This is not a time on the NFL calendar that lends itself to confidence. Oh, some teams have it, for sure, but February and early March are times of significant uncertainty for many others. Teams have high hopes for what they can find in the draft and what free agency might bring them, but at this point, it’s still tough to have confidence in those things. Mystery reigns.
Which is why it’s a fun and volatile time to trot out the occasional feature we like to call our “QB Confidence Index.”
The disclaimer that no one will read: This is not a ranking of quarterbacks. So if your team is listed behind a team whose starter you don’t think is better, don’t assume it’s because I’m an idiot. It may well be, but I’d ask that you do your research before jumping to that assumption. Otherwise, I might as well be listening to my kids.
Rather, this is a ranking of NFL teams in order of their current degree of confidence in their overall quarterback situation. That means starter, backup, age, health … heck, at this point in the year we can even factor in cap space and where they’re picking in the draft. We aren’t just ranking starters here. We’re ranking situations, and the criterion is confidence.
With all of that in mind, and with a heavy sigh in acknowledgement that you probably haven’t read anything until this point, here’s the pre-combine edition of the QB Confidence Index.
Click on the links below to go directly to your team:
Brady turns 41 in August, which is the only reason for confidence to waver here. But his age-40 MVP season offered no evidence that his performance was slipping, and he remains one of the two or three very best quarterbacks in the league. There was more reason for confidence a year ago, when Jimmy Garoppolo was the backup. And I expect the Patriots to look for a quarterback in the draft as they make their long-term plans. But in the meantime, they believe Hoyer could manage in a pinch, and Brady’s all-time greatness elevates this situation above the others.
It’s certainly possible that Wentz isn’t ready to start the season, coming off ACL surgery he had in December. But when your backup option just won Super Bowl MVP, confidence isn’t a problem. Once Wentz is healthy, this quarterback situation becomes the envy of the league, both in the short term and the long.
Rodgers is expected back at full strength off last year’s shoulder injury, and he’s better than anyone when he’s right. He’s also 34 (not old for a player at this position) and due a big contract extension this offseason that will underline the team’s confidence in him. The Packers managed to win games with Hundley and stay in the playoff race while Rodgers was out. So unless they trade Hundley, they enter the season with a fair bit of confidence in their backup situation.
The NFL Live crew debates if Buffalo will move on from Tyrod Taylor and look to address the QB position in the draft.
Wilson would have been a legitimate MVP candidate if the Seahawks had been a playoff team. That’s how brilliant his 2017 was without the help of a running game or reliable pass protection. He was, as we’ve pointed out a few times, the team’s leading rusher in 2017 by 346 yards. Wilson has established himself as one of the game’s best, which is why the Seahawks rank here in spite of uncertainty at the backup spot. Assuming Wilson doesn’t decide to stick in Yankees camp and make a run at the majors, the Seahawks go into 2018 with more confidence in this position than maybe any other.
QBs under contract: Taysom Hill
This is a pretty stratospheric ranking for Hill, I will grant you that. But the Saints are here because I don’t believe there’s any chance that starter Drew Brees — whose contract voids on March 14 — will be playing anywhere else next season. Assuming that, and coming off another quietly brilliant season that has him just 1,495 yards behind Peyton Manning for the career passing record, Brees carries the Saints into the top five on our list. If something crazy happened and he didn’t re-sign in New Orleans … well, let’s just say the Saints would tumble a bit in the next one.
No, Ryan’s 2017 season didn’t come close to measuring up to his 2016 MVP campaign. But chalking that up to a Super Bowl hangover and offensive coordinator change, while factoring in Ryan’s durability and the team’s faith in Schaub as the backup, the Falcons belong here. Just because Ryan wasn’t a top quarterback in 2017 doesn’t mean he can’t get back close to what he did the year before.
New head coach, sure, but the Lions kept the same offensive coordinator — Jim Bob Cooter — under whom Stafford has thrived the past couple of years. Stafford hasn’t missed a game since 2010 and has completed more than 65 percent of his passes in each of the past three seasons. The backup situation is a little shaky — sixth-round pick Jake Rudock is an exclusive rights free agent and is almost certain to return — but Stafford’s durability and history of playing (and producing) through pain mitigate that.
