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What Any Parent Would Do

Joe Drape

Britt Reid, a son of Kansas City Coach Andy Reid, was sentenced to prison for severely injuring a 5-year-old girl in a drunken driving crash. Her family has railed against the plea deal reached in a football-mad city.

“My daughter is going to have to live with what he has done for the rest of her life,” Felicia Miller said. Miller requested that Ariel’s face not be shown in photographs.Credit…Chase Castor for The New York Times

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The distance from the Kansas City Chiefs’ training complex to Interstate 435 is short. It would have taken Britt Reid only moments on Feb. 4, 2021, to drive from the facility, where he had been drinking, to the highway’s on-ramp, where his pickup truck reached 83.9 miles per hour before it rammed into two stopped cars and seriously injured a 5-year-old girl.

When Reid was sentenced on Tuesday to three years in prison for one felony count of driving while intoxicated with serious bodily injury, his father and former boss, Kansas City Coach Andy Reid, was not at the courthouse. Britt Reid, who had asked to be placed on probation, was immediately taken into custody.

The sentence was another episode in the troubled journey of Britt Reid, 37, a onetime N.F.L. assistant coach who has battled drug addiction, as had his older brother, Garrett, who died at age 29 in 2012.

For the Reid family, football has been more than a vocation. Andy Reid’s children had been coming to his training camps since they were very young, and his three sons and a son-in-law have worked for him at various times.

Dick Vermeil, the Hall of Fame coach and Reid family friend, said Andy Reid did what any father would do for his children, troubled or not: love them and give them an opportunity to succeed.

Britt Reid’s crash, the handling of the case and a previously unreported assault have called into question whether Andy Reid’s football ties and good will have protected his son at the expense of others, especially 5-year-old Ariel Young and her family.

Britt Reid became addicted to painkillers at 14, was arrested twice in his early 20s and spent five months in jail. A couple of months before his crash in 2021, according to a police report, he got into a road rage incident with an off-duty law enforcement officer, punched the officer’s driver side window but wasn’t prosecuted — an episode that hasn’t been previously reported.

Britt Reid, the married father of three, lost his coaching job and has now lost his freedom. But to Felicia Miller, the mother of Ariel Young, the girl who was severely injured in the crash, his three-year sentence — based on a deal with prosecutors that capped his prison time at four years instead of the maximum seven — looked like more good fortune for someone who has had a lot of it.

“He has a prior D.U.I. He’s been to prison. And he’s asking for probation? On what planet does this conduct deserve probation?” Miller asked in an impact statement read by prosecutors.

Miller with her daughter, Ariel, wearing an “Ariel Strong” T-shirt, at the courthouse on Tuesday.Credit…Chase Castor for The New York Times

A Football Family

Andy reid and his wife, tammy, moved their three sons and two daughters from town to town as he rose from a graduate assistant at his alma mater, brigham young university, to offensive line coach at four colleges. He made the jump to the n.f.l. in 1992 as an assistant coach with the green bay packers and in 1999 became the head coach of the philadelphia eagles.

Joe Banner, who was the president of the Eagles from 1995 to 2012, said Reid’s closeness with his family was obvious as he interviewed for the job. Reid told Banner he usually left home for his Green Bay office at 4 a.m., worked a couple of hours, then returned home to help get the children off to school.

“This wasn’t an anecdote told just to get hired.” Banner said. “He did that for the 14 years that I worked with him. He was as loving and caring a father that I have ever seen.”

In some ways, the Reid children appeared to have idyllic upbringings in a suburb of Philadelphia. Britt and Garrett became Eagle Scouts and took piano lessons through age 18.

But by 2007, when they were in their early 20s and living with their parents, they were deeply involved in drugs. On a single day, Jan. 30, both were arrested on felony charges — Britt for pointing a handgun at a motorist, Garrett after he ran a red light and crashed his S.U.V. into a car, injuring a woman. He was high on heroin at the time.

Andy Reid accompanied his sons to Florida, where they checked into a drug rehabilitation program. Britt was arrested again, for drunken driving and drug possession, while awaiting the outcome of the road rage case.

Andy Reid with his sons Garrett, left, and Britt, center, in 2001 after an Eagles game.Credit…Chris Gardner/Associated Press

At Garrett and Britt Reid’s sentencing in November 2007, a judge in Montgomery County, Pa., Steven T. O’Neill, called the Reids a “family in crisis” and said their home was like a “drug emporium.”

