In the NFL, players and coaches are required to speak to the media at different points in the season, which can give us valuable insights into the function of the team. Coaches and players stay guarded with what information comes out, but they still give us enough to glean some information from what they say.
Unfortunately, general managers aren't always required to do the same. Kansas City Chiefs general manager Brett Veach will speak multiple times in the offseason, but we don't garner a lot of information from Veach during the season. He stays mainly in the background, making it difficult to understand his thoughts on the current season and roster. Also unfortunate is that head coach Andy Reid stays well-guarded with information, so it's hard to parse out their thoughts on roster construction.
Well, one of the many benefits of winning the Super Bowl is that Veach is much more willing to do different kinds of media following a Super Bowl win. If the Chiefs get knocked out early, we won't hear a lot from Veach until near the combine, but right now, he's celebrating a massive accomplishment.
On Tuesday, Veach went on" The Pat McAfee Show" for a 30-minute interview, and he shared a lot of insight into how the Chiefs manage the roster. I'd highly recommend you listen to it, but here were my three main takeaways from the interview.
Building a positionless offense
To me, the quote that raised my eyebrow the most was when McAfee asked about building an offense around speed and intelligence to understand the complexity of Reid's offensive philosophy. Veach mentioned some things they look for in their offense.
“It’s speed, which goes with the player’s aptitude to be able to come in and learn plays coach [Reid] likes. Coach Reid likes to create matchup problems and he likes offensive players that can play multiple positions, so if he wants to get to a player or a look that’s successful, it doesn’t have to be that same player running that play. We like receivers that can play inside and outside and we like running backs that can go out and play in the slot so anytime you get speed and versatility, needless to say, those guys are high on my priority list.”
I plan on diving into this in the offseason, but it does seem the next evolution of Reid's offense does involve complete versatility in skill sets. With the offense built around tight end Travis Kelce and his positional versatility, it requires an entire offense to be versatile. One of the weaknesses the 2021 Chiefs found was that outside of wide receiver Tyreek Hill and Kelce, the offense was stuck with players who only could fill specific skill sets. The 2022 offense scrapped a lot of the traditional vertical passing concepts, instead relying on Kelce's versatility to build their offensive structure around. That wouldn't have worked without different players being able to fill various roles.
Going forward, so long as Kelce remains the offense's focal point, positional versatility is the defining trait to look for with our acquisitions. Running back Jerick McKinnon and wide receivers KaDarius Toney and Skyy Moore represents the shift to this style of offense. I'm fascinated to see whether that continues again this offseason.
How Andy Reid and Brett Veach approach the offseason
Veach shared valuable information on how he and Reid work together on an offseason. First, he mentioned how Reid and the offensive staff spend their offseason time watching college film and how that helps the onboarding process for younger players.
“[Reid] also does a great job of staying involved with the college offenses. The coaches around him are really in tune with college concepts and ideas so that when he gets younger guys, he’s already trying to incorporate stuff that they were familiar with in college.”
Veach also mentioned how Reid and Veach structure their offseasons, working together to build a roster. He said how streamlined the draft and free agency process is for Reid at this point, limiting the amount of work they give him before the draft.
“We have worked together for so long that when I come to him and let him know what my staff and I are thinking about the guys we’re targeting. Then, I mirror that with the draft board, positions, and stackings. We’re trimming off all the fat for him and just giving him real information. Instead of watching 14 offensive linemen, coach (Reid) takes a peek at 2-3 of them that we’ll probably select. We’re not draining everything out of them by having him watch all this tape all this time, but instead just coming in to touch base with us.”
Reid had way more influence over roster control when he was with the Philadelphia Eagles, and he's been way less involved with personnel over the years. Instead of having Reid focus his time on personnel, Veach and Reid have built a power structure where Reid doesn't have to focus on that aspect of the job anymore, focusing his energy on his offensive scheme and coaching. Because they've worked together so long, Veach and Reid have a connection on what each of them prefers in a prospect or free agent, which helps them streamline and communicate the information well.
As Reid ages and potentially looks to take on less load as he ages, having a general manager that's adept in handling the personnel aspects of the job and can fit his philosophy around Reid is critical. That type of relationship is incredibly rare in the NFL, where most head coaches and general managers come from separate trees of thinking. Since Veach has been entirely raised in the Reid tree, he can understand and work with Reid in a way that no other general manager can. That competitive advantage is huge for long-term roster building.
Clearing players medically
An ambiguous part of the NFL draft process is medical information. When there is a player with a shaky injury history in college, it's a mystery for fans the extent of an injury and whether teams will have taken that player off the board because of medicals.
One of McAfee's cohosts, AQ Shipley, brought up a question about how the Chiefs decided to clear right guard Trey Smith when he was slipping because of shaky medicals, and Veach shared terrific insight on how the Chiefs evaluate medical information on players.
“I got a really good training staff with Rick Burkholder and team physician Mike Monaco. I try to keep the medical when it’s that important to a real simple ‘yes or no’ from the docs. I don’t try to coerce or you know try to sugarcoat anything. I don’t even tell doc the name because sometimes you get medical information that’s important because it’s a first-round tackle and sometimes they get it’s potentially a free-agent lineman. I don’t want docs to get swayed by status, we need to make this guy has a clean bill of health. I just make it black and white to where if he’s clear or not.”
I'd recommend listening to the process the Chiefs used for Smith, but this type of information is valuable. Every team has its own standard for medical information, but considering the affinity that Reid and the NFL have for members of the Chiefs' training staff, it's fair to say that if the Chiefs aren't comfortable with selecting a medical risk, that player likely won't stay healthy.
Inversely, getting a talent like Smith cleared meant the Chiefs were able to add a Pro Bowl talent in the sixth round.