Editor’s note: This story was originally published on the 2nd. December 2020 published. The story was republished before the Chiefs appeared in the LV Super Bowl.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — When Eric Benimi was a free agent in 1999, he received relatively lucrative offers from 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.
So Reed Beniemi, who was primarily a special teams player at the time, made his visit as a free agent feel like he would be a valuable part of what the coach was trying to build.
When I made that trip and visited the Philadelphia Eagles, I felt right at home, said Benimi, who will play one season for Reed and return years later to coach him with the Kansas City Chiefs.
I felt like I was part of something. I felt like I was part of the basic element needed to get them started. I was part of the fund that wanted to hire the coach.
Reed has given players that feeling throughout his career, from stars like Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce to those at the bottom of the list like Benimi over 20 years ago.
More than any other reason, that’s why almost all players love working for the 62-year-old Reed.
I can’t think of anyone who didn’t like playing for him, and I can’t think of anyone who didn’t like playing for him, said Jeff 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 something to say about their experience with Reid. Pick a current or former player and the chances of them having a positive story or anecdote to share is overwhelming.
It’s no secret what Coach Reed does. He puts players in different positions on the field so that they can be successful and make the most of their strengths, which explains his incredible attacking prowess.
The Chiefs have fired several top players this season, including Mahomes, Kelce and Chris Jones. They’ve also kept minors, like backup quarterback Chad Henne.
The Chiefs had a lot to offer, including money and a chance to win more Super Bowl championships. But Reed seemed to be on equal footing.
He wasn’t thinking about resigning anytime soon, Mahomes said of Reed when discussing with the chiefs why he had re-signed. Obviously, this is a big part of the reason.
We trusted him from the beginning.
I’m not going to laugh at them, Andy Reid said of his players. I’m going to try to set them straight from what I see, rightly or wrongly. I have a few years of experience with all that gray hair. Dustin Bradford/Getty Images
No wonder players with these skills love working for Reed. Mahomes had his second season with 50 touchdowns in the NFL, a 5,000-yard season with the Chiefs in 2018. Kielce is the first team in league history to have four consecutive 1,000 yard seasons.
But the position group that seems to inspire Reed the most is the offensive line. Reed was a linebacker at brigham young university.
Linemen play wide receiver every Friday of the season. They start the workout with a catch-up session of passes.
Starting practice this way is a small reward for the work we’ve done over the past two days, Eric Fisher said. It forces us to fine-tune all the details.
It’s a good time for us.
But at some point, the game must stop and the work must begin. Schwartz said the 15-player scenario Reid uses at the start of games is often created with offensive linemen in mind.
There were always runs, screens, reversals and bootlegs, just a lot of opportunities to start the game on the offensive line, Schwartz said. I’ve always liked it. We always started with games that helped us get better, get into a rhythm.
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Reed joined the Chiefs in 2013 after one of the most brutal periods in team history. They have not won more than four games in four of their six seasons, including a record of 2-14 in 2012.
The Chiefs had talented players, but there was little direction. In order to get the team up and running quickly, Reid would have to relieve the players.
You can’t listen to a coach or buy him if you don’t believe everything he says, former defender Derrick Johnson said. We trusted him from the start. Andy’s a straight shooter. He has done everything he has promised us. Everyone enjoyed it.
But the players who found Reed didn’t ask for it, and they didn’t get to the point. Case in point: his first leadership training camp in 2013.
He told us training camp was going to be tough, Schwartz said. And he was right. It was difficult. We hit hard. But he said if we gave him three hours of training in the morning, he would give us the rest of the day. And he did. In the afternoon we went for a walk, and we literally walked. I’ve also been where it hasn’t happened.
What he told us, he did for us.
Reid said: You can’t be in my position and not be real. I think it’s ultimately important for the boys. I’m not gonna throw myself at her. I’m going to try to set them straight from what I see, rightly or wrongly. I have a few years of experience with all that gray hair.
At the end of the day, players want to be coached. They want to maximize their capabilities. I’ve learned that from some great players. They just wanted you to give them one more thing to make them better.
Reid established a player steering committee, consisting of one member from each position group, so players could voice their concerns.
Every time we started the meeting, the first thing he said was: Okay, what’s bothering you? Johnson said. He doesn’t want boys in the locker rooms complaining that the training sessions take too long, for example, or that the food in the canteen isn’t very good. That’s what he said: Tell me all these things and I’ll make it up to you. He doesn’t want us to have excuses if we can’t make it on Sunday. He wants to eliminate all distractions.
On one occasion, Johnson said, players have complained about hitting too much during practice.
Andy likes long workouts, Mr. Johnson said. He’s old school. He plays a lot. But one day we were talking to him about taking out a lot of padding during training. We felt like we didn’t wear them as much and didn’t get as many hits as we did. He said: Okay, I get it. Anything else? It happened so fast.
