KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Virtually every Chiefs fan by now has seen the video posted on the team’s official website following Sunday’s 17-16 win against the Houston Texans.
Chairman and CEO Clark Hunt greets the players with a warm handshake as they enter the locker room; smiles everywhere; players hugging each other, coordinators and trainers; and chest bumps and bicep high-fives.
The festive atmosphere culminates with Chiefs players forming two lines, leaving space in the middle, with chants of, “Andy!” “Andy!” “Andy!” filling the air.
A slight pause for effect and like a conquering hero he appears.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid comes from around the corner to rush through the middle of the line, a large smile on his face, a twinkle in his eyes and a skip in his step as he raises his right index finger to pump the No. 1 sign.
The locker room erupts in resounding cheers and applause to Reid’s arrival.
It’s a perfect scene to match the team’s 7-0 record.
[Related video: Locker room celebration after Week 7 victory]
“I always tell the players you have to let your personality show a little bit,” Reid said with a grin during Monday’s media session. “I wasn’t dancing, not really, just having fun. Listen, big win, and the guys, you just have to keep it loose for a minute.”
Indeed, the jovial mood at One Arrowhead Drive pales in comparison to recent seasons. Gone are the dark days of a past regime and in its place stands the thrill of winning.
And it’s largely due to the arrival of general manager John Dorsey and Reid, whose infectious enthusiasm has rubbed off on the 2013 Chiefs team.
The Chiefs are having fun and becoming a mirror image of their head coach, a situation very familiar to former Philadelphia Eagles tight end Chad Lewis.
Now an associate athletic director at Brigham Young University, Lewis can’t help but admire from afar what his former head coach has done in Kansas City.
The former three-time Pro Bowl and second-team All-Pro tight end said in a phone interview that Reid is definitely rejuvenated in his first season with the Chiefs.
“He looks good,” Lewis said. “He looks like he’s enjoying the fresh start. He looks like he really enjoys the people he’s with. You can put him with a bunch of sociopaths; he’s going to have a good time. He knows what he wants to get done.”
Fan excitement has returned to Kansas City and the proof is in the numbers.
The Chiefs averaged 65,845 paid attendance in the final four home games of the 2012 season at Arrowhead Stadium.
Through four home games in 2013, the Chiefs are averaging 75,213 in paid attendance.
The Chiefs won four home games combined in the last two seasons, a total already matched in Reid’s first season where he’s the only head coach in team history to start 7-0 in his first year with the franchise.
Reid’s first-year success may surprise others, but it doesn’t astonish some of Reid’s former players.
“I’m not surprised one single bit,” Lewis said. “The Chiefs are a very talented football team with six guys who were on the Pro Bowl squad last year. A two-win season doesn’t mean anything to me other than they didn’t know how to win last year.”
Former Eagles wide receiver Todd Pinkston, now a high school wide receivers coach in Petal, Miss., agreed.
“I always told my friends once he got the job to watch how well the team becomes because he’s that type of coach that’s always been successful in everything he does,” Pinkston said in a phone interview. “He always had the winning mentality from the times I was in Philadelphia.”
Meanwhile, former Eagles quarterback Koy Detmer echoed Lewis’ thoughts on the quality of players Reid inherited.
“There already was a talented group of players there and it’s not surprising to me,” Detmer said in a phone interview. “I think being undefeated in the NFL at any point in the season is a storm, so that’s a real accomplishment to what they’ve done so far.”
Currently a high school quarterbacks coach in Somerset, Texas, Detmer also said that Reid’s coaching style and personality were attributes that made Reid the right person for the job.
“I know what kind of coach he is and how he’s able to bring a group of guys together,” Detmer said. “Him having success – wherever he is – isn’t shocking to me because he’s that type of coach and I know what he’s capable of coaching-wise.”
Lewis, who said he talks to Reid at least once a week, adds the quarterback play and the Chiefs defense have made a large difference under Reid.
“You bring in Andy Reid, his confidence in the players, his ability as a person and as a coach, you plug in Alex Smith, who’s been dynamite for the last several years, he’s playing at a high level, he’s making plays, he’s managing the football game and I know he and Andy are on the same page,” Lewis said. “You put those things together and you let that defense light it up, and this is the result. They’re having fun and winning games.”
Detmer said from the games he’s watched, the one thing that continues to jump out to him is the Chiefs’ ability to receive contributions from all phases of the team – offense, defense and special teams.
He said a team’s ability to play off each other has been a recipe of success for the Chiefs.
“With any team wherever you are, playing off each other and then doing it in all areas, there’s going to be one area along the line that’s going to struggle, but the other areas pick it up,” Detmer said. “They’re finding ways to make it happen and playing well.”
Kansas City’s 7-0 start marks the fourth time in team history (1996, 2004 and 2010) the Chiefs are the NFL’s remaining undefeated team.
