Super Bowl 57’s most conflicted observers really feel an eternal attachment to the fatherly coach who as soon as nurtured them. They really feel indebted to Andy Reid. They nonetheless textual content him commonly. They inform him “I like you,” and he reciprocates. They adore him as a result of they performed for him, and so, in retirement, they hopped aboard a Kansas City Chiefs bandwagon. Three years in the past, as Reid chased an elusive ring, they said they were “absolutely,” “definitely,” “of course,” “without a doubt” supporting him.
“I’m at all times gon’ root for him, no matter what workforce they taking part in,” receiver Todd Pinkston mentioned of Reid and the Chiefs.
“Wherever he goes,” cornerback Sheldon Brown agreed, “I’ma root for him.”
And therein lies the inner battle that may prickle dozens of them on Sunday. They didn’t simply play for Reid; they performed for him in Philadelphia, for the Eagles, his 2023 Super Bowl opponent.
So they’re “torn,” some say, between a coach who feels “like household” and a metropolis that raised their households; between a person who molded them into males and a franchise for which they’re “ceaselessly grateful.”
“However,” Brown says now, “as I’ve advised some folks: I believe I’ma go together with the workforce that paid my payments.”
The truth is, says security Quintin Mikell, “it’s not even leaning. I am completely supporting the Eagles. A hundred percent.”
“It is easy for me. It isn’t even a query,” says cornerback Bobby Taylor. “I imply, you would lower my vein open, and if it is not crimson, it gotta be inexperienced. I am for the Eagles, all day daily.”
He and others mentioned in interviews final week that they’d be shocked if any Eagle alums had been wholeheartedly supporting Reid on Sunday. “I imply, all of us love Andy,” Taylor clarified. However in conversations with former teammates, he hasn’t come throughout a single defector.
As a result of all through their time in Philly, as they constructed their bonds with Reid, they constructed equally robust bonds with a much wider group.
The Philly connection
They first felt the bond on cab rides in from Philadelphia Worldwide Airport, and even earlier than they’d signed with the Eagles, at downtown eating places whereas visiting as free brokers. They discovered concerning the ardour that bleeds throughout the Delaware Valley. Some gamers discovered it intimidating or extreme, however over time, via triumph and heartbreak, they got here to know. Linebacker Ike Reese nonetheless remembers crying on certainly one of his darkest Philly nights, after a loss within the 2002 NFC championship sport. Then he flipped on his tv and noticed followers crying too.
“I actually felt there was a connection there,” Reese, now a sports activities radio host at 94WIP, once told Yahoo Sports. “As a result of they felt what I felt.”
That symbiosis, tight finish Chad Lewis says, is “deep. That is not floor. That is like soul. It goes to your core.”
Some gamers distance themselves from the encompassing furor. “If you’re a participant,” Mikell says, “you are so centered and so apprehensive concerning the subsequent play, the subsequent sport, subsequent this, subsequent that.” And then you definately go away. Mikell, for instance, signed with the Rams after eight years in Philly. He went to battle for one more employer, for one more city, for one more horde of fanatics.
However Philly by no means left him. He stored his home in South Jersey. And when he retired, his connection to the town and the workforce truly intensified. “Like, I really feel extra related with the fan base now, being on the opposite aspect of the fence,” he says.
For a lot of Reid-era Eagles, private connections to the franchise have dwindled. There are names they know — Jeffrey Lurie, Howie Roseman, Dom DiSandro, Frank Gumienny, Dave Spadaro — and dealing relationships they bear in mind fondly. However there aren’t any extra holdovers on the sideline, which, Taylor admits, is “bizarre.” He returned to Lincoln Monetary Discipline for a sport in 2021, roamed the sideline and “nonetheless felt welcomed,” he says. “Nevertheless it was kinda unusual not having a selected person who was inside the constructing that I recognized with, that I talked to.”
He does, although, nonetheless discuss to Common Joe Philadelphians, to group members who double as Eagle obsessives. He is aware of he can dip into any space restaurant or bar and “really feel the vitality.” Earlier than that sport final season, he made an look on the stadium-adjacent Stay! on line casino, and though he was supplied a experience over to the Linc, he selected to stroll. And as he soaked within the early October gameday scene, green-clad strangers acknowledged him and greeted him.
These strangers, Brown notes, are “an enormous a part of paying payments. It would not exist with out them. And that is why I believe it might be kinda disrespectful to miss that and never root for that fan base.”
Others now really feel like full-fledged members of it. When the Eagles won their first Super Bowl in 2018, Mikell grabbed an costly bottle of champagne and, maybe to his spouse’s chagrin, sprayed it throughout their ceiling. This time round, he’s heading to Arizona for the sport, however, he says, “I want I could possibly be on the market within the streets celebrating, making an attempt to climb a greased pole, going loopy.”
The only most conflicted observer, and maybe the one former Eagle really noncommittal on his rooting pursuits, is sitting in a Utah workplace with two helmets exactly planted on the mantle behind him.
Chad Lewis turned them towards one another, facemask-to-facemask, this previous summer time. One is his, from his taking part in days with the Eagles. The opposite is crimson with an unmistakable white arrowhead, and with a message scrawled in sharpie on the highest.
“Chad,” it reads. “Thanks for every little thing — u are the most effective — love you — Andy Reid.”
Reid gifted it to Lewis years in the past, as an emblem of their lasting friendship. However that’s not the one motive Lewis tried to talk an Eagles-Chiefs Tremendous Bowl into existence. His son-in-law, Matt Bushman, is a Chiefs practice squad tight end.
Lewis will look down from his perch at State Farm Stadium on Sunday and see, on one sideline, “my workforce,” the one he nonetheless visits, the one he does charity occasions with, the one he gave his “coronary heart and soul” to. “I gave my Lisfranc. I gave ’em my well being. I gave ’em every little thing I had,” he says.
And on the opposite, he’ll see household. Bushman doubtless gained’t be lively, however Reid counts. The coach visited his former participant at BYU, their alma mater, throughout Kansas Metropolis’s bye week. They discuss “nearly weekly,” Lewis says. “He is been simply an unimaginable man in my life.”
This matchup, due to this fact, is Lewis’ “dream state of affairs.” And should you press him on who he needs to win, after a 15-minute dialog filled with nuance about his ties to either side, he’ll get agitated. Nobody-word reply is enough.
Different former Eagles, to be clear, additionally really feel love for either side. Three years in the past, some celebrated Kansas Metropolis’s victory as if it had been Philly’s. “As a result of my affection for the Philadelphia Eagles and that metropolis doesn’t come with out the assistance of Andy and every little thing that he gave me and my household,” defensive deal with Corey Simon defined.
Previous to that Tremendous Bowl, Reese and his radio colleagues even held an Andy Reid Appreciation Day. And Philadelphia, liberated from its personal drought, performed alongside.
“However not this week,” Reese says with fun. “Not this week.”
Reese would usually textual content Reid after a win as huge because the AFC championship, or forward of a sport as colossal as this Tremendous Bowl. Brown and others nonetheless did final week. Their relationships transcend outcomes and rings. “I take a look at him as a father determine,” Brown says.
However Reese, simply this as soon as, held off. Communication will resume within the offseason. “I am not gon’ hassle Coach Reid,” he says. “As a result of he is aware of I am rooting for the Eagles.”