KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Andy Reid was aware of the Kansas City Chiefs' sea of red, especially how it blankets Arrowhead Stadium. He had worn black on the Philadelphia sidelines where he coached the Eagles for 14 seasons -- "The black was for slimming effect," the longtime hefty Reid wryly said. Eagles black and Eagles green and Philadelphia were Reids' entrenched NFL identity.
Until he was fired three seasons ago. That turned Reid fuming red.
He led the Eagles to five NFC championship games and to a Super Bowl but never won it all. He never appeased the championship craving of Eagles fans or ownership.
Chiefs owner Clark Hunt immediately called.
"The word was out that I was not as energetic as a coach -- yeah, that I was burned out," Reid said. "And he (Hunt) was worried if I still had energy going forward. I just took the conversation from there and was just kind of myself."
Hunt was stirred.
"As the conversation went on, I was really inspired by him," Hunt recalled. "I saw a great coach, a great leader and a confidence that explained his product and his record. It happened pretty quickly here. The building believed."
The players, the office staff, the people. They all began to believe. Andy Reid began connecting people in Kansas City. He began building more than just a team. It was an 11-5 start and the playoffs followed by a 9-7 season. And now 11-5 again and the playoffs again, at the Houston Texans (9-7) on Saturday.
This season, Reid illustrated the true measure of his bonding and building in Kansas City. The Chiefs began the season 1-5. They have played most of the year without their best offensive player, injured running back Jamaal Charles, and nearly half of it without their best defensive player, injured linebacker Justin Houston. Yet, they enter the playoffs with a franchise-record 10 consecutive victories.
To climb from 1-5 to 11-5 is this NFL season's ultimate Code Red Revival.
Andy Reid did it by practicing what he urged. By extracting a little more from everyone involved. By relying on his artful, scheming offensive approach, and by building a defense that is fast and hard. He did it in concert with general manager John Dorsey, and with a coaching staff built to endure. He did it by continually constructing his quarterback, Alex Smith, and by crafting a willful, opportunistic team.
The Chiefs have thrown seven interceptions but have created 22 of their own. They have allowed two returns for touchdowns but have created six of their own. The Chiefs scored 405 points, allowed 287 and finished with a plus-margin of 118 points. Compare that to their playoff opponent, Houston, which scored 339 points and allowed 313 for a net margin of plus-26. No AFC team this season had a better conference record than Kansas City's 10-2.
"Everything he preached from Day 1 he kept employing it and it trickled down," Chiefs receiver Jeremy Maclin said.
When 1-5 became 2-5 then 3-5 then 4-5 up to even, Hunt realized that salvaging the season had turned into a possible playoff season.
"We played a game in London during that stretch and that was perfect for us because it helped bring our team even more together," Hunt said. "Once we got to 5-5 and we saw how the division and Wild Card races were shaping up, we knew we really did have a chance. Everyone's heads went from being a little down at the start to rising. Andy got them all to stick together."
Somebody helped keep Reid assured.
In good times and in bad, he keeps in touch with his old college coach, Brigham Young icon LaVell Edwards. Reid played offensive tackle for Edwards at BYU and afterward, in 1982, Reid began his coaching career there. He calls Edwards at least once a week. There is a comfort level and love there that is cherished on both sides.
Edwards tells Reid he does not look so great in red.
Too close to BYU rival Utah's colors.
Reid wears red on the Kansas City sidelines, anyway: "I have to sweat down to get in it," he said of his red gear.
By any color, Edwards knows the coach he fashioned in Reid and always reminds him of it. And Reid, like Edwards, always deflects success to the team, to the building.
"I love what I do, it's a rare job and opportunity to get to do it, and I love it when we're winning and I stay in it through the losses," Reid said. "I still have that energy. Everybody here has stayed together. We were playing a lot of young guys, probably more young players than any team in the NFL. They were trying their hearts out early and we had all kinds of injuries that were slowing us, and some of them significant. But through all of that, everybody stuck together. And then all of it seemed to come together."
It is Chiefs safety Ron Parker who captured the essence of Reid.
Parker, 28, was not drafted out of Newberry College in 2011. He bounced around between Seattle, Oakland and Carolina before joining the Chiefs when Reid did.
He is a lively player not only in the secondary but also on special teams. He is fast, quick and strong, especially on the safety blitz. His seven career sacks are already the most by a defensive back in Chiefs history.
"I never had much confidence as a player in this league before and I was always around coaches who didn't seem to have that much confidence in me, either," Parker said. "I took the rough road to get here and when I met up with coach Reid, I felt his belief in me. He built an atmosphere where I could relax, not be so uptight, just play and let my talent surface. I'm playing with confidence now. I love it here. I'm really glad that Andy trusted me."
Parker arrives every day eager to work. Humble. Focused.
Just the way Reid has built the Chiefs.
It's still early, Reid says. It's just the start.
"We've finished this regular season, and now we start the postseason," Reid said. "I like that, start the postseason. I had some rough times in Philadelphia where they would be saying we are ending the postseason even before we started it."
He can laugh about all of that now. No more fuming red.
Red, for Andy Reid, is more like a cozy blanket now.