Rivers finished second in the NFL behind Brady in passing yards in 2017 (4,515). His 10 interceptions were his lowest single-season total since 2009. He’s 36, and Jones is unproven, but Rivers hasn’t missed a game since becoming the Chargers’ full-time starter in 2006. They need to be thinking about what comes next, but that’s not an urgent issue just yet.
No will-he-or-won’t-he retirement dance this offseason for Big Ben, who made it through a full season healthy for the first time since 2014 and says he’ll be back for his age-36 season. Surrounded by some of the best offensive playmakers in the game, protected by a good and stable offensive line, Roethlisberger continues to deliver at a high level. Jones has had enough fill-in experience that the Steelers at least know what they’ve got, and Dobbs is a fourth-round pick from a year ago.
You know, when we were doing this last offseason, the thing for which I took the most heat was the ranking of the Cowboys. (Most people thought it was too low.) The point was that Prescott had played only one year, as brilliant as it might have been, and confidence requires more proof. This time around, I wonder if people will say this is too high, as Prescott’s second season didn’t live up to his first. The way I look at it, if 3,324 yards, 22 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and a 62.9 completion percentage at age 24 is a down season, count me in. Assuming a full 2018 season from Ezekiel Elliott, there’s no reason for the Cowboys not to go forward with confidence in what they have at quarterback.
The whole Raiders offense sagged badly last season, which is a reason all the coaches are new. The expectation is that Jon Gruden & Co. will be great for Carr, who was an MVP candidate in 2016 and should be able to make his way back to that level. With EJ Manuel a free agent, the Raiders might need an upgrade at the backup position. Cook struggled in his lone NFL start, replacing an injured Carr for the 2016 wild-card round and completing only 40 percent of his passes with three interceptions.
Reliable backup Derek Anderson is a free agent but could be brought back. Newton’s passing numbers might never again see their 2015 MVP levels, but the manner in which he wins games is obviously unique. Add a receiver or two, and things should improve. The offensive coordinator change to Norv Turner also could kick-start the Panthers, as Newton had worked with Mike Shula since 2011.
At this time, it’s unclear what the Giants plan to do with the No. 2 pick in the draft. But even if they use that pick to select Manning’s eventual replacement, Manning is in line to start for the Giants in 2018 and possibly beyond. The only game he has missed since 2004 was the goofy Geno Smith game in 2017 that got everyone fired. It appears most of the decision-makers who thought Manning might not have it anymore are gone from the building, and that those who remain have confidence in him. The 2017 third-round pick Webb is trying to convince coaches that he should replace Manning.
Smith’s contract won’t be official until March 14, when the trade that’s bringing him to Washington from Kansas City can finally be made official. But with Kirk Cousins set to hit the market, Smith will be his replacement in D.C. He’s coming off a monster statistical season, almost never turns the ball over, and assuming the team can get some things figured out at wide receiver, there’s no reason to think Smith shouldn’t thrive under Jay Gruden.
New offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur was in Atlanta two years ago when Matt Ryan won MVP and in Los Angeles last season when Jared Goff started clicking. His presence should help Mariota’s development. While the former No. 2 overall pick didn’t have the 2017 season a lot of people were hoping he’d have — he threw more interceptions (15) than touchdown passes (13) — the fact that he has now played two playoff games and won one is promising.
The Buccaneers had higher hopes for Winston in 2017 than what he delivered, but he was playing hurt for a chunk of the season and ultimately missed time with an injury. After his return, he played at a very high level, and the team retains confidence in him as its long-term solution. The Bucs’ decision to keep their coaching staff in place also indicates some confidence in Winston’s direction. Veteran backup Ryan Fitzpatrick could be re-signed, or the team could look elsewhere for a backup with experience.
Dalton in 2017 saw his completion percentage dip (barely) under 60 for the first time since his rookie season, and his Total QBR of 42.0 was the lowest of his career. He’s only 30, so there’s no reason to think he’s in decline, but at his best he has been the king of the NFL’s “just fine” quarterback tier. Backup AJ McCarron was recently declared an unrestricted free agent, so the team might have to do some work on that front.
