Tale of 2 Cities: Kansas City

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Grizzled
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Tale of 2 Cities: Kansas City

Mon Jan 27, 2020 9:44 am

How KC built a winning team and recognizes the efforts it will take for future success. From Sports Illustrated Monday Morning QB:

MIAMI — Andy Reid probably didn’t realize it when he strolled into Brett Veach’s office in late spring of 2016, but there in front of him was the direction of his franchise. The guy holding the clicker was its future off the field, and the player on the screen its future on it.

“What you got going on?” Reid asked.

“Coach, I’m watching the quarterback of the Kansas City Chiefs,” Veach responded.

That quarterback was a college sophomore whom Veach had picked off one of three lists of underclassmen that the scouting department had at its disposal at that time of year, just after the draft, as it started work towards the following year’s draft. One was a National Football Scouting list, made up wholly of rising seniors. Another was a list of juniors produced in-house. The third was a watch list of statistical stars, whose numbers simply demanded attention.

The kid on the screen was on the third one, thanks to a 4,653-yard, 36-touchdown 2015 season.

“Who is it?” Reid asked Veach.

“I said, ‘It’s this kid named Pat Mahomes,’” Veach recalled over the phone on Friday. “And by that time, I had gotten to the LSU game he played his sophomore year, that bowl game where he was completely undermanned. I mean, they just had talent all over the field, LSU did. And he was just a one-man gang, just keeping them in the game and making plays and playing with so much moxie and bravado that just jumped off the tape.”

Reid sat and watched a couple plays. In turn, Veach accomplished a modest goal that day.

He put Mahomes on the coach’s radar.

It’s been almost four years since. Then a co-director of player personnel, Veach is now the Chiefs general manager. Then barely registering a blip in the NFL—though there had been some low-key, urban-legend type buzz in the KC personnel department on him—Mahomes is now the league’s reigning MVP, leading the franchise into its first Super Bowl in 50 years.

Together, Veach and Mahomes are making a new list—of reasons why, as the Chiefs reach this destination, it sure feels more like a beginning than an end. And why what Reid’s built in Kansas City could be sturdy enough to survive beyond his coaching career.

Reid turns 62 years old in March and hasn’t shown many signs of slowing down—and Bill Belichick, Pete Carroll, Bruce Arians and even Tom Coughlin a few years back have shown of late that coaches can go well into their 60s and be effective without much of a problem. So we’re not saying here that the Chiefs coach is coming up the 18th fairway of his NFL career.

That said, nothing is forever, and Reid is in his seventh year as Chiefs coach after 14 seasons in charge in Philly. Eventually, he’ll want to step away. And at almost any position other than quarterback, because of the nature of the sport, it’s hard to project a player more than five or so years down the line.

That’s what makes what the Chiefs have right now so interesting.

Yes, they have one of the NFL’s most accomplished, experienced coaches. But behind him are two guys very young for their jobs who figure to be bedrocks for the next decade, at least, in Kansas City.

Veach is 42. Mahomes is 24. The Chiefs are built to last.

“First of all, I’m never going to run anybody out of the building just because of their age, and I certainly hope Andy Reid is with us for many, many more years,” Chiefs CEO Clark Hunt said over the phone on Friday. “I want to start by saying that. But I do think it’s exciting any time you get really talented people who are on the young-ish side. Certainly, Brett will have a chance to be with us for a very long time. And I have no doubt he’ll do an outstanding job of building the roster around Patrick as we go.

“One of the great things about getting a young franchise quarterback is that you have multiple windows during their career where you have a chance to win a championship. And it’s up to the general manager to get the pieces around him that will allow you to win that championship. Brett’s done that with the 2019 version of the Kansas City Chiefs, and I have no doubt he’ll do it multiple times during Pat’s career.”

The amazing thing? This all came together over a matter of months in 2017. Mahomes was drafted in the first round that April, Veach promoted that July. Of course, it’s almost impossible to separate one from the other, and their tale starts with the story we just told of Reid happening by Veach’s office in the spring of 2016.

