Patrick Mahomes should be allowed to rest as long as he needs

KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 06: Patrick Mahomes #15 of the Kansas City Chiefs grimaces as he holds his left leg after being hit in the third quarter by the Indianapolis Colts at Arrowhead Stadium on October 6, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 06: Patrick Mahomes #15 of the Kansas City Chiefs grimaces as he holds his left leg after being hit in the third quarter by the Indianapolis Colts at Arrowhead Stadium on October 6, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images) /

Patrick Mahomes is the only reason the Chiefs can have realistic Super Bowl dreams, so why are they playing with fire each week with his sore ankle?

Something isn’t quite right this season. Ever since Patrick Mahomes first rolled his ankle against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the NFL’s reigning Most Valuable Player hasn’t looked the same—despite the fact that he’s still firmly in the conversation for a second straight award.

Most Kansas City Chiefs fans have likely noticed the difference. Mahomes has gotten quite lucky to not have a single interception against him on the stat sheet because he’s had more than one (or two or three) dropped by defenders for no good reason. The quarterback has also uncharacteristically overthrown targets on multiple occasions in each game since, demanding questions of timing and routes after each game.

With each game that goes by, the difference has become even more pronounced. The Detroit Lions and Indianapolis Colts saw the Chiefs offense actually sputter. They were fortunate to come away with a road win over Detroit, but the Chiefs are looking quite mortal on offense these days. It’s not just the penalties (so many) or the fumbles (so sloppy). Chiefs Kingdom has also watched Patrick Mahomes sudden inability to put the team on his shoulders.

On Sunday night, Mahomes and the Chiefs struggled to move the chains when it mattered most throughout the entire second half. The only positive offensive burst came when the game was already settled, with the Colts up late by 9 points. Barring a total miracle and Colts meltdown, the Chiefs simply weren’t going to make a serious threat by the time Mahomes starting dropping dimes to Byron Pringle and Travis Kelce again.

Now look, there are quick reasons here why the team’s offense is not the historic force to which we’ve quickly become accustomed.

  1. Penalties have killed a number of drives and it’s hard to walk forward when your foot is shot to hell.
  2. The fumbles are even worse and hand any and all momentum over to the opponent.
  3. Even Mahomes is going to struggle without his top targets and injuries are taking out a lot of the supporting cast.

With cleaner play and healthier players, it’s possible that Mahomes’ own sore ankle becomes more of a hidden topic—one we don’t really notice because the talent around him keeps us from noticing. Instead of noticing the limited athleticism, we’d be looking at Tyreek Hill‘s separation. Even that, however, is not a healthy approach.

Here’s the thing: the Chiefs are a very good team even without Patrick Mahomes. They are good enough to win this division without him and the AFC’s current status as a dumpster fire makes it clear that the Chiefs would likely punch a postseason ticket again even if Alex Smith was still employed in K.C. But we all know that’s as far as they would ever get: January.

With Mahomes, the Chiefs are a Super Bowl favorite. They’re not just a good team; they’re a potentially elite team. Mahomes’ greatness needs no further description, since it’s all been written already. He is the best in the business. That’s all there is to say.

Given such greatness, the question needs to be asked: why are the Chiefs playing with fire with the one element that can put them over the top?

On Sunday night, Chiefs fans watched Cam Erving (another issue entirely, by the way) get backed into Mahomes near his own end zone and step right on that sore ankle. In a second, Mahomes went from walking to wincing. He had a noticeable limp and struggled to get back to the sideline. Trainers went to work and taped up the ankle to look like a high-top boot.

From there, Mahomes continued to play (and struggle). Yes, the penalties were an issue down the stretch. Yes, play calling was quite questionable at times. (How about that fourth-and-1 run?) Despite it all, Mahomes was still part of the problem.

When I say Mahomes is part of the problem, I mean this: Mahomes is clearly not the same dynamic force with this sore ankle. That might seem obvious to say, but for some reason, no one is admitting it. There’s no extending the play to head-scratching levels. There’s no dancing around only to escape the pocket. Even the throws he makes look off from time to time, as if he’s unable to set his feet and accurately find his man.

There are exceptions to this, obviously. The brilliance of that toss to Mecole Hardman down the sideline in traffic in the second half was a career highlight for any other quarterback. His intelligence and leadership are also essential on-field assets for this team, so even dealing with a sore ankle, he’s still a strong weapon for this team. But Mahomes at his best is going to lead this team to be its best.

That’s why it’s time to do what it takes to get Mahomes better.

Let’s just state this clearly: if trainers determine that Patrick Mahomes needs time to just rest a sore ankle so it can fully heal, it’s time for the Chiefs to roll out Matt Moore at quarterback.

At this point, the Chiefs are playing with fire if they throw Mahomes out there again on a wrapped-up ankle. A sore ankle is much more prone to further pain and damage. It’s available for the Cams of the world to step on. It’s there for defenders to target. It’s wrongly in play when it could be improving on the sidelines.

Sitting Mahomes is bad for business. I get that much. From the home audience to ticket sales, Mahomes is the star of this show, the man fans want to see. He is also light years better than any other options on the Chiefs roster. In the interim, the Chiefs would struggle to win games with a backup at the helm than a slightly injured Mahomes. Perhaps taping it up is good enough for the games as long as he’s resting in between.

Personally, I don’t buy it.

Here’s what I believe: there is nothing more important than Patrick Mahomes’ health. Nothing. Not even winning games in the here and now. If this was my team, I would pose a single question to my quarterback and my staff: What does it take to get the MVP back to 100 percent? Then I would give Mahomes whatever they told me. If they said he needs 4-6 weeks to rest, Chiefs fans wouldn’t see Mahomes for 4-6 weeks. I would shrug at the standings and scoff at the doubters. My only concern would be Mahomes.

What’s surprising in all of this is how Tyreek Hill is being treated exactly this way. The team’s star receiver is reportedly excited to get back into the game and even looks good in practice, but the Chiefs are taking their sweet time with his return. His presence would have made a huge difference last night against the Colts, but I doubt Andy Reid was worried about that at all. They have one focus when it comes to Hill: making sure he’s 100 percent.

Should that not be applied to the most important player on the team? I would say yes. If trainers say taping up the ankle and playing on it is the way to go, then that’s fine. I’m not privy to those insider conversations (and neither are you). But if someone is pushing back against getting Mahomes healthy, that person needs to get out of the way—even if it’s Mahomes hiimself.

Next. The Chiefs deserved to lose vs. Colts. dark