Oct. 13—For a flickering moment in the opening monologue of his news conference on Wednesday, it seemed that Chiefs coach Andy Reid might feel called to speak directly to the bubbling toxic news in the NFL: the appalling emails that led to the obviously forced resignation of Raiders coach Jon Gruden, Reid's longtime friend, and the indeterminate but clearly sprawling reverberations and implications around the league.
"I'm sure I'm going to be asked by somebody about Jon Gruden's situation," said Reid, who coached with Gruden in Green Bay early in their NFL careers.
But any hint of Reid addressing the racist, misogynistic and homophobic words that former Raiders CEO Amy Trask compellingly distinguished to the San Francisco Chronicle as being "in (Gruden's) heart," instead of merely his emails, abruptly evaporated.
Alas, Reid had only broached the topic as a pre-emptive gesture.
"I'm not going to get into that," he said. "I think all around it's a tough deal. So I'm going to just stay away from that, and I just appreciate the courtesy likewise
"There's nothing to be gained ... with my remarks."
Actually, there was plenty to be gained by one of the most admired men in the game condemning what Gruden has said.
All the more so at a new crossroads for the NFL as it's forced to more honestly and transparently confront prevailing attitudes beneath the surface amid the league's already troubling and ongoing investigation of the Washington Football Team.
This was, in fact, a fertile opportunity for Reid to speak out against Gruden's jarring words. It was a meaningful chance to make a statement about deeper concerns implied by the casually vile terms flung around by one of the most connected and visible men in the NFL, as seen in his exchanges with only one man, former Washington general manager Bruce Allen, when Gruden was working as an analyst for ESPN between coaching jobs.
Much as Reid is inclined to first do no harm, he could have done (and could yet do) real good by offering support and encouragement to those Gruden so contemptuously maligned. He could have lent some reassurance to those who wonder how pervasive Gruden's mindset is around the NFL.
We don't know why Reid, a man of such influence and integrity, chose to fend off the topic. Even if he didn't want to wander down the rabbit hole of taking questions, which surely would have included whether he'd ever observed Gruden saying such things, Reid had the platform to say plenty without being asked.
And, look, we all know he's a cautious man with the media, one who chooses his words carefully and with averting controversy always in mind. Meanwhile, maybe he hasn't had much time to read up on the news of Gruden and the scope of the fallout while he's trying to reset a struggling 2-3 team. Perhaps he preferred to defer until he's better-versed, though it's certainly likely he knew enough.
But knowing Reid is to know his hard-wired loyalty, and it might be reasonably surmised that this was a factor in how he approached the topic on Wednesday.
And it's not hard to appreciate the turmoil one might feel when forced to process the awful behavior of a long-term friend.
Despite the obvious shift in the dynamics of their relationship since Gruden took over the AFC West-rival Raiders in 2018, and the apparent tiff after the Raiders rode out a victory lap around Arrowhead Stadium last season, the two by all appearances remain close.
When Reid left Arrowhead in an ambulance after the Chiefs' loss to the Chargers on Sept. 26 and was hospitalized overnight, at a news conference the next day Gruden said, "He is a very close friend. We exchanged some text messages last night, and (I'm) just glad to hear he's OK. I will be the first to admit that this is not an easy deal emotionally."
Little doubt this isn't an easy deal emotionally for Reid, who worked with Gruden (among three other future NFL head coaches) when he left Mizzou to join Mike Holmgren's Green Bay staff after the 1991 season.
They developed a certain camaraderie through their competitiveness and creativity, easily seen in such glimpses as the scoreboard Reid, Gruden and Steve Mariucci kept in the office they shared to tally the times Holmgren used a play one of them designed successfully.
"I kind of take pride in being one of the all-time grinders ..." Gruden, said in a 2018 media teleconference before a game with the Chiefs. "Reid beat me to the office every day, and he stayed later. He loves football more than me. He's one of the few guys I know in my life that actually like football more than me."
Add it all up, and you might see why Reid could be gridlocked within a clash of his own deeply held values. He is a caring and compassionate man, and any sense of calling out Gruden's words might strike him as outright betrayal.
But the flip-side is that the NFL can't abide by what has now been revealed about Gruden ... and how for at least a decade it's been either directly embraced or sloughed off or otherwise tacitly enabled.
And so there surely was, and remains, something meaningful to be gained by Reid deploring the behavior publicly.
Here's hoping he still will.
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