Why the Kansas City Chiefs should start Patrick Mahomes

KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 31: Quarterbacks Alex Smith
KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 31: Quarterbacks Alex Smith /
ArmchairAddict1 /

I was 100% behind starting Alex Smith this season.

I wanted to get that out there before I went any farther. From the moment the Kansas City Chiefs drafted Patrick Mahomes, I truly believed it was in their best interest both this season and moving forward for the Chiefs to play Smith in 2017 and give the rookie a year to learn Andy Reid’s offense and adjust to life in the NFL. It was a good plan. It was the right plan.

Early on the plan was working marvelously. The Chiefs were 5-0 and the talk of the NFL. Alex Smith was not only helping the Chiefs win games, but he was one of the biggest reasons for their hot start. He was getting MVP considerations for crying out loud.

The past six games have brought all of that to a screeching halt. The Chiefs are in an absolute nosedive, and their offense in particular is one of the worst in the NFL. Something drastic has to be done in order to salvage the season. That “something drastic” needs to be starting Patrick Mahomes.

There have been people crying for Mahomes to start since he made his first highlight reel throw in the preseason. I wasn’t that guy. The Chiefs had a talented enough roster to be a contender and going with the veteran quarterback that knew Andy Reid’s offense inside and out was the smart play. I believed, like many others, that the Chiefs didn’t need a MVP candidate at quarterback. They needed a savvy veteran who would distribute the ball to their play makers and not make stupid rookie mistakes. The quarterback they got the first five weeks was a bonus, more than needed or expected. The problem is that Smith has regressed not from MVP candidate back to game manager, but from MVP candidate to completely ineffective.

The Kansas City Chiefs offense is completely and totally broken.

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Now, I acknowledge that the broken offense is not all on Alex Smith. The offensive line is bad. They are mediocre in pass protection and just flat out bad at run blocking. That’s a problem. The play calling and game plan by head coach Andy Reid has also been a major issue. The offense seems rudderless. What is their identity? What do they want to do? They don’t seem to know.

The Chiefs also have no fire. There’s nobody stepping up in important situations. I’m not being overly dramatic when I say its as bad (or worse) than the horrific offenses we’ve seen run by the likes of Tyler Thigpen, Tyler Palko, and Matt Cassel. The difference is this offense has a trio of playmakers in Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, and Kareem Hunt that make the abysmal production just flat out inexcusable.

The Chiefs don’t have a back up offensive line with the natural talent of Patrick Mahomes they can bring in. For better or for worse the Chiefs are going to run Andy Reid’s version of the West Coast offense. He can dial up some different plays and come up with a better game plan to get K.C.’s best weapons the ball, but the offense is what it is. The only meaningful change that the Chiefs can make in order to try and spark K.C.’s offensive production is to make a change at quarterback.

I don’t know if Patrick Mahomes will be any better than Smith has been. I don’t know that he is the answer, but I know that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting to get different results. Alex Smith isn’t making plays when it counts. Andy Reid and the offensive line share the responsibility, but Alex Smith is the one with the ball in his hands on every play. When you’re the quarterback and your offense scores 9 and 10 points in back-to-back weeks against struggling defenses you aren’t doing your job. Period. Maybe Mahomes will make more mistakes but given his style of play in college and the preseason you have to believe there would be more big plays on offense. That could spark the entire team. That could open up the play book.

Alex Smith’s stats over the past six games aren’t horrific:

63% completion rate, 7.0 yards per attempt, 247 yards per game, 8 TDs, 4 INTs

If you just looked at those numbers it would be easy to say that Chiefs fans are overreacting to Smith’s play, especially given just how good he was to open the season. If someone hadn’t seen a single Chiefs game this season and just looked at Smith’s numbers on the season and was told “his fans want him benched,” people would laugh at us. After all, who would want to bench a quarterback that has a season line of:

68.8% completion rate, 7.8 yards per attempt, 261.2 yards per game, 19 TDs, 4 INTs

This isn’t about QB wins either. It’s not about the Chiefs 1-5 record over the past six games. It’s about the Chiefs scoring only 18 points per game over that span. It’s about how completely ineffective Smith has become on third down. Here are Kansas City’s offensive third down conversions during their six game skid.

