yet, he has seemed as relaxed as he has in years.

He's made a concerted effort to be more accommodating to local reporters and more amiable during interviews. In June, Reid invited me to chronicle his return to his native Los Angeles to be inducted into his high school's Hall of Fame.

Reid, as tour guide, took me back to his childhood home, his school, and to some of the old haunts in his neighborhood. Tammy, as usual, was by his side. After the induction, the Reids returned to their vacation home in Dana Point, Calif. In a few weeks, all five of their children would be there for Britt's wedding.

I texted Reid the day the story ran - June 17 - as I boarded a flight home to thank him for his invitation and accommodation.

He thanked me in return and added: "Happy Father's Day."


Contact Jeff McLane at 215-854-4745 or jmclane@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @Jeff_McLane.

|
|
|
|
|