It seems like only yesterday that Patrick Mahomes exploded on the scene, quickly becoming the face of the next generation of NFL QB’s. With Peyton Manning recently retired, and players like Rivers and Roethlisberger quickly nearing extinction, it seemed things were lining up for the Kansas City Chiefs to win multiple championships.
Time flies when you’re having fun. And rest assured, Chiefs fans have had a lot of fun over the past four seasons. The Mahomes era has brought fortunes never-before-seen in Kansas City. Six straight division titles (four since Mahomes became starter), four straight AFC Championship games at Arrowhead Stadium, two Super Bowl appearances and a Lombardi.
As comedian Bill Burr would say when asked how it is being married “it’s…good” And it has been good. Very good. But is it time to ask some tough questions? Has the window closed on the opportunity for Mahomes and this era of Chiefs football to win multiple championships? Don’t get me wrong, winning it all in 2020 was transcendent. The first title in 50 years felt like it needed to be proceeded with the Karen Carpenter hit song “We’ve Only Just Begun.”
There was national talk about the Chiefs being the next NFL dynasty. That night in Miami appeared to be a coronation. The new face of the NFL paired with that explosive offensive personnel and a Hall-of-Fame coach. What could go wrong?
Causes for concern
If you’re the worrying type then the following will go to great lengths to placate your concerns. Just three years after the Chiefs won the Super Bowl, it’s fair to ask: has the window for championships closed temporarily?
Four straight AFC Championship games at home with only one Super Bowl to show for it is acceptable but not special. We think of Patrick Mahomes as this generational type player akin to a Steph Curry in the NBA but right now there simply aren’t enough titles in Kansas City. The golden opportunity to load up on hardware from 2018-2022 could very well have gone by the wayside and here’s why:
- Tyreek Hill gone. The most unique receiver the NFL has, perhaps, ever known. It was a money game and the Chiefs didn’t want to play at that level. It’s understandable and the team were able to bolster its depth in the draft as a result but that doesn’t completely erase the sting.
- The AFC is now insane. When Mahomes burst on the scene, we thought maybe Baker Mayfield could be the Chiefs’ biggest threat? Four years later you’ve got Allen in Buffalo, Burrow in Cincy, Russell Wilson traded to the Broncos, Lamar Jackson still winning a lot in the regular season and your entire division going all in to stop your reign.
- Are the Chiefs in a transitional type year? Mecole Hardman is the only receiver on the Chiefs roster that caught balls from Mahomes last year. Tyreek, Robinson and Pringle are out and Skyy Moore, Marquez Valdez-Scantling and Juju Smith-Schuster are in. Gone is three-year starter and Pro Bowler Tyrann Matheiu leaving a young, albeit talented secondary. Steve Spagnuolo has already said he anticipates “growing pains” from this defense. With the 2022 schedule being so difficult, the Chiefs can ill-afford another slow start. While the rest of the AFC West made big splash trades this offseason, the Chiefs stayed out of the muck.
Reasons for hope
- Championship pedigree. You can nitpick the roster all you want but the fact remains the Chiefs are at the top of the AFC mountaintop until someone knocks them off. There is a mental and physical edge that exists when you see a franchise become the symbol of excellence that it has. We saw Kansas City stumble in the second half of the AFC Championship game last season but no other franchise has come close to what the Chiefs have done since Patrick Mahomes arrived on the scene.
- The Brett Veach effect. After a disastrous performance by the offensive line in Super Bowl LV, Veach completely overhauled that unit. Now, the team is looking to the future by trading Tyreek Hill for all-important draft capital which (on paper) appears to have paid off. Veach is rebuilding the secondary by throwing talent and numbers at the position all while deciding to let Tyrann Mathieu walk into free agency. It’s clear the Chiefs brass sees this situation as a marathon and not a sprint.
- What matters most: The QB and the coach. Not a lot needs to be said here, you have Patrick Mahomes, former league and Super Bowl MVP just NOW entering the prime of his career and Andy Reid at the helm, arguably the NFL’s best head coach. While other teams are trying to draft and make moves to combat the Chiefs dominance, the combo of Reid and Mahomes will make it extremely difficult to overtake the Chiefs in this conference.
The legacy of this era of Chiefs football has not yet been decided. In the coming years, Travis Kelce and Andy Reid will be gone and that will give way to the next phase of Mahomes’ career. Remember, we were once talking about Mahomes catching Brady in terms of championships. The conversation as now shifted to “hey he needs two to get up there with Peyton/Eli, Elway etc.” Let’s see how this plays out. Chiefs fans do need to prepare for the worst in 2022 (meaning not winning the division).