ST. JOSEPH — Andy Reid doesnt have to be here, you know.
By DUGAN ARNETT and SAM MELLINGER
The Kansas City Star
He chose this. The early mornings, the late nights, coaching the Chiefs in a new job many close to him wondered whether he might be better off without.
Take some time, they had said. Friends. Colleagues. Even Tammy, his college sweetheart and wife of more than 30 years, found herself ready to step away, at least temporarily, from the NFLs ceaseless grind.
The past 12 months, after all, had brought little besides heartache.
It was just 364 days ago that Reids oldest son, Garrett, was discovered in his dorm room at Philadelphia Eagles training camp, dead of a heroin overdose. Less than five months later, the wounds of the loss still fresh, Reid was fired as the Eagles head coach, the job he had held and mostly excelled in for 14 years.
He could have done anything else, really. He could have easily found a beach somewhere. He could have made the jump, like so many of his coaching colleagues, to TV. Or he could have been holed up inside his garage, building furniture the way he used to when he was just starting out and the NFL was little more than an abstract dream.
Instead, hes here, on a small college campus in western Missouri, leading another group of young men through another NFL preseason, trying his best to work through the grief. This is his way. Always working. Always moving. Its why Tammy never seriously allowed herself to envision that break.
I know my husband, she says.
Since arriving in Kansas City, Reid has been hesitant to speak in depth about Garrett or the aftermath of his death, declining various requests from national and Philadelphia news outlets to discuss it.
In two interviews with The Star this summer, Reid spoke openly about the familys travails over the past 12 months. He talked about football and family and fatherhood. About addiction and loss. About choices.
If you could go back in time, he was asked one day last month, would you do anything differently?
Thats a tough question, Reid said. Theres always something you could have done better in life. Youre always learning, every day.
(But) the overall picture? I would say no.
Back before everything came undone before his home became synonymous with the term drug emporium and the headlines screamed family in crisis, before the arrests and the heroin and the very public disintegration of his home life Andy Reid was just a big-boned kid from California.
The boy who would grow up to become one of the NFLs most successful head coaches could have been anything he wanted. Thats what everyone says, anyway. The son of a radiologist mother and artist father, Reid grew up happy and comfortable on the outskirts of downtown Los Angeles in a two-bedroom Spanish stucco crammed into a neighborhood on the side of a hill.
The Reid home was a hub of middle-class normalcy It was like Leave it to Beaver, says Reg, Andys older brother a place where drawing and woodworking were just as encouraged as Little League.
But Andy was a big kid, 6 feet 5 inches tall by age 13, and it was football that would eventually lead him to BYU, where he would spend three years as an offensive lineman under legendary coach LaVell Edwards.
It was in Provo, Utah, that his future began to take shape. There, in addition to cultivating a dream of a coaching career, he also met a pretty coed named Tammy, the woman who would spend the next 30-plus years helping him chase down that dream.
She was way out of my range, Reid says. (But) Im a good recruiter.
They married after his senior year and shortly thereafter set out starting a life together.
Raising kids as a coach can be tricky, but as Reid ascended the coaching ladder from San Francisco State to Northern Arizona, Texas-El Paso, Missouri and finally the NFLs Green Bay Packers he and Tammy seemed to be pulling it off quite nicely.
Football and family didnt just coexist they bled together. His sons became fixtures in just about every stadium he ever coached, tearing across the field after practice or doodling on dry erase boards in the locker room. Even the way they ran their young family was reminiscent of how youd run a football team, right down to the distribution of duties (I believe his job is to coach and work, and my job is to let him know when hes needed around here is how Tammy puts it) and locker-room-infused family dialect.
And on those occasions he grew a little too consumed by work, when the balance became a bit skewed, his wife was there to get him back on track.
If one of the kids had a recital and hadnt felt like Dad was there very much, Tammy says, I could read the coverage and I would just say, Reid, I dont care what you do, but you have to get to that recital.
So when Reid, at age 40, landed his first head coaching job with the Eagles in 1999 and the Philadelphia Daily News dispatched writer Marcus Hayes to profile the citys newest celebrity, its no wonder the reporter came away struck by the family dynamic.
How many NFL coaches, after all, found time to coach their kids Little League team? Or sit around Boy Scout campfires for a week every summer? Who else regularly arrived at the office at 3 a.m., like Reid did in Green Bay, just so he could return home at 7 to have breakfast with his kids?
And while the family would face a steep new task in Philadelphia adjusting to life in the big-city spotlight after a fairly anonymous existence in Green Bay the Reids seemed like a group fully capable of handling it.
