Reid in a position to succeed

Posted: November 26, 2013

KANSAS CITY - Andy Reid ambles across the practice fields, a red-jacketed Santa figure with a sandy, whitening mustache, ruddy and jolly, a mischievous twinkle in his clear blue eyes.

On this cloudless afternoon, icicles dangle from the speed-limit signs on nearby Interstate 70. The wind chill makes it feel like it's 15 degrees, but anywhere south of 40 degrees Reid's 55-year-old arthritic knee hurt like hell, anyway.

"Ah," he said, dismissively. "It's cold." He shrugged. And smiled.

This is Andy Reid, elemental; this is Big Red, distilled.

This the Andy Reid that Philadelphia got in 1999: a football general focused on play-calling, delegating a dominating defense, involved in little else.

It is what Reid became again, after the Eagles fired Reid last New Year's Eve and the Chiefs hired him 4 days later for 5 years and, reportedly, $37.5 million. That's $1.5 million a year more than he made in Philadelphia, to do less.

Reid no longer acts as czar, as he did on his final dozen years in Philadelphia. Clark Hunt, a capable, hands-on chairman and CEO, dictates the Chiefs' direction. Pedigreed general manager John Dorsey picks the players.

Reid just coaches.

"It's amazing," said David Culley, now Reid's assistant head coach in Kansas City who coached Reid's receivers all 14 years in Philadelphia. "He's drawing up plays. Calling them. And I see him all the time. I haven't seen him this happy since 1999, 2000."

Reid assumed full control of the Eagles in 2001. He tried to hire Dorsey away from the Packers but Dorsey declined; so, Reid essentially was on his own for the next dozen years.

After 14 years hunkered down in a gritty, unforgiving town, Reid seems to relish wide-open spaces, be they the flats at the base of the Wasatch Mountains in Utah, where he attended college and met his bride, or the windswept plains of the great Midwest, where he coached at Missouri for 3 years.

He loved, Philly, he will tell you, and so will his colleagues.

But here, he can see his jackals long before they come close enough to be dangerous; jackals both real, and imagined.

"It's a good city," Reid said. "It wasn't a tough adjustment. The people here are great people. They've welcomed all of us."

Akeem Jordan followed Reid to Kansas City. A native of Harrisonburg, Va., Jordan spent the last six seasons with the Eagles. KC feels more like home for him, and he sees Reid appreciate it, too.

"It's like that Southern hospitality," Jordan said. "You're walking down the street here, you say 'Hi' to somebody, they speak back."

Absent in many cities away from the Northeast is the sense of desperation, the crushing pressure to be perfect.

"The vibe is different here because it's a different team. Everybody is more laid-back and focused on winning," Jordan said. "No distractions outside of football.

"It's a new opportunity. Coach came into a new city. A new team. I think he's just glad to have another opportunity to do something great."

Reid is well on his way to doing that.

The Chiefs quickly became the darlings of the NFL, running and defending through a weak early schedule, undefeated through nine games. Then they went to Denver last week and had the Broncos show them what a good team really looked like. Even with yesterday's disappointing, 41-38 loss to the visiting Chargers, the Chiefs finally are on their way to that reality.

What was lacking in Kansas City for years was what Reid has delivered: a very real sense of order, of professionalism, cohesion. It replaced a culture of backstabbing players and mutinous coaches.

"I knew Andy would come in and make a big difference and an immediate difference," said Chiefs CEO Clark Hunt. "Envisioning that we would get to 9-0 in his first year was probably unrealistic. But, going all the way back to the spring, I could tell what a great job he was doing with the guys. The organization of practices, the pace of the practices, how far he was able to push the guys quickly. That carried over into the season."

On the field, the Chiefs returned six Pro Bowl players. But to minimize the stabilizing contributions of Reid and new general manager John Dorsey would be unfair. They traded for Alex Smith, a dependable and sometimes brilliant quarterback with the 49ers. They drafted right tackle Eric Fisher with the first overall pick. They extended receiver Dwayne Bowe. They got faster.

Reid had an inkling.

"During training camp, I thought we would do fine with the process; that we were doing the right things," Reid said. "I mean, the team had talent. Dorsey added more to that. Leaving camp, I knew we had something."

And, they had Reid.

The old Reid.

The Reid who is human, unnervingly empathetic with players whose injuries are not of their own making. The Reid who stonewalls when asked for useful information: playing time, scheme explanation, player evaluation. If Reid thought meteorological reports were suppressable, he would keep everyone guessing about the weather, too.

And, no, despite league rules that dictate access, Reid still won't let his second-tier assistants speak with the press.

The staff members quickly (if quietly) acclimated themselves to the assemblage before them. Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton, in the Jim Johnson mold, likely will be a coordinator for life. Offensive coordinator Doug Pederson, Reid's quarterbacks coach in Philadelphia and Reid's starting quarterback there in 1999, is, at 45, the most likely to ascend to a head-coaching slot if the Chiefs continue to trend upward.