“You’ve got to take accountability of what goes on in the house,” O’Neill said to Andy and Tammy Reid as he sentenced Garrett, 24, and Britt, 22, to jail for up to 23 months each.

Banner said Andy Reid remained private about the problems he was having at home throughout his tenure in Philadelphia.

“Andy said that his hope was his boys would get help and overcome their addictions and, as hard and painful as it was having it all public, maybe it would help other families battling with addiction,” Banner said. “So far, it hasn’t turned out that way.”

In 2012, Garrett Reid was found dead after an accidental heroin overdose at the Eagles’ training camp at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa. He had been working with the strength and conditioning staff.

Andy Reid was fired hours after that season ended. Within days, he signed on as Kansas City’s head coach, taking over all football decisions for a team that was 2-14 in 2012. He led the team to four consecutive A.F.C. championship games, beginning with the 2018 season, and won the Super Bowl in the 2019 season — the franchise’s first in 50 years.

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Reid has become a beloved figure in Kansas City, and not just for his success. Players have professed their love for his coaching style. In a town where pregame tailgate parties are an almost sacred rite, Reid, with his offensive lineman’s frame, red walrus mustache and prodigious appetite, embodies Kansas City’s get-it-done-have-some-fun ethic.

Big Red, as Reid is known, has a way with metaphors, usually of the culinary variety. Coaching quarterback Patrick Mahomes is “better than a jelly doughnut,” he once told reporters, and his 11 grandchildren keep him at once old and young, “sort of like sweet-and-sour sauce.”

Reid’s sons did not endure the slog to the N.F.L. that he did. Britt Reid benefited from his family ties when his father hired him to the Kansas City staff after he coached a season at a high school, interned under his father with the Eagles and served as a student assistant at Temple.

Successful N.F.L. coaches have long hired their sons, and many progeny still roam the sideline. San Francisco Coach 49ers Coach Kyle Shanahan, for example, was hired by his father, Mike, as Denver’s offensive coordinator in 2010. Jon Embree and his son Taylor were assistants under Shanahan in San Francisco in 2020; another son, Connor Embree, is an assistant under Reid in Kansas City.

But Reid has also prodded N.F.L. team owners to hire diverse candidates for head coaching jobs. In early 2020, during his team’s run to the Super Bowl, he openly lobbied for Kansas City’s offensive coordinator, Eric Bieniemy, to be hired as an N.F.L. head coach.

Britt and Andy Reid in 2007, when they were coaching the Eagles.Credit… Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

In those media scrums before the championship game, Britt Reid reflected on his second chance and the good fortune that came his way because of his father. He wore a black bracelet with Garrett’s initials and said he wished his older brother could be there to experience their father’s first Super Bowl championship.

“I just needed to grow up,” he said. “Some people make dumber decisions than others when young, and you’ve just got to learn from them. I believe there are positives to everything in life, but, no matter how bad it is, you can take something from it. I am sure I learned that from my father, and so that’s kind of what carries me through.”

Another Road Rage Incident

But nine months after that Super Bowl win, Britt Reid had an altercation that required police intervention. On Nov. 11, 2020, he got out of his truck and berated an off-duty law enforcement officer before punching his window, according to a police report.

Reid was identified by his license plate, and when a sheriff’s deputy investigated at Reid’s address, he found his truck parked several houses away, according to the police report. A woman who came to the door initially said Reid was out, but after the officer told her he saw Reid’s truck on the street, Reid came to the door.

“Reid also initially lied about being involved in the incident, and then gave very vague answers about his intentions before being involved in the incident after finally admitting his involvement in the incident,” the officer wrote in the report, concluding that Reid had assaulted the motorist.

No charges were filed, and Steve Howe, the Johnson County (Kan.) district attorney, declined to say why. The off-duty officer and his lawyer declined to comment.

Three months later, and just three days before Kansas City played in its second straight Super Bowl, Britt Reid drove away from the team’s practice facility after having combined Adderall and “two or three drinks,” according to his statement to the police. But neither the team nor the N.F.L. has responded to questions about Reid’s drinking or whether other team employees also did so.

He steered his truck onto an on-ramp to Interstate 435, where a car had stalled alongside the roadway. The driver’s cousin, Felicia Miller, had arrived to help, and parked her car in front of the stalled car. Driving 83.9 m.p.h., Britt Reid slammed into the disabled car and then hit Miller’s car, crushing the back seat where Miller’s 5-year-old daughter, Ariel, sat.