***

Veach was hardly the only one hot after Mahomes in the Chiefs building, but he was one of the earliest, and known among the team’s power brokers to be his loudest fan. The truth is, he was kind of shameless about it, too, after introducing Reid to Mahomes by showing him that sophomore tape. From there forward, Veach would be watching Tech every so often, pull out his cell phone, tape a few throws and text the video to Reid.

At first, Reid would routinely respond with the thumbs-up emoji. It started as maybe a monthly thing. But as Veach got more excited with Mahomes, the texts got more frequent.

“And then it got to the point where, after like four or five weeks of doing this, I would send four or five clips and he’d be like, ‘Alright, stop, dude, you’re killing me. We have a lot of time before the draft, just relax, I'm busy,’” Veach said.

The point had been made—and that was obvious when Reid showed up in Veach’s office that December with two mock drafts from ESPN.com, one from Mel Kiper, the other from Todd McShay. Neither had Mahomes in the first round. “Your boy Mahomes isn’t even on these lists,” Reid said to Veach. “Is this kid even coming out?”

This time, Veach was the one telling Reid to relax. It was, he explained, a good thing that Mahomes remained off the radar. “Because if they were saying he’s the 10th overall pick or 15th overall pick in December, then for sure he could go top five,” says Veach. Soon thereafter, Mahomes declared for the draft, and Veach was off to hit the all-star game circuit.

At the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl in L.A., he bumped into agent Chris Cabott, who took Veach through his client list—“and I have this quarterback Mahomes.” When Cabott said that, Veach motioned for the agent to follow him into another room.

“There’d been a bunch of scouts around, so I was like, ‘I know you got Mahomes,’” Veach said. “And I was like, ‘Chris, I said, I know you’re from PA, and I know you know the level of coach, the caliber of coach that Andy Reid is, and you know what he does with quarterbacks, man.’ And he was like, ‘Veach, man, that's where I want him to go.’”

Veach then confided in Cabott, “I’ve been uploading videos and overloading coach’s phone with them… Coach is in and I’m in. And this is going to be our guy. But we're at 27, man, and I think by the end of this, he'll never make it to 27. So I need you to work with me here on this. If you want him here as bad as I do, then we’re gonna have to communicate.”

The two agreed to keep each other updated on everything—workouts, visits, combine interviews, all of it. Meanwhile, the Chiefs football people met with Hunt that February to tell him of their intentions and kept the circle of people in the know small. Outgoing director of football operations Chris Ballard, another Mahomes fan, knew, but he was probably the only person outside the building who did. Inside the building, it was Hunt, Reid, GM John Dorsey, Veach, fellow co-director of player personnel Mike Borgonzi and OC Matt Nagy.

Then, it came time to move. Realistically, the Chiefs figured getting in the top five would be just about impossible, so Kansas City focused on figuring out who between six and 15 was a threat. Over a couple months, and a lot of information gathering, Veach and Co. ascertained that the Saints and Cardinals were Mahomes’s biggest fans. They were picking 11th and 13th, respectively. And after some fits and starts, the Chiefs pulled on another Reid relationship.

Sitting at 10 were the Buffalo Bills and new head coach, Sean McDermott, a lieutenant of Reid’s for a dozen years in Philadelphia. With an established trust in place, and McDermott leading the football operation in Buffalo, the two coaches worked to hammer out a deal.

After that, the Chiefs just needed him to fall to 10, which Mahomes did. And after that, Veach did get some confirmation that his information was good.

“Listen, it’s only what you hear after the fact,” he said. “And I know that Andy and Sean [Payton] have talked, and Sean said, ‘Hey, you’re lucky you guys took him there or I’d have taken him at 11.’ I mean, you get wind of those stories. Would they have actually taken him? You don’t know. But you do know that the interest was there.

