Chiefs Chairman & CEO Clark Hunt
OPENING STATEMENT: "Before we get started, I want to congratulate the team and the coaching staff on the big victory over Denver yesterday as well as the great start to the season. It's really a testament to the job that Andy (Reid) has done since he's been here. We've gotten off to a number of great starts over the last six years, certainly I would say this is probably the best job he's done from a coaching standpoint, he and his staff. The way that we've dominated the AFC West I think just really speaks to the quality of a coach that Andy is and we're very, very lucky to have him. I also want to compliment Brett Veach on the job he's done in building depth for the squad this year. A lot of the moves that he made in the offseason have really helped us in terms of filling in where we've had injuries. I think we've seen that the last couple of weeks as we've had some guys go down, there has been a young player that's ready to step up and they've done an excellent job. That really goes to Brett and his staff. Finally, I want to thank the fans – the Chiefs Kingdom. I've never seen them this fired up. We've seen it at our home games this year, yesterday was a great example. A beautiful day here in Kansas City, 76,000 fans in the stadium and I know they played a big role in helping us get another victory. With that, in the words of a very famous coach, the time is yours."
Q: What makes you say that Andy Reid is doing his best job?
HUNT: "I think there was a big question mark in all of our minds coming into the year with the transition at quarterback. We knew that Patrick (Mahomes) was very talented but any time that an NFL team goes with a young quarterback, usually it's a very challenging endeavor. Sometimes it takes time, several years, but as we've seen Andy had Patrick ready to go Week 1. He's played outstanding, perhaps at an MVP-caliber, for the first eight weeks and I think that credit goes to Andy and his staff."
Q: How have you seen Andy Reid's happier demeanor carry over during the season?
HUNT: "Andy does a good job of guarding his emotions, as we all know. But just being around him, and I think everybody in the building would say this, he's definitely excited about the football team that he has. He's obviously a very creative mind on the offensive side and I think the skill players that we have, not only Patrick but all the skill players, are really letting him show the full extent of his playbook. I think that has him really excited. Obviously, being 7-1 has the whole team and the coaching staff excited for the prospects for the team down the road."
Q: What's your interpretation of Eric Berry's health?
HUNT: "It's no different than what you've heard from Andy or Rick Burkholder. It literally is day-to-day. I do know that nobody is working harder to rehab than Eric (Berry). Eric is a young man who loves the game of football and wants to be out there on the field and as soon as he feels he's ready he's going to be out there."
Q: Do you expect Eric Berry to play this season?
HUNT: "I really don't have an expectation. That's a decision that Eric, along with our medical staff, is going to have to make and I don't want to step in front of that."
Q: When did you get the sense that Patrick Mahomes was going to work out?
HUNT: "Well Patrick got off to a very good start Week 1 against Los Angeles. I think everybody, me included, was pretty excited about his performance. The question was, was that a one-time example of his talent or was it something that was going to be consistent game-to-game? He's just shown that every week and has built on it. I think there was some question as defenses and defensive coordinators had a chance to scout him, would they be able to come up with something that would slow him down? And that just hasn't proven to be the case. I don't know if there was one moment, but once we got two or three games into the season, I think I felt pretty comfortable that he was going to be very special and can play at a high level this year."
Q: Is Brett Veach handling the GM position the way you expected him to?
HUNT: "Yeah, he really is, and I've enjoyed working with him. Brett is very, very thorough and always very prepared for whatever the scenario is. Whether it's the draft or free agency, or just working the roster on a week-to-week basis. He and Andy work very well together. That's an important part of the equation. Going back to last year I mentioned how impressed I was, with the short amount of time that he had, to make some changes going into the 2017 season that ultimately really had an impact. That wasn't something that I was expecting. Brett's now had a full offseason, a draft and free agency, and he made a lot of moves. I think we're seeing the fruit of that labor this year. A lot of those young players, whether they were drafted or brought in as free agents, are having a big impact on the team and that really goes to Brett and his staff."
Q: What has been most impressive to you about Patrick Mahomes and how he carries himself as a starting quarterback?
HUNT: "Beyond what he's done on the field, I think the most impressive thing on the field is the way that he's learned Andy's offense, which is not an easy thing for a young quarterback and he executes it at a high level. He's outstanding when he freelances but he's also outstanding when he's in the pocket, just running the offense. I think beyond that, it's his leadership ability. We had heard that. Brett and his staff told me that as a leader at Texas Tech, the coaches couldn't speak more highly of him, but I think we've seen that this year. Very, very challenging for a young quarterback, 22-, 23-years old to be able to step into an NFL locker room and almost overnight become one of the leaders of the team and he's done that. I think he has a tremendous amount of humility and that's really helped him. That's caused his teammates to gravitate towards him and that's something that's going to help us not only this year, but down the stretch."
Q: Is there an example you could see Patrick Mahomes leadership in person?
HUNT: "I think watching his demeanor when he talks about the team in press conferences, that's one example. He's very quick to give credit to his teammates and he does have a tremendous group of teammates. Those offensive skill players are really special, and I think he rightly points a lot of the credit for our success to them. Then also watching him in the locker room in postgame situations, whether it's been one of the wins or our loss in New England, the way that he carries himself and the way that he speaks to his teammates. You can just see how they respect him. He's very, very well spoken, and I think he hits the right message in those situations."
Q: When did the thought of how much Brett Veach liked Patrick Mahomes get to you?
