Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer hosted Kansas City Chiefs general manager Brett Veach on a “Monday Morning Quarterback” podcast released morning in what I believe to be the lengthiest sitdown with Veach to date.
With Veach managing to sign quarterback Patrick Mahomes and defensive tackle Chris Jones to long-term extensions during the past week, the timing couldn’t be better to dig deeper into Kansas City’s lead football executive. The hour-and-23-minute podcast covers Veach’s beginnings in the league and the decisions he made along the way en route to becoming a Super Bowl LIV champion.
The full interview is well worth your time, but there were three nuggets from the interview that stood out the most:
Andy Reid’s influence on Veach
By now, it is well known that Veach began in the league with Andy Reid and the Philadelphia Eagles as a coaching intern and then coaching assistant. But it wasn’t until 2008-09 that Veach realized he would be best suited to go in the direction of player personnel.
Reid helped him come to that conclusion.
“Coach says it all the time. He said, ‘We’re nothing more than teachers. That’s all we are — we’re teachers. And a good teacher always understands that he can learn something from everybody. But it’s not fake. It’s not something that just sounds good... he really values people’s opinions, and again, I think that helped me a lot because when I first started working for him, I was certainly intimidated, and I was worried that my opinion was going to be so in contrast to his, he would just dismiss me in regard to, ‘Well listen, I’m not going to ask that again because this kid clearly doesn’t know what I’m talking about.’ No. It was like, ‘I want to see what you know. I want to see what you’re passionate about.’
“He was the one that — as I was doing stuff for him in the fall with the coaching stuff, and then doing stuff for him in the spring, he actually grabbed me in one day and said, ‘I’ve observed you Brett... you know, when I ask you to do stuff in regard to breaking down coverages and scheme evaluation, you do a great job, you ask questions, but when I ask you to pull up some tape and what you think, you’re asking me tons of questions, and you’re building upon those questions... Just by observing you, I think you really like this personnel stuff more...I know most of my guys kind of graduate eventually to quality control coach, but I think you should think about personnel. Have you ever thought about it?’
“And that was the first time I ever thought about personnel. And I was like, ‘No, but you’re right.’ Shoot, when we do get to the spring, I am a little more enthusiastic about player personnel. I am following up question upon questions, and it just intrigued me more. And he actually is the one who kind of recommended — ‘You know, we can do an unconventional route here, and instead of you graduating to a quality control coach, maybe we just take you to the personnel side.’ So that was the first time I ever thought about working personnel.”
Veach called his style a hybrid of John Dorsey and Chris Ballard
Reid recommended Veach to former Chiefs GM John Dorsey when he arrived to Kansas City in 2013, and Veach began as a pro and college analyst under Dorsey and Chris Ballard, who was the Chiefs’ director of player personnel at the time and is now the general manager of the Indianapolis Colts.
“It’s funny because I think that I’m maybe a little bit of a hybrid of both of those.”
On Dorsey: “John is old school. I mean, he is tape, tape, tape, tape, tape. Watching all the tape. Just close the door in the draft room. Prior to coming to Kansas City, working with the Eagles... spring meetings were more of overview and intellectual debate over guys. When I got to Kansas City, it was my introduction to the 17 days with your scouts prior to the combine...every single scout, college and pro, is locked in a room, and you start watching tape at 5 a.m. and you’re watching the tape until 6, 7 o’clock at night for 17 straight days — like training camp for scouts. But John was wired in the old school — we’re just going to exhaust the tape... we’re going to exhaust the tape on every level, and we’re going to stick to certain principles in regard to — we’re not watching 5-9 corners or 5-8 corners. No. This is a big man’s game. Size wins, size matters. Tape... and we’re going to make our decisions primarily on tape.”
On Ballard: “Chris was wired the same way in regards to tape — Chris had little bit of more of an analytics mind to him...[Chris] wanted to talk about how analytics could play a role in this and discuss athletic scores. Chris was involved in a little bit more of a new age of football where we’re going to watch tape, but let’s go back and let’s review some of these guys. Maybe their tape wasn’t great, but these scores suggest they’re going to be really good.”
“Both guys were extremely hard workers and both guys I learned a ton from. John was a firm believer in, ‘If I don’t see it on tape, I’m really not going to be there.’ Chris was a little bit open-minded to bringing in guys from an analytics standpoint. But it was cool because both guys had a love and passion for the game that I certainly had and I got to see how they worked. Again, John — the amount of meeting time and the amount of time spent in the room watching tape was something that I was just a natural connection with, because that’s what I love to do and being in this environment where I got to — I loved those 16-day meetings.”
What stood out about Patrick Mahomes
while it is widely known that Veach found Mahomes, I believe this to be the most detailed account he has shared publicly of the marquee moment he became hooked.
“When you watch a player, I always joke with my guys — I have like this excite-o-meter in my mind... you’re going to watch as much tape as you can, but if you’re watching a lineman, receiver or a linebacker, you’re going to watch your standard four-five games, and then hopefully you get to go back and watch later games when you’re doing a guy in the fall.
“There’s an element of when you’re watching a player, looking back on your notes and the impact the player left. And when you get a special player, he’s one of those guys that you start the tape and when you look up, you don’t even realize that four or five hours have passed and you’ve watched every single game because you’re not even thinking of this as an assignment.
“It’s just something that is a fascinating experience, so when you’re watching Pat Mahomes, and I actually remember in the spring, they had a lineman there (at Texas Tech). Pat was a junior — he was on some lists, and I’m actually going through a spring list and watching some offensive linemen at Texas Tech. Pat’s a guy that at the time had some numbers, but he wasn’t a guy that at that time, the spring before his junior season, he wasn’t a guy that was coming out, a first-round pick... he was a guy that put up some stats and watching his offensive linemen, I remember starting with the LSU game, and damn, this quarterback.
“I was like, ‘Who is this guy?’ And I’m like, ‘This is ridiculous. This guy’s making throws and this team is completely under-matched and he is just putting on a show, and this team should be getting blown out, but this kid is just all over the place.’ Then you’re looking up — well how tall is he? And where’s he from and what’s his story? And is he going to come out? And just getting completely infatuated by the guy. He’s one of those guys that you watch and you see he has the unique and uncanny ability to make people around him better. And that’s usually a standard line people use... but this was visual evidence that was so eye-popping.
“Here you are — you’re watching Texas Tech. They’re playing an LSU team that has a bunch of first-round picks that year on both sides of the football, and he single-handedly is unstoppable. So you want to talk about making people around him better and making things happen when things shouldn’t happen. And then your mind starts to think... what if you put him with coach Reid? And what if he’s able to understand the West Coast offense? And what if you put a ton of talent around this guy? If this guy can line up against LSU and have first-round defensive linemen breathing down his neck, have first-round corners covering his wideouts, have first-round safeties playing the deep half of the field and he is able to just — on his own — move the ball up and down the field and make something out of nothing, what if you put him with coach Reid?
“And what if he had better receivers than the other team, and what if he had offensive linemen that could protect him? The sky could be the limit for this guy because this guy is like nothing we’ve seen before.”
All of Veach’s inclinations were right, and he followed the plan.
“The first time I got a chance to sign a free agent, I signed Sammy Watkins — I’m like we’re putting receivers around this guy. This is going to be fun. And then who would have envisioned, 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns later?”