As Tom Brady stormed into the tunnel at Arrowhead Stadium following the defeat of the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship, questions needed answered inside the home locker room.
The offseason provided numerous replies that have shaped the Chiefs into a favorite to claim Super Bowl XIV.
“Change is inevitable and it’s always hard to move on,” general manager Brett Veach said in a press conference at the start of free agency. “I think it certainly makes it more difficult when change involves long-standing members of the community and the locker room.”
When the Chiefs attacked the days after their season-ending loss, many called for the firing of defensive coordinator Bob Sutton. An offsides and one of the worst defenses in recent NFL history did its justice, and he was let go just three days later.
It allowed Reid to poach Steve Spagnuolo from off his couch to reunite the two from their Philadelphia Eagles days, making the Super Bowl champion his defensive coordinator.
“Sometimes that’s this business,” Reid said at the NFL combine of firing Sutton. “Sometimes change can be good for both sides. He’s in Atlanta, he’s going to do a great job there. I’m happy for him, (and) I’m happy for Steve being able to get back in the league.
“It’s a new look for our defense. The guys are going to have to learn new things, which also can be healthy, too.”
Learning was going to have to be done, be it by longtime Chiefs or newcomers. The Chiefs opted for the latter, trading pass rusher Dee Ford and releasing Eric Berry and Justin Houston, now an Indianapolis Colt.
All three battled health issues and rising salaries as the Chiefs welcome in a new crop of young talent also looking for a payday.
“As everyone knows, these guys were outstanding players. All the accomplishments on the field will certainly never be forgotten,” Veach said. “It’s certainly very difficult, but again, change is a part of this process.”
One day after releasing Berry, the plan came to the forefront. Kansas City snagged their top priority in safety Tyrann Mathieu, a player capable of doing just about anything on a football field while bringing a new fire to a revamped defense.
“He’s just a versatile piece to the puzzle here and these guys are hard to find,” Veach said. “Then you factor in the person and the character and what he brings intangibly, that’s exactly why we coveted him and we made a point to make sure he was a Chief this season.”
The move signaled an automatic turning of a leaf for Reid.
“It is a new beginning for our defense,” Reid said. “Whatever direction it goes, none of us can predict the future. We have (Tyrann Mathieu) here to help build on with the other guys that are still on our football team.”
The Chiefs made a number of other moves, bringing in Alex Okafor and Emmanuel Ogbah for defensive line depth, adding bodies at linebacker in Damien Wilson and Darron Lee, doing the same at running back with Carlos Hyde, but Frank Clark was the other missing piece.
Kansas City surrendered its first-round draft pick — for the second straight year — to acquire the sack machine from Seattle.
“This was our plan all along. This was the guy we targeted,” Veach said. “When we find someone we like, we find a way to get him. We did that with Pat Mahomes. We didn’t have a first-round pick last year and it was because we traded up to draft the league MVP.”
While most of the defense is remade and diving into a fresh playbook, Chris Jones has remained in Miami through OTAs and mandatory minicamp as he reportedly seeks a new contract. He is currently heading into the final year of his rookie deal.
“We just go. You’re here, you get better,” Reid said during OTAs. “You’re not, you don’t.”
All the while, Tyreek Hill had been suspended from the team from late April until the NFL announced he would not be suspended Friday after an investigation into child abuse allegations.
Now he comes to St. Joe with the Chiefs ready to take advantage of his chance.
“You gave me a home when everyone doubted me,” Hill said in a Twitter message to Chiefs fans. “Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I love you all. I can assure you that I will continue to work to be the person, player, and teammate that you envisioned me to be.”