Matt Moore enjoys his 'crazy ride' with Kansas City Chiefs
Matt Moore calls it "a crazy ride, man."
Yeah, something like the "Giant Canyon Swing" or "Expedition GeForce" of the Carnival Hall of Fame.
In late August, the former Oregon State quarterback was a year and a half removed from his NFL playing days, volunteer coaching at his high school and unsure about his next move in life.
Then the Kansas City Chiefs called, and Moore's life was turned upside down.
"It's been a lot of fun," Moore said via phone from Kansas City. "But certainly not something I expected to happen."
Football fans across the country know Moore's story by now.
After 12 NFL seasons, mostly as a reserve QB, Moore was signed by the Chiefs in late August to replace Chad Henne — who had suffered a broken ankle — as Patrick Mahomes' back-up.
On Oct. 17, Mahomes dislocated his right kneecap in the first half against Denver. Moore was called into duty and closed out a 30-6 Kansas City win.
Ten days later, before a national Sunday night audience on NBC, Moore got his first start against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. Moore played well, but the Packers prevailed 31-24.
"I liked what I saw," Kansas City coach Andy Reid said afterward. "He goes about it the right way. The players around him have confidence in him, which winds up being very important."
Last Sunday, Moore engineered a Kansas City comeback in a 26-23 win over Minnesota at Arrowhead Stadium.
"A complete team win," he said. "All of our guys fought to the end for that one. We'd lost two in a row at home. To get that one was big for us."
Moore, 35, is well-remembered by Oregon State fans as the quarterback who transferred from UCLA in 2005 and led the Beavers to a 10-4 season as a senior in 2006, setting a school record with 183 consecutive passes without an interception. Moore ended his college career by completing 31 of 54 passes for 356 yards and four touchdowns in a 39-38 Sun Bowl victory over Missouri and Tigers' QB Chase Daniel.
Moore went undrafted but was signed as a free agent by Dallas in 2007. He was cut after the preseason but signed the next day by Carolina, with whom he spent four seasons.
The 6-3, 225-pound Moore signed with Miami in 2011 and served seven seasons with the Dolphins — the first year as a starter but the last six as a sometimes little-used but highly valued back-up. His final action was also his last start with Miami, completing 23 of 34 passes for 215 yards and a touchdown in a 35-17 loss to New England. Moore was also intercepted twice and sacked seven times by the Patriots.
Miami chose not to re-sign Moore for the 2018 season. He returned to Newhall, California, where he, wife Tara and their three young children had made their offseason home since Matt was signed by the Dolphins.
"I took some calls from other NFL teams, but for whatever reason at the time, it didn't light a fire for me," he said.
From February to May of 2019, he did some scouting for the Dolphins, and last summer spent a month as a volunteer assistant at Hart High, his alma mater in Newhall. By this time, he figured his playing career was kaput.
"Especially after (the 2018) season came and went," Moore said. "It was like, 'Now it's official.'"
Contemplating his next move in life, Moore received a call from Reid, asking if he'd be interested in signing with the Chiefs.
"I was just like, 'Holy cow,'" Moore said. "It was enticing for me to play for a guy like Coach Reid, knowing his history coaching quarterbacks (including Brett Favre, Donovan McNabb, Michael Vick, Jeff Garcia and Alex Smith). Plus, his system fits my style, and it's a successful franchise and a good team.
"I talked about it for a half-day with the 'fam,' then decided on a Monday morning to do it."
Without a training camp and only days away from the Chiefs' regular-season opener at Jacksonville, Moore jumped in, first into the fire, then into the frying pan after Mahomes' injury.
"You don't expect it," he said, "but you know there's always a possibility that you're going to get the call."
Moore arrived in Kansas City "in decent shape, but definitely not in game shape." The physical part wasn't the most difficult task, however.
"It's hard jumping into a team in Week One with no (training) camp," he said. "I had to grind it. I'm still grinding. The first month all I did was study and learn and sleep — that's about it."
Forgive Moore for forgetting the eating part of it, perhaps because it almost seemed there wasn't time to wedge that in.
Almost two years after his last NFL pass, Moore played well in his two-plus quarters against Denver, hitting on 10 of 19 pass for 117 yards, including a 57-yard TD strike to Tyreek Hill.
"There were some nerves at the beginning of the game," he said, "but once I got into a rhythm, I felt pretty good."
Moore was sharp under the bright lights against Green Bay, especially in the first half, when he connected on 15 of 23 passes for 196 yards and TDs of 30 and 29 yards. The latter was a beauty to tight end Travis Kelce under pressure from a blitzing Packer defense. Moore finished 24 for 36 for 267 yards, which included several drops by his receivers. Kelce couldn't hang on to one in the end zone in the second quarter and then again late in the game.
"I have to be better for Matty Moore there at the end, coming back to the ball," Kelce told reporters afterward.
"To get to be out there from start to finish, to throw some balls around and play an entire game and do OK, that gave me some confidence," Moore said. "It also maybe gave the guys some confidence in me moving forward."
At 24, Mahomes is already one of the most respected quarterbacks in the league. Through Moore's two starts, the third-year pro was often a welcome voice in Moore's ear on the Kansas City sidelines.
"There is constant conversation," he said. "One of his super powers is his vision. He sees everything out there. I love when he comes over and tells me what he's seeing. Some of the stuff is beneficial on the field, and there's other stuff that gives you confidence or makes you aware of things."
One thing Moore has found time to do is follow the fortunes of his alma mater. He watched part of Oregon State's 56-38 win at Arizona last Saturday before heading to the Chiefs' hotel in Kansas City before the Vikings game.
"It's been fun to follow what they're doing," Moore said. "You put up 56 points against anybody, that's impressive. The 4-4 record is encouraging. The kids are playing hard. It's going in the right direction."
Moore visited for a day at coach Jonathan Smith's first training camp last year and has gotten to know him "a little bit."
"We've been at some functions together," Moore said. "The little interaction I've had with him has been great. It seems like he creates a great environment for his players. He has that personality about him that's going to drive those guys to where they need to go."
Moore's brother, Nick, is a 6-foot, 190-pound redshirt sophomore quarterback listed third on the depth chart behind Jake Luton and Tristan Gebbia. Nick, who transferred from Eastern Washington before last season, is 14 years younger than Matt.
"We have the same parents (Don and Mindy Moore)," Matt said with a laugh. "Nick just came along a lot later than I did. He was like 6 or 7 when I was playing for the Beavers, and it's kind of cool he gets to play there, too.
"He loves the program. He understands the situation there. He's happy where he's at. I'm happy for him."
Moore has played like a starter the past two weeks, completing 59 of 90 passes (65 percent) for 659 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions. His quarterback rating this season is 100.9, which would rank ninth among NFL QBs if he had enough passes to qualify.
Word is Mahomes may return to duty on Sunday when the Chiefs — 6-3 and leading the AFC West — visit Tennessee. Moore said he has no inside information of Mahomes' availability.
"I really don't know," he said. "We're kind of in a same pattern as the past two weeks. Your guess is as good as mine. I'll just prepare like I'm the starter and be ready if I'm needed."
After sitting out the 2018 season and not expecting to ever again be in an NFL uniform, do the past few weeks seem like a fairy tale?
"I don't know if I'd use that term, but it's been crazy," Moore said. "The (players) have been great. The coaches have been great. To get a chance to play and have this kind of opportunity? It's been a wild ride."
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