Goff had a stunner of a second season, with 3,804 passing yards, 28 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. The arrow points unquestionably up for the 2016 No. 1 pick. As was the case with Prescott this time last year, the slim body of work is the reason not to have more confidence just yet. Another year of development with Sean McVay as his coach could boost Goff and the Rams way up this list. Watch out for Allen, a sixth-round pick by Jacksonville in 2016, as a guy who can win that backup job.
This is one of those cases in which it’s important to distinguish between optimism and confidence. The former is sky-high in San Francisco after the way Garoppolo finished the season, winning five games in a row, completing more than 67 percent of his passes and posting a 78.2 QBR. The contract the Niners just gave him indicates a high level of confidence that he can be their franchise quarterback (though it also allows them escape clauses over the next couple of years in case he’s not). If he can play all season the way he did in December, the Niners will be rapid risers on this list. Beathard started five games as a rookie in 2017, posting a QBR of just 32.0.
What’s left to say here? Sure, the Ravens’ offense in general has stagnated in recent years as drafts have failed to bear fruit. But Flacco just has never been anything like the guy he was during his Super Bowl XLVII run, which was five years ago. If he weren’t still being paid off of that, we’d look at him the way we do Dalton. Since he is, he feels somewhat more disappointing. The Ravens can have a high degree of confidence that they know what they’re getting from Flacco. It’s just not all that exciting. He has 98 touchdown passes and 74 interceptions over the past five years — an average of 20 and 15 per season. Blah.
Dan Graziano and Tedy Bruschi weigh in on the likelihood that QB Carson Wentz will be ready to start Week 1 of the 2018 season after tearing his ACL and LCL.
I hear Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry voice in my head as I try to predict what the Colts can count on from their star quarterback this season. “Do you feel lucky?” Luck missed all of 2017 with a shoulder injury that’s still carrying a fair bit of mystery with it. Until we see Luck on the field, new coach Frank Reich & Co. can’t possibly have any confidence here. The only thing keeping the Colts this high is the way Brissett played in Luck’s absence — 15 starts after being traded from New England — and the fact that many of the teams still to come have literally no idea who their quarterback will be.
QBs under contract: Blake Bortles
The contract extension the Jags just gave Bortles doesn’t scream long-term confidence, but it does indicate at least that they know who their quarterback will be this season. Bortles had some truly great stretches in 2017, but his career hasn’t featured a ton of consistency. So, while this is a young team whose stellar defense and running game would have made it appealing to the best of this year’s free-agent options, the Jaguars head into the future with their quarterback situation relatively unchanged. Don’t be surprised if Jacksonville looks for a quarterback in the draft just to cover those long-term bases.
Watson was league-rattlingly brilliant during the brief portion of the 2017 season that preceded his torn ACL. But that sample size was small (seven games), and the ACL tear happened in November, which means we don’t know what kind of an offseason he’s going to have or whether to expect him for Week 1. Backup-wise, it wouldn’t be too surprising to see the Texans bring back free agent Tom Savage, though he comes with his own issues. If nothing else, there are high hopes here for the future, and that future could start very soon if Watson’s recovery is quick.
Trubisky’s rookie-season sample was larger than Watson’s (12 games) but not nearly as impressive. He showed some positive signs, his feet are now wet and new coach Matt Nagy should be good for him. He also could use some help from the front office in the form of new receivers. Glennon is almost certain to be cut, which leaves the backup situation in question. Free agent Mark Sanchez has earned some quiet, behind-the-scenes praise for his help with Trubisky in 2017 and Dak Prescott in 2016, and could be brought back to continue in that role.
QBs under contract: Patrick Mahomes
It’s likely to be a wild ride as the Chiefs make the switch from super-safe Alex Smith to the 22-year-old Mahomes. Especially because the youngster started only one game last season. But Mahomes’ physical talents are not in dispute, nor is coach Andy Reid’s ability to develop and get the most out of his quarterbacks. The Chiefs would do well to bring in a veteran backup, both to help Mahomes’ development and to play in case he can’t handle it.
Jay Cutler filled in after Tannehill suffered a season-ending knee injury in camp, but the Dolphins plan to go with Tannehill in 2018 and likely let Cutler head off to the broadcast booth. Miami was expressing a high level of confidence in Tannehill before his injury, and the coaching staff might turn out to be correct. But it’s hard to feel great about the way things set up, especially with backup Matt Moore out on the free-agent market.