In 1999, walking into that house, it looked like the Bobbsey Twins, says Hayes, who would go on to cover Reid and the Eagles for the next 14 seasons. It was like all-American, apple pie, Green Bay, 20 sets of sneakers at the front door and everybodys doing chores.
He adds: It seemed very normal and very idyllic. But you just never know whats going on there.
Andy Reid celebrated a 2001 win by the Philadelphia Eagles over the New York Giants with sons Garrett (left) and Britt (center). Family and friends say Reids support for his children never wavered. (AP file photo)
Forged in his image
The forecast for downtown Philadelphia had called for only light rain, but by midafternoon on Oct. 10, 1999, it was pouring double-A batteries inside Veterans Stadium.
This was Reids fifth game as Philadelphias head coach, and through two quarters it was going pretty much the way each of the teams previous four outings had: poorly.
The 0-4 Eagles trailed Dallas at home, and Reids reluctance to replace struggling quarterback Doug Pederson with Donovan McNabb then a highly touted rookie out of Syracuse threw the Eagles already temperamental fan base into hysterics. As Reid and his team exited the field at halftime, down 10-0 thanks largely to an anemic passing game, boos and batteries and obscenities cascaded down upon the field.
The message to the young coach was clear.
Everyone on television, everyone on radio, everyone obviously knew he had to play McNabb (in the second half), says Bob LaMonte, Reids longtime agent, or they were going to burn the stadium down.
Except Reid stuck with Pederson, who led the Eagles to a 13-10 comeback win.
It was a seminal moment for the new coach, who proved he could exist on his own terms in a hardscrabble city that appreciates a certain hardheadedness. He solidified his reputation a year later when, with McNabb under center, he led the Eagles to an 11-5 record and the teams first playoff berth in four years.
That would mark the start of the golden era of Philadelphia Eagles football. Reid was named executive vice president of football operations in 2001 a move that gave him ultimate authority over all personnel decisions and in the ensuing four years the Eagles would go a combined 48-16, winning four NFC East titles and advancing to four NFC championship games. The highlight came in 2004, when the team finished 13-3 and won the NFC championship, narrowly losing the Super Bowl to New England.
In an NFC East division in which a three-year head coaching stint represented advanced longevity, Reid was becoming that rare permanent fixture, a man poised to do what nobody not even beloved coaches of yore Dick Vermeil and Buddy Ryan had been able to: bring the city a Super Bowl title.
But as the Eagles fortunes rose during those first few seasons as the hunter green football jersey was becoming a staple of Greater Philadelphia fashion and McNabb was emerging as one of the leagues top quarterbacks not everything was going so well.
At home, the coachs happy family life was quietly unraveling.
Britt Reid, then 22, was escorted into the Montgomery County district court house in Conshohocken, on Aug. 29, 2007. Reid, a son of Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid, was charged with driving under the influence and drug violations while still awaiting sentencing for a separate road-rage incident earlier this year. (AP file photo)
Cracks in foundation
Those familiar with the family insist that Reid was far from an absentee father after taking over in Philadelphia. Hal Smith, a former football coach at Harriton High, remembers him being at many of his oldest sons games. And friends who spent time at the Reid home describe the coach as a jokester, a guy whose children flocked to him as soon as he walked in the door.
He was always cracking jokes, always in the middle of things whenever he was around, says Pat McDermott, a friend and high school football teammate of Garrett and Britts. He was a presence.
At the same time, there is no denying that the demands of the job grew exponentially in Philadelphia.
Things that had once been commonplace at the Reid home those 7 a.m. breakfasts with family, for instance had become increasingly harder to accommodate. It wasnt unusual for the coach to sleep at the Eagles training complex rather than go home. And though many of the brothers friends fondly recall Reids interactions around the house, their stories and anecdotes typically feature familiar caveats:
When he was home
If he was around
Whenever he was at the house
He would have liked to have spent more time with his kids, says Reg. But the job, if youre going to do it you have to eat and sleep football.
Its an all-consuming thing.
Shortly after arriving in Philadelphia in 1999, the Reids enrolled their two oldest sons Garrett, a high school junior at the time, and Britt, a freshman at Harriton High, a 1,200-student school in Philadelphias swank Main Line district.
Harriton has a sterling reputation as a premier public school, long home to the offspring of the citys rich and famous. Teddy Pendergrass son attended Harriton, as did Julius Ervings.
It is also the kind of school, according to former students, that provided no lack of access to adolescent temptations.
We went to a school where there was a lot of freedom for the kids, says Eugene Bright, a friend and former high school teammate of the Reid brothers who would go on to play for the NFLs Pittsburgh Steelers. It was a very nice neighborhood. Most of the kids drove their own car, most of the kids had credit cards.