“Now, again, maybe they were one of those teams that were going to go corner at 11 and then trade up to 20 or 19 and try to take him. So I can’t definitively say they were taking him at 11. But I do know for sure they liked him.”

Either way, Mahomes has proven to worth the freight—the Chiefs sent a third-rounder and their 2018 first-round pick to move up the 17 spots to land their long-held target, and haven’t had any reason to look back since.

***

The Chiefs moved on from Dorsey a couple months after they drafted Mahomes, and there’s little doubt that Hunt remembered how important Veach was to the process of selecting the QB. But it was hardly his first memory of the rising young scout.

Veach came over to the Chiefs from Philadelphia with Reid in 2013, but most of his first two years were spent on the road working the college scouting trail. After he was promoted in 2015, he spent more time in the office, where Hunt first remembers having an in-depth conversation with the man who’d become his GM two years later.

“He told me about a player he’d be scouting, and how exciting he thought the player was, and that this player could be a really good addition to the Chiefs,” Hunt said. “We ended up not being able to select the player, and the player’s gone on to be very successful. I’ll always remember that because it was a little bit of a precursor to how excited he was about Patrick Mahomes when we got to that a couple years later.”

Hunt wouldn’t disclose the player’s name, and Veach couldn’t remember who it was—though he jokingly guessed it might be Saints WR Michael Thomas.

But the point was made that Veach was passionate about his job and had conviction in his evaluations. And that positioned him as a candidate in Hunt’s mind when the GM job came open. The issue, as Hunt saw it, was going to be the rest of the picture—that job is a big one, and it’s about more than picking players. Then, Veach interviewed.

“He was unbelievably well-prepared, had a plan, got me comfortable that he would be good overseeing the cap management,” Hunt said. “It was just a very good fit, we had very good chemistry. And of course, I knew about the relationship he had with Coach Reid. And one of the things I believe is critical to building a successful football team is that your general manager and coach are on the same page. With Brett, I knew I already had that.”

As part of the interview, Veach provided Hunt with a thorough overview of the roster, displaying his knowledge of the players, showing where the team was weak and where it was strong, and explaining how he’d attack the big issues. More than anything else, Hunt got the sense that Veach would be aggressive, and that manifested itself quickly.

And by quickly, we mean within weeks. Veach was hired in July, and by the next month he had traded for an interior offensive lineman (Cam Erving) and a linebacker (Reggie Ragland), affirming everything that Hunt figured he knew about his new GM.

“It was his analysis on those trades,” Hunt said. “First of all—the evaluation of the players. He thought both could come in and help us, both would have a chance to be starting-level players. We were dealing with mid-to-low draft picks, and where they were from a contract standpoint and therefore how they would fit into the whole cap picture, I thought was excellent.

“I’d never had a general manager analyze a move like that, where he felt there was an opportunity for us to get better for very low compensation, just making the point that we’re not going to have the ability to draft this kind of player next year with what we were giving up.”

As Hunt sees it now, those deals were just a precursor for what was coming in early 2019, when Veach rebuilt the defense aggressively and almost from scratch for new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, taking big swings on two guys, Frank Clark and Tyrann Mathieu, who became focal points of a rebirth on that side of the ball.

***

Now the future looks impossibly bright for the Chiefs. But ask Veach about that, and he’ll bring up examples from the past in which teams got here, and figured they’d be back repeatedly, and it didn’t happen. Aaron Rodgers, he points out, won a Super Bowl at 27, and has even played in another one in the nine seasons since.

“You got a young quarterback who’s the best player in the game, so that’s certainly the position everybody wants to be in,” Veach said. “But if you take your foot off the accelerator in this business, things can turn around quick. We’re certainly fortunate and excited that we have him to build on, that we have the best player in the league on our roster. But if you relax a little—man, you see it every year, things can change really quickly.

“There’s a lot of great coaches out there, there’s a lot of great players out there and a lot of great teams and rosters. And it isn’t a one-man show. Even though Pat’s the best in the NFL, if we don’t protect him and play some defense, we’ll be struggling. So it’s a good position to be in. But in this business, you never really just have a month, a week that you’re off or you’ll be struggling.”

