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Chiefs’ Reid: Unlikely coach becomes a football CEO

  • Kansas City Star
  • Published Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013, at 5:05 p.m.
  • Updated Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013, at 6:21 p.m.

The obscure and rotund offensive line coach from the University of Missouri drew the short straw and had to make the two-hour drive to Kansas City for the weekly Tiger Club meeting.

The drill was to bring film from the previous game, show it on a white screen, answer some questions from Mizzou die-hards and motor back to Columbia.

This was during the forgettable Bob Stull era at Missouri, so when assistant coach Andy Reid walked into the Golden Ox restaurant in the stockyards nearly 20 years ago, a grand total of six people showed up to see him.

“I can still remember talking to him on the parking lot and profusely apologizing,” longtime Kansas City Tiger Club leader Paul Blackman said, “but he was such a gentleman. He was so nice about it. He said, ‘Don’t worry about it, it got me out of the office … I’ve got some recruiting to do.’

“No one knew then that he would become the coach of the Philadelphia Eagles and now the Chiefs. Look how far he’s come.”

On Friday, Reid became the 13th head coach in Chiefs history after a 14-year run in Philadelphia, where he won a franchise-record 130 regular-season games, 10 postseason games, appeared in five NFC championship games and one Super Bowl.

Imagine the crowd that shows up for his formal introduction Monday in Kansas City and the first time he steps on the sidelines at Arrowhead Stadium.

“The first thing he does is bring instant credibility with his success with the Philadelphia Eagles,” former NFL general manager Charley Casserly said. “He’ll have a plan for the entire organization, he’ll want to do it his way … he’s a highly organized coach.

“… You get a guy who has a proven plan, that is a winner. He will find a quarterback to develop. It may take him a year to do that. But this team, as soon as they have a quarterback, will be a winner with Andy Reid.”

• 

Reid, 54, is a skilled craftsman who has built cabinets and clocks and tinkers with old cars, including his prized 1928 Model A Ford.

But he is first and foremost a football coach. Though Reid wore the title of head coach and executive vice president of football operations with the Eagles, and he will have complete power over football decisions with the Chiefs, he’s far more comfortable with a whistle around his neck than a necktie.

His desk is covered with huge binders that include schedules for practices, travel and training camps that map out just about every minute of every day of every month of the year. There are also his detailed game plans and playbooks with hundreds of plays.

“He loves the whole idea of being a coach,” said Anthony Gargano, who has been host of Reid’s Monday radio shows in Philadelphia and covered him extensively for several publications. “He’s not one of these guys who is going to go to the TV booth. He doesn’t have that sparkling TV personality. He loves the film study … that’s who he is.

“He’s actually an incredible CEO. He’s a really brilliant guy. If I had a Fortune 500 company, I would have him run it. All you need to know is he spent 14 years building something in Philadelphia. It ends. And three days later, he’s meeting with the Chiefs.…”

Reid’s quest to capture Philadelphia’s first Super Bowl championship is what drove him as a coach and eventually drove him out of town.

“I used to wonder, when he could get a job wherever he wanted, why did he stay?” Gargano said. “It was, ‘I’m so close, I’m so close, I’ve got to do it, I’ve got to do it.’ I think part of him feels bad that he never won a Super Bowl here, and he feels bad because Philadelphia never won a Super Bowl, and it was so tantalizingly close, that the fact he almost feels that he let everybody down by not winning it all.”

Reid, who declined comment Friday after arriving at Arrowhead Stadium, remained a reserved, private figure, even in media-crazed Philadelphia, the fourth-largest market in the country. In a city known for its zealous, unforgiving fans, Reid was respected but not revered, no doubt because of the Eagles’ inability to win a Super Bowl.

“If there is something I always thought he should change,” Gargano said, “he should show his true … who he is, because he’s a really good dude, he’s a funny guy, he’s got a personality, and he never showed it to the fans. I thought it was a mistake. That good will would have been in the bank, so at the end, it wouldn’t have been, ‘We need change, we need change.…’ ”

• 

Andrew Walter Reid was born in the shadows of Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, the second of two sons. His father, Walter, was an artist who worked primarily on backdrops for theatrical sets, and his mother, Elizabeth, was a radiologist.

Reid idolized his brother Reggie, who was 10 years older and played running back for John Marshall High School, where much of the film “Grease” was shot. Andy, who was 6 feet 5 at age 13, was a four-year letterman at the school, playing offensive line, defensive tackle and even kicking three game-winning field goals as a senior, the longest a 36-yarder.

He was selected most inspirational player as a senior, when the Barristers reached the quarterfinals in the city playoffs, and was voted into the school’s athletic hall of fame in 1999, right after he became the Eagles head coach.

“You can remember every play from your high school career,” Reid said last June prior to a formal induction ceremony. “You move on and (the years) start blending. But high school … you remember every stinking thing that happened. I think it’s because you grew up with the guys.”

Reid played guard and tackle during 1979-81 at Brigham Young University, where he blocked for quarterback Jim McMahon and met his future wife, Tammy. Reid converted to the Mormon faith in 1979, the religion Tammy and her family practiced. They would have five children, three boys and two girls.