When you have that much access to a lot of stuff, you can get your hands into a lot of different things you probably shouldnt.
Though the extent of Garrett and Britts drug issues wouldnt become public knowledge until 2007 when the boys were arrested in separate incidents on the same day those close to the brothers had long been aware of the problem.
I dont think (Britt) went down to the city and started messing around with a bunch of hood rats or thugs or anything, says Bright. He just had a group of people that he hung out with that all kind of did the same thing and it wasnt the right thing.
Adds McDermott: They werent different than any other kids in the school they had fun. But the stuff that got them in trouble, I think, was out (west).
Shortly after graduating from Harriton, Garrett enrolled at BYU, where he would at one point be listed as a member of the schools football team. Two years later, Britt would walk on to the Arizona State football team.
It was during this period, friends say, that the boys struggles intensified.
By 2002, a year after graduating from Harriton, Garrett had begun dealing drugs in North Philadelphia, selling to friends and their parents and seemingly basking in his reputation as a high-profile drug dealer. Britt has said that his own drug use began with painkillers during his freshman year of high school and escalated in later years.
Once known as the friendly kids who spent their time playing pranks on their dad in the Eagles locker room, they underwent a significant transformation. They lost touch with high school friends and gained a certain edge.
They became these couple of fake tough guys, says Hayes, the writer. And it was kind of funny to watch, because you knew them. You werent afraid of them you just kind of worried about them (putting) themselves in a situation they couldnt get out of.
On Jan. 30, 2007, the boys troubles became public. While high on heroin, Garrett ran a red light in Plymouth Township, Pa., his vehicle crashing into another vehicle and seriously injuring its driver. On the same day, across town, Britt pulled a gun on another motorist during a road rage incident. Subsequent searches of the boys vehicles and the Reid home where both Garrett and Britt were living at the time uncovered an assortment of drugs, guns and ammunition.
At their sentencing hearing that November, their transgressions had become widely documented, and Montgomery County Judge Steven T. ONeill held little back in his assessment of the family.
In what amounted to a verbal public stoning, the judge likened the Reid home to a drug emporium. He labeled the Reids a family in crisis and questioned Britts claims that his parents were unaware of his drug use.
There isnt any structure there that this court can depend upon, the judge concluded before sentencing both boys to prison time.
Andy Reid (center) was embraced after funeral for his son Garrett last Aug. 7 in Broomall, Pa. Reid, 29, was found dead two days earlier in a Lehigh University dorm room at the Philadelphia Eagles training camp. Looking on at right were his wife Tammy and son Britt. (AP file photo)
The darkest season
In Philadelphia, they wondered about the football coach with the troubled sons.
In the aftermath of the arrests, speculation swirled about whether the coach might step down to tend to his struggling family. Even team officials wondered if Reid would be on the sideline for the upcoming season.
I didnt think he was going to quit, the then team president, Joe Banner, told The Philadelphia Inquirer in 2010. But I wasnt sure he wasnt going to quit.
Ultimately, Reid took a 39-day leave of absence, accompanying Britt and Garrett to a drug treatment facility in Florida before returning to the team.
At the time, Reid says, the family decided it was best for him to return to work.
We felt like we had gotten it, Reid says now. Hindsight, we can take this wherever we want to go. But at that point, we felt like we were headed in the right direction. We had a good plan there, so we went back to work.
Addiction is nothing new in the Reid family. Reid admits to having a highly addictive personality himself. Food and football, he says. Those are his weaknesses.
If I ate as much as I watched tape, he says, Id be 800 pounds.
But food and drugs are two different beasts, and for the next five years, mostly behind the scenes, Reid carried out a kind of high-wire act: attempting to run nearly every facet of an NFL franchise while simultaneously trying to salvage a family being torn apart by drug addiction.
What makes the Reids situation interesting, experts say, is that multiple children were involved. Ricki Townsend of Parent Pathway, a group dedicated to offering support to the parents of teenagers battling addiction, is hesitant to blame parents in instances of addiction because a number of factors are involved. But she also admits that while its possible for good parents to raise multiple drug addicts, its rare.
Adds Carole Lieberman, a Beverly Hills-based psychologist who treats entertainers and sports figures: The fact that he had two children that abused drugs shows that theres something wrong in the family.
While Britt would move through rehab without any major setbacks, Garretts path proved far rockier. Between 2007 and 2009, he would plead guilty to smuggling pills into a county prison, be sentenced to two years in a jail/drug treatment program and be sent back to prison after failing a drug test while at a halfway house.
