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 Reid’s 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 Reid’s fifth game as Philadelphia’s head coach, and through two quarters it was going pretty much the way each of the team’s previous four outings had: poorly. The 0-4 Eagles trailed Dallas at home, and Reid’s 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, Reid’s 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 team’s 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 league’s top quarterbacks — not everything was going so well. At home, the coach’s 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 Britt’s. “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 wasn’t unusual for the coach to sleep at the Eagles’ training complex rather than go home. And though many of the brothers’ friends fondly recall Reid’s 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 you’re going to do it you have to eat and sleep football. “It’s 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 Philadelphia’s swank Main Line district. Harriton has a sterling reputation as a premier public school, long home to the offspring of the city’s rich and famous. Teddy Pendergrass’ son attended Harriton, as did Julius Erving’s. 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 NFL’s 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 shouldn’t.” Though the extent of Garrett and Britt’s drug issues wouldn’t 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 don’t 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 wasn’t the right thing.” Adds McDermott: “They weren’t 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 school’s 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 weren’t afraid of them — you just kind of worried about them (putting) themselves in a situation they couldn’t 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. O’Neill 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 Britt’s claims that his parents were unaware of his drug use. “There isn’t 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 didn’t think he was going to quit,” the then team president, Joe Banner, told The Philadelphia Inquirer in 2010. “But I wasn’t sure he wasn’t 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, “I’d 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 it’s possible for good parents to raise multiple drug addicts, it’s 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 there’s something wrong in the family.” While Britt would move through rehab without any major setbacks, Garrett’s 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 wasn’t 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) don’t 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.