Brett Veach made his way through the coaching and front office ranks before hitting the pinnacle of his career on this date four years ago. On July 10, 2017, the Chiefs promoted the executive to the role of general manager.
Veach undoubtedly had the resume to lead the front office; after a few years as an Eagles coach and scout, he took the role of pro and college personnel analyst in Kansas City before getting promoted to Co-Director of Player Personnel, a position he held for two seasons. While the executive was certainly qualified to be GM, he also needed a bit of luck to get the job in the first place.
For starters, the Chiefs surprised the NFL world when they fired previous GM John Dorsey so late in the offseason. Dorsey had already guided the organization through much of their offseason tasks, including the draft (where they team traded up to select Patrick Mahomes) and extensions (where they handed Eric Berry a sizable pay day). Some pundits second-guessed the organization’s decision to not pivot away from Dorsey earlier in the offseason, especially since his heir apparent, Chris Ballard, had taken the Colts GM gig only months before. Ultimately, it sounds like Dorsey’s inability to effectively communicate and manage his staff (coupled with some questionable salary cap moves) spelled his demise in Kansas City. Rather than waiting another year to make a GM change, the organization decided to make their move at the end of June.
So, Veach took control of a roster that had lost in the Divisional Round in each of the past two seasons (despite averaging 11.5 wins per year during that span). After a 10-win 2017 campaign that saw Kansas City lose in the Wild Card Round, the GM made perhaps the most significant decision of his tenure. The Chiefs traded veteran Alex Smith to Washington, thus making Mahomes the full-time starter.
How has that worked out for the Chiefs? Well, Mahomes’ accolades are well-documented, but the team has also had plenty of on-field success. The team won 12 games and made it to the AFC Championship Game during Mahomes’ first season at the helm, they finally won that elusive Super Bowl during the 2019 campaign, and they made their second-straight Super Bowl appearance in 2020 (where they ultimately lost to Tom Brady and the Buccaneers).
Many fans want to give Mahomes credit for the Chiefs ascension into one of the best teams in football (rightfully so), and many pundits look back at Dorsey’s transactions and give him credit for forming the team’s core (also rightfully so). However, Veach has done a remarkable job of nurturing his roster by re-signing big names, taking shots on embattled or unheralded players, and making shrewd moves in both the draft and free agency. Signing Tyrann Mathieu to a three-year, $42MM deal was one of the GM’s best free agent acquisitions, and he’s also brought in contributors like Sammy Watkins and Bashaud Breeland via free agency, Frank Clark and Emmanuel Ogbah via trade, and Juan Thornhill and L’Jarius Sneed via the draft. The GM has also shown an ability to identify weaknesses and fix them. Kansas City’s offensive line dealt with a long list of issues in 2020, and Veach worked to revamp the unit by signing Joe Thuney to a five-year, $80MM deal and trading for Orlando Brown.
Perhaps most importantly, Veach has made sure that the team’s best players will continue to wear Chiefs uniforms. In 2020 alone, the general manager extended tight end Travis Kelce (four years, $57.3MM), defensive tackle Chris Jones (four years, $80MM), and Mahomes (a massive, unprecedented 10-year deal worth $450MM.
Clearly, the organization has valued what the GM has done. In 2020, the Chiefs gave Veach (along with head coach Andy Reid) a six-year extension.
Sure, you can question whether Veach deserves full credit for the Chiefs’ recent success, and it’s also fair to ask if he lucked his way into his position in the first place. However, plenty of replacements could have just as easily bungled the team’s roster over the past few years. Instead, Veach has helped elevate the team into a perennial contender.
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