Brett Veach deserves credit for Kansas City Chiefs’ culture change

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 05: Brett Veach, General Manager of the Kansas City Chiefs shakes hands with a fan before the game against the Dallas Cowboys at AT
ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 05: Brett Veach, General Manager of the Kansas City Chiefs shakes hands with a fan before the game against the Dallas Cowboys at AT /

The 2019 Chiefs are more physical, dynamic, and confident than they were in 2018. Brett Veach deserves a lot of credit for that.

The 2019 Chiefs have adopted a gritty, smash-mouth, championship attitude. A lot of this should be credited to Brett Veach.

Following the 2018 season, it was clear that the Chiefs had the potential to be excellent for the next decade. That’s what finding your franchise quarterback affords you. Most teams, following a near super-bowl berth, would be more than content with the result. They would accept that kind of expectation-shattering performance and try and preserve the formula that got them that far.

That formula, of course, was to ride an incredibly potent offense and shred opponents through the air. Their defensive formula was less ambitious. The 2018 Chiefs defense was modeled after the “bend-but-don’t-break” mantra. In other words, they had to be something less than atrocious- the defense couldn’t be the reason they lost. Unsurprisingly, this defensive unit was ranked 24th in total defense.

The “bend don’t break” philosophy is untenable, and it ended up costing the Chiefs a Super Bowl trip. Still, during the offseason, much of the talk about the defense was about retooling over rebuilding—sign a good corner or add a nice linebacker. In other words, most were under the impression that improving the defense a little would be sufficient enough to stay a serious Super Bowl threat.

Enter general manager Brett Veach. Rather than going for a modest adjustment on the defensive side, Veach went for a massive overhaul. We saw the likes of Justin Houston, Dee Ford, and Eric Berry shipped out or released. We saw the additions of Tyrann Matthieu, Frank Clark, Juan Thornhill, Bashaud Breeland, and Morris Claiborne to name a few. It was a shocking overhaul, since guys like Houston and Ford produced well, and were arguably the best defensive players the Chiefs had. The question is, what did Veach see in the additions of Tyrann Matthieu and Frank Clark—expensive additions—who replaced beloved players like Houston and Berry?

Having seen the massive improvement of the Chiefs’ defense, we know the answer. But Veach’s moves to cut bait with so many defensive players, and the brilliant decision to bring in Steve Spagnuolo, extends beyond statistical improvement.

There’s a recurring narrative around Andy Reid-coached teams. They are fantastic on offense, creative in their explosiveness. But Reid’s teams rely on finesse and regarded as unphysical. They are the kinds of teams that are brilliant in shootouts, but not built to win January football. In other words, Reid’s teams are often considered as teams that can’t win ugly.

The Chiefs’ defensive overhaul, and the unit they boast in 2019, shatters this narrative. Tyrann Matthieu and Frank Clark, the marquee additions, play with the kind of athletic arrogance you need to beat the Patriots at home (something they accomplished two weeks ago). The choice to replace Berry with Matthieu was a savvy move, but what’s even more impressive was the choice to draft Juan Thornhill and pair him with the Honey Badger. This safety duo was carefully constructed. Matthieu is in his prime, serving both as a key contributor and mentor for Thornhill, who has shown great promise.

I was strongly opposed to Veach’s decision to move on from Justin Houston, a player I thought still had a lot to offer, and does. However, there’s this sort of dynamic presence among the pass rushers and interior lineman, and it makes the sting of losing Houston less painful. Clark and Chris Jones both play with a refined swagger, and the additions of guys like Khalen Saunders and Tanoh Kpassagnon have helped boost the run defense. Watching this defensive unit grow together and reach their potential in recent weeks has allowed us to see just how different this unit is compared to last year. The Chiefs’ defense plays with a sense of confidence and synergy, and guys like Matthieu and Clark radiate these very qualities.

Veach deserves so much credit for building this unit, mainly because the moves he made were rather unorthodox. The moves to cut bait with guys like Houston and Ford have received sharp criticism, even well into this year. But the proof is on the field. Each Sunday, the Chiefs trot out a hard-nosed, bullying, physical defense. Veach and co.’s refusal to accept the success of last year, in favor of an aggressive, risky overhaul, is seriously impressive. This Chiefs team is playing like one familiar with success, but one laser-focused on the challenges to come.

Credit must go to Veach for his aggressive overhaul and Spagnuolo for his schematic improvement. These 2019 Chiefs ooze a special kind of conviction that they belong amongst the NFL’s best. And the Chiefs’ front office has that same level of confidence. Rather than opting for a conservative defensive improvement, Veach, and co. uprooted everything, for the sake of cresting the final hill. It looks like this Chiefs team has finally learned that “safe” doesn’t win Super Bowls.

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