A peek into Andy Reid, the family man
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BETHLEHEM, Pa. – I’ve never seen Andy Reid happier than these last few weeks. Never seen him more relaxed, more at ease, more comfortable. Heck. Even goofy at times.
We did a video on Friday, me interviewing Andy for CSNPhilly.com’s Lunch Break
, and when I said, “Brought to you by Dietz and Watson,” he immediately laughed and asked whether they were going to deliver a turkey to us before we were done. Then he remarked how appropriate it was that a video of me interviewing him was sponsored by a company like Dietz and Watson.
He laughed that big, broad, burly laugh we don’t see enough of.
That’s the way he’s been up here. He loves this team. He loves this time of year. He loves getting the whole franchise sequestered up here in the bucolic hills of the Lehigh Valley. Now in his 14th year coaching the Eagles, he’s been as energetic, as enthused, as upbeat as I’ve ever seen him.
And then this.
The news that Andy Reid had lost his oldest son, Garrett, Sunday morning (see story)
shattered the peaceful mountain morning at Lehigh, sending an entire organization into mourning. (UPDATE: Andy Reid confirmed in a statement Monday night that his son Garrett's death was drug-related.
Forget all you know about Andy Reid. Forget about Andy Reid the football coach.
Here's what matters right now. More than anything, Reid is a family man. And the more time you spend around him, the more you realize that he has two families, and the two are intertwined in some pretty special and unique ways.
Two years ago this summer, Reid’s top football confidante and close friend, legendary defensive coordinator Jim Johnson, was in his final days battling cancer. So after he was finished with his 18-hour days at Lehigh, Reid drove with Butch Buchanico, then the team's security director, from Bethlehem down to Philly to visit with Jim and his wife Vicki.
Just last week, Johnson’s grandkids visited Lehigh for a few days. Who was their roommate? Andy Reid.
Reid loved having his own kids around camp. Daughter Crosby was an intern for the public relations department one year. Garrett and Britt were always here, goofing around with the players, trainers and ball boys on the sideline during practice, then having dinner with dad in the evening.
The life of an NFL coach is a rough one. The time commitments are brutal. Too many nights on the cot in the office. But family will always come first for Reid. He makes sure his assistants have time to see their kids play football or baseball or perform in the school play. And when Britt and Garrett played high school football, Andy often snuck away from the NovaCare Complex for a quick couple hours on Friday nights or Saturday mornings and sat quietly in the top row of the bleachers watching them.
“Coach Reid takes good care of his coaches,” assistant coach Duce Staley said a couple months ago. “We work hard, but he also gives us a chance to go and enjoy your family.”
Family. It’s a word you hear a lot around the NovaCare Complex or around Lehigh this time of year.
Spend time around Reid and before long, you’re part of that family. And whether you go coach somewhere else or go play somewhere else, that never changes.
Which is why somebody like Duce, who left Philly in acrimony over a contract dispute, was welcomed back a few years later as a coach. That’s why somebody like Donovan McNabb, who doesn’t speak well of anybody these days, still refers to Reid as a close friend and expressed his grief publicly on Sunday. That’s why Larry Fitzgerald, whose only interaction with Reid came in a couple Pro Bowls, speaks as highly of Reid as any of his own coaches. That’s why Asante Samuel, shipped unceremoniously to the Falcons for a seventh-round draft pick, tweeted Sunday he wished he could be with Andy Reid “right now for support,” adding, “I can always say something to make him feel good.”
With Reid, once you’re family, you’re always family. No matter what jersey you're wearing, no matter what team you're coaching.
Former Reid assistant John Harbaugh, now head coach of the Ravens, was getting ready for a playoff game last year, and the Eagles were done. Harbs and Andy were talking football on the phone, Harbs in Baltimore, Andy in Philly. The call went on and on. Finally, Reid told Harbaugh, that’s enough, come on up. Harbaugh jumped in his car and drove to Philly. Two hours later, late at night, the two spent time together talking football. The next morning, Harbaugh was back at practice in Baltimore.
This is Andy Reid. This is who he is.
So why would the Eagles practice Sunday, just minutes after Garrett Reid’s death was announced? Why would Reid insist on being on the sideline Thursday night for the preseason opener against the Steelers?
Because for Andy Reid, the definition of family is a broad one. It covers both his blood relatives and his players. His kids, his team. They’re all part of the same family.
That’s why Sunday morning was so hard for this organization. Garrett Reid wasn't just the coach's kid, he was a huge part of the Eagles family. He’d been around guys like general manager Howie Roseman and trainer Rick Burkholder since he was 15 years old. They watched him grow up, stayed by his side when he dealt with some pretty serious issues, helped him find a new direction after he put those issues behind. Current Eagles like Colt Anderson, Casey Matthews and Riley Cooper befriended Garrett and kept a watchful eye over their coach's son.
The Eagles haven’t won a Super Bowl under Reid, but I suspect one of the reasons this has been such a successful franchise over the years is because everybody in the building -- from players to coaches to trainers -- is so committed to each other. They protect each other, look out for each other, take care of each other.
That’s the culture Reid has built over a decade and a half. So when people talk about Reid putting the football team ahead of his family ... well, no. It’s all one in the same to him.
Reid has spent the last 14 years being a tower of strength for his players and coaches. For everybody in the organization. A rock, as Jeff Lurie put it. Sick kid? Death in the family? Financial troubles? Go to Andy. He’ll get you through it.
Now, the entire franchise is rallying around Reid, just as passionately as he’s rallied around them for years.
And that’s just about the best definition of family I can imagine.E-mail Reuben Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org