Chiefs’ Reid can paint his Super Bowl masterpiece
Andy Reid might have been a doctor, like his mother. Or a Hollywood set designer, like his father.
He might have been a carpenter or welder, skills he learned as a child. Or a caterer, given his teen gig at The Tonight Show, where he wouldn’t let John Wayne have a fourth sweet-and-sour meatball because the rule was three only.
He could have been a sportswriter, having dabbled in the craft as a senior at Brigham Young. Or a comedian, as anyone who’s ever been around him in a casual setting could tell you. Or maybe even an illustrator, as his son Britt learned one day when Reid was coaching the Philadelphia Eagles.
Walking into his dad’s office, he was curious about the caricature he saw on his dad’s greaseboard that was obviously an image of Butch Buchanico, the Eagles director of security.
“Who did that?” the son asked the father, who casually said, “I did.”
It’s easy to see the correlation between that creativity and the funhouse of a beautiful mind that animates Reid’s chosen path as a coach — a path that now entails lifting the Chiefs into the Super Bowl for the first time in 50 years against San Francisco on Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium.
“It’s all about lines,” said Britt Reid, the Chiefs’ linebackers coach, marveling at the hundreds and hundreds of notecards his father continues to sketch plays on. “When you draw those (passing) route trees, you’re drawing art, really.”
Given all that those entail in terms of innovation and timing and synchronicity, maybe Reid could also have been a choreographer, too. Or a composer.
All of which is testimony to one fundamental aspect of Reid: He is a man of infinite surprises.
“You can’t put him in a box, really,” said Tom Melvin, the Chiefs tight end coach who has known Reid since playing for him at San Francisco State in the mid-1980s.
At least not in the sense of his imagination and array of talents.
But that’s not the most telling dimension of Reid.
Because for all that, what perhaps most defines Reid is a singular gift: emotional intelligence, described in the Cambridge Dictionary as “the ability to understand the way people feel and react and to use this skill to make good judgments and to avoid or solve problems.”
When you get right down to it, Reid is fundamentally altruistic. He’s driven by putting others first, something innate to Reid that many leaders might profess to but that scant few actually seem to live out.
The virtue is so consistent in Reid that special teams coordinator Dave Toub calls it “kind of like an aura,” and its sincerity might best be conveyed by someone such as Dee Ford, the linebacker the Chiefs traded to the 49ers after last season.
“Andy is a special human being … He’s going to always do what he can (for others) even if he’s not benefiting from it,” Ford said on Monday, later adding, “He doesn’t look at this as what he can gain.”
That explains the ongoing relationships Reid maintains with his former players and their families, such as those he knew when he was an assistant coach at the University of Missouri.
Not to mention his connections with countless former colleagues who influenced him or now are on his ever-growing coaching tree, part of the seemingly global six degrees of separation that also reflects who Reid is.
And it helps account for why he’s in part known for giving second chances that skeptics have eyed suspiciously.
It’s why people all over the country want to see Reid, 61 and in his 21st year as a head coach, at last win a Super Bowl — the missing crown jewel of the man with the sixth most coaching wins in NFL history.
And it’s why he was the uncannily perfect fit to revive the Chiefs in a time of despair after the 2012 season, when each needed healing not merely from downward spirals on the field but also shattering events away from it.
The Chiefs went 2-14 in that last season of general manager Scott Pioli’sera, a dismal season obscured by linebacker Jovan Belcher’s murder of Kasandra Perkins and subsequent suicide at the Chiefs training facility.
Meanwhile, Reid’s team finished 4-12 in a season preceded by the death of Reid’s son Garrett from an accidental heroin overdose in a dorm room at the Eagles’ Lehigh University training camp.
Reid returned to work three days later, telling reporters it was “the right thing to do” and what Garrett would have wanted. As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Reid also said he was sustained by his faith.
While many wondered if Reid should take time off after the Eagles fired him at the end of the season, he took the job with the Chiefs four days later.