The NFL Live crew examines the bright futures of Marcus Mariota, Deshaun Watson and Andrew Luck – all of whom are looking to bounce back from injury.
The Bills appear certain to move on from Taylor and get out of his contract before the league year starts. What’s less certain is what they do after that. They could go with last year’s fifth-round pick Peterman, whom the coaching staff likes, but they’re more likely to bring in a veteran. The fact that we don’t know which one is a reason for the low confidence level.
With the Nos. 1 and 4 picks in the draft and an absolute ton of projected cap space, the Browns can attack their seemingly eternal quarterback problem almost any way they want to attack it. A run at Kirk Cousins? A QB at No. 1 overall? A veteran bridge guy like Josh McCown in the meantime? Bring in Hue Jackson favorite AJ McCarron? Lots of options here, but it’s tough to have much confidence in (a) the current group and (b) how it will all turn out.
The Jets are similar to the Browns, though they don’t pick until No. 6. They have the cap space for a Cousins run and likely will make one, but if they don’t get him they don’t have much on the current roster and will need to address the position somehow. Josh McCown played well for them last year and could return on a one-year deal while they get things figured out.
After the group above (plus Brock Osweiler) failed to get the Broncos through 2017, they’ll likely turn elsewhere in 2018. They pick fifth overall and can probably get a guy there if they like one. And while they’ll have to clear cap room to do it, it seems they’ll kick the tires on Cousins. Siemian has some experience, Lynch the first-round pedigree and Kelly a ton of physical talent, but there are too many question marks with all three of them for the Broncos to feel confident about what they have.
Again, there’s no reason to think the Vikings can’t or won’t find a solution here. And new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo is well-regarded thanks to his work with Wentz and Foles in Philadelphia. But right now, Minnesota can’t know who will be its quarterback in 2018. The Vikings could bring back Case Keenum, Sam Bradford or Bridgewater (who may or may not be a free agent depending on what the league decides about his contract “tolling” due to injury). They could make a run at Cousins, and surely sell themselves as his top choice coming off a 13-3 season and an NFC Championship Game appearance. This will be less cloudy in the coming weeks, but for now it’s a total mystery.
QBs under contract: None
Yeah, that means nobody. Not a guy whose last name is “None.” The Cardinals’ quarterback depth chart has no names on it right now, with Carson Palmer having retired and Drew Stanton, Matt Barkley and Blaine Gabbert all headed for free agency. Moreover, the Cardinals feel farther from contention than some of the teams (Minnesota, Denver, Buffalo) in similar situations. And they don’t pick until No. 15. Arizona will have somebody, but do you have any confidence in who it will be?
What does trading Matthew Stafford mean for the Lions in value and their future QB? – Detroit Lions Blog
ALLEN PARK, Mich. – Inside Ford Field toward the end of last season, there was a large white mural with Matthew Stafford on it, his back turned with his left arm raised — index finger pointed in the air.
It was a striking image then, what with few fans allowed inside the stadium all season, but one had to wonder if that image would be around in 2021. Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia were gone. It was clear a new regime was coming, and after years of saying he wanted to be the quarterback of the Detroit Lions, Stafford was giving less concrete answers as last season wound down.
We all know why now: Stafford has asked to be traded, something he believes will be beneficial for both parties. And while a source familiar with the situation said Detroit wants “fair market value,” it’s hard to believe the Lions won’t get that for a soon-to-be-33-year-old quarterback on a largely friendly contract for the next two seasons.
So barring something completely unexpected, Stafford has finished the Detroit portion of his career. As the Lions start to seek out suitors for their all-time passing leader, it is time for the franchise to figure out what it might be able to get back and who might be under center for the Lions when they start playing in 2021.
Not every team is going to reach out to inquire about Stafford. Many are set at quarterback or are in too similar of a situation to be viable: Buffalo, Baltimore, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Tennessee, Kansas City, the Los Angeles Chargers, Green Bay, Minnesota, Tampa Bay, Atlanta, Seattle and Arizona.
That still leaves half the league that either Detroit might reach out to or might come calling to the Lions. This should give Detroit an advantageous situation to create leverage with a combination of much-needed draft capital and perhaps even a player or two in exchange for Stafford.
