KANSAS CITY, MO. – When Eric Bieniemy was a free agent in 1999, he had some relatively lucrative contract offers with other teams. Instead, he signed a minimum wage contract with the Philadelphia Eagles so he could play for their new head coach, an obscure former assistant named Andy Reid.
Reid had this way of making Bieniemy, mostly a special team player at this point in his career, feel when visiting as a free agent that he would be a valued part of what the coach was trying to build.
“When I went on this trip and visited the Philadelphia Eagles, I felt at home,” said Bieniemy, who would play one season for Reid and return to coach with the Kansas City Chiefs years later.
“I felt part of something. I felt part of the building block that was necessary to get them started. I was part of a foundation that Coach wanted to lay.”
Reid has felt this way about players throughout his career – from stars like Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce to those at the bottom of the squad like Bieniemy was more than 20 years ago.
More than any other reason, players love working for 62-year-old Reid almost everywhere.
“I can’t remember anyone who didn’t like playing for him and I can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t enjoy playing for him,” said Geoff Schwartz, an offensive lineman for the Chiefs in 2013, Reid’s first season in Kansas City. “He’s everything you want in a coach.”
In fact, it’s easy to find players who have good things to say about their experience with Reid. Pick a current or former player and the chances are overwhelming that they have a positive story or anecdote.
“It’s no secret what Coach Reid is doing,” said Kelce. “He puts guys in different positions on the field to be successful and maximizes their strengths, which is why he’s such an incredibly offensive spirit.
“You have fun with it.”
In the off-season, the Chiefs signed several top players, including Mahomes, Kelce and Chris Jones. They also kept a few smaller ones, like backup quarterback Chad Henne.
The Chiefs had a lot to offer, including money and the chance to win additional Super Bowl championships. But Reid appeared to be an equal draw.
“He had no thought of retiring anytime soon,” Mahomes said of Reid as he discussed why he had re-signed with the Chiefs. “Obviously that’s a big part of it.”
“We trusted him from the start”
Unsurprisingly, skill players enjoy working for Reid. Mahomes had its second season with 50 touchdowns and 5,000 yards with the Chiefs in 2018. Kelce is the first close end in league history to have four consecutive seasons of 1,000 yards.
But the positional group that seems to instill the greatest devotion to Reid is an offensive line. Reid was a lineman at Brigham Young College.
Linemen can play wide receivers every Friday during the season. They start practicing with an exercise that allows them to catch passes.
“Starting out like this is a small reward for shedding our butts in the past two days,” said Eric Fisher. “It just puts us in a good mood to polish all the details.
“It’s a fun time for us.”
Eventually, however, the game must stop and the work must begin. Schwartz said the 15-game script Reid Games begins with is often intended for offensive linemen.
“There were always some runs and some screens and some reversals and some bootlegs, just a lot of ways to start the game by helping his offensive line,” Schwartz said. “I’ve always loved that. We always started games with games that we benefited from, that helped us get better, that helped us get into a rhythm.”
Reid joined the Chiefs in 2013 after just finishing one of the most brutal tracks in team history. They hadn’t won more than four games in four out of six seasons, including a 2-14 record in 2012.
The Chiefs had some talented players but little direction. Reid would need a buy-in from the players to turn the team around quickly.
“You can’t really listen to a coach or join a coach if you don’t trust everything he says,” said former linebacker Derrick Johnson. “We trusted him from the start. Andy is a straight shooter. He did everything he told us. Everyone loved that.”
But the players found that Reid didn’t ask without giving in. Case in point: his first Chiefs training camp in 2013.
“He told us the training camp was going to be tough,” said Schwartz. “And he was right. It was tough. We hit a lot. But he said if we committed to training for three hours in the morning, he would join us for the rest of the day. And he did. We had it.” Afternoon passages, and they were literally passages. I’ve been to places where that wasn’t really the case.
“The things he told us, he did for us.”
Reid said, “You can’t be in the job I am in and not be real while I’ve done it. I think that’s important to the guys in the end. I won’t be everything.” I’ll try to shoot them right with what I see, right or wrong. I have had a couple of years of experience with all of this gray hair.
“When all is said and done, the players want to be trained. They want to maximize their skills. I’ve learned that from some great players. They just wanted you to give them something to make them better.”
Reid set up a player leadership committee, consisting of one member from each position group, so that players could voice their concerns.
“Whenever we started this meeting, the first thing he said was, ‘All right, what problems are you having?'” Johnson said. “He doesn’t want people in the locker room to complain about this and that because the exercises are too long or the food in the cafeteria is not good. So he would say, ‘Tell me all this stuff and I’ll fix it . ‘ He doesn’t want us to have any excuses for not getting it right on Sunday. He wants to remove all distractions. “
At one point, Johnson said, players complained that they had hit too much in practice.
“Andy likes long exercises,” said Johnson. “He’s old-fashioned. He does a lot of plays. But we talked to him once about the fact that we wanted to take the pads off a lot during training. We felt we didn’t have to wear them as often as we did or did. ” He suggested: “OK, understood. Anything else?” It was so quick.
“He trusted most of the things we brought him just so.”