That explanation of this enviable position reflects what Hunt saw back in that interview: that Veach will be a pitbull in keeping the Chiefs where they are now.

And Veach is right. Having Mahomes doesn’t guarantee anything past this year. But the quarterback does provide Kansas City with an awfully nice starting point as it builds future rosters. And Hunt can feel good knowing that the man who’ll be charged with putting those rosters together will probably stick around for a while, too.
Drone7
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Re: Tale of 2 Cities: Kansas City

Mon Jan 27, 2020 10:33 am

salt :-x
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wab
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Re: Tale of 2 Cities: Kansas City

Mon Jan 27, 2020 11:27 am

Patrick Mahomes would be Mitch Trubisky if the Bears had drafted him.
Drone7
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Re: Tale of 2 Cities: Kansas City

Mon Jan 27, 2020 11:33 am

wab wrote:
Mon Jan 27, 2020 11:27 am
Patrick Mahomes would be Mitch Trubisky if the Bears had drafted him.
Why no eye roll emoji?
Grizzled
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Re: Tale of 2 Cities: Kansas City

Mon Jan 27, 2020 5:32 pm

This isn’t a rehash of Pace picking Trubisky. That’s over, never going to be undone, doesn’t need any more discussion. Successful teams operate in a certain way which escapes the Bears.
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southdakbearfan
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Re: Tale of 2 Cities: Kansas City

Mon Jan 27, 2020 8:22 pm

Grizzled wrote:
Mon Jan 27, 2020 5:32 pm
This isn’t a rehash of Pace picking Trubisky. That’s over, never going to be undone, doesn’t need any more discussion. Successful teams operate in a certain way which escapes the Bears.
They also have continuity of personnel management.
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The Marshall Plan
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Re: Tale of 2 Cities: Kansas City

Tue Jan 28, 2020 5:27 am

southdakbearfan wrote:
Mon Jan 27, 2020 8:22 pm
Grizzled wrote:
Mon Jan 27, 2020 5:32 pm
This isn’t a rehash of Pace picking Trubisky. That’s over, never going to be undone, doesn’t need any more discussion. Successful teams operate in a certain way which escapes the Bears.
They also have continuity of personnel management.
So despite Pace doing a poor job of evaluating QBs and drafting in the first round if we just let him have another 5 years to get it right he'll just figure it out?

Sorry but that sounds like one of those carnival scam games.
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AZ_Bearfan
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Re: Tale of 2 Cities: Kansas City

Tue Jan 28, 2020 1:13 pm

Pace is still learning. His past 2 drafts have been outstanding.... maybe that's something he will keep getting better at?
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wab
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Re: Tale of 2 Cities: Kansas City

Tue Jan 28, 2020 1:31 pm

AZ_Bearfan wrote:
Tue Jan 28, 2020 1:13 pm
Pace is still learning. His past 2 drafts have been outstanding.... maybe that's something he will keep getting better at?
No way. Not possible. People don't actually get better at what they do over time.
Drone7
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Re: Tale of 2 Cities: Kansas City

Tue Jan 28, 2020 4:59 pm

Curious how either draft, especially last year's could be considered "outstanding"?
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G08
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Re: Tale of 2 Cities: Kansas City

Tue Jan 28, 2020 10:18 pm

wab wrote:
Mon Jan 27, 2020 11:27 am
Patrick Mahomes would be Mitch Trubisky if the Bears had drafted him.
Agreed.

Similar to what I've always said about Aaron Rodgers: He never would have become "Aaron Rodgers" if he was drafted by this franchise.
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First 43 starts:

Drew Brees: 61.1% | 8760 yards | 57 TDs | 40 INTs | 6.65 YPA | 82.5

Mitch Trubisky: 63.2% | 8986 yards | 53 TDs | 31 INTs | 6.7 YPA | 86.1

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