Detroit needs the picks. New general manager Brad Holmes wants to build through the draft and has just five picks at the moment for the 2021 draft. With many holes on defense (basically every position) and now questions on offense at quarterback, running back, receiver and to an extent on the offensive line, the more chances to bring in young talent, the better.
The Lions should receive at least a first-round pick in return for Stafford unless they can somehow negotiate Stafford and their own picks into Houston’s Deshaun Watson and might be able to push for multiple first-rounders or a package of multiple picks over multiple years.
What that would look like would depend on where Stafford is headed. For instance, teams with major cap concerns (New Orleans, Pittsburgh and Las Vegas) might try to package players with picks to help lessen their own cap woes. And don’t discount the Raiders. Vegas coach Jon Gruden has often been impressed by Stafford, and neither Derek Carr nor Marcus Mariota’s contracts are too onerous. Or, perhaps the Lions take one of them back in return — both are 30 or younger and have starting experience in the league. It’s a wild-card suggestion, but one would have to think Holmes is going to look everywhere for the best offer.
There are also the more likely options: Indianapolis, Washington, New England, San Francisco, Carolina, Denver and Dallas. The Cowboys are intriguing because of the uncertainty surrounding Dak Prescott , and sending Stafford back to his hometown always seemed like a potential pairing. And until Dallas actually signs Prescott, it’s worth Detroit inquiring or Jerry Jones making the call.
The Lions can go many different directions here. Detroit could bring in a veteran quarterback as a bridge to the future to give the Lions some flexibility between this year and next year to find a long-term solution.
Or they can take on a younger quarterback who has struggled elsewhere to see if a change of scenery can be what ignites that player, much like Ryan Tannehill’s move from Miami to Tennessee.
And then there’s the draft, where the Lions will have at least the No. 7 overall pick and the potential of at least one quarterback falling to them. Let’s look at all three of these options.
The bridge: There are many options to consider, and with Anthony Lynn running the offense, Tyrod Taylor would be the place to start.
Taylor was Lynn’s starting quarterback during his one year as offensive coordinator in Buffalo and spent the past two seasons with the Chargers, where Lynn was the head coach. He’s going to know Lynn’s system better than any other quarterback in the league and has experience, throwing for 9,770 yards, 54 touchdowns and 20 interceptions between his time in Baltimore, Buffalo, Cleveland and Los Angeles.
Lynn had Taylor as a bridge — albeit a short-lived one — last season before Justin Herbert took over, so this move makes a bunch of sense.
Chase Daniel already is on the roster for the Lions in 2021, has $1.5 million guaranteed for next season and a manageable cap hit of $5.3 million. Plus new Lions head coach Dan Campbell knows Daniel from their 2017 season together in New Orleans. So it’s a possibility he sticks.
Cam Newton, Joe Flacco, Andy Dalton and Robert Griffin III are all also potential options in this scenario. Jimmy Garoppolo, if the 49ers traded for Stafford, could fit either here or the next category, but Detroit might not want to take on his contract in a trade.
Any of these quarterbacks likely also means drafting the long-term guy either in 2021 or 2022.
The reclamation project: This is where things could get more interesting, between potential trades and free agents.
Much like Taylor, Jameis Winston could be an intriguing option. While he would likely seem to be a possibility to re-sign in New Orleans, perhaps Campbell thought highly enough of him last season working together with the Saints that he’d bring him to Detroit to try and reclaim his career.
Winston has the talent. He completed more than 60% of his passes every year except his rookie season and had a 5,109-yard season in 2019 – during which he threw 33 touchdowns. He also threw an eye-popping 30 interceptions and his discipline and decision-making would need to show major improvement.
Jacoby Brissett showed potential in the two seasons he was a starter in Indianapolis and in both seasons he was thrust into the starting role unexpectedly. Give him an offseason where he knows he’s the starter and perhaps there’s something there.
The Lions are familiar with Mitchell Trubisky, who often seemed to play well against Detroit for parts of his career. For all of his faults, he still completed 67% of his passes last season, threw 16 touchdowns and just eight interceptions and got the Bears to the playoffs. In some ways, the criticism of Trubisky seems to be a victim of where he was drafted as much as what he did on the field.
Sam Darnold could end up being available with the Jets picking at No. 2. Like Trubisky and Winston, the talent has shown up in flashes and a change of scenery could be a career-saver. Darnold completed just 59.8% of his passes with 45 touchdowns and 39 interceptions in New York, but he also played with poor Jets teams in all three of his seasons.
