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‘Best guy in the business’: KC’s Andy Reid reminds friends of his mentor LaVell Edwards

Super Bowl-bound Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid developed his coaching roots from mentor and former coach LaVell Edwards, recall friends tied up in cheering him on

Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid holds the Lamar Hunt Trophy after the NFL AFC Championship football game against the Tennessee Titans Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020, in Kansas City, MO. The Chiefs won 35-24 to advance to Super Bowl 54. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
AP

PROVO — The chant bellowed down from the stands and echoed around Arrowhead Stadium following Kansas City’s AFC championship win over the Tennessee Titans.

“Andy, Andy, Andy.” Over and over again, it ricocheted off the walls and seats.

It was a passionate refrain from a fanbase that had waited a lifetime — 50 years — for the Chiefs to return to the Super Bowl. It was part relief from an ache in the soul and a heartfelt celebration wrought from their very core by those who’d hungered for such a moment in time.

As a former player under head coach Andy Reid while at Philadelphia, Chad Lewis heard that intonation in person that day and felt it strike at his core. He choked up with pride, and love and tears flowed down his cheeks.

“Andy Reid is the best guy in the business. He has earned the respect of his peers. He has taken two organizations that were not doing well and brought them back to playing dominating football, and a trip to the Super Bowl,” said Lewis.

Kansas City’s last Super Bowl was in 1969. Reid. 61, is one of only 24 NFL head coaches to reach a Super Bowl at least twice.

Lewis is a former three-time NFL Pro Bowl tight end, who played for Reid in Philadelphia from 1999 to 2005. He knows Reid as both a friend and mentor. The former BYU tight end now works in BYU’s athletic administration.

“He is one of the very few coaches to take a team from both the NFC and the AFC to the Super Bowl,” Lewis said. “I was lucky enough to attend the AFC championship game. When the crowd started chanting, ‘Andy, Andy,’ it just broke me down. I was so proud of him and so happy for him at the same time.”

Under Reid’s system, Lewis led all NFL tight ends in catches in 2000 with 69, and in 2005 was a part of the Eagles’ Super Bowl squad that battled New England.

In the mold of LaVell Edwards

Lewis says Reid’s ability to relate and communicate reminds him of the late LaVell Edwards.

Former BYU football coach LaVell Edwards looks on from the sideline.
Deseret News file photo

“He treats people with kindness, similar to LaVell. He knows when to crack a joke or when to crack the whip. He can be tough and tender in the same sentence,” Lewis explained. “He has a true gift at being a coach. He loves people and he knows how to work with just about everyone.

“I would love to see him win this game and earn a Super Bowl championship. If you ask the people on his staff, one of the first things they will tell you is how happy they are for Andy. That is exactly what Dave Toub said when I saw him after the game. He is the assistant head coach/special teams coordinator for the Chiefs. I congratulated him and gave him a big hug, and he said, ‘I am so happy for Andy.’”

What would Edwards feel about Reid taking the Chiefs to the Super Bowl for the first time in half a century?

“He’d be jumping up and clicking his heels,” said his wife, Patti. Edwards died on Dec. 29, 2016, and Reid was front and center at his services.

It was her late husband, Patti believes, who advised Reid to get into coaching and made him a graduate assistant. She remembers her son Jim taking a literature class with Andy at BYU and the classic they were studying was extremely difficult. “But they talked about it and from then on Andy and Jim were fast friends.”

Andy Reid poses during his playing days at BYU.
Mark Philbrick/BYU

In the years since Reid left BYU, Patti says her husband and Reid spoke almost every week on the phone. “They talked about movies, music, books, about football, and I remember when Andy called him about the quarterbacks.”

LaVell and Patti were guests of Reid when he coached in his first Super Bowl. They were his guests at all the events leading up to kickoff and sat in the VIP seats.

“I don’t know if LaVell will be there for this one, but he was for his first one,” she said.

Reid’s magic touch

Lance Reynolds spent nearly four decades playing and coaching for Edwards and remembers when Reid first came to BYU as a junior college transfer offensive lineman before serving as a graduate assistant coach on Edwards’ staff in 1981.

Reynolds has two sons, Matt and Dallas, who played for Reid with the Philadelphia Eagles. They played one year together and Matt was there four years. Reynolds knows the personal Midas touch Reid has with players.

Lance Reynolds remembers when Reid blocked for All-American Jim McMahon at BYU in 1980 (he played for the Cougars from 1978-80). McMahon eventually became a two-time Super Bowl champion (as a starter with the Chicago Bears and reserve with Green Bay Packers). All three of them laughed when Reid became the quarterbacks coach at Green Bay and his job was to coach McMahon.

