KC Chiefs' elite offensive line doesn't make up for subpar weapons

Kansas City Chiefs v Green Bay Packers
Kansas City Chiefs v Green Bay Packers / Patrick McDermott/GettyImages

The Kansas City Chiefs offense has seen many changes and differences in personnel over the years since Patrick Mahomes became the starter. When general manager Brett Veach first took over the reins in the Chiefs front office, he promised to always add weapons around Patrick Mahomes. In his first offseason as general manager, he added Sammy Watkins in free agency to pair with Tyreek Hill, Kareem Hunt, and Travis Kelce. That offense went on to be a top offense in NFL history.

When you have Mahomes at quarterback, it would only seem right to continue that trend of adding great playmakers year in and year out. After all, the offense is this team's bread and butter and always should be with Mahomes at quarterback. However, when the Chiefs lost Super Bowl 55 in 2020 mostly due to the poor play of the offensive line, the thinking seemed to change from "Let's add endless firepower" to "We have to keep Patrick upright at all costs".

Nobody disagrees with the idea that the offensive line is extremely important and it's a position group that the team should continually make substantial investments in. You do have to keep Patrick upright in order to win and something about seeing Mahomes get knocked around in Super Bowl 55 probably woke up Brett Veach and the Chiefs front office to never let that happen again. Nonetheless, there seems to have been a theory formed that you could pretty much pull fans from the stands to play wide receiver and Mahomes could make do with them if he has ten seconds every play to stand back there and throw.

But what if I told you that an elite offensive line doesn't make up for subpar weapons? What if I told you that offensive line actually isn't the most important position outside of quarterback on the offense? I'm sure there would be a lot of objection to that.

For the Chiefs, playmakers matter more than a great offensive line.

This isn't to say that the offensive line isn't super important. It is and you should never let it get as bad as the Chiefs did in Super Bowl 55. That said, for Super Bowl 55 to even happen it took five starters going down on the offensive line throughout the season, and even then the Kansas City Chiefs still made it all the way to the Super Bowl. That was something beyond the Chiefs' control. Most teams aren't winning a Super Bowl when their entire offensive line goes down, but the Chiefs did because the rest of the offense was elite.

With elite playmakers, you can cover up a lot of mistakes and shortcomings. That's what Kansas City has done for years. Whether it was a poor defense, turnovers, or a bad offensive line, the Chiefs could make up for it by putting points on the board. This year is different, though. It feels like there's zero margin for error because of how bad the offense is and how poor the wide receivers are.

In the past, it felt like this team could easily overcome a 3rd-and-15 situation or a badly timed turnover because of the offense. This time around, a 3rd-and-forever situation or a turnover feels almost unrecoverable for this team. A bad night from the defense against a team with a pulse presents an unfavorable scenario for Kansas City.

In the Kansas City Chiefs' case, it would appear that great playmakers actually matter more than an elite offensive line. This isn't the case for every team, and we've seen the offensive line become the downfall of many great teams. Regardless, when you have Patrick Mahomes at quarterback, you simply have to surround him with a better group of weapons than Kansas City has.

The Chiefs have made it to and won Super Bowls with less-than-stellar offensive line situations, but great playmakers. This year we have a stellar offensive line situation, but little to no playmakers in the offense, and right now the Chiefs don't look like anything more than a first-round exit in the postseason because they can't put up points.

Brett Veach and company have invested heavily into the offensive line over the past several offseasons, giving up major assets on Orlando Brown, and spending big on guys like Joe Thuney and Jawaan Taylor. Ultimately, these moves have forced the Chiefs to let go in other areas such as wide receiver. But when you look at it a little closer, those may not have been the best moves. Firstly, Mahomes is one of the best quarterbacks in the league at evading pressure and he likes to run outside the pocket more than anyone meaning you can get by with average tackle play with Mahomes at quarterback. That's what the Chiefs have done for a majority of the time.

How many times this year have we seen Mahomes have all day to throw but nobody open, so he chucks up a prayer or runs for a first down himself? Feels like it's more than half the time. That's because you have to have guys that can get open or take advantage of a defense. It seems like the only guy the Chiefs have who can do that consistently is Travis Kelce, who is 34 years old. You simply have to have more than that and a rookie Rashee Rice to work with. This current iteration of the Chiefs offense isn't beating anyone good in the postseason if they can't put up points.