“I love doing what I’m doing, and I thought it was good medicine,” Reid said last week. “It helps you through. There’s nothing like the camaraderie, as long as my wife and family were OK, I was good with it. So I kept on rolling.”
Britt Reid, who wears a wristband with his brother’s initials on it and says “we know he’s here,” understood why.
“Taking a year off and sitting around thinking about something tragic, I don’t know if that does anybody any good. Other than dig you deeper,” he said, noting a fresh start was for the best for all concerned.
Still, among the concerned was Chiefs owner Clark Hunt, even as he set out to interview Reid for the coaching vacancy that opened when Romeo Crennel was fired.
“Andy had had a terrible personal tragedy in his family life the year before, and … one of the big questions I had going into the interview was whether he was ready to take on a new challenge or whether he would have benefited from a year off,” Hunt said last week.
Hunt said he promptly recognized that Reid not only was ready but perhaps all the more suited for the job because of the circumstances.
“We were definitely looking for an experienced mature leader; that’s what the organization needed at that point,” Hunt said. “And a lot of that had to do with the challenges we’d had on the field as well as off the field the year before.
“And I think a lot of what Andy had been through from his own standpoint, both with the Eagles and then with his family, made him an ideal candidate.”
So much made the ideal candidate who he is.
Reid was born and raised in Los Angeles, where his father, Walter, was an artist and set designer and prankster who was apt to bring home studio props, including wigs, that he deployed at play with his children. His mother, Elizabeth, was a radiologist … and the pragmatist of the two.
“We have a broad range of talents in our gene pool,” Reid’s brother, Reggie, a retired geologist, said with a laugh in a 2013 interview.
To some degree, the coach is a fascinating hybrid of all that, a fusion of left-brain and rightbrain characteristics.
But that was just a foundation for a man who’s own unique personality led to an inimitable journey via an intricate web he has only perpetuated.
From John Marshall High, also attended by the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio and Judge Lance Ito among other celebrities, to Glendale (California) Community College to Brigham Young, where he played for LaVell Edwards and met Mike Holmgren.
Reid also met his wife, Tammy, when he was at BYU: “She’s the one person who can keep him in line and tell him things no one else can,” Britt Reid said, laughing. “She’s really the head coach of the head coach.”
To San Francisco State for his colorful first fulltime coaching job, then briefly to Northern Arizona and Texas-El Paso, where he worked for Bob Stull and met Toub and occasional visitor Steve Spagnuolo ... now his defensive coordinator.
Then to Columbia, Missouri, where Stull took over in 1989, to the Green Bay Packers as an assistant in 1992 when Holmgren made good on a past vow to Reid he’d hire him if he ever became an NFL head coach. In Green Bay, Reid also met John Dorsey, leading to Dorsey joining him as GM in Kansas City and playing a role in setting a fresh foundation for the Chiefs.
Finally in 1999, Reid became the head coach in Philadelphia, where he took over a franchise that had gone 3-13.
In Reid’s second season he guided the Eagles back to the playoffs. Then his teams made it to four straight NFC Championship games, winning the last to reach the Super Bowl against New England. The Eagles lost 27-24 in that 2005 game that helped frame the perception of Reid in Philadelphia: a perennial contender who might never win it all.
Now, with Patrick Mahomes, the quarterback he was born to coach, Reid has a chance to dismiss that notion forever.
But if you think Reid loses sleep over that notion, you don’t understand how he’s wired. Or to put it his way, how he rolls.
“Hey, listen, life is bigger than that,” the grandfather of nine said recently. “That doesn’t tell you I don’t want to win. This is America, man, I’m in it to win. That’s what we do. I don’t want that to be slighted.
“But I also … have a perspective of life. … I’m not going to tell you that there aren’t other things in life. I understand that, too.”
Chiefs coach Andy Reid hoists the AFC Championship trophy after Kansas City beat the Tennessee Titans 35-24 on Jan. 19 at Arrowhead Stadium, advancing to the Super Bowl.