Chiefs’ Reid can paint his Su­per Bowl master­piece

The News & Observer (Sunday) - - Sports - BY VAHE GRE­GO­RIAN vgre­go­[email protected]­star.com Vahe Gre­go­rian: 816-2344868, @vgre­go­rian

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.”

RICH SUGG [email protected]­star.com

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.

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