Source: USA TODAY
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Good luck telling Andy Reid that the 2013 NFL draft wasn’t sexy.
In selecting left tackle Eric Fisher with the first pick in the draft — his first as coach of the Kansas City Chiefs — Reid showed he will always be an offensive lineman at heart.
In the 3 1/2 months since his 14-year tenure with the Philadelphia Eagles ended, Reid has worked to reinvent his career through a partnership with an old friend, general manager John Dorsey, splashy moves like a trade for quarterback Alex Smith and a new contract for star wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, and now, drafting Fisher.
Reid wants the Chiefs to play with fury and “light ‘em up” on the scoreboard, he told USA TODAY Sports on the eve of the draft. Fisher, he said Thursday, fits that vision.
“He’s not going to run from anybody; that’s not his makeup,” Reid said. “You’ve got to be tough to play that position. You’re going to challenged. You have to make sure to rise up and play good, physical football, and he has all that.”
Reid’s new job in Kansas City has meant a backseat when it comes to the NFL draft. Literally.
As the Chiefs crisscrossed the country to visit draft prospects, from Mount Pleasant, Mich., to work out Fisher, to College Station, Texas, to see Luke Joeckel, and to Florida, Utah and Oregon to see top defensive linemen, Reid always found himself in the back of the Chiefs’ private plane. The flights to see the offensive linemen were the most uncomfortable, when Reid found himself wedged into tiny seats alongside offensive line coach Andy Heck and assistant line coach Eugene Chung — all former collegiate offensive linemen.
ANALYSIS: All 32 first-round picks
“It was hard to get in. It was crowbar material,” says Reid, using an imaginary crowbar and sound effects to pantomime the unloading process. “It was real tight.”
Go ahead, make your own weight jokes here. Reid will join in.
The plane rides and scouting trips were bonding experiences for the new staff, especially for old friends Reid and Dorsey, reunited for the first time since both were with the Green Bay Packers in the 1990s. They rib each other and have found a common target in Chiefs media relations boss Ted Crews, who affectionately calls the duo “Laurel and Hardy.”
“I don’t think you saw it the last couple of years in Philadelphia,” said Chiefs offensive coordinator Doug Pederson, who has known Reid since 1995. “The way you see Andy now is the way I knew him way back when in Green Bay and my first few years in Philadelphia. There’s a fine line between having fun and getting your work done, and he knows how to do that.
“It’s very refreshing for all of us to see him like that, shoulders back, chest out, eyes are up. He’s just blowing and going. It’s a great feeling for all of us really.”
The big, hearty, guttural laughs haven’t stopped in the three months since Reid was hired, and they have come as a welcome sound to those closest to Reid and to those in the Chiefs organization who had endured off-field heartbreak and on-field struggles over the past nine months.
In December, linebacker Jovan Belcher killed his girlfriend at home and committed suicide in the parking lot of team headquarters. Four weeks later, the season ended with a 2-14 record.
The murder-suicide deeply scarred Chiefs players and coaches, especially former coach Romeo Crennel and general manager Scott Pioli, who witnessed Belcher’s death. Crennel was fired immediately after the season, and Pioli’s firing followed a few days later.
The Chiefs organization desperately needed a culture change, and Reid, whose son Garrett died from a drug overdose in August, needed a fresh start after 14 years in Philadelphia. They found it in each other.
“We were looking for a spark, and Andy Reid fell right in our laps,” Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson said. “What happened last year, the difficult season and the tragedy that happened with our teammate, it’s almost like getting back to football, getting to the 2013 season is going to be key for us. Football is a getaway for us, and Andy Reid is going to help us through that.”
Reid barely took a weekend off after finishing the Eagles’ season with a 4-12 season and being fired a day later and then accepting the Chiefs’ job.
He had seen peers benefit from a break. Jeff Fisher climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in his year off between jobs in Tennessee and St. Louis. Mike Shanahan spent many hours during his year between jobs in Denver and Washington watching football, gaining a new perspective on offenses and a new generation of players.
Yet Reid wanted to coach, and he wanted to coach right away.
If Reid had any qualms about relinquishing the type of control he held for so many years in Philadelphia, they are forgotten. Reid has been intimately involved in the draft process over the past few months, but he is comfortable — if not relieved — that it is Dorsey making the final call on draft picks this week.
In the past two months, as the Chiefs have reshaped their roster by trading a second-round pick for Smith, re-signing Bowe and signing free agents like cornerbacks Sean Smith and Dunta Robinson, Dorsey’s phone has been the one ringing nearly nonstop.
“I have full trust in him,” Reid said. “We were together for a long time at Green Bay, and we’ve stayed in touch, stayed friends since. At draft time, I would always call and talk to him. There aren’t that many guys you can trust in the business, so I would bounce stuff off him.”
Now they exchange ideas from inside Reid’s second-floor office at Chiefs headquarters or inside the draft room Dorsey set up down the hall. Reid and Dorsey meet at least three times a day, when they first arrive around 6:30 a.m. and before they leave the building around 7:30 p.m., but Reid has been free to focus on coaching those already on the roster.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed it. It has allowed me to do football, and so not that I didn’t trust the guys before (in Philadelphia), I was just asked to do more. Here, not only did I want to get back into coaching, but that was Clark’s plan for the whole thing,” Reid said, referring to owner Clark Hunt. “And I really hadn’t done that for the last few offseasons. Like, maybe the last 14.”
Reid inherited a roster in Kansas City that included six Pro Bowlers from last season, and he and Dorsey believed they solved their quarterback problem in the trade to acquire Smith, a former No. 1 overall pick, from the San Francisco 49ers in exchange for Kansas City’s second-round pick.
“That’s a pretty good second-round draft pick,” Dorsey says. “That’s how I’m looking at it as a personnel guy. Where else can you get a starter in the second round?”
Fisher is the first draft selection of the Reid-Dorsey era, and part of the duo’s plan to try to compete in the AFC West right away. That’s the message players have received in their meetings with Reid and from watching the offseason moves.
“He’s going to tell you how he feels about this coming up season, and all optimism and all the pieces we have to put together in this one year,” Johnson says. “He knows that in the NFL there is a sense of urgency to win, and he knows this is not a rebuilding process – this is kind of reloading year for us.”
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