KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The first call that Andy Reid received came from Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt.
Reid had just been dismissed after coaching the Eagles for 14 seasons, and was back at his office after addressing his team one last time. The phone rang and Hunt was on the other end, asking whether Reid would be interested in a face-to-face meeting two days later.
“There are certain families that stand out, and the Hunt family is just tops,” Reid said of the family that founded the franchise 53 years ago. “They’re phenomenal.”
The meeting was set for Wednesday in Philadelphia, and Reid’s agent Bob LaMonte figured it would take about three hours. But when Reid got in front of Hunt, the two hit it off so well that time kept slipping away — four hours, then six, then eight hours of conversations.
After nine hours, it became clear that Reid would be the Chiefs’ next coach.
He was introduced on Monday at a packed news conference at Arrowhead Stadium, taking over a once-proud franchise that went 2-14 last season and hasn’t won a playoff game since 1993.
“There was a certain energy that started with Clark and radiated through the other people I met with, and it was just great,” Reid said. “You got the feeling that this was right. It was the right thing to do. It made the decision easy. I crossed my fingers that I’d be offered the job.”
Reid agreed to a five-year deal, a person with knowledge of the contract told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the terms were not disclosed.
He takes over for Romeo Crennel, who was fired Monday after his first full season.
“Sometimes change is good,” said Reid, who coached the Eagles to a 4-12 record this season, dragging down his career record of 130-93-1. “It could be tremendous for the Philadelphia Eagles, and at the same time, I think it’s going to be tremendous for the Kansas City Chiefs.”
Reid said he’s met with the current Chiefs assistant coaches, but would not say whether any of them will be retained. Reid did say he plans to bring along some of his staff from Philadelphia, and quarterbacks coach Doug Pederson is one of the hot names.
Reid also said he’ll sit in on interviews for the Chiefs’ general manager, but he’ll leave the final decision up to Hunt. The Chiefs parted ways with Scott Pioli on Friday after four tumultuous seasons, just hours before Reid agreed to his deal.
Among the candidates for the job are former Browns general manager Tom Heckert and longtime Packers personnel man John Dorsey, both of whom have a history with Reid.
Reid said he’s already started to dig into the current Chiefs roster — he had already watched video of all 16 games last season by the time he was interviewed. And he said he’s buoyed by the fact that the Chiefs have five players who were voted to the Pro Bowl, and they’ll have the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft for the first time in franchise history.
That should allow Reid and the Chiefs’ retooled front office to start filling holes, the biggest of which is at quarterback, where Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn struggled all season.
“I’m going to dig in and look at that and we’ll build that thing,” Reid said. “We’ll see how that works out, but I need to spend some time at that.”
Reid certainly has experience in rebuilding a franchise.
The Eagles were 3-13 before he arrived in 1999. He drafted Donovan McNabb with the No. 2 pick in that year’s draft, won five games the following year and then went 11-5 and finished second in the NFC East — the first of five straight seasons in which he won at least 11 games.
“When I look at the Chiefs, I look at the bigger picture. What are they truly about? What are they made of?” Reid said. “Every organization goes through a lull, personnel changes, players grow old, they change. Maybe a draft pick here or there didn’t work, a free agent didn’t work. That happens. What’s the grit of the organization?
“I’ve been in this thing long enough to appreciate that,” Reid said. “I came from a great organization. I wanted to make sure I had that opportunity to be again in a great organization.”
That’s part of the reason that Reid did his homework on the Chiefs.
In the time between Hunt’s initial phone call and that first meeting in Philadelphia, Reid reached out to former Eagles and Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil. Reid wanted to know about the Hunt family, about the organization and whether it might be the right fit.
“I just told him to go. That was the first thing,” Vermeil told The Associated Press. “He asked, ‘Well, can I win there?’ And I said, ‘Andy, you can win anywhere.’”
He ultimately chose to win in Kansas City.
After that lengthy meeting in Philadelphia, Hunt said he still wasn’t sure whether Reid was truly on the hook. But the following day, Reid canceled an interview with Arizona and decided not to pursue interest from San Diego, and instead scheduled a trip to visit Kansas City.
When he arrived on Friday, he was tailed to Arrowhead Stadium by helicopters from local television stations. Every step he took was watched by fans that had been pining all season for change. A few of them even showed up with footballs, hoping to land his autograph.
He signed his name, adding “Go Chiefs.”
Reid said he didn’t consider taking some time off, despite a trying season on and off the field. His oldest son, Garrett, died during training camp after a long battle with drug addiction.
“I’m ready to go. This is what I do,” he said. “Never took that into consideration.”
It was something Hunt considered during that initial meeting. But it didn’t take long for the soft-spoken coach with the bushy mustache — “Big Red” to those who know him well — to set the Chiefs chairman at ease, and convince Hunt he was the right man for the job.
“It was a very hard year on all of us, my family, the fans, everyone,” Hunt said. “When you’re not successful in the National Football League, change is coming. And I’m glad 2012 is in the rear-view mirror. We’re onto 2013, and in Andy, we already have our first victory.”