Reid spent 1982 as a graduate assistant at BYU, working with Mike Holmgren; 1983-85 as offensive coordinator/offensive line coach at San Francisco State; a year as offensive line coach at Northern Arizona and two at Texas El-Paso before accompanying Stull to Missouri in 1989.

The Tigers went 9-23-1 during Reid’s three years in Columbia, and the most memorable game was losing 33-31 to No. 1 Colorado in the infamous Fifth Down game in 1990. But the indefatigable Reid, who constantly wore a towel around his neck to combat profuse perspiration, maintained his enthusiasm.

Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, an assistant on that MU staff, will never forget one night in Columbia.

“He had a young family at that time,” Koetter recalled, “so one Christmas he had it orchestrated where I wore a Santa Claus suit and sneaked into his house after the kids were in bed, to try and convince them Santa Claus was still here.

“I came in, he woke them up, and they saw me sneaking out the door.”

The next day, Reid’s two sons told Koetter how they saw Santa Claus, and “he was bigger than Russ the Bus,” referring to Missouri offensive lineman Russ McCullough, a 6-9, 320-pounder.

• 

Reid left Missouri in 1992 and spent seven seasons as an assistant coach on Mike Holmgren’s Green Bay Packers staff. During that span, the Packers reached the playoffs six times and beat New England in Super Bowl XXXI and lost to Denver in Super Bowl XXXII.

Reid coached tight ends and was an assistant offensive line coach in his first five seasons at Green Bay before taking over the unlikely role as quarterbacks coach in 1997, tutoring Brett Favre for two years. Holmgren had his reasons for making Reid his quarterbacks coach after Marty Mornhinweg left to become offensive coordinator at San Francisco.

“Line coaches live in their little worlds,” Holmgren said. “I said this is going to expand your horizons and you will thank me for it someday. It allowed him to understand the passing game more and have a feel for the entire offense.”

One of Favre’s backups was Matt Hasselbeck, who was taken by the Packers in the sixth round of the 1998 draft on the recommendation of Reid, who was the only coach to attend Hasselbeck’s pro day at Boston College.

The first lesson Reid taught Hasselbeck was to avoid watching Favre’s poor fundaments and daring decision making, which only Favre could get away with because of his talent.

“But he wanted me to pay attention to the intangibles,” said Hasselbeck, who would be traded to Seattle and help Holmgren to a Super Bowl, “Brett’s leadership style, the way he handles criticism from coaches, the way he motivates the huddle.”

Reid had the smallest office at the Packers’ facility and McMahon, who was wrapping up his career as a backup to Favre, would lie on the floor in front of Reid’s desk because there wasn’t enough room for everyone to sit.

“Andy would say, ‘Jimmy Mac,’ sit up,”’ Hasselbeck recalled. “And McMahon said, ‘Andy, what are you going to teach me about playing quarterback?’ The fact Andy didn’t play quarterback didn’t matter, he just had this awesome view of things.”

Reid was not a clone of Holmgren’s but a buffer.

“He’s not a yeller or screamer, but he’ll get on you,” Hasselbeck said. “There were times he got on me or Brett for sure, but he was very creative in how he did it.

“Mike Holmgren would be ripping Brett Favre or screaming at me in training camp. Andy would get between the two of us and would have body language like he was ripping me, and he would say quietly, ‘Listen, I know what happened on that play, the receiver ran the wrong route, we’ll see it on film. … I need to look like I’m yelling at you right now.’

“Andy was really big picture. Everything he ever told me was spot on. I wouldn’t even be in the NFL if it wasn’t for Andy Reid. I’d take a bullet for this guy. I’d do anything for him. I trust him. He builds a relationship and loyalty.”

• 

When Reid took the head coaching job in Philadelphia in 1999, the reaction was, ‘Andy Who?” He had never been a head coach at any level, had never been a coordinator at the major college or NFL level or called plays in the NFL.

The Eagles, coming off a 3-13 season, held the second overall pick in what appeared to be a quarterback-rich draft. Much of Philadelphia wanted to see the Eagles take running back Ricky Williams of Texas, but Reid wanted to build his team around a franchise quarterback.

“He’s got really good philosophies,” Gargano said. “One of those was the shell philosophy. Back then he said, ‘Give me two (defensive) ends, two good corners, two good tackles on offense, and a quarterback, and that shell is what’s going to win. He said, you watch, this league is going to be a pass-heavy league, it’s going to morph into that.’

“He foresaw … I give him a lot of credit.”

Cleveland chose Tim Couch of Kentucky with the first pick. The Eagles selected Donovan McNabb of Syracuse, one spot ahead of Akili Smith of Oregon, who was taken by Cincinnati. Daunte Culpepper of Central Florida and would go to Minnesota at No. 11 and Cade McNown of UCLA, would go to Chicago at No. 12.

Smith and McNown turned out to be busts and Culpepper became a solid starter in the league. McNabb went to six Pro Bowls in 11 seasons, led the Eagles to five NFC championship games and a Super Bowl.

