AVENTURA, Fla. — Clears throat. "Injuries …
For 14 years, Andy Reid bookended the opening of his Eagles news conferences with the above rote phrases. Philadelphians initially endured the coach’s mannerisms. But as the championship-less seasons passed, his quirks became only more frustrating.
They were on full display to a national audience over the last week. But Eagles fans, at least the majority of them, have long moved on from holding a grudge. Reid is back in the Super Bowl, 15 years after he took the Eagles there, and most of Philadelphia wants the Chiefs coach to follow their team’s lead and win his first title.
“I loved my time at Philadelphia as my family did,” Reid said. “We have great memories of Philadelphia. It’s almost a badge of honor when you get booed there. I understand how that works. If you can withstand the pressure of Philadelphia, then you become a Philadelphian.
“I take a lot of pride in that.”
The national sentiment matches that of Philadelphia, if not more so. Who doesn’t love a good story? And the 61-year-old Reid finally hoisting the Lombardi Trophy — after nearly 40 years of coaching, 21 as a head coach, after coming so close before, after watching two proteges from his vast tree win before him, after personal sacrifice and family tragedy — would qualify as a page-turner.
But there’s more to the affection for Reid, just as there is more to the rotund coach with the bushy mustache and stoic public demeanor. He may reveal only so much, but Reid’s legion of allies is outspoken, and through their accounts his greatness has seeped into the public consciousness.
“He’s done everything right from his work ethic to what I call his humanity. So who wouldn’t pull for him?” former Eagles president Joe Banner said. “He’s been dreaming of being a head coach and of winning a Super Bowl his whole life, and anybody who knows him can’t believe it’s taken 20-odd years to get there because he’s as good as or better than many of the coaches that won Super Bowls.”
Banner may be biased. He and Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie, who said that he would be rooting harder for the Chiefs than in any other game outside those involving his own team, hired Reid, after all. And the same could be said of many of those close to the coach, some quoted in this story — assistants, coworkers, players, and family members.
But the general populace typically can sniff out the fakes from the genuine articles. When there has yet to be a former colleague to speak out against you, when the favorable anecdotes are endless, when your players wear duplicates of your renowned Hawaiian shirts as a homage, it’s easy to understand why America is pulling for Reid in Super Bowl LIV on Sunday.
“I’m humbled by it. Very humbled by it,” Reid said. “I got great guys here, friends likewise around the leagues that I’ve known a long time. So I appreciate that. But this game is not about that. This is about this team and the guys who worked so hard to get where they’re at right now, players, coaches.
“It’s about the organization. … It’s not about one person at all.”
Most Eagles fans didn’t blame Reid solely for his failure to win a title by the time he was fired in 2012. But the relationship between the coach and the team, and the city for that matter, had become stale and was one reason for the parting despite the most successful stretch in franchise history.
Reid still cared deeply for the organization, Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said, and even on the day he was fired was in his office suggesting steps to take in rebuilding the roster. He took the Chiefs job only days later, partly, Roseman said, because Reid said he wouldn’t consider working for a competing NFC team.
Kansas City beat the Eagles in the third game of the following season, but fans at Lincoln Financial Field gave Reid a standing ovation. Time heals, but so does winning. And when the Eagles finally claimed their first Super Bowl in 2017, two years after Reid had recommended Doug Pederson as head coach, many acknowledged his contributions.
Reid was magnanimous toward his former team. Roseman said that when he finally checked his text messages after the post-championship hoopla, he saw that his former coach was one of the first to send congratulations.
When asked if the mood of Eagles fans would be different if they hadn’t won a title yet, Reid seemed to dismiss the idea. Roseman wasn’t sure, either.
“It’s such a hypothetical because we are where we are now,” Roseman said. “But there’s never been anything but a feeling of respect, appreciation, gratitude, love for that man. I know I wouldn’t be sitting here if it wasn’t for him.”
Reid has his dissenters outside the NovaCare Complex, though. Some Eagles fans just can’t forget losing four of five conference championship games or the indifferent news conferences or the late-era signing of players with checkered pasts, such as Michael Vick.
While that segment may be small, it has always been vocal, especially on sports talk radio, with WIP-FM (94.1) morning show host Angelo Cataldi as its ringleader.
“If you get 14 years to coach the Philadelphia Eagles, I need you to win a championship. And he did not win it,” Cataldi said. “And the one time he got close he and his quarterback choked. So why would I want to suddenly pour out all this great appreciation for him? I don’t see it. I don’t feel it. I don’t know why anybody does.”
