Eagles Notebook: Andy Reid sounds like a guy who welcomes a fresh start

Posted: January 09, 2013

KANSAS CITY - Just beyond the Lamar Hunt statue at the Founders Plaza on the walkway into Arrowhead Stadium lies a diagram of a play in the pavement. The engraving reads, "65 Toss Power Trap." The arrow tracing the play stops in the end zone at the plaque for Super Bowl IV: Kansas City 23, Minnesota 7. It is a running play.

Just inside the entrance up an escalator in the club level, Andy Reid sat on a podium Monday afternoon, peering out at an audience that was 1,123 miles from Lincoln Financial Field.

A week removed from being fired as Eagles coach, Reid signed to be Chiefs coach on Friday. When they see Reid out here, they remember the 2000-04 Eagles, the teams that were sometimes dominant, always competitive, playing exciting football, going deep into the playoffs. That all ended with the 2005 Super Bowl loss. They don't see the last 8 years of barely .500 football or the chaos of the last 2 years. And they don't really care.

"I outlined certain criteria that I believe best described the ideal candidate for our job," Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt said as he introduced Reid. "I knew I wanted a proven leader who had built a successful program. I knew I was looking for an effective communicator and teacher and someone with a high football IQ and a strong work ethic. Finally, and most importantly, I wanted a man with integrity . . . What I didn't know when I laid out those criteria last week was that I was effectively describing Andy Reid."

They met last Wednesday in Philadelphia. What Reid thought would be a 3-hour meeting ended up being 9. By the time the meeting was over, there was not much doubt about the Chiefs' next coach.

When Reid left the Eagles, he really left, disappearing from public view, answering no questions about the one thing he never shared - his feelings. What did he think of his 14 years in the city, the successes, the failures, the ending? After the formal news conference Monday, Reid went from place to place talking to small groups with specific questions. So what about the ending?

"It didn't end the way any of us wanted it to end," Reid said. "That's the bottom line. It was clearly my responsibility. When you have a chance to step back here in the last few days, really, it's a body of work that took place over time. That's what I'll remember. I won't remember the last game or the last year. I won't remember that. I'll remember the 14 years, the fans, the ownership, the Luries . . . "

So why did he go underground after he was fired? Was it simply too emotional to talk about it then?

"There are a lot of things that go through your mind at that time," Reid said. "This whole whirlwind kind of started then. I addressed the players, which I wanted to do. I addressed the organization, which I wanted to do. Then, you're moving. You're just moving on to the next thing, but it wasn't out of a disrespect for the people in Philadelphia at all. That's not where it is . . . I think sometimes it's better when the dust settles to address things of that magnitude."

So what was the moment like when he was told he was not coming back?

"Look, Jeffrey and I have a great relationship," Reid said. "I agree with him. Change is good. In a lot of cases, it can be very good. I think it's going to be great for the Philadelphia Eagles. I'm hoping that the Kansas City Chiefs are the same way."

Arrowhead, hard by I-70, 5 miles east of downtown and next to the stadium where the Royals play, is definitely not South Philly. There will be no fans walking off Broad Street, peering through the practice-field fence. The training facility is just down a hillside from the stadium, splendidly isolated, even if what happened in that parking lot last month won't ever be forgotten. That is where Chiefs linebacker Javon Belcher shot and killed himself after killing the mother of his 3-month-old daughter.

The Chiefs had a historically bad season on the field, even worse than the Eagles. They are trying to start over, just like the Eagles.

Hey, Reid's Eagles won twice as many games as the Chiefs in 2012. It is all about your perspective. In the heartland, their beloved football team has not won a playoff game in 19 years. They want somebody with proven startup experience. And, whatever Philadelphia thought and thinks of Reid, if there is any fairness left in the world, nobody can argue that the man is not incredibly organized and nobody can argue that he did not take over a terrible franchise and remake it quickly into one of the NFL's best.

