At dinner last Thursday night in St. Joseph, Veach brought along one of the stars of “Modern Family,” Eric Stonestreet, a two-time Emmy winner, native of Kansas City, Kans., in town to watch camp and worship his lifelong favorite team. As Veach and I were talking about the simpatico Mahomes/Reid/Veach relationship, Stonestreet said something that resonated.
“He’s our quarterback,” said Stonestreet, 49. “For the first time in my life—for the first time in most of current Kansas City fans’ lives—we have our own quarterback. The other guys weren’t ours. They weren’t permanent. They were band-aids. Not Patrick.”
Everything Mahomes does charms the fan base. They liked it last year when he bought a stake in the Royals, they liked it this year when he bought a stake in Sporting Kansas City (the MLS team)—they even liked it when he announced he was bringing his favorite Texas burger chain, Whataburger, to the Kansas City area. They loved it when he committed to the team with a 12-year contract last year. Collectively, Mahomes showed he was putting down serious roots.
I always thought a seminal moment for Mahomes came late in 2018, when Reid fired ace running back Kareem Hunt for not being forthcoming with him on a domestic-abuse issue. The next day, Mahomes, younger than 50 of the 53 players on the roster, asked to speak to the team, and Reid said yes. His message was, essentially: We can be friends with Kareem forever, but we can’t let this wreck our season. The franchise knew it had something precocious and special in Mahomes, but that day sealed it. And the franchise has responded in kind.
“He’s got a great pulse of the team,” Veach said. “Smart players have an innate feel of their responsibility inside the team. He has that, and he’s been able to stay humble while becoming a global product. We would be doing a great disservice to the franchise long-term if we didn’t engage him on the important issues that affect our team. His play warrants, his impact warrants it.”
Mahomes also just gets it. He gets all facets of the organization. After he made his first Pro Bowl in 2018, he inscribed a Pro Bowl jersey for Veach—his biggest pre-2017 draft champion in the organization—with this: “Thanks for believing in me from the beginning! Let’s go get some rings!”
I asked Veach about the problems other teams are having with their franchise quarterbacks, particularly in Green Bay, where Rodgers went to the edge of a cliff with the franchise before finally agreeing to report just before training camp.
“I guess to use Green Bay as an example—clearly I don’t know the ins and outs of the issues there,” Veach said. “But I find it hard to believe that what happened there could happen here.”
Brady was 42 when he got his amicable divorce with New England. Rodgers almost got his freedom (and still may next year) at 37. Sometimes players just get sick of their surroundings and want to start over. But it’s not just a seniority thing. Deshaun Watson’s 25 and desperately wants out of Houston. Carson Wentz basically went rogue late last season in Philly, at age 27, and got himself traded. The disputes can come at any time … if the relationships are not nurtured well.
Reid is the Big Kahuna in Kansas City, of course. Nothing happens without him. But he’s also the Big Listener. The biggest play of the team’s Super Bowl season came with the Niners up 20-10 with 7:17 left in the game; it was third-and-15 from the Kansas City 35-yard line, and on a replay challenge, Mahomes came to the sidelines to discuss the next desperation play. “Do we have time to run ‘Wasp?’“ Mahomes said, a quote that is emblazoned on the brain of every Eric Stonestreet in the team’s vast fan base. Mahomes thought this play (“Wasp” is the abbreviation) could get Tyreek Hill free against a single safety downfield. “If he feels it, I’m giving it to him,” Reid said, and so Mahomes picked the play that turned the game around. The completion went for 43 yards and started the onslaught that led to the first Super Bowl title for Kansas City in a half-century.
The other day, I asked Mahomes to pick a more recent play that illustrated his chemistry with Reid. “I don’t know if you remember,” Mahomes said. “But early in the season we had that play against the Chargers where Tyreek kind of ran like a triple move and I sprinted out to the right and threw him a [54-yard] touchdown. It actually went off a route that we had ran against the Chargers in the year prior, where he ran a double move and they covered it really well. I went to coach Reid and I was like, ‘You think we have time to let him do three moves?’
“I look at stuff that we do in the game, and games prior, even stuff that Alex [Smith] did when he was here. I say, You think we can do it this way or that way?’ He [Reid] has no hesitation on trying it. I think that’s been the biggest thing. There’s some of them that we run that don’t work at all that we don’t talk about. But he will always give me a chance to try because he feels like if I believe in it, I can make it work.”
The play to Hill was in the gameplan already—Mahomes had advocated for it with Reid, and Reid had it in that week. So the fact that Mahomes brought it to Reid, and Reid liked it, and Reid had it in the gameplan … it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the coach okayed the QB’s idea at a fairly crucial point of the game—KC down 17-9, and struggling, midway through the third quarter.
“I meet with Patrick Fridays and then with the quarterbacks again Saturday, and we rank the plays the way we like ‘em,” Reid told me. “I say, ‘If there’s something you don’t like, be honest with me, and we’ll just get rid of it.’ I mean, we got 200 plays. What we want to call in the game we should feel pretty good about. Patrick’s good at suggesting things that have a good chance to work.”
It’s a good partnership. Reid and Veach will be joined at the hip through at least 2025, long enough to enter quarterback-middle-age with their partner, Mahomes. Anyone out there paying attention to how such a partnership should work the right way?
After two days in KC camp…
Mahomes on his surgically repaired turf toe: “This is the best it’s felt since before the playoffs last year. Haven’t had to take any days off or any plays off.” … Yes, Mahomes does want to be part of an ownership group for an NBA franchise in Kansas City. Baseball and soccer, cool. Basketball would be his dream. “He’s been talking about it a lot,” said Tyrann Mathieu … Reid spent chunks of time this offseason dealing with the fallout of his son, former linebackers coach Britt Reid, critically injuring a 5-year-old girl when he struck her family’s vehicle three days before the Super Bowl. Britt Reid has pleaded not guilty to felony DWI charges and awaits trial. “Life’s full of balances,” Andy Reid said. “We all have challenges. I’m sensitive to the little girl and her family. I’m sensitive to Britt and his family.” … Jerick McKinnon made $17 million in San Francisco, but it was one injury after another in three washout seasons trying to be a feature back. He’s wearing number one and looks good here.