The offseason will feature organizations risking tons of money on high-caliber players. However, the Chiefs don’t need to chance it in their backfield.
Call it a blessing in disguise. Maybe a diamond in the rough. Some would even ponder the thought of a little Kansas City miracle.
Whatever the chosen term wouldn’t quite do justice to the emergence of Damien Williams on the depth chart for the Kansas City Chiefs on December 1st, 2018. On that morning, the Chiefs held a record of 9-2 and were recovering during a bye week after falling to the Los Angeles Rams, 54-51. Having dismissed their star running back Kareem Hunt the night before, the league’s top offense appeared vulnerable with a chink in their armor.
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Without the running production that certainly relieved pressure off second-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City would turn to a trio of halfbacks that had a combined 25 carries for 125 yards. One, Spencer Ware, was a player a year removed from an ACL injury. Another, Darrel Williams, was an undrafted free agent out of LSU. The third and final option, Damien Williams, was once an undrafted free agent himself out of Oklahoma who had spent four of his five seasons with the Miami Dolphins.
Despite rushing for less than 200 yards every season so far in the NFL, Damien Williams would transition from watching Kareem Hunt hurdle over cornerbacks from the sideline to lining up in the backfield behind the hottest commodity the city had seen in its football history.
At the time, the Chiefs were vying for the No. 1 seed in the AFC and a shot to corral home-field advantage throughout the postseason, running the Super Bowl through Arrowhead Stadium. Of course, we all know the ending to the tear-jerking, gut-wrenchingly brutal AFC Championship game against the villainous dynasty that Tom Brady and Bill Belichick built. But this isn’t about how that ended, nor is it about that dreaded coin toss or Dee Ford lining up on the wrong side of history.
This is about finding the light in such a disappointing finish and arguing a pivotal reason the Chiefs found themselves in all of those positions in the first place. Don’t misconstrue the point, Patrick Mahomes is the league’s MVP and Travis Kelce/Tyreek Hill certainly take home gold and silver for the top contributors. However, when the Hunt video was released, the sudden offensive limitations clouded their postseason aspirations.
Boasting the second-worst defense in the league ahead of Cincinnati, the common thought became, “Can this offense produce the same without a running back?” After all, Kansas City was coming off a loss in which they scored 51 points with Hunt and still lost. The postseason was never in doubt, but procuring a shot at the Super Bowl certainly was.
Then came the 5’11, 224 lb Williams, who completely taking over the role of lead back when Spencer Ware banged up his shoulder and hamstring against Baltimore in Week 14. From there, Williams took off and averaged around 95 all-purpose yards and one touchdown through his seven-game stint (including playoffs). His performances inked him a 2-year/$8.1 million dollar extension with Kansas City that he signed a few weeks after Hunt was released.
Not only was Williams’ play an essential key in coming inches away from the team’s first Super Bowl appearance in nearly 50 years, but his ability to outperform expectations has put general manager Brett Veach in the best spot imaginable heading into the offseason.
Let’s imagine for a minute Williams doesn’t take more than 30 snaps or becomes plagued with the injury bug like Ware. In this case, Kansas City is faced with two dangerous options. First, they could take their chances in the draft and possibly use a pick on a running back in either their 1st or 2nd pick. Second, the worst possible scenario, the Chiefs could attempt to throw bags of cash at one of the highest priced players in the market in Le’Veon Bell. Maybe Veach would’ve found another Kareem Hunt caliber athlete in the middle rounds or Bell would lead the league in rushing in 2019-20 for K.C. However, this won’t be the case and Chiefs Kingdom can take a sigh of relief knowing these options won’t be chanced.
If Kansas City relies on a rookie to start on a team with a Super Bowl focus, the gamble could fall flat and would task Mahomes to throw 60-70 times a game without a consistent run producer. Bringing Bell into the mix on a massive deal handcuffs the front office and wouldn’t allow them to extend the majority of their core players in Hill, Kelce, Chris Jones, and Mahomes.
Sure, the Chiefs would obtain a 14-2 club at worst with the numbers Bell brings to the table, but as free agency looms around the corner for the star cast Kansas City possesses, their championship window would undoubtedly be cut in half and risk losing their most marketable talents.
Dodging that bullet, Kansas City now can stay in-house when observing their options moving forward but assume that spot to be claimed by Williams. Not only young at 26 years of age, “Big Game Dame” has statistically proven himself and remains more than capable of heading into St. Joe this summer as the first-team running back.