The problem, of course, is they have clocks in Kansas City too. They still have only three timeouts per half. And the script can get you only so far. If you can't adjust, you ultimately fail. And let's not even go near all those draft choices where the only common theme is plausible deniability.

Best memory?

"The championship game, having the opportunity to go to the Super Bowl," Reid said. "My biggest regret is not winning the Super Bowl. But to allow those fans of Philadelphia to migrate down to Jacksonville and to line the roads there, that was a great feeling."

Still, how hard not to win that championship?

"We were all there to do that," Reid said. "We came up short. That's the bottom line. Listen, we got there. A lot of people never had that opportunity."

What of all the recent changes - assistant coaches, free agents, quarterbacks? Were those the issues?

"I think you have to look at the big picture," Reid said. "When you're at a place a long time, there's going to be change that takes place whether it's with your quarterback, your offensive line, your defensive line, expectations still remain high. To make those changes and to keep it going, that's a very tough thing to do because of the expectations. You don't have that opportunity to sit back and rebuild. That's not how it works. Listen, that's where change can help. Change buys you a year or two to get that thing going. New guy coming in, there's going to be different expectations, which it should be in the city of Philadelphia."

At some point, the game itself changes. You either have to change with it or it changes you. Reid was not good during games, but his ideas were so far ahead of the game that his organization won games by itself. Then, the game changed. Reid never did.

When you pulled back the curtain, searching for explanations and there were none, the inference always was that the man on the podium was the only one who could know certain things and had no reason to share. Perhaps there was no explanation, because that man simply was a fake Wizard with no explanation for rational questions that he refused to answer. Maybe he just did not know some of the answers, so he bluffed.

When you can sit at home with your eyes half-closed and call most of the plays, something is amiss. Eventually, that carefully crafted fa├žade of complete control starts to crack and you end up with a few games of Michael Vick reborn, a 2008 playoff run out of nowhere, and it is all nothing but a tease. Reid probably should have retired when DeSean Jackson took that punt back at the Meadowlands. That really was the final glorious moment of his regime.

That it happened to end with the total embarrassment of 2012 at least made it clear even to the less clear-eyed in Eagles management. Reid had to go.

It is 8 years removed from that Super Bowl. Reputations have a way of surviving way past their sell-by date. They are bequeathed as much as they are earned. The reality is that the Eagles became more a sideshow than actual show in Reid's final years.

Does Reid have another startup success in him? The Chiefs hired him because they believe he does.

Reid is working on his staff. He will be bringing a few from Philadelphia.

"There will some that will come with," he said. "I'm still in that process."

The Chiefs have the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft. When Reid had the No. 2 pick in 1999, he was the only one who got it right in a class that supposedly had all those great quarterbacks. But that was 14 years and dozens of draft mistakes ago.

The Chiefs had a great fan base. By the end of 2012, the stadium was one-third full. Many luxury suites went unsold. Reid is no salesman, so he will have to sell winning.

Chiefs Hall of Fame quarterback Len Dawson, who arrived when the team moved from Dallas 50 years ago and never left, pointed out that Reid is the 13th Chiefs coach. Only three left with winning records.

Now, it is Reid's turn. It is unclear exactly who is in charge of what in Kansas City.

When asked about the Eagles' chain of command and asked whether it would have helped to have only one voice in decision-making, Reid laughed and said: "This is how it works; this is what's important is that everybody's pulling in the same direction. It's really not one guy making the decision. When it's working right, it's a joint effort to make the decision. It's not one guy sitting in there with a hammer making decisions. When that gets out of whack, it goes downhill real fast . . .

"That's the important thing. That's where change can be a good thing. The Philadelphia Eagles are going to do that. They're all going to work together, pulling in the same direction and good things will happen for them."

When it was suggested he was being diplomatic to the end, Reid smiled, winked and went off to the next set of questions, as we were all left to consider those magic words again - plausible deniability.

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