Most of what we brought him, he trusted us with.
They treat people like people
Reid coaches a player for other reasons. He rarely criticizes a player in public, but he usually takes the blame when he puts players in a bad position.
It’s ironic, because players say one of the reasons they love working for Reed is that he plays to their strengths.
Coach Reid puts the guys in a position to succeed and do what they do best and doesn’t try to put everyone in the box, said Greg Lewis, who played for Reid with the Eagles and is now the Chiefs’ coach for big receivers. It gives you options. If your strength is speed, you can use your speed. When you block performance or do something similar, it puts you in those positions instead of trying to pigeonhole you with something you’re not. He is able to bring all these different kinds of skills together so harmoniously.
As it stands, Reid isn’t screaming. Former players rarely remember him, maybe once a season.
He pulled a grimace, groaned, maybe bit his lip and said: Damn, said former offensive lineman Jeff Allen. Then you knew he wasn’t happy. But he could go no further, and it took him a long time to reach that limit.
Johnson said: Andy is usually a quiet talker. If he starts talking fast, you know it’s time to get him. If you don’t, he won’t calm down next time and talk fast. He’s gonna scream.
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That doesn’t mean discipline isn’t important to Reed. He’ll find another way.
Human nature says that if you yell at someone all the time, they will turn away from you, Mr. Reed said. It’s an old saying: Do what you want with others, that’s how I do it. But at the same time, I’m in a position where if your biorhythm is low, I’ll raise it for you. There is a time and a place for everything. I think the most important thing is to stay positive and be honest with the guys. I think most people do.
I believe in discipline. There are certain things you just need in this sport. … But at the same time, I believe in treating people like people. I’ve been doing this since I was in the business. That part hasn’t changed.
Mr. Schwartz said: He interacts well with the 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 treats you like you can. He’s not going to micromanage all day. He is undoubtedly a micromanager because he teaches assault. But he’s not in your business all day.
We didn’t see the coaches in the locker room before the game. They come right before the game to talk to us, but we can go to the stadium two or three hours before the game and he doesn’t get in our way, no other coach does. I’ve seen teams with coaches come in an hour before the game and say: Hey, I was watching a movie last night and I saw this weird match [of a one-day rival] to a movie from seven years ago, so keep your eyes open. It’s game day. We’ve had a whole week to prepare. We just wanted to be left alone to prepare for the game.
He gave us space when we needed it. It shows why everyone loves Andy Reid and how easy it is to play for a guy like him. Because you respect him and he respects you, you don’t want to disappoint him.
Uncut Cover for Food
Chiefs coach Andy Reid explains how he celebrated his first Super Bowl win in style with a cheeseburger and a water fountain.
Schwartz and others described their relationship with Reed as more of a peer relationship than a player-coach relationship. Players sometimes turn to Reid for personal advice. A player once asked Reed what kind of car he should buy.
Another way Reed connects with his players is through his love of food. It resonates with his players, especially the bigger ones.
Reed, in his first year with the Chiefs, returned to Philadelphia to coach his new team against the old. Having coached the Eagles for 14 seasons, Reed knew a thing or two about local cuisine. The day before the game, he ordered an assortment of local delicacies, such as cheesesteaks and crab fries, for the entire team.
Allen said he could always recommend restaurants in Kansas City. Whenever you want. And they were good. He was undefeated there.
Reed sometimes gave the players advice on the best time of day to grill at various Kansas City restaurants, a citywide delicacy despite its unsavory name.
He went to Jack Stack’s for about four hours, to Joe’s for five hours, Schwartz said, and named some popular Kansas City locations. He loved to eat. It was part of his attitude towards us. But it wasn’t a fake. He was not like he was, and we all appreciated that.
Most coaches find it difficult to talk to them. It seemed like you could always talk to Andy.
He was with Jack Stack for about four hours and with Joe for five. He loved to eat. It was part of his attitude towards us. But it wasn’t a fake. He was nothing more than what he was, and we all appreciated that.
Jeff Schwartz on Andy Reid’s ability to find burnt ends and connect with his players.
The relationship with Reed sometimes extends beyond his playing time with the Chiefs. Allen played three seasons for Reed with the Chiefs before signing as a free agent in Houston.
Allen said Reed was the first he heard from after an injury forced him off the Texas team.
Allen returned to play two seasons with the Chiefs before retiring.
We’ve had conversations outside of football about my personal position, Allen said. Before I decided to retire, we talked about it. We sat down and discussed what was best for me and he supported me. I felt I could still play, but there were things in my life – injuries, family life, my future.
You don’t get your reputation just by being a good football coach. You get them even if you’re a good person.
Allen then summed up what many actors think of Reed.
You don’t feel like you’re playing for Andy Reid, he says. It feels like we’re playing with it.
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