The Kansas City Chiefs had nine different starting combinations along the offensive line last season, which ranked among the most in the National Football League.
On Thursday, they officially signed one of the most consistent and durable right tackles in the NFL in former Cleveland Browns second-round pick Mitch Schwartz.
Schwartz, who spent the last four years with the Browns, has been one of the league’s best right tackles since he arrived out of the University of California back in 2012.
After signing his contract, Schwartz spoke about a few of the reasons he decided to join the Chiefs, which include the understanding of the organization’s place in history.
“The Hunt family name is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, in football history,” Schwartz explained. “So understanding their family's contributions to the game and how that plays out in the organization—that was one of the overriding factors.
“The last few years, the success of just being able to compete right away for the playoffs and hopefully a championship every year—that was really enticing.”
In his four years with the Browns, Schwartz had the opportunity to play at Arrowhead Stadium twice—once in 2013 and then again last season.
Those experiences resonated with him.
“I know it’s the loudest stadium in the NFL,” he said. “I know the fans are great—that much I've known for a long time, just knowing that on Sunday’s this is the place to be. I remember the first time I played here was against my brother (Geoff). He told me that when we rolled in on the buses to look for the smoke—everyone tailgating and smoking some ribs and other foods.
“So pulling up on the bus and just seeing the smoke rise, it was a really cool atmosphere. You can just tell that the fans get here early. They like to enjoy themselves. Just seemed like a really great environment to play a game.”
His brother, Geoff, also an offensive lineman, signed as a free agent with the Chiefs before the 2013 season—the first of the John Dorsey and Andy Reid-led era.
“I knew he had a really good time here,” Schwartz said of his brother. “He loved the coaching staff. He talked about how much he loved living here. The quality of life (in Kansas City) is a really big thing, and knowing you're going to enjoy going to work every day.
“You can put in some long hours and just knowing that if you're here for 14 hours, you're going to enjoy every minute of it. That’s big.”
With a brother who already spent a year living in the city, Schwartz said he already had an inside track to some of the more important things he needed to know—like where to grab the best barbecue.
“[Geoff’s] favorite I think is Jack Stack,” he said with a laugh. “He took me there the night before our game (in 2013). We were able to go grab dinner on Saturday night.
“He's a big beef rib guy, so I guess they really have good beef ribs. I tend to stick to pork a little more.”
Before he gets into one of the most hotly contested debates among Kansas Citians, Schwartz acknowledged that he’s got a lot of places to try out once he’s all settled here in town.
“It seems like there's like five or six places that everyone says, ‘You've got to go here, you've got to go here,’ so I’ll get well-versed in that pretty quickly.”
Away from the dinner table and on the field, Schwartz is excited about the opportunity to play in an offense that’s led by an offensive line aficionado in coach Andy Reid.
“The offense is great for offensive linemen,” he said of the system. “There's a lot of things we get to do here that you can’t do elsewhere. It’s a balanced offense. It’s setting up play action—doing things offensive linemen love.
“It’s not just sitting back there and chucking it 60 to 70 times a game and hoping things work out.”
According to Pro Football Focus, Schwartz was the No. 2 right tackle in the NFL last season, and has had a positive pass-blocking grade from the website in each of his first four years.
“I’ve always been big on technique,” Schwartz explained. “You need to be strong, you need to be athletic, you need to be fast, but your technique is what you hang your hat on. In the heat of the moment, when you’re going against (Denver Broncos linebacker) Von Miller or (Oakland Raiders linebacker) Khalil Mack, you’re not thinking about too much. You just have to react to things.
“It’s all muscle memory, so you have to have a good foundation for what you’re doing.”
Schwartz had a good enough foundation against Miller in their game last year to hold the first-team All-Pro to the “lowest pass-rush grade of [Miller’s] career,” allowing just one hurry in the Week 6 matchup.
Now he’ll get to face him twice a year.
As impressive as that is, maybe the most impressive aspect of Schwartz’s young four-year career is that he has yet to miss a single snap in any game he’s played since entering the league back in 2012.
“There’s an element of luck and there’s also an element of just working hard,” Schwartz said of that streak. “The strength and conditioning, it’s to get you stronger and faster and all that, but its number one priority is for durability to keep you healthy and prevent injury. So I try to do a good job of maintaining that as much as possible throughout the year.
“Then, every guy is going to have smaller injuries or tiny things throughout the season, and I think as an offensive lineman, you definitely feel it’s your duty to play pretty much regardless—unless there’s something the medical staff says you just can’t do. We take a lot of pride on being there for the other four guys, being there for the rest of the team. It’s just a pride thing as an OL.”
Schwartz joins an offensive line that has seen a couple of last year’s main contributors sign with new teams during the start of free agency. Jeff Allen signed a new contract with the Houston Texans, and
In addition to the familiarity of playing at Arrowhead Stadium and having a brother who played for the same coaching staff just two years prior, Schwartz also has the benefit of having played for one of the new co-offensive coordinators of the Chiefs, Brad Childress, who was his offensive coordinator in Cleveland as a rookie back in 2012.“There's a comfortability there in terms of Coach Childress,” he said. “He's a really good coach and he's a really great guy as well. I think that's kind of the thing that I'm realizing more and more, it’s a good staff football-wise (here in Kansas City), but they're also really great people.”