Sam Mellinger

Matt Moore took Andy Reid’s call, agreed to join the Chiefs, then texted an apology

New Kansas City Chiefs backup QB Matt Moore arrives in KC, gets to work

New Kansas City Chiefs backup quarterback Matt Moore threw passes during practice Tuesday at the University of Kansas Health System Training Complex in Kansas City.
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New Kansas City Chiefs backup quarterback Matt Moore threw passes during practice Tuesday at the University of Kansas Health System Training Complex in Kansas City.

The text began with an apology which, let’s just be honest, was a sweetheart move but also patently ridiculous:

Hey sorry but I can’t coach for you anymore. I’m signing with the Chiefs today.

Mike Herrington has known Matt Moore over two decades. Herrington coached Moore as a defensive back and quarterback at Hart High in Southern California. Until that text came through, Moore worked for Herrington as the team’s quarterbacks coach.

This was around 7 on Monday morning. Herrington called Moore immediately.

“What are you talking about?” he said. “Don’t be sorry!”

They laughed. They talked about the opportunity of being the backup quarterback for the team that led the NFL in offense last year, and is among the top Super Bowl contenders now.

Moore’s NFL career has been spent mostly with bad teams. He’s had six offensive coordinators and just two winning seasons in 10 years, most of them as a backup. Now, who knows? He’s here to be one snap away from the trigger man of coach Andy Reid’s offense after Chad Henne suffered an ankle injury that required surgery.

“Sitting out last year, it was great, but this training camp kind of rolled around and the juices started flowing a little bit,” Moore said. “I really didn’t expect a call. Sure, there’s some thoughts that this may never happen. And then when it happens, you’re like, ‘Hey, let’s go.’ It’s kind of that simple.”

Life moves fast, and that’s a cliche, but consider this: A few hours before Reid called to gauge Moore’s interest (it was an easy and immediate yes), Moore was sending Herrington some ideas for Friday’s game against Muir.

And a few weeks before that, Moore was a 35-year-old retiree spending a lot of time on his backyard tennis court. He hadn’t thrown a football in a while before joining Herrington, and his throws before Tuesday’s practice in Kansas City were basically just demo reps for Hart’s quarterback (a Cal commit, by the way) and to give the defense a different look.

“He’d been throwing and working out with the kids,” Reid said. “(So now it’s) getting used to the speed of these guys vs. maybe high school kids.”

Herrington can’t know for sure, but he doubts Moore would’ve had the same answer for just any NFL coach. Moore has made more than $25 million in his career. The ending in Miami was hard and left Moore in a head-space that Herrington described as “burned out” and the year off welcomed.

It’s a comfortable life back home. Moore led Hart High to an undefeated division championship season as a senior and retains many friends in the area. His brother-in-law is the principal at Hart. His little brother played quarterback there a few years ago.

He didn’t know what to do with his time, though. He went to a few games at Hart, and started to tell people he’d love to coach.

It’s one thing to say it, and another to actually do it. Coaching is a time commitment, even as an assistant. Moore made the decision toward the end of the summer. By all accounts his committed was real.

He’d enjoyed it, everything from suggestions on game plans to philosophy to details on footwork during screen passes. That’s a real thing, by the way. One day, Moore showed his guys how to adjust the last few steps to make the throw easier.

“I’ve been the head coach here for 31 years,” Herrington said. “He was giving me insights that would help our quarterbacks.”

That will now take a break, at least. Herrington said the kids were initially bummed to hear the news, but the emotions quickly turned to excitement and support. One player yelled out that he’d draft Moore in his fantasy league. If history is any indication, Moore will be back to visit during the Chiefs’ bye week.

The game-plan suggestions he sent Herrington are appropriate, too. He wanted his quarterbacks to limit their risk, and concentrate more on earning first downs than going for the big play. Keep the chains moving. Keep pressure on the defense. Let your playmakers work.

That will be good advice if Moore is ever needed on the field in his new job, too.

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Sam Mellinger is a sports columnist for the Kansas City Star, where he’s worked since 2000. He has won numerous national and regional awards for coverage of the Chiefs, Royals, colleges, and other sports both national and local.
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