Matt Moore journeys from HS coach to Chiefs QB

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  • By Grant Gordon NFL.com
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As August burned away in the Southern California summer, Matt Moore was readying for the impending football season -- the high school season.

During autumns long past, Moore was part of a dynasty at Hart High in the Santa Clarita Valley -- winning a pair of section titles as a standout defensive back waiting in the wings and then as an all-around standout signal-caller.

A decade in the NFL seemingly in the rear-view, the favorite son had returned home to his alma mater to become an assistant coach.

"History speaks for itself, to be a part of that was awesome," Moore told Haley Sawyer of The Signal, "and to maybe be a part of stuff in the future is exciting to me, too."

But an exciting future for Moore would come to be in Kansas City and all of a sudden Thursday night happened.

With reigning NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes going down in the first half against the Broncos, Moore made his return in front of a worldwide audience; coming on in relief to maintain a Chiefs lead and close out a Kansas City 30-6 victory.

"It's hard to be a relief pitcher, but he's done it before and there's a certain way to prep for that," Chiefs coach Andy Reid told the media on Friday, via team transcript. "He understands that and it paid off for him. The best part is we didn't have to change up a lot of things. The hard thing to do is if one guy comes in, the backup comes in, and you have to change the whole offense right away. That's a tough deal. We didn't have to do that with him."

When Moore got in some blowout mop-up duty in Week 1 against the Jaguars, it was the first time he'd played in an NFL game since Week 12 of the 2017 season with Miami. Thus, his showing on Thursday was all the more impressive considering it was his first substantial playing time since that Nov. 26, 2017 outing for the Dolphins against the Patriots. Following three quarters and change with the Chiefs on Thursday, Moore was 10-for-19 for 117 yards, a touchdown, no interceptions and an 89.1 rating.

"Yeah, football-wise, a couple series," was how long Moore said it took him to feel comfortable when he talked to reporters after game. "I think that was pretty evident. Shorted some throws and missed some stuff, some stuff I think a quarterback should hit. But kind of got into a little rhythm there as the game went on and coach Reid had a nice flow going with play calls. Made me feel comfortable as we went on."

It was a bumpy return as Moore completed just three passes for eight yards in his first nine attempts. But his comfort grew and the highlight of the day came when he found Tyreek Hill coming open and floated a ball to him that ended with a 57-yard touchdown in the third quarter to seal the game.

"Yeah, everyone's got a job to do on every play," Moore said. "It was a great job by those guys, by Tyreek getting open. It was a heck of a call, really. And so to hit it obviously is exciting for sure."

Having long holstered a top-level arm, Moore showed he can still throw long and though he's 35 and had been out of the game, he still showcased mobility when needed, savvy pocket presence and veteran thinking.

Even though Moore quarterbacked the Chiefs to a victory that ended a two-game losing skid, many have wondered aloud about the Chiefs bringing in another signal-caller for the starting quarterback spot with Mahomes likely to be out at least three weeks with a dislocated knee cap. And there's obviously a question as to who will back up the backup.

"I haven't had a chance to visit with (general manager Brett) Veach," Reid said Friday when asked about the QB situation minus Mahomes. "I would imagine that we would probably bring a practice squad player up -- Kyle Shurmur up -- and go from there. I can't guarantee that for you as we go, but it would be one thought, for sure. And then, let Matt get the reps and go, if that's where we're at here. But again, I don't have all of the information for you on that."

What comes next for Moore and the Chiefs obviously remains to be played out.

But looking back at how his journey took him to Thursday night is rather extraordinary.

An undrafted free agent out of Oregon State in 2007, Moore was released by the Cowboys, who hoped to sign him to the practice squad. The Panthers signed him, though, and he spent three seasons there -- starting a bit and contributing off the bench. He moved on to Miami as a starter in 2011, but backed up for the Ryan Tannehill era, becoming a mainstay in Miami well-regarded for his abilities off the bench and well-liked by teammates over seven seasons.

That was through 2017. In 2018, Moore didn't play and it looked as though his NFL career had reached the past tense. As it turns out, the Chiefs took a look at him, but decided to go with Chad Henne instead.

When Henne suffered an ankle injury during the third week of the preseason, fate, as it's accustomed to do, changed rapidly for Moore.

It's really nothing new for Moore, who previously spent a year away from football in college when he transferred out of UCLA, was actually selected by the Angels in the Major League Baseball First-Year Players Draft in 2004 and returned to football in 2005 with Oregon State.

This time around, Moore had done some scouting for the Dolphins and was doing some coaching for the Indians (his alma mater's mascot).

"You saw production from him for a number of years," Reid said. "There was always that question, he was in those situations where people debate if he should be the starter or if the other guy should be the starter. You saw that ability to start football games and win. I told you before, he and Chad (Henne), that was the year it was between them two. It was really a coin flip, I didn't think we would lose either way. It was great we had an opportunity to get him back here.

"Really, the whole thing he's done here; coming in late to us when Chad got hurt and then asking him to pick up this offense which is pretty complicated. He's a pro and he's done a very nice job with it."

Just a year ago at this time, it seemed as if a former Panther and Dolphin was a former NFL player.

Just a few months ago, Moore had returned to the setting of his high school glory days, looking to help shape youngsters hoping to follow a similar path as him.

Then came Thursday night and, for the interim, Matt Moore is the starting quarterback for a Super Bowl contender.

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