  • 3 of 11
  • 8 of 15
  • 2 of 12
  • 4 of 11
  • 3 of 11
  • 2 of 13

That’s awful. You can’t win like that. The one good game was the loss to the Raiders, and other than that, the offense has been the worst in the NFL at converting third downs. That’s on the quarterback. Period. Even if you count the Oakland game that’s a measly 30.1% third down conversion rate over the past six weeks (without the Oakland game it’s 24.1%). The Cleveland Browns are the worst team in the NFL at converting third downs and they’ve converted exactly 30% on the season.

Basically, when other teams know Alex Smith has to throw, he’s terrible. He completes a few good passes here and there, but when it really matters he has been completely ineffective during this 1-5 stretch. His only good game was the loss at Oakland where the defense let the team down. This is in large part because of his struggles against zone defenses. When Alex Smith sees an open man he can hit him. The problem with zone is you either have to throw over the top of it or throw with anticipation. Smith isn’t known to do either of those things. He likes the safety of throwing to a guy that has already beat his man but in zone if you throw when he’s open by the time the ball gets there he’s reached the next defender’s “zone” and he’s now covered again. You have to throw the ball when he’s covered so that it arrives between defenders and that isn’t something Smith has shown a willingness or ability to do. I don’t know if Mahomes could do this either but at least we know he wouldn’t be afraid to attack it over the top. He also showed the ability to keep his eyes up when things break down and find an open guy on the move. Smith has gone back to dropping his eyes, sometimes while he still has a clean pocket that he could step up into. So while Mahomes is a question mark, he does offer a couple of things that could help the Chiefs slump that Smith is not doing right now.

The Chiefs need a spark on offense and they have a quarterback sitting on the bench that they believed in enough to move up to the 10th overall pick and give up next year’s first round pick in order to draft. Andy Reid and the Chiefs need to pull the trigger.

The time is now.

When the Chiefs dropped back to back games against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders, we thought, “We just lost the first overall seed in the playoffs and maybe a first round bye too”. When they lost to the Dallas Cowboys, it was, “Looks like another one and done in the playoffs this year”. Now with back to back loses to the New York Giants and Buffalo Bills, it has become, “We may not even make the playoffs”. The season is slipping away and the Chiefs need to make a move that will spark this team.

That move is starting Patrick Mahomes.

I understand that it will be hard given all that Smith has given to this team over the past five seasons. I understand that it will hurt his trade value this offseason. It doesn’t matter. The top priority is to find a way to win games now. Starting Mahomes now is the best move they can make to try and get things going, PLUS it gives him experience going into next season so it helps going forward as well.

Maybe Mahomes is rough.

Guess what? So is Smith!

Maybe Mahomes throws extra picks that Smith wouldn’t, but Smith can’t even convert a third down right now! I’ll take an occasional interception or dumb rookie mistake at this point if its accompanied by some big plays or even just not going three-and-out all the time. Plus, if Mahomes can hit some deep passes, it may open things up for Kareem Hunt who has seen his production plummet as teams have realized they no longer have to fear Smith.

So it makes sense to make the move for THIS season. It makes sense to make the move for NEXT season. Plus, it makes sense from a bottom line perspective because I can promise you that Arrowhead is going to be empty next month if this pathetic Alex Smith-run offense continues. That’s a lot of lost revenue on tickets, parking, and concessions.

I was a level headed Alex Smith supporter. I like the guy. I appreciate what he has done for the Chiefs. It was the right move to make him the starter this season and give him one last shot with this team. He started off great, but over the last six games he has squandered that shot. Now it’s time to do what great coaches do: adapt the plan to the current situation. I love that Andy Reid sticks up for his players, but we’ve reached the point where sticking up for Alex Smith is hurting the opportunities this season for the other 52 players on the roster.

It’s time, Andy.

Make the move.

It’s Mahomes time.

As always, thanks for reading and go Chiefs.