The rookies: Get this out of the way. Barring Jacksonville doing something entirely unexpected, Trevor Lawrence is not an option.
The Lions might have to move up from No. 7 to snag BYU’s Zach Wilson or Ohio State’s Justin Fields, who are considered the two next-best quarterbacks in the class. Capital from trading Stafford could give Detroit enough to do that.
North Dakota State’s Trey Lance — the mystery in this year’s class because he played in just one game in 2020 — is an intriguing option. He never lost in college, going 17-0, and threw only one interception in 307 attempts. He has good size at 6-foot-3, 221 pounds and won’t turn 21 until after the draft. In his one full season playing for the Bison he completed 66.9% of his passes for 2,786 yards, 28 touchdowns and no interceptions while rushing for 1,100 yards and 14 touchdowns.
$600 million offseason? ‘Nothing is impossible’ for Chiefs GM Brett Veach
Editor’s note: This story originally ran on Sept. 10, 2020. The story has been re-published ahead of the Chiefs’ appearance in Super Bowl LV.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — This season the Kansas City Chiefs are “running it back,” as they like to say, trying to win a second consecutive Super Bowl championship with largely the same roster.
It’s easier said than done, but the Chiefs have secured the core of their roster for 2020 and beyond thanks to the work done this offseason. Potentially more than $600 million over the next several years will go to quarterback Patrick Mahomes, tight end Travis Kelce and defensive tackle Chris Jones, and at one point during this offseason the Chiefs had less than $200 left to spend under the NFL’s salary cap.
“Nothing is impossible” to 42-year-old Chiefs general manager Brett Veach, a former college wide receiver who has been grooming himself for the challenges of his job since the day he took off his own set of shoulder pads 20 years ago.
“That relentless personality,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said in describing Veach, whom he hired as an intern with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2007 and has been with Reid ever since, mostly as a scout until being promoted by the Chiefs to general manager in 2017.
“Nothing is impossible [to Veach]. It’s positive: ‘Let’s explore. Let’s not be afraid to go there. Let’s not say that it can’t be done. Let’s find a way that it can be done.’ All of those things are how he operates. That ends up being something that’s contagious with people that are around him. Everybody feeds off of that, that energy. That’s what really made this whole thing possible. If you look around the league, people were going to say, how in the world did they get this done?”
The Chiefs won last season’s Super Bowl by moving boldly. The final piece of their 2019 championship roster came days before the draft, when Veach finished a trade he had been working on for months by agreeing to send first- and second-round draft picks to the Seattle Seahawks for defensive end Frank Clark. Clark had five sacks in the playoffs, including one on fourth down in the final moments of the Super Bowl.
Veach’s signature move since joining the Chiefs was to bring Reid and others in the front office on board about a 2017 draft-eligible quarterback he thought could be the greatest to ever play. The Chiefs wound up making a big move up in the first round to draft Mahomes.
“Any time you got into a discussion with Veach about players, you knew he had done the work,” said Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard, who was the Chiefs’ personnel director during Reid’s early seasons in Kansas City. Ballard said he would get a “barrage of clips” from Veach anytime he liked a player.
“He was relentless when it came to watching tape and knowing what he was looking at. You noticed that right away. When he liked a player, there was no hiding it.”
‘I knew football was going to be my life forever’
To hear Veach tell it, he couldn’t have turned out any other way, not after growing up in the football-mad town of Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania. About 100 miles outside of Philadelphia, football became everything in Mount Carmel once the coal mines in the area shut down.
“It’s a town that loves football,” said Veach, whose two brothers also went on to play college football. “Football meant everything. If there was 5,000 people in the town, 5,000 people were at the football game on Friday night. All I wanted to do growing up was to go with my dad to the high school football games. That to me was like the NFL. That was the biggest thing. We didn’t have soccer, we didn’t have lacrosse. Football was just something everybody played.
“If you grow up somewhere else where football isn’t that important, do you still have this path in life? Since I was young, this is always what’s driven me. I knew football was going to be my life forever.”
