Childress v. Reid: Battle of Friends

Vikings coach Brad Childress and his former boss in Philadelphia, Andy Reid, remain friends and their families are still close. But each will look to "one-up" the other Sunday in their first meeting as head-coaching competitors. Childress, Reid and their players all spoke on the subject of the friendly competition that will be played out publicly.

It's not unusual for NFL players to have more than one team on their professional resume. Often times, a player's exodus from an organization is typically motivated by money – either the player can find more money elsewhere or a team gets rid of the player because his cost outweighs his perceived usefulness to the organization.

But with coaches playing against his former mentors, it's a very different situation. Most coaches are loyal to their assistants and, as a result, a "coaching tree" develops. As success breeds success, other coaches are taken away. The Vikings have experienced that during the tenure of Dennis Green. As the team improved and was the talk of the NFL world in 1998, job openings in Tampa Bay and Baltimore gave way to promotions for Tony Dungy and Brian Billick as head coaches.

Shortly after the Philadelphia Eagles were eliminated from the 2005 playoffs, Brad Childress got a similar call from Vikings owner Zygi Wilf. Childress, who had served under Eagles head coach Andy Reid as his offensive coordinator, was viewed as one of the hot coaching prospects and, when the Vikings offered him the ultimate coaching promotion, he joined the elite brethren of NFL head coaches, packed up his life and moved to Minnesota.

On Sunday, the former offensive coordinator will meet his former boss for the first time as equals in the NFL, as the Eagles come to the Metrodome to play the Vikings. The relationship between Reid and Childress runs deep. In fact, there was a time in both of their coaching careers when Childress looked to hire Reid instead of the other way around years later.

"Brad actually recruited me as the offensive line coach when I was at San Francisco State to come up to Northern Arizona with him and coach the offensive line," Reid said. "Brad was a coordinator at that time."

Eventually, Reid moved along with Mike Holmgren to Green Bay and got the chance to be a head coach himself. One of the people on his short list to bring with him was Childress – a bond that remains strong even though they are technically competitors seeking the same goals. They still remain in communication about once a week and their families remain close. Although Reid said their communication is "a little touchy this week" in facing each other, with their close histories together, they have remained friends and confidantes.

"Our families grew up together," Reid said of their longstanding relationship. "We always ask about the kids and then (talk) a lot of football."

To most fans, Childress didn't become a household name until he and Terrell Owens had a falling out in which Owens told Childress publicly to speak to him only when spoken to. But Childress' impact on Eagles players, especially star quarterback Donovan McNabb, has been pronounced, filled with moments McNabb remembers fondly.

"Brad Childress helped me out in so many ways," McNabb said Wednesday. "He helped me to prepare myself to be the best quarterback that I want to be, if it's in the film room, if it's preparing myself daily to make sure that I am conditioned well, mentally ready to be prepared for every task that will be in front of me. We kind of matured together in the NFL because we came in at the same time. The first time being in the NFL together and we were able to work well together. We compete and communicate with each other still."

Facing the coaches and players that you built a bond with isn't always easy. Artis Hicks was traded to the Vikings during draft weekend 2006 and left many of his best friends to seek his NFL future in Minnesota. He said he knows that it will be an emotional time reuniting with so many friends that he toiled with while in Philly and said he can empathize with the emotions Childress is going through.

"You try to tell yourself that this one game isn't any more important or less important than any other game," Hicks said. "But it isn't that easy. (Childress) watched a lot of those guys progress as players – from Donovan on down. The coaches work hard to get the best out of each player and they invest a lot of time and energy in trying to help everyone improve. He's got a job to do Sunday, but there are a lot of guys who are better players because of him. For me, it will be great to see a lot of them because so many of them are my friends. For Coach, it will be a little different, because he helped make a lot of those guys better players."

For Childress, the reunion with his former coaching mates and players is one that he has tried to downplay, insisting it is part of the business and that friendships have to be put aside when work is on the line.

"You always want to beat somewhere you've been or somebody you've coached with and Andy won't be any different," Childress said. "He'll want to come in here and lay it on and he's a competitor and I am a competitor. We both know that about each other. I can go back and think about him competing about his former boss Mike Holmgren. It was always a little something extra special about competing against those guys, and the guys on the staff and the players as well."

For Reid, who got his big coaching break from Holmgren, it will be a case of role reversal Sunday. When the pupil faces the mentor, there's always a little extra incentive, but one that has to be tempered with the fact that professional sports isn't called "show friends." It's called "show business."

"I have been on the other end of that with Mike Holmgren and we talked just like Brad and I talk," Reid said. "It's just one of those things, once the game starts it really doesn't matter. You go about doing your job – you are focused in on that and taking care of business there."

But, Childress' players know that, with as much that is at stake for a pair of 2-4 teams, getting a win over his former team is always a little sweeter.

"There isn't any animosity," safety Darren Sharper of Childress going against the Eagles. "But the object of the game is to win. Every win is huge in the NFL and, if he can get one against the team he used to coach for, it will be just that much better."

While some players may have revenge on their minds when they meet their former team, don't expect to see any bad blood between Childress and Reid like there was when Eric Mangini and Bill Belichick had their much-publicized no-handshake postgame ritual. The mutual respect and admiration between Childress and those that used to be co-workers remain and, regardless of the conclusion of Sunday's game, that isn't likely to change.

"I just hope that things really work out well for him over there," McNabb said of Childress' coaching reign in Minnesota. "But this week I hope it doesn't."


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