Enduring memories, admiration, loyal friendship and a coaching bond brought Reynolds to his feet in angst two weeks ago watching Reid’s team struggle.

Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, left, meets with Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien following an NFL divisional playoff football game, in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Jan. 12, 2020. The Kansas City Chiefs won 51-31. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)
AP

The week before Kansas City’s win over the Titans, Reynolds found himself frustrated and angry watching in his home as Kansas City fell behind the Houston Texans 24-0 in the divisional playoff. Reynolds was in such a sour mood, he paced around telling his wife Leslie it was a joke, there was no way Reid’s team could come back from that much down.

“They’d had two dropped passes on third downs, muffed a punt and had a punt blocked and that was just the first quarter. No way,” said Reynolds. Then he watched Reid’s team turn on a switch and become world beaters and win 51-31.

It was lightning in a bottle and set Reynolds on a cloud for his longtime friend.

“LaVell would be both very proud and very happy for Andy,” Reynolds said.

So many fans believe the mark of a great coach is one who can yell and scream at players who underperform, often doing it in newspapers or before TV cameras. “They think, ‘Yeah, he’s doing his job calling them out.’

“In reality, the best coaches do their best work behind the scenes and when they need to correct a player, they don’t do it in public, but behind closed doors. Reid and Edwards have the same style, they build relationships and forge connections that last beyond football.”

Reynolds remembers one day he called Reid but couldn’t get through, so he left a message. Late that night, Reid called him back. “I was thinking, ‘Wow, this is late, this must be 1 or 2 in the morning where he’s at.’ But he called and talked to me at length and we had a great visit. That’s the kind of person he is, as busy as he was, he called.”

He also reflected on how former Utah, Florida and Ohio State coach Urban Meyer handled a similar call. “I called Urban and got his secretary and gave my name. While Urban had only been at Utah a brief time, Bronco Mendenhall asked me to call Urban and ask him about a team we were about to play, one he was familiar with. About 20 minutes later he called me back.

“He asked what I wanted and then asked, ‘How are the boys?’ It took me by surprise at first and I asked what he meant. He was asking about my two sons and told me he came in late in recruiting Dallas but knew them and followed them and was genuinely interested in them.

“That is what great coaches do and it comes naturally. It isn’t staged or fake. That is Reid; that is Edwards and Meyer. Quality coaches are like that, extraordinary at connecting.

“When I say Andy is warm and genuine, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t work hard or know the game. Andy does a good job of all of it and the players love him. If you walked in his office right now, you would be welcomed, asked to sit down and you would immediately sense it is the real deal. He has mastered this.”

More than X’s and O’s

Knowing the game, conquering the X’s and O’s and calling the right plays, be it a post corner or curl route, and getting the protections right is important, said Reynolds of the art of coaching.

“But there is more to it than that. It is about making the right decision on who to play, where they play and how they contribute. It’s about knowing when a guy has some personal issues and how you deal with them and how you deal with the problem,” he said.

“LaVell was like a counselor who would sit down with a player behind closed doors and discuss stuff. I think that’s why guys like Jim McMahon and guys like that always appreciated it, that he didn’t demean them in public and he didn’t act like Mr. Disciplinarian for show. His expectations were high but he didn’t have to scold you in front of people to prove a point. He was demanding, warm and gentle in his approach.”

Reynolds believes Reid has fashioned his style after Edwards and sees current BYU coach Kalani Sitake also following after his mentor.

“Being a nice guy doesn’t mean you are a pushover. You get Andy or LaVell in a game of pingpong, pool, or golf and they’re competitive as heck. They hate to lose.

“Andy is a real good dude.”

The personal approach, said Reynolds, is a gift. “Part of you has to be iron in expectations and part has to be genuine and real.”

Former NFL scout John Middlekauff is more than enamored with Reid as a tactician, play-caller and coach headed to the Super Bowl.

Writing for The Athletic, Middlekauff confirmed the magic that is Reid.

“It was Reid who went down to Eagles executive Howie Roseman’s office to recommend interviewing me after Pat Hill called him on my behalf,” wrote Middlekauff.

“It was Reid who had me over to his house on Thanksgiving when I had nowhere to go in Philadelphia. To this day, he’s still always available when I have questions about players, coaches, topics in the NFL. So when you’ve read glowing things said about him over the years, I can vouch for it all being true. He might be the most universally respected person in a league whose power brokers can be hit-or-miss when it comes to personal character. He’s just a top-notch person.”