KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt couldn’t have timed the phone call to Philadelphia any better.
Andy Reid had just been dismissed after 14 years as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles when the phone rang for the first time on New Year’s Eve morning.
Hunt was on the other end of the line, starting his search for a replacement for Romeo Crennel, who was dismissed by the Chiefs about the same time Reid was let go by Philadelphia.
“Andy spoke to all of his players, and he came back to his desk, sat down, and by some good fortune on my part, I called at that time, and he picked the phone up,” Hunt said in recalling the courtship of Reid, who on Monday was introduced as the head coach of the Chiefs.
“We had a great conversation, and we got the interview tentatively scheduled for Wednesday, which we were able to firm up, and the process happened fast.”
Hunt was determined not to be burned by a late start in looking for a coach, as was the case in 2009 when he didn’t hire Scott Pioli as general manager until mid-January and Todd Haley as head coach until after the Super Bowl in early February.
Once Hunt got hold of Reid, he wasn’t going to let go.
“That experience was a big part of switching the process around,” Hunt said. “That was part of the decision of changing the organizational structure to have the head coach report directly to me.
“I wanted to be in the mix with the top candidates because I knew there was going to be a bunch of jobs open. I didn’t know how many. People were estimating between six and 10 head-coaching positions would be open, and it ended up being seven. I knew I wanted to be early in this process, so we would have a shot at Andy Reid.
“I didn’t know for sure that Andy was going to be dismissed. That was the speculation.… I felt it was important for the Kansas City Chiefs to be, if not at the front of the line, to be very close to the front of the line. That was probably the most important thing.”
Reid also had overtures from Arizona and possibly San Diego. But something felt right about the Chiefs, despite their 2-14 record in 2012 and an offense that produced just 17 touchdowns.
It was the reputation of the Hunt family, which founded the franchise in 1960.
When Reid was just starting out as a head coach in Philadelphia, the late Lamar Hunt approached him at the NFL spring meetings at The Breakers in Palm Beach, Fla. Hunt, who had a degree in geology from SMU, knew that Reid’s older brother, Reggie, was a geologist, so he struck up a conversation with the young coach.
“It was in between sessions and I’m standing outside, and he came up and started talking,” Reid said. “I was taken aback by it just a bit. He talked to me about his background in geology.… I thought, ‘This is Lamar Hunt, this guy is one humble guy.…
“You feel that within the family as I’ve had a chance to meet the family. You can understand that history that is involved here, and how much they care about the Kansas City Chiefs and the city. You can take the old families in this league … the Hunts, the Rooneys, the Maras … that is good stuff. To be a part of that, it’s awesome.”
Reid never got on an airplane to Phoenix, where he was going to interview with the Cardinals after meeting with Hunt and an entourage of Chiefs officials. Next stop was Kansas City for Reid and his wife, Tammy, to visit the stadium complex and community.
“It was apparent to both of us pretty early on in the interview, there was a good fit,” Hunt said.
Reid especially fits the new structure Hunt has put in place. Reid will report to Hunt, not the soon-to-be-hired general manager. The general manager, who will have final word on player personnel, also will report to Hunt.
“It reminds me a little bit of bringing Marty Schottenheimer to Kansas City … it reminds me of bringing Dick Vermeil to Kansas City,” Hunt said, “guys who had been very accomplished in previous coaching stints, and we were fortunate to have them as part of the organization. Andy has the opportunity to bring the same qualities those guys had.”
Before Hunt and Reid touched down in Kansas City on Friday afternoon, Pioli parted ways with the franchise. That appeared inevitable no matter who Hunt would hire as head coach.
“Scott and I had a lot of conversations going back into the season about his future,” Hunt said, “and we continued to have those discussions while we were going through the interview process. He finally got to the same point Andy was at Philadelphia, just realizing that a fresh start would be best for him and for the Kansas City Chiefs. Once we got there, it was time to go in different directions.
“It wasn’t any issue between Andy and Scott. They’re actually very close friends.”