Andy Reid plays it cool for reunion

Andy Reid won't say it. It's not his style. He is a process guy. Next day, next practice, next game.

But the Kansas City Chiefs' next game means something a little bit more, even if Reid won't admit it. It is Reid's homecoming. On Thursday night in Philadelphia, he will be the Eagles' opponent, instead of their leader, which he had been the previous 14 seasons. He will prepare in the sparse confines of the visitors' locker room at Lincoln Financial Field instead of inside the Eagles' plush, spacious quarters.

Reid will be cheered. He will be booed. He will be appreciated by some and vilified by others. That's just how it is. Reid knows it. It was 14 mostly good years -- 130 regular-season wins, six NFC East titles, nine playoff appearances, five NFC Championship Games, one glorious Super Bowl run -- but ultimately Reid did not bring home the Lombardi Trophy. In Philadelphia, a city with a rich sports history and a passionate fan base, winning a Super Bowl is all that matters.

"I would expect them to give me a nice Philadelphia welcome," Reid told me before the regular season started. "So that's OK."

A nice Philadelphia welcome for Donovan McNabb when he returned as Washington's quarterback meant polite cheers as a greeting, then hardy boos when he took the field. Asked if he expected to get booed by Eagles fans, Reid said: "Listen, I have no idea, but you never know."

What those close to Reid know is that the 55-year-old coach will burn to beat Philadelphia, even if he won't show it. Reid said he has no hard feelings about how his run in Philly ended, but it was ugly at the end. After the 2011 season, when the so-called Dream Team finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs, owner Jeffrey Lurie made the cryptic pronouncement that 8-8 wouldn't be good enough in 2012. What Lurie never specified was what would be good enough.

That uncertainty hung over every move Reid and the Eagles made. Reid started reaching. After Reid's eldest son, Garrett, died of a drug overdose at training camp, the Eagles' players pledged to win for Reid, but it didn't work out that way. The Eagles started 3-1, and then the season unraveled. Injuries and losses piled up. At some point during the team's eight-game losing streak, it became apparent that Reid would be fired. On Dec. 31, the day after the regular-season finale, he was.

"What happened to us at the end was it wasn't about the process anymore," said Rick Burkholder, who spent all 14 seasons with Reid in Philadelphia as the Eagles' trainer and joined Reid in Kansas City. "It wasn't about Wednesday or Thursday or Friday. It was about the Dream Team. It was about, 'You have to win 12 or you're a failure.' 'If he doesn't win the Super Bowl, he should be fired.'

"I don't know how he lasted as long as he did there. The pressure's so great in that city. It just wears you down. Ten [wins] is not good enough. If he wins 10 games for 10 years in this city they'll put a statue of him outside of Arrowhead. He won 10 games for 10 years in Philly basically and still in the end it wasn't enough."

If Reid harbors any ill will against his former employer, he isn't willing to admit it publically. He and Lurie remain close. At Lurie's request, Reid said he talked to "a few" of the candidates Lurie interviewed in January to be his successor, including Chip Kelly.

"The main thing I wanted out of it was those players and that organization, the city included, to have a good head coach," Reid said. "I don't want anybody to suffer because the head coach got fired.

"I think Chip Kelly is a good head coach. I think it was a great pick. It gives the players an opportunity to win games. It gives the city an opportunity to win games. It gives Jeffrey and the organization a chance to win games. That's what's more important."

Just not this week.

Burkholder and Chiefs assistant head coach David Culley, who also spent all 14 seasons in Philly with Reid, said that Reid would not deviate from his normal routine this week. He will approach this game like any other. He will tell the players to do the same. Nothing special. Nothing unique.

But the players will understand what's at stake. The coaches certainly know. Nine of Reid's assistants worked with him in Philly. Al Harris, a defensive assistant, played for Reid in Philly. Two of the Eagles' former strength and conditioning coaches now work for Kansas City.

On game day, Reid will have to keep his assistants calm. As for himself, Reid said he asked McNabb, who will have his jersey number retired at halftime, to walk onto the field with him, as well as the other former Eagles who will be in attendance.

"Donovan and all those guys, they were giving me the business about it," Reid said. "I told them they all have to walk out of the tunnel with me and see where the loyalty stands."

Then, Reid and the Chiefs, who at 2-0 have already matched the team's win total from last season, will try to crush an Eagles team that includes many key players Reid knows everything about, including the starting quarterback.

"I can't answer for him, but I know for me, having been there for 14 years, I feel special going back there," Culley said. "I want to kick their butt."

Said Burkholder: "Going back to Philly is going to be fun for all of us. Certainly it's on the schedule. You can't avoid it. I'll be pumped. He'll be pumped too, but he'll take that approach where it's Week 3. We have to win. We're coming off two weeks of early season. We're trying to develop a culture. Nobody off the path. Guys still have to wear dress shoes and dress shirts on the plane. That's him. He's a process guy."

And what if the process guy beats his old team?

"If we win, he'll be a little pumped," Burkholder said. "He will be. He won't show it. He'll show it to the guys that he's close to. He'll say, 'That's sweet.' Then he'll be like, 'Back to the drawing board. Let's go.'"