Cataldi said that a WIP poll asking listeners if they were for or against Reid on Sunday had an 80-20 ratio in favor of the coach. He has long been an adversary, but he said that his distaste for Reid has only grown after the Chiefs signed players such as Tyreek Hill and Frank Clark, who had prior domestic abuse convictions.
“This [bull] about second chances is a con game for him to use players that are tainted that way and exploit their talents,” Cataldi said. “That’s a whole other level of rage I feel toward him that I didn’t have when he was here.”
Cataldi’s original reasons for disapproval were more trivial. He grew tired of Reid’s repetitive non-responses to questions following losses.
“They lost the game, and I know I was going to hear five times, ‘I got to do a better job.’ To me, that’s insulting to the fans,” Cataldi said. “That’s not answering the question. What went wrong? What are you going to do differently? How are you going to change things? He didn’t think anyone deserved an answer to those questions.”
Reid could have been more insightful. But to the coach, there was likely little to be gained in explaining his decisions in detail or in throwing players or other coaches under the bus. He would take the bullets. But few saw the logic behind his public stoicism, especially hiding what many close to him describe as a vivacious personality.
“When I’m standing here, you guys have a job to do, and you don’t need a comedian up here giving you stuff,” Reid said. “I try to at least give you something that you can work with as a story and do your job. And then some of you guys know me away from it, and I’ll let my personality show from there.
“But other than that, I try to keep it as professional as possible for you.”
Reid off the podium and away from football is much different from the one on. He is a bit of a comedian in the mold of Henny Youngman, king of the one-liners.
Growing up in Los Angeles, Reid was much larger than his peers, to the point where he would often be mistaken for much older. He often directs the zingers at himself and his size.
“There’s no doubt his sense of humor is part of his personality,” Banner said, “and at the same time probably somewhat of a defense mechanism.”
Reid’s father was a backdrop artist for movie sets. His mother was a radiologist. Their diverse careers may have had something to do with Reid’s expansive interests.
“He’s the Michelangelo of football,” Roseman said. “He’s interested in many things other than football. I used to call him Dr. Reid. When someone would have a surgery, he’d ask our doctor, ‘Take me through that surgery.’ And I’d go, ‘Dr. Reid, paging, Dr. Reid.’
“It was everything. He would be interested in talking about religion, culture, journalism, certainly food. He’s just a smart guy. His bandwidth is large.”
Reid’s son, Britt, revealed this past week that his father is an amateur artist. He draws caricatures and makes carvings.
“I know me and my brother are always on him like, ‘Hey, why don’t you show more of that?’ ” said Britt Reid, also the Chiefs linebackers coach. “I think he has in Kansas City. He’s just a big Cali guy. Laid-back most of the time.”
Pederson also got to see Reid transition to Kansas City. The Eagles coach played under Reid with the Packers and Eagles and was hired as an assistant in Philly in 2009. He followed Reid to the Midwest and was his offensive coordinator for three seasons.
“I think it was a little bit of fresh air,” Pederson said. “He got into a place where the media wasn’t as big. It was the Midwest. You know how it is with a fresh start. It’s exciting. It’s new.”
Reid made changes. He gave up personnel control and returned to calling plays on offense. Reid, responsible for nearly every part of football with the Eagles, was stretched thin. He wanted to return to his coaching roots and spend more time in the classroom with his players.
When Reid first arrived in Philadelphia in 1999, he was a virtual unknown. He hadn’t been a coordinator and was the Packers’ quarterbacks coach for just two seasons. He needed to set an early tone with the locker room, and in a now often-told story used offensive lineman George Hegamin to get his point across.
When Hegamin returned to training camp after going AWOL following a demotion, Reid had him block a sled for 10 exhausting minutes after practice in full view of Eagles staffers and media. It would be the last such public punishment he would dole out.
“People say to me, ‘Did you see him evolve?’ And I said, ‘No. He had this strategy to change as the years went on,’” Banner said. “So in Year 1, he was this very tough, not player-friendly, setting-expectations-extraordinarily-high guy. And once he established that … you never kind of saw that guy again for 13 years.”
But Reid’s standards are high. And when players break them, there are often repercussions. He sometimes says to them, “Don’t bring the redhead out in me.”
“He keeps it at bay,” former Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said. “But the one-on-one with players in his office, privately, or over on the side of the field, he can make his point very, very quickly.”
LeSean McCoy recalled the first time he received a tap on the shoulder to visit Reid’s office. The former Eagle and current Chiefs running back had disparaged another NFL running back in an interview in one of his early seasons in Philly.