Ariel was pinned beneath the driver’s seat and suffered severe traumatic brain injury, brain contusions and subdural hematomas. She was in a coma for 11 days and remained in the hospital for two months.

Britt Reid’s blood alcohol concentration two hours after the crash was 0.113, according to the police statement. The legal limit to operate a motor vehicle in Missouri is 0.08.

Reid had a groin injury severe enough to require surgery. The team went to Tampa for the Super Bowl without him, and played dismally, losing to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 31-9. Andy Reid has spoken at length about the accident only once, in the news conference after that game.

“My heart goes out to all of those that were involved in the accident, in particular the family with the little girl that was fighting for her life,” he said without discussing details. “Just from a human standpoint, my heart bleeds for everybody involved in that.”

Britt Reid’s contract expired in the days after the Super Bowl. Kansas City did not renew it.

A Maximum of Four Years

In November 2021, the team announced it had reached a settlement with Miller and her family to ensure that Ariel had “world-class medical care and long-term financial stability.” Per its terms, no one involved in the settlement can disclose its details.

Other details of the case invite scrutiny of its outcome. Britt Reid’s criminal case was first heard by a mediator, a common approach to settling civil suits such as divorces but one that is rarely used in criminal cases, according to a spokesman for the Jackson County court system. The Jackson County prosecutor’s office declined to discuss why a mediator was used in Reid’s case.

“The prosecutor should have gone to trial or had him plead to the maximum seven years,” said Tom Porto, lawyer for Ariel Young.Credit…Chase Castor for The New York Times

Tom Porto, the lawyer for Ariel Young and her family, said the use of a mediator signaled that prosecutors sought from the beginning to avoid a severe punishment for Britt Reid. He pleaded guilty to one felony count of driving while intoxicated on Sept. 12, and prosecutors recommended he serve four years in prison.

Reid’s lawyer, J.R. Hobbs, declined requests for comment. He had sought probation for his client, according to a sentencing memo filed with the court.

“Given the damage Reid did to the family and his prior criminal record, this defendant did not deserve a deal,” Porto said. “The prosecutor should have gone to trial or had him plead to the maximum seven years.”

Asked why Reid’s potential sentence was capped at four years, a spokesman for the Jackson County prosecutor’s office referred a reporter to the sentencing memo prepared by the office.

“When the facts and circumstances of the crash are considered, along with the goals of sentencing, the just outcome in this case is apparent, a four-year sentence,” it said.

John Picerno, a defense lawyer in Kansas City who was not involved in the case, said the facts appeared to favor the prosecution: Reid’s blood
alcohol concentration two hours after the crash was well above the legal limit, and he admitted to the police that he had been drinking and had taken Adderall. “I don’t see why they would get the sentence lid at four years,” Picerno said. “The prosecutor had all the cards and could prove his case. Maybe it
was because he was Andy Reid’s son, maybe there was a little bit of politics behind the scenes.”

A few days before Britt Reid entered his guilty plea, his lawyer, Hobbs, released a written apology from Britt Reid to Ariel Young and her family. Britt Reid also apologized to his own family; to the Hunt family, which owns the Kansas City team; and to fans.

On Tuesday in court, he apologized again. “Every time I see my daughter, I think about Ariel and how my decision affected her so deeply and her family,” he said.

After the sentencing, Porto released a statement saying Ariel and her family were angry that Reid received three years instead of the seven-year sentence allowed by law. Still, the statement said of Ariel: “She will endure. She will strive and she will strive. She is Ariel strong.”

‘Things Will Never Be Back to Normal for Ariel’

Ariel, now 6, endures days of therapy with her mother by her side. Instead of playing with dolls and doing cartwheels with other girls, she works with a speech pathologist and a physical therapist most days.

For comfort, Ariel hugs Ruff Ruff, her stuffed dog. For companionship, she plays with Ajax, the family’s real one.

Ariel’s right foot drags. She wears thick glasses to help her see. Her dream of taking gymnastics classes is likely to go unfulfilled.

Before the crash, Felicia Miller counted herself a football fan. No more.

“With everything going on, I can’t even turn on the TV,” she said. “That would mean things are back to normal. And things will never be back to normal for Ariel.”

Jenny Vrentas contributed reporting.