Since Kansas City Chiefs owner, chairman and CEO Clark Hunt took over the day-to-day operations of the team in 2005, the road has not always been smooth. During the first eight seasons of his stewardship, the team went 48-80 under four head coaches and two general managers.
But since head coach Andy Reid took over in 2013 — and particularly since Brett Veach became general manager in July of 2017 — Hunt says the two people running his team have meshed together very smoothly.
“I think all of you have had a chance to work with Coach Reid and Brett Veach over the last several years,” he reminded reporters on Friday. “One of the things that makes them special is the level of communication between the two of them. That sometimes can be difficult. Getting your head coach and GM on the same page can be a challenge. Fortunately, with the two of them, they almost think alike — and they’re constantly in communication.”
And the two of them also keep Hunt in the loop — just as they did for one of the biggest personnel moves the team has made since Reid became head coach nine years ago: trading wide receiver Tyreek Hill to the Miami Dolphins.
“It was a process that unfolded over several weeks,” said Hunt. “I was in frequent contact with general manager Brett Veach about the opportunity — both to possibly re-sign or trade him. Ultimately, at the end of the day, we just made the decision that it was best for him to have a new opportunity — and for us to have the draft picks to add to our young players.”
But in the particular case of the Chiefs, Hunt confirmed that this constant communication also includes the team’s franchise quarterback: Patrick Mahomes.
“Patrick and Brett are frequently in contact,” said Hunt. “When we’re making significant decisions, they’re keeping him in the loop, so that he can be part of that.”
Referring to other long-term franchise quarterbacks around the league, Hunt acknowledged that it can also sometimes be difficult to keep the team’s offensive leader informed about the team’s plans.
“It’s hard to always keep that communication where it should be — but I think that’s where it starts: including the player in the thought process, so he at least knows the ‘why’ behind what you’re doing.”
It had already been reported that both Mahomes and tight end Travis Kelce — another of the team’s on-field leaders — knew of the Hill trade before it became public knowledge. Hunt confirmed that, too.
“That was not a surprise for Patrick; he was kept in the loop on that — and certainly, that helped soften the blow for him,” he said. “As a quarterback, you never want to lose your No. 1 receiver, but he understands there’s a business side to it — and we’ve got to figure out how to build a team around him that will have a chance to get back to the Super Bowl over multiple years.”
There are many factors that have led to Kansas City’s sustained run of success. Reid himself has clearly been an important part of it — and acquiring Mahomes in 2017 is also one of the obvious factors.
But in retrospect, Hunt’s unusual 2013 decision to have the head coach and general manager each report directly to him also appears to have played a big role. As we have seen in recent seasons, conflict between owners, GMs, head coaches — and even franchise quarterbacks — can be serious problems for NFL teams to overcome.
Hunt has not only found the right people to run his team, but has also created a structure in which they can thrive.
The proof is right there in front of us.