Tragedy that put Andy Reid’s son in prison can’t be ignored at Super Bowl

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – If you just so happen to wonder what Andy Reid’s favorite Mexican dish is, you would have been enlightened during a mid-week media session with the Kansas City Chiefs coach at the team’s Super Bowl hotel.

What a show, an entertaining hype-fest, some of these pre-Super Bowl news conferences can be. And the jovial Reid can play along with the best of them.

No, that wasn’t Bill Belichick at the podium when someone asked the coach to name his three favorite rappers.

“Do The Fat Boys count as one rapper?” Reid replied, prompting an outburst of laughs from the assembled audience.

Reid was also asked how he takes his coffee. He doesn’t.

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“I’ve got endless energy for a chubby guy,” he said.

His favorite cheeseburger? You get the picture. A lot of fluff stuff.

The matchup pitting Reid and the Chiefs against the franchise he coached for 14 years, the Philadelphia Eagles, is a big reason why he is one of the most compelling storylines of Super Bowl 57. Reid is 3-0 against the Eagles since continuing his Hall of Fame-credentialed career in Kansas City, and he readily acknowledges the sentimental twist added to the game on Sunday at State Farm Stadium that features the teams who shared the NFL’s best record this season.

“Once the game gets going, it’s football,” Reid said. “Who’s got the better team? Better players? Better coaches? Who gets a break, here or there? All the things that normally happen in a football game.”

Still, the tragedy that marred the ramp-up to Kansas City’s last Super Bowl appearance should not be ignored – as much as the Chiefs and the NFL seemingly would want it to just go away.     

Britt Reid is in prison now, serving a plea-bargained three-year sentence after pleading guilty to felony driving while intoxicated resulting in serious physical injury. Then a Chiefs linebackers coach, he left the team’s headquarters the night of Feb. 4, where court documents suggest he had consumed alcohol, and rammed his truck into two vehicles that were idled on the shoulder of I-435 near Arrowhead Stadium. He had a serum blood alcohol concentration of 0.113 approximately two hours later, well above the Missouri limit of 0.08. According to police, his truck was speeding at 84 mph in a 65 mph zone, and he admitted to an officer that he had mixed alcohol with the prescription drug Adderall.

Young was sitting in the back of one of the vehicles that Reid struck and suffered a traumatic brain injury after being pinned behind the driver’s seat. She was in a coma for 11 days and hospitalized for two months. Thank God that she survived. Yet at the sentencing hearing for Reid in November, Young’s mother, Felicia Miller, told the court that while her daughter’s condition has improved, she will have to deal with the impact of the crash for the rest of her life.

“The positive thing is that the little girl is doing better. A lot better,” Andy Reid told USA TODAY Sports. “That’s the positive of this whole thing.”

Reid, always one of the most engaging and approachable coaches in the NFL, responded to a handful of questions following one of his media sessions this week. As he prepares to coach in his third Super Bowl in four seasons, surely it wasn’t the ideal topic for him. But it’s fair game, given his high-profile role in the public eye – and the connection to his job with the Chiefs.

And it’s also apparent that the manner in which Reid has handled crisis is part of the example that he has set as a coach and leader, earning him tremendous respect and empathy.

When asked for a lasting impression of Reid from the crisis before the last Super Bowl appearance, defensive end Frank Clark told USA TODAY Sports, “The main thing I learned about Coach Reid was just his grit. His will to keep on going, no matter what the situation.”

The NFL, which previously said it would review the case under the umbrella of its personal conduct policy – which it vigorously pursues regarding issues involving players – has not publicly released any findings from the review and did not respond to an inquiry from USA TODAY Sports this week.

The Chiefs engaged in an undisclosed settlement with Young’s family that covers medical and, conceivably, other expenses.

Reid, who lost his son, Garrett, to an accidental heroin overdose in 2012 while working on his father’s staff with the Eagles, hired Britt to his Chiefs staff despite scant experience that basically consisted of one year of coaching at the high school level. Like the conditions of the plea-bargained sentence that reportedly outraged Young’s family, the hire that led to Britt joining the Chiefs raises serious questions about privilege. Britt came to the Chiefs with a record that included previous jail time stemming from drug abuse, a road rage incident and had undergone drug rehab treatment.

The compassionate efforts by Reid to help his son – much like he provided a second chance to Michael Vick after the star quarterback served his prison sentence for dogfighting – were noble enough. But the opportunity afforded Britt that many qualified candidates don’t get a chance at, backfired.

“Britt will do his time and he’ll be back and get back on his feet,” Reid told USA TODAY Sports.

It must be tough to separate the non-football issues related to the tragedy from his job.

“You’ve got to do the best you can,” Reid said. “Absolutely. It’s all part of life.”

When Reid lost his son, Garrett, while he coached the Eagles, he came back to work days after the death. The auto accident involving Britt was obviously a different circumstance, but it forced Reid to compartmentalize on the eve of coaching in one of the biggest games of his life.

How did he try to reconcile what happened?

“Tried to stay focused on the job the best I could,” Reid told USA TODAY Sports. “There was a little girl involved, too. My son was hurt. She was hurt. For that time being, you’ve got to put that distraction aside the best you can.”

Distraction. For the most affected victims, it was so much deeper than that. Yet that form of “coach speak” might also reflect why players and staff members describe Reid as a rock of consistency while employing a certain type of tunnel vision. In Reid’s case, though, his personal challenges have made him more human with the men he is charged to lead. The humanism that makes Reid such a hit on the podium works behind closed doors, too, in relating to players.

“We can look at the (head) coach title and think that this person is so out of touch with reality, so out of reach, but he’s a normal person,” Clark said. “He goes through normal things. You look at the course of his career, he’s had real-life situations, dealing with players, dealing with his own kids, his own family and the situation (before Super Bowl 55). Eventually, does it affect the man? I’m sure it does.

“It just shows his grit to continue to come in here, smiling in our faces, he’s giving us everything that we want. He’s not short-changing us with the coaching, either. He’s giving it all to his players.”

Like Clark, Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce saw another dimension of Reid’s persona revealed through the crisis in early 2021. The accident occurred the night before the Chiefs flew to Tampa for Super Bowl 55, their departure later in the week than usual for a Super Bowl team due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“I learned how strong of a guy he is,” Kelce told USA TODAY Sports. “Mentally, how strong his family is, how tight-knit this entire locker room is and how much we love that guy, man. It wasn’t an easy time for him and we’re definitely trying to make this year that much better. I’ve got to get another one for Big Red, man. I love that guy too much.”

The Chiefs lost Super Bowl 55 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and it wasn’t even close. Kelce insists that the sudden crisis dealt to Reid and the team had no impact on the 31-9 result.

“All you saw in that game was how we played on that field,” Kelce said. “I don’t think anything like that got in the way.”

Yet the tragedy was still part of the storyline.  

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