The on-field part of the NFL Scouting Combine begins on Friday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana, which is when running backs, offensive linemen and special teams players take the field to begin their trials.
But NFL coaches and executives — and player agents — use Combine Week as a kind of mini-convention. Teams pitch trades. Agents and general managers discuss contract terms.
And since everybody is in the same place at the same time, the media is on hand, too. Head coaches and executives take their turns at the podium.
And everybody is talking about the Kansas City Chiefs.
After telling the press that quarterback Eli Manning would be back with the New York Giants in 2019, general manager Dave Gettleman was asked to amplify his decision.
“The Kansas City Chiefs model worked. How’s that?” responded Gettleman.
No... Gettleman wasn’t saying the Giants intend to trade two second-round picks to the Washington Redskins to obtain Alex Smith. He was instead telegraphing the Giants’ desire to find a franchise quarterback in the draft, and have him learn for a season under an established starter like Manning — just as the Chiefs did with Patrick Mahomes behind Smith.
Reporters asked new Denver Broncos head coach Vic Fangio about the Chiefs’ offensive talent, and how his new team will deal with their AFC West rival.
“Well, it’ll be a big test,” Fangio replied. “I see talent. That’s the first thing I see when I look at them. Mahomes is obviously a great, great talent. He can make plays from the pocket, and obviously outside the pocket with a great arm, and he’s got good creativity. He’s got a good athletic arrogance to him that allows him to utilize all his talents. Then the speed they have out at receiver and tight end, running backs — they’re the team to beat in our division.”
Fangio’s general manager John Elway agreed when he spoke to the media.
“Our goal is to win the division, and that road goes through Kansas City,” he said.
New Oakland Raiders general manager Mike Mayock spoke most specifically about the Chiefs but said he sees significant challenges from every team in the AFC West.
“I think our division, from a playmaker perspective, might put more pressure on the defense than any other division in football,” he said. “To the point where in my office the first thing I did when I went in was, I had them take all the blinds down and everything else, and I’ve got an entire wall of just the AFC West. Their rosters, their practice squad… everything, depth charts, all up on one wall. Magnetic names. Just to reinforce to me every day the challenges we have.
“You start talking about Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill — the entire division when you look at depth charts of both sides of the ball with their rosters — we got a huge challenge ahead of us,” he continued. “I think we probably face some of the best edge rushers in football on the other side of the ball. You start talking about what Kansas City has had, you talk about what the Chargers have, you talk about that monster Von Miller in Denver. So we are very aware of the challenges in our division. We think they might be the most significant in the league.”
New Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury — Mahomes’ college coach at Texas Tech — was quick to bring up his former quarterback when asked about the new offenses now beginning to dominate the NFL.
“I think a lot of it has to do with the talent you’re playing with, no question,” he said. “You look at a guy like Mahomes and what he did in Kansas City. Unique ability, unique talent. And there’s some really good offensive minds now in the NFL that are doing some things that help those young quarterbacks and allow them to play at a high level quicker in their careers.”
But when it was time for Chiefs head coach Andy Reid to take the podium on Wednesday afternoon, he made it clear that even with Mahomes on the roster, the Chiefs will still keep looking at quarterbacks.
“I’d probably tell you quarterback’s not our number one priority. I know that’s probably a secret,” he said as the press laughed, “but that’s probably not our number one thing. You always keep your eyes open for that. We’ve always brought in a young guy just about every year that I’ve been doing this thing. You look at everybody. Are you going to draft one in the first round? Probably not. But you sure keep your eyes open.”