Updated 3:30 p.m. ET, Friday, Jan. 4
There was no better place for Andy Reid than Kansas City. And there was no better coach that the Chiefs could have hoped for but Reid.
Both parties have been through what could be described as the worst years of their lives in the form of heartache and disappointment.
Reid lost his son Garrett, who battled substance abuse for years, to a drug overdose. The Eagles went 4-12, by far Reid’s worst season as a head coach, after starting out 3-1.
The Chiefs had a similar fate. The franchise was rocked by the murder-suicide of LB Jovan Belcher, witnessed by ousted head coach Romeo Crennel and GM Scott Pioli. That was on top of a 2-14 season that was the worst in the franchise's 53-year history.
Some thought Reid, who looked tired during the team’s eight-game losing streak, should take time off. Others thought the Chiefs would look to start fresh with a first-year head coach.
Neither happened. Consider it part of the healing process.
Reid could have gone fishing with his buddy Brad Childress, who was fired by the Browns. He could have taken a year off. But instead, he has chosen to reinvent himself — still young, in coaching years, at the age of 54 and still energized by the challenge in Kansas City.
“Andy is the toughest man I have ever known,” said one of his right-hand men in Philadelphia earlier this season who will not be following him to Kansas City. “I’ve never seen him blink.”
And you could understand the Chiefs’ hesitancy if they wanted some fresh blood. After all, Crennel and Pioli were retreads in a way, but mostly successful ones. Instead, Kansas City focused on Reid. Owner Clark Hunt had to know that Reid was the key to making something from the ashes. You have to know what the bottom looks like to know how to get out of it.
Reid took over an Eagles franchise that was remarkably similar then — on paper, certainly — to where the Chiefs are at now. Philly had a dismal 3-13 record in 1998, scored a pathetic 161 points on offense (barely 10 per game, folks) and was outscored by an astounding 183 points. The Eagles were led by a defensive-minded coach (Ray Rhodes) whose work as a coordinator far exceeded what he ever did as a head coach and had no quarterback of the future. Sound familiar?
Check out the Chiefs this past season: 2-14, a league-worst 211 points scored and a margin of minus-214. Reid knows where this team is right now. He can lean on a solid defense, a respectable offensive line and a good running game with Jamaal Charles as building blocks until he finds his franchise quarterback.
Reid’s QB call is going to be his signature first move as head coach. Bobby Hoying, Koy Detmer and Rodney Peete all gave it a go in 1998 before Reid’s arrival and all failed. Reid handpicked Donovan McNabb as the future and, say what you will about the former Syracuse star, the guy delivered wins. He made plays. He rallied a city. He got the Eagles to a Super Bowl. They hadn’t been that far in 25 years.
The Chiefs haven’t won a playoff game since 1993 and haven’t been to a Super Bowl since 1970, when they won their only NFL championship. Eagles fans can sympathize.
Yet, that, in part, is the reason Reid is gone. Had he beaten the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX, Reid might — stress might — have received a stay of execution for the past two seasons’ failures. But more recently, the failure to put together a defensive coaching staff and his handling of the quarterback position (aka the Michael Vick experiment) were what went awry for Reid and ultimately cost him his job.
Expect him to have learned some valuable lessons from that experience. Don’t expect Vick to come to town, even if he’s cut loose by the Eagles. Sure, adding Vick might make a bit of short-term sense, but it’s not very logical. The Chiefs likely will clean house at the position, perhaps retaining Ricky Stanzi heading into training camp but letting Brady Quinn walk and cutting Matt Cassel. They could sign a short-term starter, such as the Dolphins’ Matt Moore, who fits the mold (A.J. Feeley) of some past Reid QBs. But Reid almost certainly will draft his guy this season, even if this is not considered to be a banner class for QBs.
Why? Reid always sees treasure where others sees trash. He knows the ownership situation is strong, as it was in Philly, and the fan base might be tired, but it is also rabid. Same as where he just left. Football, in many ways, is the only game in town in K.C. But the attractiveness applies to the QB position, too, and in some ways Reid might be happy he can get his guy and not be forced to use someone else's holdover. There might not be a holdover.
McNabb was perhaps the most unpopular draft pick at its announcement in history, given where he was taken and the fact that Eagles fans were pining for Ricky Williams. Think about that. McNabb might not have left the league with the most shiny reputation, but he won a ton of games (98, to be exact). Feeley was a fifth-round find in 2001, and before you knock him — Dolphins fans, I am looking squarely at you — remember that he had a 4-1 record as a fill-in QB in 2002 who netted a second-round pick via trade in ’03. Kevin Kolb was a stunning top pick in Round Two for the Eagles in 2007, but he, too, after a so-so run as starter, earned a windfall via trade to Arizona.
Vick to the Eagles was on the radar of few people. Nick Foles, a 2012 third-round pick, was not a sexy choice amid the Luck-RG3-and-others hype in last year's draft, but he showed some real promise down the stretch. Reid (mostly) made it work at the position when so many others have failed. Who was the last true franchise QB the Chiefs have had? Trent Green? He left K.C. in 2006. Reid has gone the unconventional route to finding his quarterbacks and almost always maximized their value after doing so. I expect a similar path in Kansas City.
Some might say the trash-treasure theory applies to the Chiefs’ roster, too. They’re awful, right? Not as bad as you might think. The Eagles and Chiefs might have found regular homes in writers’ top-five-biggest-disappointments columns this season, but that indicates that they have talent, too. This Chiefs team, crazy to think, was a chic Super Bowl pick in August, and with the right quarterback in place they can do what the early 2000s Eagles did and that was start a run of success for more than a decade.
Reid has it in him. He has bottomed out. So have the Chiefs. They are made for each other. The similarities between the two situations are quite striking. Sometimes in the NFL, paraphrasing a famous Bill Parcells-ism, it's as if God is making these moves. And God only knows where they’d be without each other.