There may not have been two more broken entities in all the NFL last season than the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid.
The Chiefs, despite plenty of perceived talent on the roster and playoff expectations, finished an abysmal 2-14. However, this was not just about wins and loses. Every season there are teams that finish with bad records. This was something more.
The incredible and renowned KC fan base, the “Sea Of Red”, was so fed up with what they saw as a gross mismanagement of their beloved team that they were revolting. They flew banners over the stadium. They wore black to games in protest. The amazing home field advantage created by the rabid fan base began to slip as pitiful performance after pitiful performance left the stadium half empty. When starting quarterback Matt Cassel was injured during a game, SOME fans who were fed up actually cheered. When Eric Winston told the world that these KC fans were “sickening and disgusting” it drove the wedge between the fans and the team that much deeper.
The days of standing room only fans screaming at the tops of their lungs as Derrick Thomas terrorized opposing quarterbacks seemed like a distant memory.
Then, just when it seemed that things couldn’t get any worse, came the darkest day in the history of the Kansas City Chiefs franchise. On December 1, 2012 Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher killed his 22 year old girlfriend Kasandra Perkins and then drove to the Chiefs facilities and took his own life in the presence of general manager Scott Pioli and head coach Romeo Crennel. Worst of all, this unspeakable act left Belcher’s infant daughter Zoey without either of her parents.
The Kansas City Chiefs were broken in every conceivable way.
Over 1,000 miles away in Philadelphia, things were only marginally better.
The Philadephia Eagles had come off the 2011 “Dream Team” season with a disappointing 8-8 record. Andy Reid was entering his 14th season as head coach and the pressure appeared to be getting to him. He was pressured not only with coaching a team with Super Bowl expectations, but was also in charge of the player personnel for the team. These personnel duties caused him to spend less time doing hands on coaching and game planning, meaning his assistants had to be trusted to carry out those jobs.
At times, this proved to be problematic.
After losing his legendary defensive coordinator Jim Johnson to a battle with cancer in 2009, Reid struggles to find a replacement. In a surprise move, Reid named his offensive line coach Juan Castillo to the defensive coordinator position prior to the previously mentioned “Dream Team” season of 2011. In 2012 this move officially blew up in Reid’s face. After the defense struggled early on, Castillo was fired on October 16th. However, the problems ran deeper than just a failed defensive coordinator experiment. It later came to light that defensive line coach Jim Washburn was openly mocking and undermining Castillo in front of the defensive players. One report referenced Washburn calling Castillo “Juanita”. On December 3rd Washburn would be fired as well. Many speculated that Reid regretted the decision to fire Castillo earlier in the season instead of Washburn.
When you combine those kind of behind the scene issues with a 4-12 season that included an 8 game losing streak, things are about as bad professionally as they can get. However, much like the Chiefs with the Jovan Belcher tragedy, Reid’s losing football season was a distant second to the tragedy in his own life.
These problems were not isolated to the 2012 season. In 2007, Reid took a five week leave of absence from the Eagles to try and help his two sons Britt and Garrett with their drug addictions. Both of his sons served some time in jail and at one point a judge even referred to the Reid household as a “drug emporium”. Despite the belief that his sons’ worst days were behind them, Garrett Reid was found dead of a heroin overdose on August 5, 2012 at the team’s training camp facilities.
Despite the fact that most believed Reid should take some time away from the team again, Reid returned to work almost immediately. The results were not good. This tragedy combined with the 4-12 record, the turmoil on his coaching staff, and his firing on December 30, 2012 left Reid’s football future in question.
Everyone thought Andy Reid needed some time off.
He needed to spend some time with his family.
He needed to grieve the loss of his son.
He needed to “recharge his batteries”.
It didn’t matter if it was the media, friends, or fellow coaches, everyone had the same opinion.
Everyone except Andy Reid.
Reid wanted to jump right back into coaching. He wanted a new challenge.
This is where the paths of the two most broken entities in the NFL became joined. Andy Reid was unemployed for all of five days, agreeing to become the head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs on January 4, 2013.
Fast forward 8 months.
It is the first week of August. Reid and the Chiefs are preparing for their first preseason game against the New Orleans Saints. A game that will take place just days after the one year anniversary of his son’s death. One may have thought that the pressure of a new job, of rebuilding a 2-14 team, of relocating his family, would be weighing on him. However, the opposite seems to be true.
It appears that coaching the Chiefs is bringing Andy Reid the coach back to life in the same way that he hopes to bring the Chiefs franchise back to life on the field this fall.
This isn’t just the opinion of a random Chiefs blogger. People all over are taking notice.
From Jason La Canfora of CBS’s Andy Reid, Not One To Sit Still, Jumps Into Challenge Of Fixing Chiefs:
Reid seems quick to flash a smile or deliver a quip after Chiefs practices at Missouri Western State University, and the newness of his roster, the surroundings, even the bright red of his Chiefs jacket seem to suit him. He looks healthy, a light still very much in his eyes, and while the task of transforming this 2-14 club might not happen as suddenly as some project, at age 55, the task is hardly too big for him.
From Ashley Fox of ESPN’s Andy Reid Is Back In His Element:
He is happier now. It is obvious. The pressure of Philadelphia is off his shoulders. The expectations. The demands. The politics. It is all gone.
Andy Reid can breathe again.
It isn’t so obvious to Reid — how his sense of humor is coming through in his coaching of the Kansas City Chiefs, how his new players are connecting with him in a way maybe his last few Philadelphia Eagles teams could not.
From the Associated Press’s Relaxed Reid Making Mark On Chiefs:
Reid may be unwilling to wax poetic about fresh starts and clean slates and all those other cliches, preferring instead to speak in platitudes about his new job in Kansas City. But those who surround him see a profound change in their longtime friend.
“I see Andy, the coach I used to know,” said John Dorsey, who has known Reid for nearly two decades, since they were young up-and-comers with the Green Bay Packers.
Dorsey now works alongside Reid as the Chiefs’ new general manager.
“I sincerely mean this: He’s having more fun,” Dorsey said. “He’s over here doing receivers, he’s over here with tight ends, he’s working with the tackles, he’s jumping the quarterback, but that’s good. He sees everything. That’s coaching, and that’s a good thing.”
From the Kansas City Star’s Sam Mellinger and Dugan Arnett’s Chiefs Head Coach Andy Reid Continues His Fight To Balance Football And Family:
Vermeil came to Kansas City this summer to visit his friend, not sure exactly what to expect. But after he watched Reid run through a few practices and spent a few hours with him over dinner, he changed his mind. He is convinced. His friend is ready for the grind again.
Ultimately, the success of a team and the head coach are determined by their wins and loses. As of today, this team still hasn’t played a preseason game. However, the early signs give the clear indication that Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs are good for each other.
Reid has a spring in his step and a fire in his belly.
The Chiefs players are flying around in practice with a confidence that resembles that of a playoff contender, not a 2-14 team.
And what about those fans that were wearing black to games and flying banners over the stadium?
They are now turning out in groves for training camp practices. Their red attire is back and proudly displayed for all to see. The twinkle of hope for the new season is back in their eyes.
The thing that was most missing in all the darkness of the 2012 season for the Kansas City Chiefs, their fans, and for Andy Reid, has returned.
Time will tell if this hope is warranted, but no one can deny that this hope brought about by the marriage of Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs has brought about some healing for everyone involved.
Regardless of the number of wins on the field this season that is one victory that no one can take away.