A high school running back, Veach finished with 5,261 rushing yards, which almost 25 years later still ranks among Pennsylvania’s all-time leaders. He’s only a few spots on the list behind LeSean McCoy, whom he would years later successfully urge the Eagles to draft.
“He was quick,” said Veach’s high school coach, Dave Williams. “He had the quick feet. He’s looking for feet in running backs now like the feet he once had.”
Veach wanted to play in college at Notre Dame but didn’t receive a scholarship offer and settled for Delaware, where he was moved to wide receiver and his quarterback was Matt Nagy, now the head coach of the Chicago Bears.
“The one thing with Veach was — and he might not look like it now — he had some sweet moves on the football field,” Nagy said. “He was not easy to bring down and he was fast too.”
Veach finished his career eighth on Delaware’s all-time list for receiving yards, but that wasn’t enough to get him a look in professional football.
“Football was very important to Brett,” said Jerry Oravitz, a Delaware athletics operations associate when Veach played there. “He was very passionate about it. I remember consoling him after his last game at Delaware. He was just very emotional thinking that was not only his last time wearing the [Delaware] blue and gold but to wear a football uniform of any kind.”
An internship with Andy Reid
Veach planned to head into coaching after two years spent getting his master’s degree in education at Delaware. That plan was interrupted when he received an internship with Reid and the Eagles.
“All of the people that worked under coach Reid as an intern ended up being coaches,” Veach said. “There was a long line of guys who ended up in coaching. I just assumed once I got done I would potentially pursue the college football coaching life.
“I came in at the right time when Coach had a lot of personnel responsibilities in Philadelphia. He was like a coach/GM. I was his assistant when he had a dual role and he would often give me a lot of scouting jobs to work on. It was really [Reid] who after a year or two was like, ‘Are you sure you don’t want to go into the player personnel side because you have such a passion for scouting players and putting rosters together.’ He kind of bumped me into that.
“It was an obvious thing staring me right in the face, but it took Coach Reid to open my eyes to it.”
Veach quickly succeeded in a scouting role but with an eye on his future wanted to expand his area of expertise. Considering the NFL’s financial side to be a hole in his game, he would ask Joe Banner, then the Eagles president, for tutorials on the salary cap and how it worked.
“He was not a guy that just wanted to stay in his lane,” Banner said. “He wanted to do more than grading tape. He wanted to understand all the different parts that led to success in team-building.
“There are people that may have narrow or limited ambition. It was obvious in terms of understanding things and all the different elements that go into success, he was definitely in the group that really wanted to understand that and learn that. I always assumed he would one day have the chance to run his own show and wouldn’t have to just rely on others but had his own insight and knowledge.”
Veach attracted attention within the Eagles’ front office for his impassioned pleas for his favorite players. Reid said DeSean Jackson and Fletcher Cox were among the players eventually drafted by the Eagles whom Veach initially collected support for.
Another was a running back from the University of Pittsburgh in 2009, LeSean McCoy.
“We had a pretty strong consensus that he was a good player and that he could contribute,” Banner said. “The elevation to him being thought of as a difference-maker — remember he weighed only about 205 pounds and some people wondered whether he was just a third-down back — was done by Brett. He had strong feelings about that, that Shady was going to be a very good player.
“When I listen to people in Kansas City describe how the Chiefs decided on Mahomes, I could really picture the way Brett plays a role like that when he has somebody he really believes in. I can picture him sending the tape to Andy and really trying to set the stage for somebody he really believed in. He was doing that way back. That’s who he is. He’s not afraid to be wrong. All good general managers are not afraid of being wrong. Brett is fearless.”
McCoy, now playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is 22nd on the NFL’s all-time rushing list.
“When he was really on somebody, he would always say, ‘You’ve got to watch him. You’ve got to watch him,'” Reid said. “He wasn’t wrong with that.
“He’s kind of done the same thing here. He wore [former general manager John Dorsey] and I out on [Mahomes]. He was relentless with different stats, videos. He constantly banged on us. As time went on he just said, ‘This is the best quarterback I’ve ever seen.’ He was definitely the first one [to make a case within the Chiefs for Mahomes].”
As Veach’s time in Philadelphia went on, Banner saw similarities to Reid in an important regard.