HUNT: "Brett, obviously with retrospect now, did a tremendous job on scouting Patrick and then getting first, Andy, and then later, John Dorsey, excited about him. It truly was an organizational decision to draft him, so I don't want to minimize that, but Brett deserves a lot of the credit. I probably heard about the interest a couple months before the draft and as we went through the preparation process, just learned more about it as we went along. There was a point where I sat down and watched a handful of plays with John so that they could show me the things that they'd been trying to describe he did at Texas Tech. That led to an organizational decision, but just great job all the way around by the personnel department on that."
Q: What has it been like for you to watch the Chiefs have a young, homegrown quarterback succeed?
HUNT: "It's been very, very exciting for me and for our entire family to watch Patrick play this year. I would point out that hopefully we're in the first minutes of the first quarter of a very long game where we are going to get to see Patrick play a lot of games in Kansas City. Ultimately, the narrative on what kind of player he is and where his standing is in the history of the Chiefs and the National Football League, that's going to be down the road where we'll learn all that. As a start, you couldn't have asked for a better start. He seems to have a very, very high ceiling and is the type of quarterback that can create an opportunity for your team to compete for a championship every year. That's something that we aspire to here in Kansas City, so having a young quarterback that we drafted who puts the franchise in this position is a huge plus."
Q: Would you approve a trade that would include a first-round pick?
HUNT: "Well, I value those picks very highly as do Brett and Andy. It's not a light decision to ever trade away a pick, especially a first-round pick. Obviously, in hindsight the decision to trade up and take Patrick, even though it did cost us a first-round pick, was a great decision. I don't want to say that I would approve or wouldn't approve, because it really would be situational. I'm not aware of any scenario where that would come into play and that trade deadline is coming pretty fast now."
Q: How pleased are you with what Patrick Mahomes is doing putting Kansas City on the national radar?
HUNT: "Again, and I'm going to defer to Patrick on this because I think he'd point some of the attention to the rest of the offense as well as the job the defense has done the last several weeks in helping us win football games. It's not all about him, it's about a very exciting offense. Again, some of the credit needs to go back to Andy. I think each week the new formations, the new plays that we're seeing, they completely confuse the defense. Patrick and the offense are executing it, but Andy is drawing that stuff up each week so they all deserve some credit in it. It's been a lot of fun, frankly, for me and I think everybody who is a Chiefs fan to see all the interest in the Chiefs. That's a credit to the success we've had. That interest is not only here locally but it's really nationally. It seems like everybody who went to Texas Tech is all of a sudden now a Chiefs fan, which is great. You mentioned the TV ratings; the TV ratings were among the highest in a number of years for that Patriots game on Sunday night. Our local ratings are also higher than they've been in many, many years and they've always been very good. Our local ratings are always very good, but clearly Andy, Patrick, the offense and the victories that we're getting have taken that to a higher level."
Q: Do you just sense a different feeling around the NFL this year with TV ratings up league-wide?
HUNT: "It really is. And there was a lot of concern, I think, around the league and also from those who follow the NFL with the decrease in ratings two consecutive years. That has completely turned around this year and I don't know that it was really expected and I'm not sure you can really point to any one thing. I have heard people mention that it seems like the NFL is more exciting this year. There are a number of high-powered offenses, not to mention the Chiefs with Patrick Mahomes at the helm, that are helping drive that. I get it. It is fun to watch our offense play and I think that has really helped ratings, not only here in Kansas City, but around the country."
Q: What is your comfort level with how the franchise relocations are going in Los Angeles and Oakland?
HUNT: "I don't have a lot of information on how those moves are going in terms of their ticket sales for their new buildings, and that's really the most important thing for the Rams, for the Chargers and for the Raiders. I think when we have more data on that we're going to have a real feel for how those transitions are going to work out. Those type of transitions are always very difficult, no matter what market you're going to when a team relocates. It does create a lot of turmoil, I think, around the franchises. It looks like the Rams and Chargers are handling that very well, particularly on the field and we're going to have a chance to play both those teams later this year."
Q: Is that Mexico City game important to the Chiefs playing in that specific market?
HUNT: "I think any time we have a chance to showcase the Kansas City Chiefs on a national – and in this case international – level, it's a benefit to the organization. The great thing about this game is that we're not giving up a home game to do it. It's a Rams home game and I know you (reporter) particularly are very happy about that."
Q: You remember, you have a long memory.
HUNT: "Yes I do. I think it's a huge plus for us. We have a lot of fans, believe it or not, in Mexico already. Having the chance to play there will only grow that fanbase. I think we saw the same thing when we played in London in 2015. We had fans from all over Europe, which I didn't even know that. Seeing those fans show up at the game was tremendous and I know we created a lot more fans by our performance that day. Hopefully we'll have a chance to do the same thing in Mexico."
Q: Have you spoken with John Dorsey since he left the organization?
HUNT: "We have. I saw him a number of times at the league meeting this past spring and we had a number of great conversations. John and I are still friends. I know they are going through a tough situation right now, but I wish him all the best there."
Q: How has the dynamic of player-driven community outreach played out with the team?
HUNT: "We're very, very pleased with the way the team has embraced the opportunity that we've given to get out there and make a difference from a social justice standpoint. We've had a number of players who have charities that they care a great deal about, they've brought opportunities to us where they can go serve in the community and we've helped them organize those activities. I'm very pleased, and really it's a credit to the type of players that we have here."
Q: How encouraging is it for you that players are still being active in the community even with the on-field success?
HUNT: "It's been a priority since my dad brought the team here back in the early 1960s, that we give back as an organization. That really starts with our players and coaches. Our players throughout the decades have done a tremendous job on that and the five Walter Payton Man of the Year winners is a testament to that. The group we have here, though, has embraced it as well. We have a very, very close-knit locker room. They like being around each other, whether that's at work or in their time off. More and more they're choosing to do things to serve in their time off and doing it as a group. I couldn't be more pleased with it."