Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid held his first media availability of the new league year Thursday morning, so needless to say, there was a lot to talk about.
The press conference was unique in that the Chiefs sat Reid side by side next to starting quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who was also concurrently available to the local KC press.
Here were the 10 biggest items in my eyes from Thursday:
1. Reid mentioned quarterbacks coach Mike Kafka, A LOT
News broke in late January that the Chiefs were naming Kafka the new quarterbacks coach for the upcoming 2018 season.
“Mike, I had the opportunity to draft and coach in Philadelphia and watch him grow here as a coach,” Reid said.
Kafka originally joined the Chiefs as an “offensive quality” control coach last season. He was promoted in 2017
What I didn’t realize then that I realized after Thursday’s press conference is just how involved Kafka will be in the development of Mahomes, as well as offensive game planning.
Kafka took a primary role in the preparation for Mahomes’ lone start against the Denver Broncos Week 17.
“[We] definitely knew that Matt Nagy was going to be out the door as a coach,” Reid said, “so the Denver game allowed me to work with Mike Kafka and see how he’s progressed and work with Patrick.”
“Mike Kafka spent a lot of time [on Week 17] while everyone else was working on the playoff game.”
While Reid did take a few moments to mention how he’s looking forward to offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy in a leadership position, Kafka received a bit more spotlight.
2. Reid discussed how he came to the decision that it was time to go with Mahomes and move on from Smith
Many have wondered what was the exact moment that led Reid to move on from Alex Smith in favor of Mahomes as the starter, a questioned that was debated in Kansas City throughout the year.
As it turned out, according to Reid, a lot went into it.
“[Mahomes] is a sponge,” Reid said. “I saw the way he went about working every day at practice and then I had the opportunity to work with him in a game situation, which you can’t predict that by any means, but we were lucky enough to be able to do that. I felt comfortable, not knowing that was the direction we were going to go in. We still had another year remaining with Alex, but did not know that’s where we were headed.”
The Chiefs, of course, eventually traded Smith to the Washington Redskins.
“Life in the National Football League is this: change takes place,” Reid explained. “We’re fortunate to have this guy (Mahomes) as the change. Not every team can say that. Nothing’s been done yet. He’s going to put his own mark on this thing, but that’s in the future here. I don’t have anything where I can stand up and say he’s set a bunch of records, he hasn’t done that yet, but we’re very optimistic about it and when you’re around him here like you will be, you’ll get that same feel, that same energy. He’s grown up in a locker room. He gets it. That part he gets.”
Reid added that Mahomes has already earned the respect of his teammates despite being the backup last season.
“I see how guys gravitated toward him during the year and how he takes control. He’s nice right now up here, but there’s this other side where he’s not afraid to pull the trigger on and give you the business when you’re not doing your thing. It’s an exciting time.”
At the age of 22, Mahomes will need that important quality as he leads older players everywhere around him.
3. It felt like the Week 17 Denver game was an enormous factor in the Chiefs determining if they were ready to move on
It was very apparent Reid utilized that Week 17 game against the Denver Broncos to determine that Mahomes was 100 percent ready for the starting job.
“I had the honor of working with [Mahomes] this past season, in particular, in a closer relationship for the Denver game, almost like a dress rehearsal, not knowing that we were going to make this move with Alex ... I also had the opportunity to call for him during that game and get a feel there on how he operates. It was a smooth transition.”
Reid said that when he developed the 2017 offensive playbook for Smith, he went back to many of the things that made him successful in college at Utah. He discussed these items with Smith and we watched them work, especially during the first five games of the season.
Week 17 offered that same opportunity with Mahomes, and the Chiefs used many more shotgun sets than usual in the game, a 27-24 win.
“For that game, we molded the game plan around him,” Reid said. “We were able to get in there and mold it with what we had in the package at that time, mold it around him.”
Mahomes felt great about how it went.
“I was extremely comfortable with the whole entire offense going throughout the year, preparing as if I was going to play, like [Reid] said, there was really nothing new that we hadn’t run throughout the year in that last game, but he helped call to my strengths and we had success and came out of there with the win.
The NFL can be such a weird place.
Smith had the best season of his career in 2017, and because of his contributions, the Chiefs were able to lock up a playoff spot with a week remaining on the schedule. Fortunately, depending on the way you look at it, the Chiefs got a look at Mahomes.
And that game helped lead to Smith losing his job.
4. Reid was very complimentary of what Alex Smith was able to do for Patrick Mahomes, and so was Mahomes
Speaking of Smith, Reid went above and beyond to compliment him as he moves on to the Redskins. Reid said Smith was “unbelievable” with his mentorship of Mahomes.
“I told Patrick (Mahomes) that Patrick could buy [ Smith] a castle, and it wouldn’t pay for the experience he was able to have working with Alex in his introduction into the National Football League.”
Mahomes agreed, mimicking Reid.
“I had an unbelievable opportunity last year to learn behind Alex, who is just a great person and great quarterback,” he said. “[He] showed me how to prepare and how to be a professional quarterback and have a lot of success at it. It helped me build a foundation of how you need to go in every single day and learn, and keep getting better every single day no matter where you’re at in your career.”