"He's ready," Reid said.

Culley, who also runs the receivers, serves as a conduit and a buffer for Reid and the players. Tommy Brasher, who came out of retirement during last season to replace fired defensive-line coach Jim Washburn, followed Reid to Kansas City, as did longtime tight-ends coach Tom Melvin. Reid reunited with Brad Childress, who is the team's spread-offense consultant, and Dave Toub, a former Eagles special-teams underling who now runs the Chiefs' special units.

"The staff that he brought with him really helped him implement his program," Hunt said. "Andy's an extremely bright person. The players immediately bought in because he was so well-respected. That very quickly filtered into the locker room. In the spring, he had the full attention of all 80 players in the locker room. That's stayed true to this point."

Reid also recruited trainer Rick Burkholder and strength coach Barry Rubin to come to Kansas City, so Reid's vetted posse has control of the gym and the whirlpool, too.

"It's a good group. It seems cohesive," Reid said. "They work well together."

The most remarkable member of the staff is Reid's latest nod to nepotism. Britt Reid, the second of his five children, serves as an offensive quality-control coach.

Things didn't work out so well the last time Reid kept one of his kids around.

Garrett Reid was found dead in his dorm room at Lehigh University on the morning of Aug. 5, 2012. He overdosed on heroin. Steroids were present in the room.

At the time, Garrett, 29, was serving as an assistant to the Eagles' weight training staff at training camp. He was a few years removed from the legal troubles stemming from the drug trafficking, distribution and weapons crimes committed by him and Britt, which landed both in jail. Garrett, always present around the team from the time he got his driver's license, seemed little removed from the greater demons that tormented him.

This has to be healthy for Reid: Leaving Philadelphia, never returning to Lehigh, shucking the offices and practice fields and locker rooms where Garrett's ghost haunted him last year. Reid dislikes addressing the loss, but his coaches know it must tear at his heart every day.

That's why, on Aug. 5, 2013, the staff arrived for work fretting for their boss' well-being. "The anniversary day, I mean, we were worried," Culley said. "But it came and went without a mention."

While Garrett continued his tragic slide, Britt rehabilitated. He completed his degree at Temple, where he latched on to the football program as a student assistant, then as a graduate assistant. Britt was married just before Garrett's death. He is 28.

He will give Andy and Tammy a grandson soon.

"December!" Reid said, chuckling.

Spencer, the baby of the family, recently left the Temple football team, where he is a running back, and began a 2-year Mormon mission in Fresno, Calif. Both daughters, Crosby and Drew Ann, have finished their educations and will marry soon.

The Reid house, with the five kids, with the kids' friends crashing in the basement and family running in and out, now is a serene testimony to life change. Their home in the posh Plaza section of Kansas City must be eerily quiet by contrast.

"We're empty-nesters!"

Reid almost shouts it.

And he almost giggles.

Reid has little issue or regret with what he did in and for Philadelphia. He is the most successful coach in franchise history. He won with offense and he won with defense. He sent members of his staff to head-coaching slots; one, John Harbaugh, is the reigning Super Bowl champion. Reid left behind a stout offensive line, playmakers at both receiver positions, a Pro Bowl running back and two viable starting quarterbacks.

Chip Kelly rested at 6-5 yesterday, the Eagles' bye week. Reid knew his successor would succeed, with either Michael Vick or Nick Foles; probably, with both.

"Absolutely. You saw what Nick did in Tampa Bay," Reid said of Foles' only win in six starts in 2012. "Michael was a great teacher for him. We had good coaches around him. And now he's got Chip, who's phenomenal."

Yesterday at Arrowhead seemed like old times, a little. Pro Bowl linebackers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston left in the second quarter with injuries, and the Chiefs suddenly couldn't contain the Chargers. They lost when former Eagles safety Quintin Demps blew deep coverage and gave up a last-minute touchdown.

Times have changed, too. Reid clearly has improved. There hasn't been an alarming clock management issue or a crucial timeout waste. He entered the final 2 minutes of each half yesterday with at least two timeouts.

He won a replay challenge yesterday, which made him 4-for-4. That's like Donovan McNabb going 50-for-50 on crossing routes.

Another change was that the Chiefs began yesterday's game running the ball almost 58 percent of the time. The Chiefs feature Pro Bowl back Jamaal Charles, but Reid always had a blue-chip running back (Duce Staley, Brian Westbrook, LeSean McCoy) and usually had a running quarterback. But Reid's Eagles teams - often for better, seldom for worse - never ran more than they passed.

This is growth.

Success requires growth.

Usually, happiness requires success.

What could be more of an American success story than Andy Reid?

He was an outsized middle-class kid from Los Angeles who played college football at BYU, became a Mormon, married a Western belle, won a Super Bowl as an assistant, then became a multimillionaire head coach of two cherished NFL franchises.

Along the way, he buried his first child.

Doesn't that guy deserve a little happiness?

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