Through it all, family friends say, Reid never wavered in his support for his children. Among other things, he visited them weekly in prison and helped facilitate rehab stays though the love wasnt always tender.
He would never turn his back on his kids, says Bright. Whether it was tough love, cutting them off, cutting credit cards off, cutting cars off, let them sit in a jail cell for a couple days or a couple months.
After a while, you kind of come to a point where (you) dont know what else to try.
By the summer of 2012, however, Garrett seemed to have turned a corner. He had regained much of the nearly 100 pounds he had lost during the worst of his addiction and he had been brought on by his father as a strength coach with the Eagles.
On the evening of Aug. 4, 2012, he appeared happy while joking with fellow coaches in a meeting room at Eagles training camp.
What you learn is the best of times is the worst of times, Reid says now. You let your guard down an inch, boom.
The following morning, Garrett, 29, was found in his dorm room, dead of a heroin overdose.
This time, there would be no 39-day leave of absence. No time away to heal.
Less than 24 hours after burying his son, Reid was back at work though it would quickly prove to be his worst season as a head coach.
A season that had begun with the death of his son would somehow dissolve even further. Police would eventually reveal that Garrett had a significant amount of steroids with him when he died, raising questions about whether the Eagles players had access to performance-enhancing drugs. The Eagles would limp to a 4-12 record, losing 11 of their last 12 games.
And on New Years Eve, just a day after the season ended, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie announced Reids firing.
No one could have blamed the coach, certainly, for taking the $6 million he was owed by the Eagles and retiring to the familys San Diego area beach house. No one could have blamed him for taking his first real break in 14 years, for tending to a family still dealing with its loss. His wife, for her part, admits she would have liked some time away.
Would I like to? she asks now. Yes. But I never doubted people would be calling.
And so, just one week after Reids firing, Tammy joined her husband in Kansas City, sitting quietly in a crowded room while he stood behind a lectern and was officially introduced as the new head coach of the Chiefs.
Of grief and healing
This is a new Andy Reid, friends tell you. Rejuvenated. Re-energized. After 14 seasons in Philadelphia, the new setting has done the coach well.
Its a breath of fresh air for him, says McNabb, the player most closely linked to Reids time with the Eagles. Its a challenge, and he likes a challenge.
But it is also reasonable to wonder, as Reid prepares to begin his first season in Kansas City, what kind of toll the past year has taken.
Reids agent says he briefly talked with the coach about taking a break following his firing in Philadelphia. Reids brother says he had a similar discussion. Vermeil, a longtime friend who coached both the Eagles and Chiefs, twice walked away from coaching during his 15-year career. Asked about Reid, he says: I thought it would be a good idea for him to take some time.
Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt says that this was his biggest concern about Reid, but that any worries quickly dissipated after getting to know the coach.
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.
There are football reasons for this, of course. Reid is no longer in charge of personnel, a change he welcomed upon his arrival in Kansas City because it freed him up to focus solely on coaching. He is immersing himself in meetings again, brainstorming schemes and plays and philosophies in a way he wasnt able to in Philadelphia.
But this is personal, too. Since arriving in Kansas City, Reid has tried to keep his family out of the public eye. He declined to make his children including Britt available for this story. He allowed The Star to speak with his wife, but only on the condition that Garretts death would not be discussed.
Of Garretts lengthy battle with drugs, he says simply: It happens to everybody. It has no limits on who it touches. I know that. Its rampant in this country. Its a shame, but its part of life.
Reid knows some people dont get it, this decision to return to coaching. He understands.
But we all grieve in different ways, he says. This is his.
You still go to work and make a living and do the things you need to do, he says. Thats all part of the process.
If (Garrett) would have thought after he passed away that I was getting out of the game because of what he went through, it would really bother him, he adds. I knew that. I knew the kid. I understood that.
Yes, Reid is lost in this new moment, burying himself in another task. Always working. Always moving. Trying to raise another franchise from the ashes while still attempting to maintain that precarious balance between football and family.
On a warm July day recently, not far from where Reid has spent the summer holding court over training camp, Britt is leading a group of Chiefs through a defensive drill.
The son, outfitted in T-shirt and cap, certainly looks the part of coach crisscrossing his patch of field with the strut of a man who has things to do. He is calling drills and barking out orders, not afraid to shove his hands into a players chest to demonstrate technique.
Britt is doing well, Reid says. He is happy, married. Learning to navigate his own balance between work and life.
But if the past 12 months have taught the head coach anything, its that in family, as in football the work doesnt stop.
The professional jobs never done, the family jobs never done, he says. Its endless.
But you love everything about both of them.