|01-07-2013, 11:56 PM||Topic Starter|
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Mellinger | Now the hard part begins for Reid
Sam Mellinger | Now the hard part begins for Reid
By SAM MELLINGER
The Kansas City Star
You have Andy Reid’s attention. You, Chiefs fans, have made an impression. You, Kansas City, have already let him know. A week ago, this was the most depressing and aggravating professional football environment in the country. Now, the place has been transformed into a setting of hope.
Amazing when you consider that Reid was fired after going 4-12 just days before generating all these good vibes.
It started in a Philadelphia airport when Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt became smitten with Reid. Eventually, the feeling went mutual. Each man cancelled meetings for other opportunities, and now they are the NFL’s newest happy couple.
Their two-way man-crush is spreading around town, too. Chiefs employees tell of clicking through hate message after hate message last week; now, they take call after email after website comment thanking them for doing the right thing. The last few months have been filled with protest banners and angry fans pledging to give up their tickets. The last few days have been filled with congratulations and promises to renew.
Not to mention Reid’s ride from the airport to Arrowhead Stadium being tracked by a TV news helicopter the other day.
“Yeah,” Reid says. “That was a little crazy.”
You have no idea, Coach. The most miserable season in a once-proud franchise’s 53 years ended last week, and less than 24 hours later the head coach was fired and the general manager neutered and nobody outside Hunt’s small inner circle knew what would happen.
Fan frustration, an admittedly difficult thing to quantify and put into context, was near an all-time high.
Now, that’s all gone. Kaput. History. Yesterday’s news, last year’s problems. All because the Chiefs hired a guy who’s currently being panned as some combination of washed-up and burned out back east.
Here, in Kansas City, Reid is being treated like a rock star. Literally, that’s how a Chiefs employee describes it. A franchise that a week ago was assumed to be clueless and disinterested now has the kind of benefit of the doubt that comes with a clean board.
Here, in Kansas City, Reid has a presence about him, and fans are starting to see it. They lined up outside the team facilities for autographs, and then assembled outside a restaurant on the Plaza to make sure he felt welcomed.
Funny thing about that dinner, too. It was Reid, Hunt, team president Mark Donovan the three men’s wives. They attracted quite a crowd, even for a Friday night. By the time the check came, the bar was packed and people waited on the sidewalk outside. The waitress offered to show them a back way out, but Reid wouldn’t hear of it.
“Why?” he said. “Let’s go say, ‘Hi.’ ”
This is an arranged marriage between man and town. Right now, that relationship involves mutual respect but no real substance. Kansas City loves Reid because he’s won a lot of games — fifth-most among active coaches — and he’s neither Romeo Crennel nor Scott *****.
Reid loves Kansas City because he remembers the “sea of red” at Arrowhead — his Eagles won here twice, back before nearly every opponent won here — and thinks he can help rebuild it. He’s heard nothing but good things from friends about the Chiefs, and thinks of the Hunts as a power football family on the level of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Rooneys and New York Giants’ Maras.
Reid’s helicopter-monitored ride from the airport to Arrowhead was the first time he’d been in Kansas City in seven years, but he does have a history in the area. He was an assistant coach at Missouri from 1989-91 and recruited offensive linemen here. Ever since he began talking to the Chiefs, he’s heard people offer advice on everything from neighborhoods to barbecue joints.
But Reid already has good memories about the food here, because, as he puts it, when you recruit big players you have to eat big too.
He knows this part of the country, respects its Midwest ethos and tells people he wants to contribute. Already, you can hear stories of team employees impressed that Reid took time to introduce himself and listen to their views.
In the coming days and months and especially years, Kansas City will come to know Reid in a deeper way. Just like any coach in a new town, there are serious issues to be addressed. The most concerning is whether Reid would’ve benefitted from a year off after personal tragedy and professional drama marred his last few years in Philadelphia.
Hunt said that was among his biggest questions for Reid, but the coach convinced him quickly that this is the right move at the right time. The fact that Reid watched all 16 games from last season — first the defense, then the offense, mostly for personnel judgments but also to see who was still committed at the end of a lost season — had to help.
So here we all go, for better or worse, the Chiefs leaving behind a rotten recent past thanks to a new benefit of the doubt. The easy part is over now, a good first impression made.
But honeymoons can be short.
Just ask the guy Reid is replacing.