Just One More Step for Mahomes
By Nick Athan
In the wake of his stellar pre-season camp, and successful game debut Friday night versus the San Francisco 49ers, Quarterback Patrick Mahomes, was elevated to second team on Sunday. In dispensing back-up Tyler Bray, the young gunslinger has one more hurdle to overcome, take the job away from incumbent, Alex Smith.
Statistically speaking Chiefs Rookie Quarterback, Patrick Mahomes won’t deliver his Hall of Fame acceptance speech anytime soon, but lining up with a third team offense, he did a solid job in his rookie exhibition debut at Arrowhead against the San Francisco 49ers. Despite some stumbles and penalties by his teammates, it was good enough to move him up the depth chart ahead of veteran Quarterback, Tyler Bray. Now, he has only one more hurdle to overcome in becoming the starter this season, and that’s to knock off, Alex Smith from his perch atop the depth chart.
I know the hype surrounding Mahomes needs to be tempered but these are unusual times in Chiefs land. In its rich multi-decade footprint in the AFL and AFC, this team has never carried this much excitement at the quarterback position ever! Yes, Mahomes is raw, but his potential is far greater than Smith at any stage of his decade long career, and quite honestly, sitting that talent on the sidelines in 2017, well is just flat out insane.
Want one more reason to make the switch? NESN just launched its 2017 NFL Fantasy Quarterback Rankings and Smith falls in at #25, behind Jared Goff (Rams), Paxton Lynch (Broncos), Jay Cutler (Dolphins), Brian Hoyer (49ers) and Mike Glennon (Bears). Are you kidding me?
To that point, the fact Reid bumped Mahomes to second team this quickly, tells me even he believes the kid can run KC’s complex offense in Week One against the New England Patriots. Sure, we know Reid likes to juggle his depth chart, especially at the quarterback position to push competition, but this move speaks of a long-term decision, not a temporary slotting of his current quarterback rotation at the end of training camp.
So, what’s next for Mahomes and his attempts to unseat Smith?
Over the next two weeks, Mahomes and Smith will be tested with a pair of tough road games. First up the Cincinnati Bengals, and then the likely NFC champion, Seattle Seahawks. What will be telling in both games, will be the amount of time Mahomes plays with the second team offense, or if he gets any reps with the first team unit over the next two games.
If at any point in August, Reid gives Mahomes the full complement of his A-Team, that would tend to suggest another jump on the depth chart is possible at some stage this season. I’ve heard rumblings the coaching staff marvels at Mahomes ability to assimilate the playbook, audible at the line of scrimmage, and his uncanny confidence in the huddle, not to mention his incredible talents, there does not appear to be any detractors on the staff, signaling any warning signs, he can’t line up as the opening day starter.
I’ve been around this franchise long enough it has spent decades playing it safe. But as we’ve seen in this crazy off-season, that hasn’t been the case in Kansas City this year. First, the team cut veteran Running Back, Jamaal Charles in March, traded away a 2018 first round pick for Mahomes in April, cut Wide Receiver, Jeremy Maclin in May, then dumped the man who orchestrated the trade, General Manager, John Dorsey in June.
So, with all that recent turmoil, why would anyone believe that Reid won’t push Mahomes atop the depth chart anytime soon?
Now, I know at this stage, Smith is the better quarterback. He played well in a limited roll Friday night, but his time in Kansas City is approaching the sunset of his NFL career with the Chiefs. Perhaps, he gets one more year to prove he can’t win in the post season, but either way, his tenure is all but done in the heartland.
For Reid, as much as he wants to be competitive this year, any decision about the quarterback position must be fixated solely on the future. Sure, the Chiefs have a top-rated defense, playmakers on offense, and a solid mix of youth and veteran stability at every corner of the roster to overcome a brutal 2017 schedule with ten wins. However, what this franchise does not possess is the quarterback that can simply execute the playbook and deliver all the throws necessary for the Chiefs to become an elite offense. Further, I suspect if the coaches were to be polled in silence, their inner belief would unanimously project, Smith can’t deliver the goods this season.
Therefore, in my view, starting Mahomes is the best option for Reid as he preps for the NFL Season opener on the road against, Tom Brady and the World Champion New England Patriots.
If you like NFL drama, can you imagine the hype for that game, Brady versus Mahomes in primetime? Admit it Chiefs fans, you want to see that play out as much as I do.