Andy Reid gets a Gatorade shower at the end of the Chiefs' 26-16 win over the Eagles. (USA Today Images)
Andy Reid walked out of the tunnel and onto the turf at Lincoln Financial Field as he had so many times before. Only this time it was a different tunnel, and he was wearing different colors, and he headed for a different sideline.
Reid was swathed in red, not his usual black with midnight green, and he coached the Chiefs, not the Eagles. It was like some odd alternate universe.
It had been building for a while -- the anticipation surrounding the moment when Reid was reintroduced to the local fans, and they to him. They had an interesting relationship for 14 years, by turns appreciative and combative, loving and loathing.
When Reid was asked about it this week, he said all the things you’d expect -- that the reunion was no big deal, that it wasn’t about him, that he remembers the town and the people fondly, but, more than anything, that it was another game, no more or less important than the other 15.
That was nonsense, of course. There was a reason Thursday's matchup was on national television. The man coached here for close to a decade and a half. He did good things and not-so-good things, but he was one of the main faces of the franchise for a long time -- until the franchise decided it wanted a facelift, replacing him with a younger coach with supposedly fresher ideas.
And so, from the moment the schedule was released, we waited for Reid to coach his new team against his old team in the same familiar setting. It was strange. Reid said he wasn’t sure what kind of reception he’d get from the crowd. He got the kind you’d expect for a man who did so much here: The assembly rose to its feet and applauded and showed its respect.
While the standing ovation went on -- and it went on for a good while -- the giant scoreboards at either end of the stadium flashed “Thank You Coach Reid.” The tribute also included a long list of his many accomplishments.
You know them well by now: 130 victories as head coach of the Eagles, six NFC East titles, nine playoff runs, five conference championship games and a Super Bowl appearance.
Instead of a gold watch for time served, the Eagles gave him something far more valuable: Five turnovers (see story).
Chiefs 26, Eagles 16 (see Instant Replay).
When it was over, Reid's players dumped Gatorade on his head while he smiled. It was quite a scene.
“I can tell you I enjoyed every minute here,” Reid said after his team improved to 3-0. “I’m enjoying my time in Kansas City. Coming back, I really didn’t think much about it until the game was over. It was great to see the guys, the players that are here. I had a chance to talk to a couple of them after the game. I don’t know. It’s all kind of settling in right now. I’m not exactly sure how I feel, except I’m glad we won the game.”
It was a good start for Reid and the Chiefs. Quintin Demps -- another man you might remember, who now serves as Kansas City’s kick returner -- took the opening kick 57 yards into Eagles’ territory. That drive stalled for the Chiefs, and they punted, but then Damaris Johnson was kind enough to fumble on the Eagles’ 8-yard line. Kansas City turned that mistake into a field goal.
The Chiefs did even better with the next, bigger Eagles’ miscue. On the Birds’ first possession, Michael Vick threw his first interception of the season -- an ill-advised, deflected pass that K.C. safety Eric Berry happily snatched out of the air and returned 38 yards for a touchdown. Shy of walking the ball over to Reid with a big red bow on it, Vick couldn’t have given his former coach a better welcome-home gift than that.
That was the story for much of Thursday evening. The Eagles turned the ball over five times. The Chiefs held onto the ball. The Eagles lost. The Chiefs won. That is how it went -- the way Reid hoped, even if he didn’t let on about the importance and symbolism of what happened.
Following the game, while reporters waited for another Reid press conference to begin, a loud cheer could be heard from nearby. It sounded like it came from the Chiefs’ locker room. Not long after, Reid walked through a closed door and stood in front of the podium. Was it different for him, someone asked, than the average game?
“Yeah, it was different,” Reid allowed. “I’m at the opposite end of the field I’m normally at. I’m looking at different things there. That was a little different. I can’t tell you that I wasn’t caught up in that part. I was so busy -- it was probably good it was a short week -- I was so busy making sure we had the offense and defense and special teams going right that I probably didn’t have time to think about all the stuff that goes along with it.”
He talked that way for a few more minutes, never really letting on how he felt or what it meant. It was what you’d expect from Reid. Then he turned and walked out the door one last time.