“They treat people like people”
Reid is a player-coach for other reasons. He’s rarely critical of a player in public, but usually blames himself for putting players in a bad place.
That’s ironic because the players say one of the reasons they love working for Reid is because he shows what he is best at.
“Coach Reid empowers the guys to be successful and do what they’re good at rather than trying to put everyone in one box,” said Greg Lewis, who played for Reid for the Eagles and is now the coach who is chiefs for recipients. “He gives you options. If your strength is speed, he enables you to use your speed. When your strength blocks or does something like that, he puts you in those positions instead of trying to put you in a box.” to plug something that you are not. He can combine all these different kinds of skills so seamlessly. “
Reid is not a screamer or a screamer. Former players remember he rarely got angry, maybe once a season.
“He made faces, moaned, maybe bit his lip and said, ‘Gosh, damn it,'” said former offensive lineman Jeff Allen. “That’s when you knew he wasn’t happy. But that’s about as far as he’d go, and it took a long time to get to that edge.”
Johnson said, “Andy is usually a quiet speaker. When he starts speaking quickly, you know it’s time to pick it up. If you don’t, the next time he won’t be quiet or speak quickly. He will do it.” scream “
That doesn’t mean that discipline isn’t important to Reid. He just finds another way.
“Human nature says if you keep yelling at someone, [he’s] I’ll turn you off, “said Reid.” The old adage, “Do what you want to do to yourself to others.” I kind of do it. But at the same time, when your biorhythms wear off, I will turn them up again for you. There is a time and a place for everything. I think the most important thing is probably staying positive and being real and honest with the guys. I think most people do.
“I believe in discipline. There are certain things that you just need in this sport. … But at the same time, I believe that you treat people like they are people. I’ve been doing that since I’ve been in this part has not changed. “
Schwartz said, “He does a good job dealing with players. He treats you like an adult. You do the work and he treats you with respect. He expects you to do your job and he treats you as if you are can.” Do that. He’s not going to micromanage all day. He will definitely be micromanaging the way he teaches offense. But he’s just not in your business all day.
“We didn’t see the coaches in the dressing room before the game. They come in to speak to us just before the game, but we could come into the stadium two or three hours before the game and he won’t get in your way.” No other trainers stand in your way. I’ve had teams with coaches that come an hour before the game and they’ll say, “Hey, now I saw a movie last night and saw this weird game [from the day’s opponent] in the movie from seven years ago so just keep an eye out for that. ‘Well, it’s game day. We had all week to prepare for it. We just wanted to be left alone to prepare for the game.
“He gave us space when we needed him. It shows why everyone likes Andy Reid and how easy it is to play for a guy like that. Because you respect him and he respects you, you don’t want to let him down. “”
Reid is “undefeated” when it comes to food
Head coach Andy Reid reveals how a cheeseburger and water cooler helped him win his first Super Bowl in style.
Schwartz and others described their relationships with Reid as more peer-to-peer than player-to-coach. Players occasionally go to Reid for personal advice. A gamer once asked Reid what type of car to buy.
Another way Reid reaches out to his players is through his love of food. This goes down well with his players, especially the bigger ones.
Reid returned to Philadelphia in his freshman year with the Chiefs to coach his new team against his previous one. After training the Eagles for 14 years, Reid knew a little about local cuisine. The night before the game, he ordered selections for the entire team, including local delicacies like cheesesteaks and crab fries.
“You could always get a Kansas City restaurant recommendation from him,” said Allen. “Anytime. And they were good. He was undefeated there.”
Reid occasionally gave players advice on what time of day was the best time to get burnt ends at various Kansas City grill restaurants, a town delicacy despite its unsavory name.
“He said, ‘4:00 am at Jack Stack, 5:00 am at Joe,'” Schwartz said, naming some popular Kansas City spots. “He liked to eat. It was part of his way of relating with us. But it didn’t come out as a fake. It didn’t come out as anything other than who he was, and we all appreciated that.
“Most coaches are difficult to have conversations with. It just felt like you could always have a conversation with Andy.”
“He was like ‘4 o’clock on Jack Stack, 5 o’clock on Joe.’ He liked to eat. It was part of his way of relating with us. But it didn’t come out as a fake. He didn’t come out as anything other than who he was and we all appreciated that. ”
Geoff Schwartz on Andy Reid’s ability to find burned endings and relate to his players
Reid’s relationships sometimes go beyond a player’s time with the Chiefs. Allen played three seasons for Reid with the Chiefs before signing a free agent deal with Houston.
Allen said the first person he heard from after an injury kicked him out of the Texans lineup was Reid.
Allen later returned to play for the Chiefs for two seasons before retiring.
“We had conversations outside of football about where I was personally,” said Allen. “Before I decided to retire, we had a chat about it. We sat down and talked about what’s best for me and he helped me with it. I felt like I could still play, but it did were things in my life – injuries, home life, my future.
“You don’t only get your reputation if you are a good football coach. You also get it if you are a good person.”
Allen concluded by summarizing what many players think of Reid.
“You don’t feel like you are playing for Andy Reid,” he said. “You feel like you’re playing with him.”