When the Chiefs selected Patrick Mahomes with the 10th overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft, then-general manager John Dorsey proudly declared it an organizational decision, one that everyone in the front office got behind.
New general manager Brett Veach, it turns out, was among those who spearheaded that effort, as coach Andy Reid recently identified him as the one who initially put Mahomes on his and Dorsey’s radar.
“He kind of brought him to John and I’s attention — he was all in on this guy,” Reid said. “That was his guy, and he said, ‘Hey, you’ve got to look at this guy and just see him.’
“He wore John and I out about him.”
If Mahomes — who has had a strong camp — develops into the quarterback the Chiefs think he can be, he’ll be added to the long list of Veach recommendations who ended up becoming good NFL players.
“If he brings you (a player) and he’s that sold on him, you better take a look at him,” Reid said. “He’s brought to me (guys) like DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy and Fletcher Cox — all these guys, and it was early, before anybody really had a beat on it.
“And (back then) … I’m going, ‘Wow, he’s got kind of a knack for this thing.’”
A solid scouting eye, along with organization and communication, were the traits Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt emphasized during his two-week search after firing Dorsey.
One month into his tenure, Hunt has no regrets about his decision to replace Dorsey with Veach, his former co-director of player personnel.
“I’ll say I’m just very pleased with the job that he’s doing,” Hunt said. “I think he’s brought a lot of maturity and stability to the job … I think (Dorsey and Veach) bring a lot of the same skill sets, but they’re not going to go about their business in the same way.”
There are two other reasons Hunt is optimistic the move will work. Reid’s trust in Veach and Veach’s relationships with the Chiefs’ personnel and scouting staffs, which are regarded as two of the league’s strongest. As their co-worker since 2013, he has intimate knowledge of their strengths and weaknesses.
That knowledge could prove to be critical because Veach ultimately will be judged by how well he matches Dorsey’s undeniably strong draft record.
“Anytime you have a change, you’re concerned about that change and maybe it disrupting the apple cart,” Hunt said. “But that’s not been the case with Brett.”
That’s not to say Reid and Veach won’t disagree sometimes. Though Veach is 19 years younger than Reid, he says Veach is not shy about voicing his opinion.
“That’s the name of the game — the communication part of it and talking,” Reid said. “Listen, that’s not the job I want to do. That’s not where I’m at. But if you give me somebody, I’m gonna tell you what to look at, I’m gonna tell you what I think. And if you stand up on the table for him, I’m open. When we’re doing it the way we do it, I’m watching two or three games and between Dorse and Brett, they were watching every game.”
Veach got his NFL start in Philadelphia, where he learned from then-general manager Tom Heckert. Veach also credits ex-Colts general manager Ryan Grigson, who was the Eagles’ director of college scouting, for teaching him to care about road scouts, who work long, lonely hours and need a good boss to keep their morale high.
“You’re on the road, you’re away from your family for 16 or 17 days, and you’re not living in Kansas City but you are as big a part as anybody in regards to the success on the field and you feel detached,” Veach said. “So you have to make sure those guys realize how important they are … you have to have things in place during the course of the year to show them they are important.”
Once in Kansas City, Veach learned Ron Wolf’s time-tested, long and arduous process of scouting prospects from Dorsey, who held long, multi-week evaluation sessions with the Chiefs’ college scouting department. They would get together in a room, grind through the tape and reach a consensus about their entire draft board, and Veach saw how well that process — which isn’t standard across the league — led to the Chiefs’ 43-21 record under Dorsey.
“I think when you do a 17-day process and you watch everybody all at once, then you go out on the pro-day circuit and come back and watch tape for 14 more days, then take a break and come back for three or four days to put your board together, it really enables the room to develop that buy-in and say ‘this is our guy,’” Veach said.
That process is not exactly foolproof, though. When the staff gathers for those evaluation sessions, the group’s opinion on a player can be swayed by multiple factors, including a scout’s forcefulness or meekness, his tendency to grade harshly or lightly or even his ability to evaluate by position, which is hardly uniform.
But that’s the benefit to being in those sessions with Dorsey. Veach knows all his scout’s strengths and weaknesses already, which he can factor into the decision-making process without a learning curve.
“You only know that with time and familiarity,” Veach said.
Which is why Hunt is betting that Veach’s possession of both in Kansas City will keep the Chiefs a consistent winner in 2017 and beyond.
“I’ve been very impressed with the job he’s done over the last month,” Hunt said. “But the truth is his impact is going to happen over two or three years, not over any four- or six-week period.”