“It feels good, the energy, the vibe – we’re rolling pretty high right now, but we can’t forget where we came from,” Chiefs wide receiver Dwayne Bowe said of being 7-0 in the locker room following Sunday’s game. “We just have to keep our nose down and keep running. I love what this team is doing, the coaches, the staff and the players. We’re just feeding off that energy.”
Meanwhile, the 7-0 start is the second of Reid’s career. The last time came in in 2004 with an Eagles squad that went to the Super Bowl with Detmer, Lewis and Pinkston as teammates.
While taking two teams to 7-0 is a remarkable feat, Reid doesn’t dwell on the comparisons.
“I haven’t even thought about that,” Reid said during Monday’s media session. “I told you before, you just get into this thing and you hold things that you can control and that’s practicing right and going through the different steps of Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. If you just hold true to that, then you don’t ever worry about anything.”
Still, the experience of going through a fast start to the season is likely serving Reid well when it comes to keeping the players firmly on the ground with two feet.
And Reid’s stance surrounding concentration on weekly tasks is recognized by Detmer.
The former Eagles quarterback drew on past experience and said Reid’s meticulous preparation will help the Chiefs remain focused to prevent getting caught up in the increasing hype.
“He lays out the offseason in its entirety, he lays out a season schedule-wise, the bye week, so you know as a player each day what’s expected of you in each week,” Detmer said. “Right now, he’s probably telling them eliminate the distractions and keep your focus. Don’t worry about people telling you how good you are.”
Pinkston agreed with Detmer, adding Reid’s message to the locker room will carry modesty.
“He’s telling them to stay humble regardless of record, don’t do anything different that you haven’t been doing and just come to work every day,” Pinkston said. “That’s the mindset he instilled in us when we had that run and everything carried over throughout the course of the season.”
Lewis said Reid has “laser focus” and the message Reid is delivering to the players will surround daily preparation in team meetings, in the weight room and a goal of constant improvement.
With Reid at the helm, Lewis said the Chiefs won’t have a lot of time to bask in the glow of the first seven games.
“You don’t sit and dwell on the victories and you don’t dwell on the mistakes,” Lewis said. “You’ve got to be about the present in order to get better. He’s always been like that as a person and to his players. He loves to laugh about old times, but he’s locked on the task at hand, very focused.”
As to how far this Chiefs team can go, Pinkston believes it’s as far as the teams wants.
“If they continue to play the way they’re playing and stay humble, the sky is the limit,” Pinkston said. “Never get the big head; Andy Reid will never allow that.”
The postgame locker room video ends with the players, coaches and staff huddled in the center of the locker room: “Family on three. 1-2-3. Family!”
The bond of this Chiefs team shouldn’t surprise, as former Eagles running back Correll Buckhalter said in January 2013 the camaraderie is what stands out of a team under Reid.
“An Andy Reid-coached team is a team that is very cohesive,” Buckhalter said when the Chiefs hired Reid. “A team that is a family, a team that everyone plays for one another, a team that you know the guy beside you is going to give his very best on the field when playing. Period.”
When told of Buckhalter’s words, Pinkston couldn’t help but emphatically agree.
“That quote is true from Correll Buckhalter because when I first came in, he (Reid) was coming off a losing season,” Pinkston said. “In 2000, I was drafted in there, in 1999 they had a bad year, he got everybody together as players to play as one as a team. He knows you’re not only playing as an individual, you’re playing for each other.”
Reid has changed the culture in Kansas City and numerous Chiefs players have been on record in recent weeks attributing the team’s success to the coaching staff.
But probably no quote from a Chiefs player captures the team’s current run better than what outside linebacker Tamba Hali said in the locker room two weeks ago following the win against the Oakland Raiders.
“It’s the coaches, I promise,” Hali said. “We had the same team here last year minus a couple guys and we’re having this much success, so credit to the coaches.”
The Chiefs have another shot to be relevant in the NFL after a six-year stretch where the team had one winning season and compiled a 23-41 record the last four seasons.
And they’re doing it with a head coach who has a second chance after the Eagles fired him at the end of the 2012 season to end a 14-year run in Philadelphia.
While the current Chiefs players are happy to have him, his former players couldn’t be more overjoyed to see Reid thrive.
Detmer said he loves Reid and enjoyed the time they spent together in Philadelphia. He said watching the Chiefs’ success has been fun, but it’s especially “awesome” it’s coming with Reid.
“One of the things he used to always talk about with us is just remember good things always happen to good people,” Detmer said. “That’s something that’s happening with him in Kansas City. He’s a good person and it’s good to see good things happen to good people.”
Asked how he felt about Reid’s fast start in Kansas City, Lewis said he was thrilled and is glad Reid has another opportunity to be a head coach.
“Look at him, he’s the coach of second chances,” Lewis said. “He brought in Michael Vick when nobody else thought he could play – resurrected his life and his career – and now Karma says it’s your turn. He’s enjoying this opportunity to coach this team. He’s having his own second chance.”