“He’s giving me that look, and it’s like he’s staring through me,” McCoy said of Reid. “And he goes, ‘You do that again, and I’m going to bench you.’ And I was like, ‘Oooh.’ And, well, I never did it again while he was there.”
Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, who was once ejected from a game for throwing a towel at a referee, said that he’s been called to Principal Reid’s office on several occasions. He said Reid gives his players a long rope, and it’s on them if they hang themselves with it.
“He wants you to be yourself … let guys be themselves where they’re comfortable,” Kelce said. “But with growth comes a lot of taps on the shoulder … and stuff that’s confidential that I’ll remember forever. He’s said some things like a father would say to a son.”
Reid has mentored many. Mornhinweg first met him in 1987 when they were both assistants at Texas-El Paso. Reid coached the offensive line, and Mornhinweg, a graduate assistant, wanted to learn more about the O-line.
“He’d go, ‘OK, I’m picking you up at 4:30 a.m.,’ ” Mornhinweg said. “Heck, that was in the offseason.”
They would later work together on the same staff at Missouri. They became close as did their families. One day, after Mornhinweg and Reid played golf, they returned to Reid’s home, where his wife, Tammy, had cooked dinner. She had made caramel popcorn, and Mornhinweg’s wife, who was pregnant, indulged.
“And on the way home, she’s going, ‘Man, that popcorn, it’s getting to me just a little bit,’” Mornhinweg said. “Well, she had the baby that morning. That’s how close we were.”
Mornhinweg and Reid would work together again with the Packers. Their careers nearly mirrored each other’s. But Mornhinweg had been a quarterback and was coaching them. His path to a coordinator was faster. Not many O-line coaches can see outside that box. Reid could.
“Andy’s always seen the big picture, even though he started out as a lineman, a line coach, and then went on to coach tight ends and then quarterbacks,” Mornhinweg said. "There’s not many people that can make that transition.”
Reid’s coaching tree may be second to only Bill Walsh’s. Ten of his assistants have become head coaches. Two — Pederson and the Ravens’ John Harbaugh — have won Super Bowls. But Reid, who would oversee personnel very early into his Eagles tenure, has also had many subordinates — six at last count — becomes general managers.
“He was the one who said, ‘Hey, you could be a GM,’ ” Chiefs general manager Brett Veach said. “It was probably something in the back of my mind I wanted, but I don’t think I believed I could do it until after working with him, because he has that innate ability to get you to have trust in yourself.”
Veach’s first position under Reid was about as entry-level as it gets. He was his assistant. But others, such as Sean McDermott, who would eventually become the Bills’ head coach, had been promoted quickly out of that position.
One day, early in Veach’s career, Reid asked him to do a statistical analysis of the Colts’ Super Bowl-winning defense. Veach said he spent hours on it. Printed it out. Bought a folder to give it a nice presentation. But on the back of the folder was the price tag.
“He saw the sticker. And he was like, ‘You’re going to hand this to the head coach with the price tag on it?’ " Veach said. “And he gave it back to me and never asked for it again. I always remember that story because it goes back to his eye for detail, and it made me better. … And here we are 12 years later.”
Reid’s work ethic is legendary. But the long hours have meant sacrifice at the expense of family time. In Green Bay, he would go in early and, because his house was nearby, he could swing home for breakfast and take the kids to school, Britt Reid said.
Banner said that during his interview with the Eagles, Reid hoped to bring that method with him to Philadelphia.
“In Philly, it was a little harder. We didn’t live near the facility,” Britt Reid said. “That didn’t really happen. We still saw him. He would come home on Friday nights. If he could sneak out, depending on what time our high school games were on Saturday, he would in the afternoon.”
Reid was able to coach his sons in baseball during the Packers’ offseasons. Britt Reid said he was toughest on him and his older brother, Garrett. As the two older Reid boys grew, they spent more time around the team. They worked odd jobs. It was a way for Reid to spend time with them.
NFL coaches don’t work 9 to 5 Monday through Friday, especially during the season.
“I used to tell my kids growing up, ‘Hey, look, if we have a normal holiday together, that’s like icing on the cake,’ ” Mornhinweg said. “Thanksgiving. Christmas. It’s all cut up. But one of the greatest memories I have of Christmas is when we beat Dallas in Dallas. What a great Christmas that was for the family. The kids loved it.”
Reid also kept his sons around to keep them out of trouble. It was around his early years in Philly when both Garrett and Britt became addicted to drugs. And in an unfortunate coincidence, they were both arrested on the same day in separate drug-related incidents in early 2007.
Soon after, Reid took a five-week leave from work to accompany Garrett to a drug rehabilitation facility in Florida. Several months later, the Reid boys were both sentenced to up to 23 months in prison.
