New Chiefs GM Brett Veach on his relationship with Andy Reid and the team’s future
(Editor’s note: This story is part of The Star’s annual football preview, which will appear as a special section in the Sunday, Aug. 27 print edition and also on KansasCity.com and The Star’s Red Zone Extra app.)
Months after the fact, no one but a tight-lipped handful of people knows for sure why Chiefs owner Clark Hunt (apparently) abruptly ousted general manager John Dorsey in June.
Thus, many theories remain in play about possible factors:
From objections over his management style, as thoroughly reported by The Star’s Terez Paylor … to speculation about salary-cap issues under his jurisdiction (but not his job, per se) that likely led to the otherwise puzzling decision to cut Jeremy Maclin … to the plausible idea that Dorsey wanted a heftier contract extension than Hunt was willing to even entertain.
Or something else altogether.
Two elements of the fallout are relatively certain, though.
If coach Andy Reid, who had been friends with Dorsey for decades and was hired before him, strongly still wanted Dorsey here, it’s hard to imagine he didn’t have the clout to convince Hunt to keep him.
And whatever drove Hunt to tell Dorsey he wouldn’t extend his contract and to go on and get out so he wouldn’t be a “lame duck” this year, it wasn’t because of how Dorsey performed in the most visible aspect of the job — assembling a roster that can compete for a championship.
Coming off an AFC West championship and 12-4 season (and a 43-21 record under this regime), the Chiefs will feature a roster this year that includes just six players from before the Reid-Dorsey era began four years ago and will be among the NFL’s most intact from 2016.
All of which takes us to the challenges and opportunities for new general manager Brett Veach, who is young (39), previously virtually anonymous to fans and a disciple both of Dorsey and Reid.
Upon his introduction in August, Veach joked with a local radio man that at least now he could say he knew what Veach looked like.
For that matter, his Wikipedia page consists of two sentences.
So it could be tempting to be skeptical of what the understated Veach brings to the table.
It’s easy to wonder how he can differentiate his work from whatever it was that got Dorsey jettisoned and both help and challenge Reid — who enabled his NFL career by hiring him after an internship in Philadelphia.
Then again, here’s maybe all Veach really has to do: be himself and grow into a job he’s been on a certain sort of trajectory for since his days as a football-fascinated child in Mount Carmel, Pa.
Veach’s obsession with the game was stoked by his father, Robert, whose own career in the game put him in the athletics Hall of Fame of Division III Susquehanna.
To engage their interests, he began taking Brett and his older and younger brother around the region to major high school games before they were 10.
“When you’re 4 or 5 years older seeing that, it just kind of consumes you at a young age,” said Veach, whose mother, Donna, was an educator.
Every day, the boys waited at the window for his return from work as a physical therapist and swarmed him in the driveway to play some game outside.
Football inevitably won out in the blue-collar town whose high school has won among the most games in the nation. It was true for Veach, his older brother, Bob, who played at Lafayette, and younger brother Jonathan, who played at Princeton.
Feeling that in his veins is why, at his introductory news conference, it was important for Veach to note his pride in having been a Mount Carmel Red Tornado.
It’s also why he searches on his phone for testimony to those roots in a photo of his high school stadium, where much of the town would converge for games.
“See the coal banks right there in the background?” he said. “You’d see the trucks come in and out, up and down the roads there.”
Veach, whose wife, Alison, also is from Mount Carmel, never was going to be a coal miner, though.
Somehow or another, his life always was going to be about football.
(That is, other than a flickering moment when he considered studying marine biology at the University of Delaware.
And, yes, he knows the bit about that career from “Seinfeld,” smiling at the mention and invoking the George Costanza line: “The sea was angry that day, my friends.”)
His aptitude for seeing the bigger picture in the game was evident early, as aptly described to The Star in July by Jerry Oravitz, formerly Delaware’s director of football operations.
“Before Google was Google, Brett Veach was Google when it came to facts and thoroughness in the game of football,” Oravitz said.
Between that, paying his dues in personnel work with Reid in Philly and his own considerable personal skills, Veach seems to have the poise, temperament, drive and trust of his peers and staff necessary to create his own foundation in this job.
He also has more experience in a lot of aspects of this than you might guess as someone who’s been in the NFL only a decade but most recently was co-director of player personnel.
Consider what ostensibly was his first trade, in July sending linebacker D.J. Alexander to Seattle for linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis.
Nothing really new in the mechanics there for Veach, as it turns out, one of many ways he’s grateful to Dorsey — who encouraged him to take this job with phone calls before and after Veach was interviewed.
“We’ve been doing all this stuff since we’ve been here; this is normal,” Veach said. “If this were last year, I’d call Seattle and say, ‘Do you want to do this trade?’ Then I’d go to John and he would say yes or no. …
“We had a lot of freedom. He didn’t micromanage us. We did our thing, and we came back to him and he did his thing. Then we got together and weighted the options and made the decisions that were best for the Chiefs. So this isn’t new what we’re doing here.”
In fact, he recently joked with Mike Borgonzi, who now holds the director of player personnel title alone, that the only thing different between them today is that there are fewer channels to go through.
Moreover, knowing how respected he is internally and to hear Veach speak about his staff, it appears he’ll have the chance to be the best sort of boss: the one you know you’re working with, not for.
That goodwill and sense of shared duties should help him through an inevitable learning curve that comes with adding so much to his ledger.
The increased duties include the need for constant contact with medical staff, human resources matters, dealing with the media and negotiations that included 12 straight days on the phone with Leigh Steinberg and Chris Cabott to get Patrick Mahomes signed.
“You knew (those tasks) were all there,” Veach said, “but I don’t think you understand the demands until you’re actually doing the job.”
One of the demands will be working in harmony with Reid while finding a way to not be redundant or a mere rubber stamp.
In his previous roles with Reid, Veach believes he has earned respect as an independent thinker in part because he doesn’t just say “yes, yes, yes” to everything Reid says.
“He’s going to rely on you to come to him with solutions to problems,” Veach said.
Reid, too, has made the point that he wants to be surrounded with creativity, not kowtowing.
The stakes are higher now, of course, but that history means Veach expects that he can operate his department in a way that enhances the Chiefs and bolsters Reid while operating autonomously to the degree it needs to.
Even if they agree on whether someone is first-round material, for instance, Veach notes that talent evaluators seldom see anyone at precisely the same level.
Whether in that regard or with a prospective trade or free agent, it’s up to Veach and his staff to watch prospects enough and scrutinize their intangible and off-field traits so well that when someone comes in Reid will know he’s been properly vetted.
“It doesn’t mean we’re always going to agree, but at least he’ll know where we’re coming from,” said Veach, later adding, “The thing about Andy is, when you really get to know him, he’s not a control freak and he’s not power hungry.
“He surrounds himself with guys who work hard and guys who challenge him. He likes people … who come to him with outside-the-box thinking because it elevates his game.”
Which is the whole goal for Veach with the Chiefs, as he synthesizes what he’s learned from Reid and Dorsey and creates a path of his own.