Chiefs will need time, patience to find their championship-caliber footing

The Chiefs are quite capable of defending their title, but getting there will require some patience.
Cleveland Browns v Kansas City Chiefs
Cleveland Browns v Kansas City Chiefs / David Eulitt/GettyImages

This is not the start that any of us wanted to see.

When the Kansas City Chiefs were unable to convert a desperate 4th-and-25 near the end of the home opening game (and "Banner Night") in Week 1 against the Detroit Lions, all of the oxygen was subsequently sucked out of what should have been a celebratory room. Just like that, the Chiefs were facing significant roster questions, a tougher road to any top seed, a tighter divisional race, and a losing record.

Even as league owners have expanded the schedule to make the NFL season longer than ever, the truth remains that every single game carries a lot of importance. Most divisions are decided by a single game, and it's quite possible at some point that we'll look back in anger at the foibles and failures against the Lions and shake our heads. In a week where the Chargers and Broncos also lost, it'd feel a lot better to see the Chiefs at 1-0.

But we must accept reality. The Chiefs started the season off on the wrong foot and now they're a game behind the Las Vegas Raiders in the AFC West. Wide receiver looks like a significant concern, and Chris Jones doesn't sound like he's returning anytime soon. Given that the schedule is going to get quite a bit tougher than showdowns against Lions, things could get worse before they get better.

This season is going to require some real patience if you want to see the Chiefs as we know they can be..

The Chiefs are quite capable of defending their title, but getting there will require some patience.

First, it needs to be said that K.C. could (and should) easily be 1-0 at this point. If Andy Reid would simply make sound decisions on short-yardage plays, we'd feel quite different today. If Kadarius Toney would come down with even a single catch, we'd also feel quite different today. If Travis Kelce was healthy or Chris Jones was in the line-up, we'd feel quite differently today. And if any other pass-catcher would have stepped up when needed... you get the idea.

The Chiefs also committed costly penalties up front and pulled out odd play calls even when not going for 1-2 yards. From the moment we saw Clyde Edwards-Helaire get consecutive touches to start the game, some of us were already scratching our heads at the 2023 Chiefs. It was just an odd night.

The reason this season is going to require significant patience, however, is due to the total youth movement undertaken on both sides of the ball and the lack of experienced voices on the field right now. The Chiefs were not only missing their most dominant non-Mahomes performers on both sides of the ball on Thursday, but those same men are also leaders who help get the best from everyone else.

Without Travis Kelce on the field, there was a glaring void into which the Chiefs were going to have to stare at some point. Mahomes has no real proven chemistry with anyone else on the roster, save for Jerick McKinnon. Developing chemistry requires experience, which means watching a roomful of young wide receivers learning tough lessons and harsh demands from the game's best quarterback—a player for whom no play is ever dead.

This means dropped balls and stalled drives. This means awkward routes and missed timing. This means careless mistakes and frustrating penalties. It also means having their mental toughness and clutch abilities tested. But remember this, a patient approach will yield, after 17 games, a likely new favorite target or two that will carry over into the postseason (as well as future years).

The same can be said of a defensive line in transition. Without Chris Jones, Frank Clark, and Carlos Dunlap on the field to start the year, the Chiefs were down 30 total years of experience up front. They're also waiting nearly a half season for Charles Omenihu to return from suspension just to be able to begin his learning curve in Steve Spagnuolo's defense.

While Mike Danna is a solid player with versatility and experience, he's still on his rookie deal as the elder statesman of defensive end group. George Karlaftis is starting his second season, while Felix Anudike-Uzomah is this year's first-round rookie. Inside, Derrick Nnadi is the veteran mentor for new additions like Neil Farrell (trade) and Keondre Coburn (drafted) while the unit also hopes Turk Wharton can stay healthy.

It's an offensive line with two new tackles to break in. It's an offense without Eric Bieniemy on the sidelines for the first time in a decade. It's taking all of this in stride while absorbing the toughest blows of your opponent week after week as you represent their championship-level game.

After 17 games, if they can stay healthy, the Chiefs will have their best players back where they belong. They will have role players who were forced to step up along the way. Mahomes will have chemistry and connections with new weapons. A coaching staff will have learned how to best utilize its roster.

The Chiefs will get there, and likely sooner than later. But it's going to require some patience from Chiefs Kingdom along the way.