Willie Gay, Deandre Baker injuries prove Andy Reid was right to rest Chiefs starters

Andy Reid’s choice to rest some Chiefs starters was proven right in the face of tough injuries in Week 17.

Rest vs. rust. It was the primary talking point regarding the Kansas City Chiefs heading into their scheduled Week 17 contest against the Los Angeles Chargers. In the end, head coach Andy Reid went for the latter. He turned out to be right.

The debate of whether or not to play his starters for both the Chiefs offense and defense came down to the reality that this Chargers game was ultimately meaningless. The AFC West had been sewn up weeks before. The entire AFC had already been locked up, at least from the top team’s perspective. Unless the coach wanted to lean into personal achievements—such as helping Tyreek Hill make a push for the franchise record for most touchdowns or help Patrick Mahomes in his MVP hopes—it didn’t make much sense to play the team’s household names.

Then again, there was significant pushback by some who also believed that resting guys like Mahomes and others could lead to too much time away from the field. Three weeks will have passed for players like Mahomes, Hill, Travis Kelce, and Tyrann Mathieu between starts. That’s enough time to lose the edge, to forget the rhythms of the game—at least so went the argument. It was as if Mahomes and company would find a La-Z-Boy or two and just veg out watching old Roseanne re-runs before they finally push the lever to get out of the recliner in time to suit up for their first postseason opponent.

Reid responded to worries of rust saying that he believes his guys will stay in shape, will participate in practice, and will ultimately be all the better for allowing their bodies to heal and rest. NFL history sides with him. Since 1975, 90 teams have participated in a Super Bowl and 73 of those have enjoyed a week to rest before starting their playoff run. That’s 81 percent. If you’re Reid, you like those numbers.

While it’s impossible to tell what would have happened if Reid had played all of his starters in Week 17, he was unfortunately reminded of the reality of serious injuries during the game with some promising young players. Early in the game, the Chiefs lost one of their only healthy linebackers when second-round rookie Willie Gay left with an ankle injury. A couple quarters later, cornerback Deandre Baker suffered a broken femur. Even Rashad Fenton came up injured late in the game as well.

These sorts of major injuries put everything in perspective for the Chiefs in the position they are in. Can you imagine the outcry from fans and NFL media members if someone like Kelce or Hill had gone down with a devastating injury in Week 17? What if Mahomes was lost for the playoffs because Reid decided to play him in a meaningless game? An entire Super Bowl run could be ruined in the process.

It’s bad enough that the Chiefs now have to hope that Gay is able to heal quickly from his ankle sprain and that Baker can rehab successfully on such a devastating break. To put even more players in jeopardy when absolutely nothing important is at stake would have been the worst mistake.

Coach Reid knew what he was doing when he kept his best players on the sideline on Sunday. It made for a lesser viewing experience, but the Chiefs have one thing in mind. A Super Bowl is, at this point, the only thing that matters—and rightfully so.