Reid added it was the intention of the Chiefs to make sure Smith ended up in a place where he could find success.
“Alex deserves [going to Washington],” Reid said. “If he had to leave here, we wanted him to go to the best possible situation that he could be in. (Redskins head coach) Jay Gruden is one of the top offensive minds in the National Football League. I’m close to that family. I know he’s in good hands. Their president there, Bruce Allen, I’m friends with him and so I knew that he would take care of him too. Most of all, Alex is going to help their football team with his leadership, his toughness and all those things.”
5. Reid finally had the opportunity to comment on why the Chiefs traded Marcus Peters to the Los Angeles Rams, and he didn’t say much at all
In my opinion, this was the most disappointing part of the entire press conference. The media asked Reid to explain the trade of a 25-year-old two-time All-Pro, and he chose to keep those answers in-house.
“Brett (Veach) covered all that,” Reid said. “I went through and read his clips and my thing is we appreciated Marcus for what he did for those three years and we made the decision to move on. I’m not going to get into detail on that. We’re just going to leave it at what Brett told you and we roll.”
Hare are some of the comments of Brett Veach from Wednesday:
“This was a football decision,” he said. “Dialogue that Coach (Reid) and I had. This wasn’t just one game, wasn’t a month, this was three years of body of work and we look for consistency. We felt that this was in the best interest of the team. When you process all the information, they’re tough decisions but what you do is you just go. There’s no second-guessing. You make a decision you believe in, you have foundations and core philosophies that you believe that yield success. You take all the information and then you go in that direction and you don’t look back.”
Asked about whether the trade had to do with things that occurred off the playing field, Reid denied.
“I think [Brett] clarified that yesterday,” Reid said. “Off the field, there were no problems. Listen, things happen and Brett talked to you about it. We felt this was best for the team. And I think it’s good for Marcus and I think it’s going to be good for the organization here and we roll. That’s how it goes. We don’t talk about all the other stuff. That’s just not how we do it here.
Reid then abruptly changed the subject to talk about how excited he is about the team and future. Whatever the real reason for Peters’ departure is, we won’t be finding it out anytime soon.
My working theory continues to be, well, a lot of things.
6. GM Brett Veach loves Sammy Watkins, and he went out and got his guy
“Brett’s had his eye on Sammy for forever,” Reid said.
7. New CB Kendall Fuller will start
Since the Chiefs acquired 23-year-old cornerback Kendall Fuller in the Smith deal, Kansas City has become more an more familiar with him.
So amid all the speculation, how will the Chiefs use him?
“He’ll be one of those starting corners, wherever Bob (Sutton) wants to use him,” Reid said. “We’re blessed because we have [Steve Nelson] and him, who both have inside (slot) play. Stevie can play outside too, which he will. But you get both those guys, which is a luxury there.”
Reid also shared how he dipped into his large coaching tree to gather extra information on Fuller before the Chiefs traded for him.
“I know the family a little bit just from following—remember Eugene Chung was on staff, a big Virginia Tech guy,” Reid said. “So I think that family is all about football, from dad coaching the little league group all the way up through the high school level, I think when you have a chance to talk with Kendall, you’re going to go, ‘Wow.’
“Smart, hard worker, tough. All those things that you want—leadership ability. You heard what his teammates said when he left [Washington]. I think that’s real. He’s a straight shooter and a good football player.”
8. C Mitch Morse should be healthy
After briefly commenting about how the Chiefs lost Zach Fulton to the Texans, Reid said the Chiefs are fine with the center they have.
“We got a center here who’s coming back and he’ll be healthy.”
Remember, the Chiefs placed Morse on injured reserve back in December due to season-long foot issues.
“Mitch is a good center,” he said. “We could line up and play today without any additions and still be fine and be in a really good situation. Not a lot of teams can say that—that’s the only reason I mention that, but offensively, we could line up and go play at a very high level.”
9. Interesting comments about the problems with the 2017 defense
One of the more interesting points of the press conference came when Reid was asked about the struggles of the 2017 defense. Without saying it directly, Reid did put some blame on the older personnel.
“We got a little bit old in tooth there in a couple spots,” he said, before quickly transitioning to the future. “Now all of a sudden, we’re back young again—with Reggie (Ragland), who can cover also. Everybody says he’s a thumper—they use that term. Well, he will thump you. He will hit you now. He also can run.”
Ragland presumably will be playing next to new signee Anthony Hitchens.
“You add Hitchens to the mix here, and you’ll see what I’m saying. ‘Hitch’ has that ability that DJ did to get small and has that feel of getting into those tight cracks and making those tackles that you saw DJ do. And he’s also a good cover guy.”
And you can’t forget about the quote of the press conference:
“On the back end, let’s not forget that Eric Berry’s coming back, and he’s our quarterback on that defensive side. He’ll be back in there.”
10. We’re sticking with “Patrick” ... I guess?
Is it Pat or Patrick?
“It doesn’t really matter to me,” Mahomes said. “My Mom calls me Patrick because my dad’s Pat.”
At Arrowhead Pride we believe that Mom is always right. Patrick it is.