KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A few days ago Matt Moore wasn't sure if he was an NFL quarterback anymore, but he knew he was a football coach, working on the staff for his alma mater, Hart High School in Newhall, California, when the phone rang.
The Chiefs need a replacement for Chad Henne, and they wanted Moore. He need a bit of convincing, but admitted than when training camps started in July, his competitive juices started flowing again.
“I didn't really expect a call, but sure there's some thoughts that this may never happen,” Moore said after his first practice with the Chiefs on Tuesday. “Then when it happens you're like, hey, let's go. It's kind of that simple.”
The rapid transformation from high school assistant football coach to the No. 2 quarterback role behind the league's reigning MVP took a matter of hours once tests revealed Chad Henne suffered a high ankle sprain and an ankle fracture Saturday night against San Francisco. In reality, the journey to becoming the Chiefs' backup quarterback took nearly 18 months.
When general manager Brett Veach and head coach Andy Reid sought a veteran backup in March 2018 to backup Patrick Mahomes, they eventually settled on Henne and Moore as the top candidates.
“To me it was a toss up, right,” Reid said after practice Tuesday. “I liked both the guys, and that's what made this so easy. You have to through agents and get everything worked out and all that. I would have taken either guy, it was just how it worked out.”
It worked out with Henne, who signed a two-year deal for $6.7 million with the Chiefs. Henne brought a bit more experience, starting 53 games over the course of nine seasons compared to Moore's 30 starts in 10 campaigns.
Both quarterbacks have completion percentages hovering just under 60 percent, although Moore owns a slightly better passer rating than Henne. 81.2 to 75.5. That's largely due to Moore's superior touchdown-to-interception ratio of 45 touchdowns to 36 picks. Henne has thrown more interceptions (63) than touchdowns (58). Both journeymen backups also share a connection through Miami – Moore backed up Henne in 2011 and took over as the starter after Henne suffered a dislocated shoulder.
When Henne won the offer from the Chiefs, Moore didn't close the door quite yet. He ended up sitting out the 2018 season.
“Me being out last year, that was somewhat preference and somewhat the way it worked out,” Moore said. “With the way it all worked out I was fine with it, obviously, just the way it goes. Happy to be here now. I was happy when coach called me.”
Moore spoke to Henne on Monday after he agreed to terms with the Chiefs.
“He's obviously doing what he's doing, and when he gets back he was looking forward to talking more,” Moore said. “I think that's going to be beneficially for me. Patrick and the guys have been a great help already. I've only been here for less than a day. I'm collecting information as fast as possible and trying to move forward the best I can.”
Reid sees in Moore a quick study. Quarterbacks coach Mike Kafka met with Moore Monday night and again Tuesday morning. Moore spent most of his last six seasons in variations of spread and West Coast offenses, which share similar concepts if albeit different terminology than Reid's offense. Moore also shares a connection with offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy. He started four games at quarterback for UCLA in 2003, the same season Bieniemy joined the Bruins as running backs coach.
Less than 24 hours after arriving in Kansas City, Moore was taking snaps behind the No. 1 offensive line.
“He had been throwing, working out with his kids,” Reid said. “He stayed in pretty good shape. He did a nice job throwing the ball out there today. Kind of getting back in the swing, getting used to the speed of these guys compared to maybe high school kids. But he's in good shape.”
Moore knows he has a steep learning curve with the Chiefs opening the season in Jacksonville in 11 days.
“Physically I feel pretty good,, Moore said. “Just learning and being around the guys and all that, it's challenging for sure. Lean on the people here and work hard, that's all you can do.
The addition of Moore sends an unspoken signal about the Chiefs' other backup options. Undrafted free agent Kyle Shurmur and second-year free agent Chase Litton will share the signal caller duties Thursday night at Green Bay in the preseason finale. Neither, however, possess the experience Reid desires.
“I think they just need to keep developing,” Reid said. “I like to have that veteran guy in there, I've always kind of done that. I like that with either a veteran starting and then a young guy or a young guy starting and then a veteran guy backing him up.”
The future of the No. 2 quarterback job in Kansas City remains in flux. Henne underwent surgery in Houston Tuesday afternoon, and the Chiefs hope to wait for the prognosis before making another roster move. If Henne has hopes of returning at some point this season, the Chiefs can carry him on the 53-man roster Saturday afternoon and place him on the injured reserve. That leaves the door open to return. If the Chiefs place him on IR in the next few days, it means his season is over before it really began.
“We'll see, we'll see how it all works out with the surgery and we'll take it from there,” Reid said.
Until then, Moore plans to immerse himself in the Chiefs offense to get up to speed as quickly as he can. He also plans to get to know Mahomes too.
“He's a great kid, easy to talk to,” Moore said after spending time with Mahomes Tuesday morning. “Obviously football is extremely important to him, you can tell that pretty quick.
“Other than that, I really haven't been here that long, but it's really good so far.”