The Norristown judge called the Reids’ home a “drug emporium” and them “a family in crisis,” which opened the floodgates for some outsiders to question the parents and Reid’s coaching lifestyle.
“I understand how somebody not there or didn’t know him could view that and somehow come up with questions or even negative interpretations,” Banner said. “If you were there and you knew him, you would actually walk away incredibly impressed with how deeply he cared for his family and loved his son, committed to that, but at the same time continue to move forward in life.
“We all have challenges in finding the right balance in life, and for coaches that can be even more difficult.”
Reid returned to coaching and would visit his sons in prison every week. He would become engaged in not only his sons’ plight but that of other inmates. Reid has always had an innate ability to connect with people. He can learn the slightest bit of information about a person and recall it upon another meeting.
“And when you would have another conversation, he would recite it like he was really paying attention to what you were saying,” said Greg Lewis, formerly an Eagles receiver and now a Chiefs assistant. “He really cares about each individual person.”
In December 2010, Banner’s son, Jason, needed brain surgery to address his epilepsy. It was a risky procedure and required two operations over a span of two weeks. Banner didn’t travel to Dallas for the Cowboys game as his son had only the first surgery.
The Eagles won.
“Andy walked in the locker room and even before addressing the team he called my son, who at that point hadn’t even moved his head in six days,” Banner said. “I had to hold the phone up to his ear so he could even talk. And in that moment, Andy thought of him and just wanted to give him a little joy.”
Garrett and Britt Reid would eventually serve their time. Britt took up coaching and was hired by Temple. Garrett had a more difficult time escaping his past. Reid continued to keep him around the team. However, on Aug. 5, 2012, he died from a heroin overdose at training camp at Lehigh University.
Roseman, as the senior member of the Eagles front office at Lehigh, had to deliver the news. He read a statement and couldn’t contain his emotions as he walked off the podium.
“We gave everyone the night, a couple days off, but that night Andy called me to check on me,” Roseman said. “I broke down when that happened. That he was calling to check in on me to see how I was and to tell me how Garrett loved me and was proud of me.”
Many others found themselves being comforted by him instead of the other way around.
“I don’t know how he did it, but he was actually clearly in deep pain, but at the same time putting tremendous energy into trying to support other people, not just his family, who you would expect, but other people that cared deeply and were also really hurting,” Banner said. “And here he is in the midst of all this finding a way to try and be supportive of others.”
Reid took only two days off. Some questioned that decision as well. But the Eagles rallied around their coach. They won three of their first four games. But Reid’s lame-duck status came into play, and the team folded, losing 11 of its final 12 games.
“We had tried so damn hard to have this storybook ending,” Roseman said. “I remember talking to Bill Polian, who dealt with it with [the death of] Tony Dungy’s son. And he was like, ‘Howie, it was hard. It was hard to keep that emotion.’ ”
Reid didn’t take any time off after the Eagles. He jumped right back in with the Chiefs and hasn’t had a losing season since. Britt Reid joined his staff in 2013.
“When I first got into coaching, I didn’t want to be with him because you got to make a name for yourself. There’s still a big element of that now,” Britt Reid said. “Eventually, you got to branch off and make your own name, but it’s been awesome. You get to see him basically every day, and obviously growing up a coach’s kid you don’t get that experience all the time.”
Britt Reid is married with a son and two daughters.
“I’m probably too hard on him,” Andy Reid said. “That comes with the territory when you’re the coach’s kid. But I’m proud of him for the job that he’s done.”
Reid has, in total, nine grandchildren from his four living children. They call him “Gramps.” Britt Reid said Andy likes to wrestle with them. They all crowd into his summer home in Dana Point, Calif. Reid’s spot is in a beach chair on the porch overlooking the ocean and watching his “grandbabies,” as he likes to call them, playing in the waves.
“It was worth all the headaches of the other ones, getting them to where they’re at,” Reid said of his children and grandchildren. “But those nine grandkids are awesome. They keep you young, and, at the same time make you feel old. It’s kind of like sweet-and-sour pork.”
Britt Reid wears a bracelet on his wrist with Garrett’s initials. Reid wasn’t asked about his deceased son over the last week, but Pederson said that he’s sure Garrett will be on his mind, especially if Reid finally wins the Super Bowl.
Reid, who has the seventh-most coaching wins in NFL history, likely doesn’t need a title to cement his place in the Hall of Fame.
“There is nothing he has left to prove,” Roseman said. “This would just be the cherry on top on a sundae he would eat anyway.”