There’s history, 14 years of it. Some bad, some ugly, most of it positive. Andy Reid won 130 games as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. He presided over six NFC East titles, nine playoff runs, five conference championship games and a Super Bowl appearance. It was a long and fruitful union, one the organization dissolved last season when the partnership finally crumbled and couldn’t be pieced back together.
If the separation was painful -- and how could it not be after all that time? -- Reid never let on. Not his style. Instead, he immediately gathered himself and found a new suitor and moved on as head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs.
Reid’s new life will intersect with his old one on Thursday when the Chiefs play the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. It is another game, one of 16 on the schedule for both teams, but it is so much more than that for obvious reasons.
On Tuesday, Reid talked to the Philadelphia media once again, only this time his throat clears and familiar phrases were funneled through a conference call. He was asked all the questions you’d expect -- what kind of reception he anticipates and the attendant emotions involved and that sort of thing. His responses were classic Reid -- clear attempts to shift the discussion from the off-field storyline to the on-field proceedings. “I think we’ll be all right,” Reid said about coaching from the opposite side of the Linc on Thursday. “I’ll be able to find that sideline, I think.”
It is how he operates. Nothing to see here. Move along. Except, despite his best efforts to refocus the conversation on other matters, his return to town will remain a topic until the game is over and the Chiefs board a plane for Kansas City. There’s nothing he can do about that -- not when so many of his former players have spent the last few days talking about him, gushing about him, reminiscing about him and their shared experiences.
Jason Avant and Trent Cole and Todd Herremans and others said they miss him. Michael Vick said Reid believed in him (see story) when no one else did. And then there was LeSean McCoy, who said he loves Reid -- said it so many times that this week’s interview with the running back was basically a real-time, real-life Hallmark card.
“When he got fired, I was probably one of the guys who was the most angry about it,” McCoy said. “I love Coach Reid to death. I think the media and the fans see a different side of Coach Reid than the players like myself do. Big personality.” After the Eagles’ monster win on national television against Washington, McCoy said he got lots of texts. One of them was from Reid. It read: “You’re on fire.” It made McCoy smile.
They stay in touch, Reid and McCoy. Reid and lots of players. DeSean Jackson is one of the guys from the old gang who remains in contact with his old boss. After the Eagles fell to San Diego, the conversation inevitably turned toward Reid’s return.
“Coach Reid is a father-figure to me,” Jackson said. “He’s a great guy, and we’ve been keeping in contact throughout the offseason and the preseason. He texted me after last week’s game, so it’s going to be great to see him come back. With the relationship me and him have, I respect him to the utmost, but hopefully I’ll be able to send him home with a loss. At the end of the day, I’ll see him and tell him how much I miss him and things like that, but we have a game to focus on.”
When Reid was told about Jackson’s father-figure remarks, he paused and then said, “I love the kid.” “I appreciate him saying that,” Reid continued. “You know, he lost his father. His father was a big part of his life. He was very, very close with his dad. I appreciate him saying that.”
It’s not surprising, the affection they still feel for Reid and Reid for them. It’s plain to see -- even to Reid’s new players. Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles recently told the media that Reid’s mind and body are in Kansas City, but suggested the coach’s heart might still be in Philly.
"It means a lot, so I hope we go out there and play for our coach," Charles recently told ESPN.com. "You know what I'm saying? I know he has a lot of love for his Eagles, he worked there a lot of years and he probably wishes he was still coaching there."
Maybe. Or maybe, as Reid keeps insisting, it was a good thing for everyone to begin anew. It has, at the least, been a solid start for Reid in Kansas City. It took two weeks for Reid to accomplish what the Chiefs needed an entire season to manage last year: two wins.
To hear Reid tell it, that’s all that matters this week -- the game, getting better, beating a “good team on the road.” You’ve heard it all before. You just haven’t heard him say it as some other team’s coach.
Deep down, someone wondered aloud during the conference call, when Reid comes out of the tunnel and walks onto the field and hears the crowd, won’t he be nostalgic? Just a little?
“Listen, who knows?” Reid said. “That’s not where I’m at right now. I don’t feel that way. This is the thing: If we weren’t playing a football game against a good football team, maybe your mind goes there. I don’t see my mind going there. My mind is going to be on the job at hand and what we’ve got to get accomplished in a tough place to play.” Same old Andy Reid. He’s been gone for months now -- even if it feels like he never really left.
- John Gonzalez, CSN Philly