“When we hired Andy Reid [in 1999], no one really knew him,” Banner said. “But when we got to talking to him and interviewing him it was obvious that in his mind he was preparing most of his life to be a head coach, regardless of what anyone else thought about him. That was clear from the notes he was keeping and the knowledge he was gaining and the questions he was asking.
“From a personnel and general manager perspective, Brett was very much the same. He was clearly thinking about it, thinking ahead, thinking about what he needed to know, who he could learn it from, who was good at what and preparing for the day that he was going to be in the position that he’s in now.”
Taking over in Kansas City
Veach became Chiefs general manager in June 2017, a couple of months after they drafted Mahomes. He put his touches on the Chiefs almost immediately following that season, when he made room for Mahomes in the starting lineup by trading Alex Smith to Washington.
The next year, after defensive failures kept the Chiefs from the Super Bowl in an AFC Championship Game loss to the New England Patriots, he turned over the team on that side of the ball. The Chiefs released longtime stars Justin Houston and Eric Berry and replaced them with Clark and Tyrann Mathieu.
Those moves worked out so well that the Chiefs, after a slow start, led the league in scoring defense over the final six games of the 2019 season. More important, the defense was a key part and Clark and Mathieu key players as the Chiefs won their first Super Bowl in 50 years.
Time will tell whether Veach won this offseason, like he did last year’s. But one move he won’t regret is signing Mahomes to a 10-year contract extension that, combined with the two seasons left on his existing deal, will keep him in Kansas City through 2031.
That’s a long extension for Mahomes, who couldn’t be faulted for wanting to see in, say, five or six years what the quarterback market looked like and who the Chiefs had in place in decision-making capacities.
Reid and Veach recently agreed to contract extensions, but with the coach at 62, it’s difficult to see how he’s still with the Chiefs in 2031. Veach, who is only getting started in fulfilling what seems to be his life’s destiny, is another matter.
Mahomes indicated recently one reason he felt comfortable signing for such a long term is he’s comfortable Veach will continue to win offseasons.
“First off is his work ethic,” Mahomes said. “I mean, he’s a guy that’s in the facility almost as much as Coach Reid. I mean, he’s here all the time. He’s watching a ton of film, and then I think he’s someone that you can trust, someone that would tell you exactly how he feels and to have people like that that you can go to — he’s going to tell you the negative, he’s going to tell you the positive, whatever it is, no matter who you are. That’s someone you can really trust. You know that they’re going to give you whatever they have every single day.”
Tom Brady’s parents both battled COVID-19 last year; Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB was ‘stressed out’
Tom Brady Sr., in an interview Monday with ESPN Radio’s #Greeny, said he was hospitalized for three weeks at one point last year and that both he and his wife, Galynn, were “sick as a dog.”
Brady Sr. noted that the couple, both 76 years old, did not watch the Bucs’ first two games this season because of his hospitalization, saying it was the first time in their son’s football career that they missed any games.
“We’ve never missed a game at Michigan or New England or wherever,” he told ESPN. “For the first two games when I was in the hospital, I didn’t even care if they were playing — much less missing the game. It was a matter of life and death, just like anybody who goes to the hospital. That’s serious stuff.”
Tom Sr. said Galynn, who is a breast cancer survivor, did not require hospitalization because of the virus. Their daughter, who is a nurse, cared for Galynn while Tom Sr. was in the hospital.
“We’re just representative of 25 million Americans who’ve had this stuff so far, so it’s nothing to shake a stick at,” he said.
The elder Brady also described how difficult it was for his son to balance football with his concern for his parents, saying the six-time Super Bowl champion would “FaceTime me every day on his way to and from practice” and was “stressed out” worrying about them.
“Tommy fought through it, and so now it’s in the rearview mirror,” he said. “We’re healthy, we’re happy and everything is good.”
Brady Sr. made the comments one day after his son led the Buccaneers to an upset of the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game and the team’s first Super Bowl appearance since the 2002 season.
Brady, 43, will play in a Super Bowl for the 10th time in his storied career on Feb. 7 when the Bucs face the Kansas City Chiefs in Tampa.
“This year has been unbelievable,” Brady Sr. said. “Not knowing where we’re going to start the season out, and being where we are to end the season is just a stunning development as far as I’m concerned. … Getting to the 10th Super Bowl in 19 years of playing is pretty — it’s incomprehensible, actually. It’s beyond anything we could ever imagine.”
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