Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Head Chief coaching 'em up

Reid having fun on the field again after leaving the Philly mess

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ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- Andy Reid seemingly scoffs at the notion that he feels rejuvenated these days. What is that supposed to mean, anyway? He was only out of work for about 10 minutes.

Hardly enough time to get rejuvenated.

Yet here he is, in the midst of his first training camp with a different franchise in 15 years, barking commands at the Kansas City Chiefs as they huff and puff on the steamy practice fields of Missouri Western State University, looking more like the eager young coach he was during his early years in Philadelphia and less like the weary man he became in his final days there.

Reid may be unwilling to wax poetic about fresh starts and clean slates and all those other clich©s, 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."

Without intending it, Dorsey might have put his finger on the biggest reason things suddenly soured for Reid after more than a decade of success in Philadelphia.

He got away from simply coaching.

While he always had front-office people to help him out, Reid was given the gargantuan task of not only coaching the Eagles but also building them. He was an ad-hoc general manager, putting in long hours on the practice field only to return to his office and start running tape of college prospects, free agents and whoever else made it through the gates of his inner sanctum.

Little surprise that he grew weary the last couple of years. The same coach who once strung together five straight seasons of at least 11 wins with the Eagles could only muster a 4-12 finish last year, everything finally collapsing in a disorganized mess. Like a marriage that's lasted too long, the Eagles and Reid agreed to part ways.

Within a matter of hours, or maybe even minutes, Chiefs owner Clark Hunt reached Reid by telephone. If he was interested in getting right back into coaching, one of the league's storied franchises had an opening. The only caveat: Hunt wanted to make sure Reid still had the passion to succeed after on-field disappointments and heartbreaking personal strife -- his oldest son, Garrett, died a year ago Monday after a long battle with drug addiction.

"He came into the interview with more intensity than I anticipated," Hunt said.

That hasn't changed since the moment Reid was hired.

Reid offered his suggestions as Dorsey reworked the roster, and when the off-season program rolled around, the old offensive-line coach seemed to be everywhere at once.

One minute he'd be in the ear of Alex Smith, the quarterback on whose right arm so much of the Chiefs' season rests. The next minute, Reid would be shouting at rookie linebacker Nico Johnson or wide receiver Jon Baldwin or anybody else who happened to be a bit out of position.

"I think the thing that has just jumped out at me is not just Coach Reid, but the entire staff, just a passion for the game, a passion for coaching and teaching," Smith said. "It starts with him, for sure. He's really setting the tempo."

There is very little of the Chiefs that resemble what they put on the field last season. The personnel, and for the most part the coaching staff, are different. But the biggest change may be in the feeling that surrounds the team. Things are run more professionally, jerseys always tucked in and the lowliest members of the staff wearing team-issued apparel.

Much of that has been dictated by Reid, whose attention to detail is uncanny.

"I've said this many times and I really believe it: There's a reason you win," said Reid's close friend Dick Vermeil, the former Eagles and Chiefs coach. "Andy knows all the reasons."

Good thing for the Chiefs. They haven't won much lately. The franchise has had just one winning season since 2006 and hasn't won a playoff game in two decades. Last season, the team not only went 2-14 but weathered fan discontent unlike anything the Chiefs have known.

Look," Reid said, "I love every day that I have an opportunity to coach in the National Football League. There's 32 of us in the whole world, man. It's an honour and a privilege.

"Do I feel rejuvenated? I feel very fortunate to be able to do this."

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 4, 2013 B5

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