Any drama surrounding Kansas City’s quarterback situation for 2018 went by the wayside with news that the Chiefs agreed to terms with Washington sending Alex Smith to the nation’s capital and officially launching the Patrick Mahomes era.
Mahomes already won the hearts of Chiefs fans as their first home-grown quarterback talent in more than three decades. Now it’s his turn to win games. That’s something that Smith did as well as any quarterback in the league during the past five seasons. Only Tom Brady (60) and Russell Wilson (54) won more regular season games than Alex Smith (50) as a starter since his arrival in Kansas City in 2013.
Smith also turned arguable one of the best quarterback seasons in franchise history. His 4,042 passing yards rank fourth-best in club history, his 26 touchdowns rank sixth-best and his 104.7 quarterback rating eclipsed Len Dawson’s team record of 101.7 set in the team’s Super Bowl season of 1966.
The gunslinger Mahomes, however, is the last man standing. With Smith on his way to Washington and Tyler Bray an unrestricted free agent, Mahomes is the only quarterback committed to Kansas City for the 2018 season. And the Chiefs are certainly committed to him.
22-of-35 passing (62.9 percent), 284 passing yards, no touchdowns, one interception, 76.4 quarterback rating, 2 sacks, 10 rushing yards
62 offensive snaps (6.04 percent)
Mahomes showed the Chiefs what they wanted to see in the season finale against the Denver Broncos, and it was enough to give him the keys to the kingdom. His performance in Denver tantalized, even if the black-and-white numbers look good but not spectacular. But it’s all on his shoulders now, as the Chiefs believe they are a playoff team and not in a rebuilding mode.
Not much seemed to give Mahomes trouble as a rookie. Reading zone defenses seemed the one weak link in the chain during training camp. Chiefs coaches and teammates stress that Mahomes is a diligent student, however, and expect the Chiefs to build their offseason program around preparing him for his first season as a starter. Offensive coordinator Matt Nagy is gone, but new offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy may be Mahomes’ best friend when it comes to supporting him with a strong run game. Also don’t overlook new quarterbacks coach Mike Kafka presence. He knows from first-hand experience what it’s like to run Reid’s offense, and he served as a mentor of sorts to Mahomes last season. The support staff is in place to give Mahomes what he needs but fans need to keep in mind that 22-year-old quarterbacks will make mistakes.
Tyler Bray (unrestricted free agent)
0-of-1 passing (62.9 percent), 39.6 quarterback rating, 1 fumble
4 offensive snaps (0.39 percent)
Bray finally saw the field in his fifth professional season during the Week 17 finale at Denver. The dream, however, quickly turned into a nightmare. Bray fired incomplete on his only pass. He then turned over the ball on a botched snap before Mahomes re-entered the game and drive the Chiefs to victory. The 26-year-old Bray still has all the physical tools a coach could want at quarterback, but he has yet to prove command of the offense that gives the club confidence to roll with him as their primary backup. Bray is an unrestricted free agent. He can easily stay in Kansas City, however, if head coach Andy Reid and general manager Brett Veach want to keep him in the fold.
The expectations for Mahomes appear almost anything but reasonable. What’s the ceiling? Aaron Rodgers passed for 4,038 yards with 28 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and a rating of 93.8 his first year as a starter. However, the then 25-year-old quarterback had three years in the league behind Brett Favre. The floor might be Donovan McNabb’s first full season as a starter under Reid in Philadelphia. He threw for 3,365 yards with 21 touchdowns and 13 interceptions and a quarterback rating of 77.8.
Conventional wisdom says it would be difficult for Mahomes to match Alex Smith’s 2017 season. Mahomes may get there one day, but it’s a lot to ask in year one as a starter.
BIGGEST DECISION TO MAKE
That’s done with the shipping of Smith to Washington. Yes, the deal doesn’t finalize until the new league year starts March 14. But the Smith-or-Mahomes decision loomed over the team’s entire offseason plans. Veach got the deal done quickly and painlessly, and looks like he received good value for the veteran signal caller. Now the Chiefs turn to rounding out their quarterback group. Bray could certainly return, but expect the Chiefs to make a play for a veteran backup.
The Chiefs could use a veteran quarterback behind Mahomes as insurance and a mentor. There’s not a better candidate among this year’s free agents than former Chiefs quarterback Chase Daniel. Daniel knows the offense inside and out. He also can provide the veteran savvy the team needs in the quarterback room. The 31-year-old just finished a one-year, $900,000 contract plus incentives with the Saints. He should reasonably fits within the budget for the Chiefs.