Patrick Mahomes is the single greatest player in the National Football League. He’s an athletic marvel. He’s reinventing game plans and the way the very position of quarterback is played. He’s setting records with each passing game and season, and he’s going to keep the Kansas City Chiefs in the category of “perennial favorites” as long as he’s healthy and under center.
However, on Sunday night, we saw that Mahomes is not capable of covering up every single concern for the Chiefs.
The Chiefs lost a one-sided game in the worst way—on primetime in front of the entire world for all the marbles—against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their attempt to repeat as NFL champions. Super Bowl LV was a miserable performance on the part of the Chiefs team overall, and while small victories could be awarded here and there (thanks, Butker!), the reality is that everything that could go wrong went wrong on Sunday night. In the process, we all learned that Mahomes isn’t a cure-all for the Chiefs.
All season long, we’ve looked hesitantly at the Chiefs on a number of occasions for turning in lackluster performances. Some wins felt far too close despite the obvious talent differentials. At times, the offense would take too much time to get going. In other games, the defense would completely fall apart. Special teams in 2020 felt anything but special, and injuries and opt certainly made their mark on the Chiefs season—especially along the offensive line.
For the entirety of the 2020 season, however, Mahomes always proved to be enough. The Chiefs would be able to put together enough yards, enough momentum, enough scores on the strength of their incredible quarterback. On Sunday, every one of those proverbial chickens came home to roost and the result was a shellacking in the biggest game of the year.
The Chiefs can’t treat Patrick Mahomes as a cure-all for the team’s concerns.
Important disclaimer here: The Chiefs enjoyed a magical season with 14 wins and a Super Bowl appearance for a young, talented roster. Everyone in this organization deserves loads of credit for the job to put this sort of great year together. The coaching staff is exemplary. The culture is healthy and successful. The front office is filled with future GMs, and the roster is loaded on both sides of the ball. No one should read this and think it’s Mahomes and then a load of replacement players or CFL imports.
But here’s what is also true. The Chiefs haven’t invested heavily in the offensive line for a few years and have gotten away with it because Mahomes is so agile in the pocket and quick with his release. The Chiefs have also played with margin in too many games, making careless errors or penalties, only to have Mahomes and company save them with late drives that make us forget about plays that could have been the knife in the back.
The Buccaneers were far too good of an opponent to give them any leverage. When Tyreek Hill or Darrel Williams or Mecole Hardman or Travis Kelce drops a pass, the Bucs are going to take advantage of it. When Chris Jones loses his temper and takes a swing at a player, Tom Brady is going to make it count. When a team rolls out four backup offensive linemen in the biggest game of the year, a defensive coordinator like Todd Bowles is going to take full advantage of the mismatches.
Mahomes is good, but he’s not that good.
What we learned on Sunday is that Mahomes is every bit as dynamic as the pre-game hype made him out to be. If you’d somehow never watched Mahomes until Super Bowl LV, you still would have somehow left with the impression that Mahomes is an otherworldly talent. Even incomplete passes to Demarcus Robinson and Williams late in the game were so incredibly heroic that it left everyone wide-eyed for what could have been.
However, what we also learned on Sunday is that Mahomes cannot serve as a cure-all for every problem in the organization. The Chiefs have some major concerns moving forward. There are roster spots that are going to be problematic going forward. There are coaching questions about a lack of readiness that need to be answered. There are miscues that need to be acknowledged. Special teams as a whole has a lot of soul searching to do this coming offseason. Mahomes can’t do a thing about any of this.
The Chiefs are very, very fortunate to have Mahomes under center, and he’ll take them as far as he can. Most seasons, that might even mean a Super Bowl appearance. But if this team has true dynasty aspirations, if they want to honor the potential that Mahomes offers them each year, then the Chiefs have to get serious about finding other ways to address their concerns without relying on Mahomes to bail them out every time.