So far this year, the Kansas City Chiefs are second in the league in sacks allowed per game. Mahomes has been largely untouched throughout the season. If you told someone this at the beginning of the year they would probably think Kansas City is the best offense in the league. Boy, would they be wrong.

The Kansas City Chiefs appear to have massively upgraded at the tackle positions with Donovan Smith and Jawaan Taylor this year, at least from a pure pass-blocking perspective, but how much has that been worth to the offense? If nobody can get open or catch the ball then what does it matter how long the offensive line is blocking for? Last year, Orlando Brown and Andrew Wylie were dead last among tackle duos in pressures surrendered. Yet, the Chiefs were the No. 1 scoring offense in the league and won the Super Bowl with Mahomes being sacked zero times against Philadelphia. Are you seeing it yet?

Some will argue that the Chiefs didn't even have elite playmakers last year and that the offensive line was really good. That's true, the offensive line was good and the playmakers weren't elite, but the tackle positions were easily the weakest link on the offense and people continue to downplay the value of JuJu Smith-Schuster who had 900 yards receiving in essentially 14 games. The Chiefs don't have anyone doing that this year for them. You can't take Smith-Schuster away and add a rookie Rashee Rice in and pretend it is the same.

People may also argue that it's not just as simple as stating offensive line doesn't matter as much as playmakers, it's just that the Chiefs whiffed badly on the playmakers they brought in and there's certainly truth to that, but again this team doubled down on offensive line in the offseason by dropping a bag on Jawaan Taylor and Donovan Smith and their plan was that "Mahomes magic" would figure out the rest with the receivers. That was their plan and what happened last year after witnessing Mahomes do what he did without Tyreek Hill probably gave them confidence in that plan.

Let me add this as an argument, too; What about Joe Thuney? Great interior lineman and a great player for the Chiefs, but Kansas City made him the highest-paid guard in NFL history at the time of that signing. If I offered you a deal that the Chiefs could have Tyreek Hill again, but it meant that you would have a replacement-level guard in there instead of Joe Thuney would you take that deal? I certainly would. I believe Tyreek Hill is more valuable to winning than Joe Tuney.

Let's clarify, this doesn't mean that the worse the offensive line is, the better Patrick Mahomes is. It just means that you don't need an elite offensive line at the sacrifice of an NFL-caliber wide receiver room. Unfortunately, the Kansas City Chiefs have done exactly that. Spending a boatload of cash on Jawaan Taylor and signing Donovan Smith late in free agency pretty much prevented Kansas City from being in on any wide receiver sweepstakes such as DeAndre Hopkins and Odell Beckham. With either of those players, the Kansas City Chiefs are a top offense again. Playmakers are more impactful to winning than an offensive line. At least in the Chiefs' case. One more time, that doesn't mean your offensive line should be bad, but with a great quarterback and playmakers it doesn't have to be elite.

Take the Cincinnati Bengals for example. Everyone knows the meme where Joe Burrow is throwing to "anybody" with Penei Sewell blocking for him and then Joe Burrow throwing to Ja'Marr Chase with "anybody" blocking for him and then Joe Burrow is getting sacked which was a joke implying that Cincinnati would be silly to draft a wide receiver over offensive line in the NFL draft. As everyone knows, the Bengals took Chase who actually ended up being the correct pick because Chase was most likely worth a lot more wins than a left tackle at the time and Chase is a top-five wide receiver in the NFL. Not to mention the Bengals made the Super Bowl.

Furthermore, you can do plenty to scheme around a bad offensive line such as quick hitters, running the ball to protect your quarterback, and chipping the edge with a tight end. What can you do to scheme around wide receivers that simply can't catch or get open? That's the dilemma the Chiefs are in right now and it may very well cost them a Super Bowl run.

In conclusion, there is a much bigger sample size of the Chiefs having great or elite offenses with a less-than-great offensive line and elite playmakers than the Chiefs having a great or elite offense with an elite offensive line and terrible playmakers. Fans clamored for Kansas City to address the offensive line for so long to the point that anyone who suggested the team keep adding wide receivers or skill position players was met with anger and disgust. But maybe the Chiefs went a little too far in doubling down on the offensive line that they forgot to get Mahomes some weapons.