The Eagles struggled through a 5-11 season as McNabb made six starts his rookie year. But starting in 2000, McNabb and the Eagles reached the playoffs in five straight seasons.

Reid made a bold move in 2004, trading for controversial wide receiver Terrell Owens, who had been a locker-room cancer in San Francisco and had a penchant for outlandish touchdown celebrations that drew fines from the league.

Owens didn’t seem to fit Reid’s rigid demeanor, but he showed he could make room for some nonconformity.

“I don’t have a lot of rules,” Reid told Philadelphia Magazine after Owens was acquired. “Be on time and work hard. That’s it. Everything else is based on common sense.… If you put too many rules or restrictions in there, guys don’t know what direction to go. It curbs their personalities.”

Owens contributed mightily to the Eagles’ Super Bowl season in 2004, catching 77 passes for 1,200 yards and 14 touchdowns, plus a gutty performance in the 24-21 loss to New England in which he caught nine passes for 122 yards.

Eventually, Owens wore out his welcome in Philadelphia, but Reid reloaded in the 2008 and 2009 drafts by selecting wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Mizzou star Jeremy Maclin, who have been big playmakers for the Eagles.

And it was Reid who brought in troubled Michael Vick, who had been suspended by the league, out of football for two years and incarcerated at the U.S. Penitentiary in Leavenworth on a dogfighting conviction. In 2010, Vick led the Eagles to a 10-6 record and NFC East title as Philadelphia set franchise records with 439 points; 6,230 total net yards; and 5.4 yards per rushing attempt.

Former Eagles and Chiefs linebacker Shawn Barber, who lives in the Kansas City area, believes Reid can be just as successful with the Chiefs.

“I would think he would be a perfect fit,” said Barber, who played for Philadelphia in 2002 and 2006 and interned for Reid in the offseason of 2010. “He’s a no-nonsense coach. He’s very aggressive in all three phases — offense, defense and special teams. He never held anything back. He left it on the field.”

McNabb, an analyst for NFL Network, said the Chiefs could go through some growing pains at first.

“This is his first year, so he’s going to make sure that he kind of weeds out some of the negativity that has been going on in the locker room,” he said. “He’s going to be a disciplinarian; he’s going to make sure that guys understand that it’s about character and personality with this ballclub. And with that you build trust.”

• 

The phone rang on Jan. 30, 2007. While Reid and Tammy were on vacation in the Los Angeles area, their oldest son, Garrett, who had been battling drug issues, crashed his car into another in Pennsylvania, injuring the other driver, a 55-year-old woman. He tested positive for heroin.

Incredibly, six hours later, their second son, Britt, was arrested for flashing a gun at a motorist, and like his brother, was busted with illegal drugs. Reid subsequently took a 39-day leave of absence from the Eagles and accompanied his sons to a detox center in Florida.

In August 2007, Britt was back in jail having violated his parole when found incoherent and behind the wheel of a car. Police found pills in his pickup truck and in his pockets. Five weeks later, Garrett failed a drug test and went back to jail. The brothers were sentenced to the Montgomery County Correction Facility for nearly two years.

Every Thursday night, Andy Reid visited his sons.

“All the blame goes on you as the parent,” Reid told the Philadelphia Inquirer in 2010. “As a football coach, you look at the hours you put in and you say, ‘Wow.’ You should be home more or you should do this. You go through and you analyze everything. And then you find out there are a lot of parents who are home a lot. It hits everybody.”

Last Aug. 5, Garrett Reid, 29, was found dead in his room of a heroin overdose at the club’s training camp at Lehigh University, where he was assisting the Eagles’ strength and conditioning coach.

“I’m humbled because of the outpouring (of support),” Reid told reporters two days later. “I know my son would feel the same way. It’s a sad situation, and my son has been battling for a number of years. … It doesn’t mean you stop loving your son.”

• 

Before the 2012 season began, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said the team would have to show improvement after an 8-8 record and no playoffs in 2011. The Eagles finished 4-12 and, sure enough, Reid was one of seven NFL coaches fired on Dec. 31.

Reid’s agent, Bob LaMonte, who represents nearly 50 NFL coaches, assistants and front-office personnel, puts Reid in select company despite the lack of a Super Bowl win.

“At the end of every season in the National Football League, you have one genius and 31 dopes,” LaMonte told the Philadelphia Daily News last September. “In the time Andy Reid has been in Philadelphia, there hasn’t been a division that has given out more pink slips — Washington, Dallas and New York — while Andy has survived. He hasn’t been good for the coaching fraternity in those cities.”

Reid said he hasn’t thought about his legacy in Philadelphia.

“As a coach, you’re always looking forward,” he said at the start of the season. “Very seldom do you ever look back. Very seldom do you rest on laurels. I’m no different than the other guys. I’m trying to push forward and find the best way to win championships.

“You want to be thought of as a good football coach, an honest person and a hard worker. I don’t think that’s a lot different from what other people strive for in their business.”

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