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Sean McVay spotted reigning Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield walking down the aisle of his Southwest flight from Los Angeles to Indianapolis on Tuesday and called him over.

Mayfield took the middle seat, just to sit next to the Los Angeles Rams‘ second-year head coach, and got a little bit of advice before interviewing with and working out for an assortment of NFL teams at this year’s scouting combine.

“We just talked a little bit,” McVay recalled in a phone conversation on Wednesday morning. “I wanted to be careful. I know he’s going to be talking all week, and this is kind of an exhausting process both physically and mentally. But just kind of let him know, ‘Just be yourself, enjoy it, be honest and up front,’ like he would regardless of whether I said that.”

Mayfield, initially a walk-on at Texas Tech, dominated the college football landscape while quarterbacking the Oklahoma Sooners over these last three seasons, completing 69.8 percent of his passes, averaging 10.6 yards per attempt and throwing 119 touchdowns to 21 interceptions. Entering the draft, there are concerns about Mayfield’s height — he’s listed at 6-foot-1, but may be an inch or two shorter — and also questions about his character.

But he has the talent to be selected in the top half of the first round, despite being part of a quarterback-heavy draft.

“You can see he understands football; he’s put good stuff on tape for the last handful of years,” McVay said. “His resume speaks for itself.”

McVay and Mayfield met during Super Bowl week in Minneapolis earlier this month. Southwest allows passengers to select their own seats, and McVay got the window with an earlier boarding group. He called Mayfield over because he preferred to sit with someone he knew, but he was conscious of giving him his space during the four-hour flight.

McVay called Mayfield “an impressive guy, very likeable. You see why his teammates thought the way they do about him.”

As for why the 2017 Coach of the Year was flying Southwest, instead of an airline that offers first class?

“It was the only direct flight from LAX to Indianapolis,” McVay said. “There was a Delta option, but you had to connect, so it was the only direct one. And, shoot, I like Southwest.”

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Buffalo Bills made jump, but Chiefs remain their ‘measuring stick’ in AFC – Buffalo Bills Blog

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BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Buffalo Bills believe they’ll be back.

What else can they say after Sunday’s 38-24 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game?

The Bills are young; most of their core players are either signed to multiyear extensions or still on their rookie deals. Their coaching staff, while not completely clear of uncertainty with defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier and quarterbacks coach Ken Dorsey drawing interest from other teams, should remain largely intact for the fourth straight year.

And now, they’re experienced — even if that experience is the pain of falling short of something the franchise has never accomplished.

“It stings to get this far. Sometimes the further you go, the harder it is to lose,” Bills coach Sean McDermott said. “It’s a learning experience for us as an organization. We’ve got to obviously get back to work.”

Buffalo has little to be ashamed of after winning its first AFC East title since 1995 and its first two playoff games since the turn of the century. The Bills entered the playoffs arguably the hottest team in the NFL, winning nine of their last 10 games en route to the AFC’s No. 2 seed.

Quarterback Josh Allen, although he had his lowlights in Sunday’s game, blossomed into the franchise quarterback general manager Brandon Beane hoped for when he traded up to draft him in 2018. Allen set single-season franchise records in every major passing category and earned his first Pro Bowl selection and possibly an MVP vote or two. Wide receiver Stefon Diggs could not have envisioned a better Buffalo debut season as he finished as the NFL’s leader in receptions and receiving yards.

But the league’s next great quarterback-wide receiver duo wasn’t enough. The Bills aren’t at Kansas City’s level quite yet.

“They’re the reigning Super Bowl champs for a reason and they were the better team tonight,” Allen said.

Last season’s playoff loss felt different. A blown 16-point lead against the Houston Texans stuck in the Bills’ minds all offseason and was part of the reason for the team’s offensive renaissance. It was obvious Buffalo needed reconstruction on that side of the ball, and until it happened nobody could say to any degree of certainty that the Bills would win the AFC East in 2020.

But now, barring a major trade — Houston’s Deshaun Watson to the Miami Dolphins, perhaps? — the Bills should enter the 2021 season as favorites to defend their division title. They don’t need major construction on either side of the ball; but that’s not to say they’re ready to run it back next season.

Decisions loom

The backfield duo of Devin Singletary and Zack Moss was not effective enough in 2020. Beane will need to give the pair another go next season or address the position this offseason. Cody Ford‘s return from a torn meniscus should help solidify the offensive line, but Beane will likely have to decide between re-signing Jon Feliciano or Daryl Williams, both of whom can become free agents soon.

Linebacker Matt Milano is Buffalo’s biggest pending free agent and should be high on Beane’s priority list. The Bills might consider changes in an effort to tailor their defense to stopping Kansas City, which is clearly the looming obstacle standing in the way of any AFC team’s hopes of reaching the Super Bowl.

“At the end of the day, this is our measuring stick,” McDermott said. “If you lose in the AFC Championship Game, that’s the team we’ve got to beat. So, we’ve got to do everything with that in mind this offseason.”

It got them this far — Beane traded for Diggs and drafted two wide receivers last offseason in an effort to keep up with the AFC’s other high-scoring teams. Maybe that means adding even more weapons and speed on offense. Buffalo tied with the Tennessee Titans for the league’s second-best offense behind Kansas City this season, but still seemed like it was on a completely different tier.

Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce and wide receiver Tyreek Hill, in particular, did whatever they wanted throughout Sunday’s AFC title game, combining for 290 yards and two touchdowns on 24 catches.

“They’re a great football team for a reason, they’re defending champs for a reason,” Bills safety Micah Hyde said. “They’ve got weapons all over the field. Obviously, a lot of people try to limit them, giving up explosive plays up top, so they just run the ball. We tried to stop the run, and they’ve got guys on the outside [Kelce) and [Hill] who can kill you.

“You saw tonight, [Kelce] was open, [Hill] was just catching these little short balls or whatever and going off. It was difficult.”

Beane probably didn’t sleep much Sunday night; the idea he hasn’t given McDermott and his coaching staff enough to work with keeps him up at night, and the Bills certainly didn’t look like they had enough against one of the NFL’s best teams.

But they’re close.

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Stefon Diggs is on the field after the Bills’ AFC championship loss to watch the Chiefs’ trophy presentation.

And as Diggs stood by himself after the game, watching the Chiefs celebrate their second consecutive conference title, it’s not difficult to imagine red and blue confetti surrounding an elated Bills team at this time next year.

“It’s going to fuel us. I have no doubt in my mind that we will be back,” Allen said. “We’re still young and we’re only going to get better. That’s one thing I take from this. We’re close. The results weren’t good tonight, but I’m super proud of how our team fought all season and how we bonded together.”

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What does trading Matthew Stafford mean for the Lions in value and their future QB? – Detroit Lions Blog

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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.

The teams/compensation

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 future

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.

Further down — likely in the late first or early second round, Alabama’s Mac Jones and Florida’s Kyle Trask could be options worth looking at.

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$600 million offseason? ‘Nothing is impossible’ for Chiefs GM Brett Veach

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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.

Impossible?

“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.”

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