The secrets of Andy Reid’s success: Attention to detail, humor and Haagen-Dazs

Brad Childress was driving with Andy Reid at the Senior Bowl years ago when something caught Reid’s eye: a red neon light.

Childress was confused. He had never heard of Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, and he definitely didn’t understand the significance of the red light.

Reid filled him in. If the red light is on, it means Krispy Kreme is making fresh donuts. It also means a free donut with the purchase of a hot dozen. Reid and Childress pulled over; the dozen (plus the freebie) didn’t survive the drive to the hotel.

Reid is one of the great masters of detail, a head coach who scripts the formation of plays to six-inch precision, who notices when players are wearing the wrong socks at practice and who can spot a neon red light and take advantage.



Andy Reid stayed the course in Chiefs’ Super Bowl win, now numbers among all-time greats

With the Chiefs’ 25-22 overtime win Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LVIII, Reid cemented his place as one of the NFL’s all-time greats. He is now one of only five coaches with at least three Super Bowl victories, and he has won the fourth-most games in league history, trailing only Don Shula, George Halas and Bill Belichick.

Reid is one of the game’s most respected offensive minds, but his success goes beyond scheme. Over the years he has created an unlikely dichotomy: an environment obsessed with the tiniest of details that is still loose, fun and personalized.

To understand Reid’s success, The Athletic spoke to more than a dozen players, coaches and staffers and asked them for their best stories.

Dustin Colquitt (punter): He’s VERY, VERY specific — with football, with plays, with life, with conversations.

Brendan Daly (assistant coach): He is as routine an individual as I’ve been around.

Brad Childress (assistant coach): There were specific instructions about what to have on the buffet for the after-meeting meal the night before a game. Haagen-Dazs was a staple.

Nick Potter (athletic trainer): Haagen-Dazs is his favorite ice cream, his favorite dessert.

Anthony Sherman (fullback): He is very particular about what ice cream he eats.

Childress: It had to be Haagen-Dazs.

Dave Toub (assistant coach): If it’s not Haagen-Dazs, they gotta go out and get it.

Potter: I don’t believe Marriott carries it, so it was catered in on every trip.

Colquitt: There was one elevator that nobody could use. It was only Andy’s elevator. He would get ice cream and then go straight for that open elevator that nobody else could ride. But I saw a couple times these hotels did not pay attention to detail, and Mitch Reynolds, his travel operations guy, there would be an altercation in that meeting room about Haagen-Dazs.

Sherman: There was one time in Baltimore where for some reason they didn’t put it out right away. (Reid) came in and just looked at it and knew, right away, that it wasn’t Haagen-Dazs. I looked at Mitch Reynolds and said, “Dude, that’s not Haagen-Dazs.” He goes, “No, it is, it is.” I go, “I’m telling you right now, it’s not. Look at him.” He was just staring at it.

Frank Zombo (linebacker): If you mess up that, it was as bad as if you missed the plane.

Sherman: (Reynolds) goes, “Oh my goodness, maybe they put out the frozen yogurt.” You could tell by Mitch’s face, he was like, “I’m going to get fired if they don’t have Haagen-Dazs here.”

Colquitt: He would stand there with a spoon and a scooper waiting for them to go to change it to Haagen-Dazs or get a delivery of Haagen-Dazs. He would not eat it if it was like Blue Bell or something. He would tell people, “You go ahead if you’re going to get it, but I’m waiting on ice cream. This isn’t ice cream.”

Derrick Johnson (linebacker): He always stresses, “Let your personality show.”

Colquitt: And he means it.

Potter: He has this remarkable ability to treat everyone different so they’re all the same. And I always found that fascinating. I think that’s one of his biggest strengths.

Zombo: Dustin would come in the quarterback room because he was bored, and one time he drew a picture on the whiteboard of every quarterback.

Colquitt: I basically drew them … it’s nuts. You couldn’t use it. It’s totally sick.

(Editor’s note: He’s right. We’ve seen the pictures. They are not suitable for publication.)

Zombo: Coach Reid goes to sit down, and they look at the board. He just turns and goes, “F—ing punter.”

Colquitt: One day he was walking across the fields and I’m standing on the sideline just watching. He makes eye contact with me and just stops dead, right in the middle of the field. He looks at me and goes, “You need professional help.”

Daly: Brian Schaffer, the security guard, stuck a bobcat in the guys’ dorm rooms during training camp. It is a taxidermied bobcat. You would walk into your dorm room late at night and flip the light on …

George Karlaftis (defensive end): … and there is a bobcat, and it looks real.

Daly: They decided this had legs, so they got the video guys involved and started setting up cameras. And the legend is going around.

Karlaftis: There is always some kind of thing to keep things fun and loose.

Daly: Coach has the video guys do this montage of them at the end of training camp. Just beautiful levity. This montage of everybody who got juiced by this bobcat.

@chiefs This was too good 😂😂 #susprise #bobcat #scareprank ♬ original sound – Chiefs

Colquitt: His attention to detail, I never played for anybody quite like that.

Toub: We have to have our shirt tucked in.

Daly: No hands in the pockets

Karlaftis: No black shoes or black socks, nothing the Raiders wear.

Kevin Saxton (assistant coach): I had on black Nike ankle socks that you could barely see. Guys are coming up to me saying, “Hey, you gotta change those.”

Daly: My very first day on the field, I’m out with the defensive line doing individual (drills). I don’t think he was even on the practice field at the time. He was in his office, which looks out over the field.

Joe Cullen (assistant coach): He sees everything.

Daly: We get done and the offense is coming onto the field and he grabs me coming off and he’s like, “Hey, loved the individual. One thing: hat on pointed forward.”

Colquitt: One time during a practice, we’re all bringing it in and he has a quick thing, “Hey, good on offense today, defense do this,” and then he goes, “Dustin, break us down and make sure you wear this year’s issued turf shoes when you’re out here at practice.” I looked down. I had the shoes on from the year before.



Why Chiefs coach Andy Reid runs the NFL’s hardest training camp

Richie James, wide receiver: We were in the indoor (facility) and you are on the wall a little bit. The sideline is right there, but I’m about to lean on the wall and (staffer Mike) Frazier comes over, and he goes, “Hey, man, uh, coach Reid don’t like leaning on the wall.”

Rod Wilson (assistant coach): I just kind of like tilted up on a pole. I literally just came out and kind of touched it, didn’t even realize I was doing it. Andy saw me from way on the other side.

Sherman: I don’t know how he would see things.

James: As soon as you put your helmet down, the water girls are walking right to you: “Hey, let me get your helmet.” You can’t even have it at your feet. It’s just that simple.

Wilson: He likes everything clean, consistent, everybody on the same page.

Sherman: He’s got one of the best senses of humor.

Daly: An extremely quick wit.

Colquitt: Super funny.

Sherman: He’s dressed up as Santa and come in the locker room.

Daly: Coach is all about that stuff.

Sherman: We’d get in the tunnel before games and I’d always be right next to him, and he’d look at me and go, “Hey, do you want to race out here? I’ll get you the first three steps.”

Zombo: He always used this expression, “I don’t care where we play them. I’ll play them in a parking lot.”

Sherman: It was always the CVS parking lot.

Zombo: We were about to play the Rams in Mexico, and it was right when we got notified that the game was (moved) because the field conditions were so bad. He came in to let us know.

Daly: When he’s talking to the team, he reacts off the crowd extremely well, almost like a stand-up comedian.

Zombo: He’s like, “Alright boys, I just want to let you know we’re not going to Mexico. But I don’t care where we play them. We’ll play them anywhere. I’ll play them in a Walmart parking lot. But … I guess we’re just not going to play them in Mexico.”

Sherman: My nickname was The Sausage. He called me that in meetings and no one knew who he was talking about; I didn’t even know. I’m like, “Who is he talking to?” And he’d be like, “I’m talking to you,” and point at me. So the next morning, he walked out and was like, “You want to know why I’m calling you The Sausage?” I’m like, “Yeah, I would love to.” He’s like, “You just remind me of a breakfast sausage, all cased up in the casing and just ready to explode.” I’m like, “Alright, thanks!”

Johnson: He always has a notecard.

Ron Rivera (assistant coach): Oh my god, Andy took unbelievable notes.

Colquitt: At any point, if anybody says anything that he wants to remember, it is written down.

Gil Haskell (assistant coach): Andy took more notes than anybody in the building.

Johnson: I was always like, “What is he writing down?” He’s too big for us to walk on up to him and ask him that, so we just let him do what he does.

Rivera: I’ve kept some of the notes he kept, just so I had them. They said, “Look to shorten this meeting time,” and then it says, “Add that time onto the afternoon meeting time.”

Deland McCullough (assistant coach): We’d come in on Mondays and do the scouting report, so all the offensive coaches and all the support staff. Each of us had a portion of the defense. I’d talk about linebackers. Coach Reid would sit there with a notebook and he’d just write. … He’d get up and say, “All right, see you guys in a few hours,” and walk away. All of us knew: Hey, go to your office and sit there. He ain’t going to call you on your cell phone. Your ass better be sitting in your damn office because you will get a call on your office phone.

Childress: He just had a button he punched.

McCullough: Next thing I’d know my phone rings. I’d go down there and he’d say, “So you really think we can run the option route against these linebackers? We really feel we can run a naked against these guys?” He already knew the answers.

Childress: He’s almost always able to see over the horizon. He was organized and methodical in the daily stuff, but he was always thinking ahead. “What’s the bye week schedule going to be? What are we doing this offseason?”

Sherman: We were so prepared for that first Super Bowl we went to. Everything was timed up. Everything was on cue, even so much so that I would do a pre-workout before every game, and (Reid) knew that.

Johnson: His mind is always going.

Sherman: He was like, “Listen, make sure you time that pre-workout up right. You’re going to get introduced and it’s going to be another 20 minutes before kickoff, so time that thing up right.”

McCullough: When I signed my contract, he took a picture of me signing my contract like I was a player. I was like, “What’s up with that, coach?” He was like, “I’m taking a picture of this! We wanted you!”

Colquitt: He was just so great at how he managed people.

Johnny Holland (assistant coach): When I was with Green Bay in 1998, Andy told me our special teams coach was moving to coach wide receivers, and he said, “You should interview for the special teams job.” I was thinking, “No way man.” … He set up a camera in the meeting room and he would interview me … every day for three or four days in a row for the special teams job, just teaching me how to interview. “All right, they are going to ask you this and you need to say this.”

Sherman: You just never wanted to disappoint him.

Zombo: Andy Reid is a guy you play for. You just don’t work for Andy Reid.

Johnson: Something about Andy Reid is just different, and that’s why he’s one of the greatest.

Sherman: Absolutely loved playing for him.

(Photo: Michael Owens / Getty Images)

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