Thursday April 27th, 2017:
The first round of the NFL draft had begun, and much speculation was being made as to who the year’s top ten picks would be. The first pick, defensive end Myles Garrett to the Cleveland Browns, wasn’t a shock. This was a move that was known from the get-go.
Every move after that? Not so much.
Where do I start? Deshaun Watson not being the first QB to be drafted in place of Mitchell Trubisky, which the Bears traded three picks and a 2018 third rounder to get, John Ross going ninth overall despite not having a great skill set with his speed (record breaking 4.22 in the 40 yard dash) being his main talent, every pick within the top nine was odd.
Then it happened. I was sitting at my friends house keeping up with the draft when I received a notification that the Kansas City Chiefs, my favorite sports team, had just traded three picks and a 2018 first-rounder to the Buffalo Bills to move up to the tenth pick, and they were on the clock! I was ecstatic to say the least. I knew in my heart we would pick a quarterback but I wasn’t sure as to which one. I hoped that we would take Deshaun Watson, as I believed his play style would mix great with Andy Reid’s coaching. That particular draft class had massive QB potential. I sat and looked and looked and looked, eagerly waiting. At long last, the announcement was made. “With the tenth pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Kansas City Chiefs select Patrick Mahomes II, Quarterback at Texas Tech University”.
When preseason came around at the end of August, Mahomes was under the spotlight. I wanted to see what he could do, as did all of Kansas City. It was clear at the end of the game against the Bengals that Andy Reid had picked a good one. 10/14 attempts completed, 88 yards passing with two touchdowns. He was one of the most exciting prospects in recent Chiefs memory.
Fast forward to the first game of the regular season on Thursday Night Football. Chiefs at Patriots was already an early contender for game of the year. The Patriots were coming off of the greatest Super Bowl comebacks of all time while the Chiefs were coming off a 12-4 season, earning the 2nd seed in the AFC and a first round bye. The Pats were obviously favored to take the game. In the end though, KC prevailed with the win. Kareem Hunt, the new RB, had a monster game with 3 total TD’s and 246 total yards. Alex Smith threw 4 TD passes with 368 yards on 28/35 completion.
The Chiefs went on to a 5-0 start against the Patriots, Eagles, Chargers, Redskins, and Texans (WITH Deshaun Watson starting). Their first loss of the season came in Week 6 against the Steelers. I was at that game as an 18th birthday present from my dad (who is also a big Chiefs fan). Still, 5-1 six weeks in and boasting the NFL’s best record at the time isn’t easy. They were highly considered one of the best teams in the league. The following Thursday at the cusp of Week 7, they lost a highly controversial game to the Oakland Raiders. Downgraded to 5-2, I hadn’t lost hope in my team. We still had great playmakers on both sides of the ball, things looked good. Week 8 came along and we beat a fellow AFC West team, the Denver Broncos. 6-2 felt like it was right where we needed to be.
Then we got worse. Much worse.
What followed Week 8 was an abysmal 4 game losing streak that no one knew who to pin the blame on. The losses included the Cowboys, the Giants, (who were also boasting the NFL’s second worst record at 1-8, trailing only the Browns) the Bills, and finally the Jets. What started as a great looking season at 5-0 turned into fighting for the division title at 6-6. The momentum in KC was gone, replaced by lousy play-calling and a horrendous defense that couldn’t stay healthy all season. Being a part of the fan base myself, I didn’t know who to point a finger at. Was it Alex Smith, who after stoking MVP candidate conversation through the first half of the season burned out as fast as he lit up? Or was it by chance the coaching that lost their leads as fast as they lost the offensive juggernaut that we had been? Either way, they were now down to earth as the all too familiar Chiefs I had grown to see over the years. Andy Reid decided to hand over play calling duties to our offensive coordinator Matt Nagy (who at the time of writing this article is now the head coach for the Chicago Bears). We came screaming out of that 4 game losing streak to a 4 game WINNING streak. They had beaten the Raiders, Chargers, Dolphins, and Broncos to fully secure the AFC West and locking us into the 4th seed in the AFC. The Chiefs looked back, and better than ever. Kareem Hunt, who hadn’t produced the workload we had seen since Week 4, was named the Rushing leader of the league with 1,327 yards and 5 yards a carry.
Arrowhead is regarded as one of the hardest stadiums to play in for opposing teams in the NFL. So a home playoff game sounded good until you realized that we had lost 6 home playoff games in a row. I didn’t think much of it going into the Wildcard game, as they were playing a Titans team that had squirmed their way into the playoffs. They weren’t as prepared as we were. Or so I thought. I had to work the day of the game, and when I left my house the score at the half was 21-3, Chiefs lead. I thought to myself on the way out “They have them on the ropes, all they can do now is blow it completely” .
And that’s exactly what they did.
From Marcus Mariota’s rather gracious self-TD pass, to a 2-pt conversion fumble that Derrick Johnson scrambled up and ran heftily down the field 80-or-so yards that would have won the Chiefs the game only to get called back, to Derrick Henry sealing the game with help from a block from the Titans QUARTERBACK, the final score of 22-21 left me feeling utterly decimated. Everything had fallen into place, only for it all to come crashing down. The Chiefs had punched their ticket out early yet again.
As the offseason approaches, fans are beginning to question the team’s future. Will Alex Smith get traded? What can we do now that our best playmaker has accepted a head coaching job? How will Patrick Mahomes fare as a full starter in the regular season? But most importantly, one question sticks out more that the others. What kind of team do the Chiefs want to be? Is this the same team that beat the defending champs in the first game of the season, or the same team that lost 9-12 to the 2nd worst team in the league? Is this the team that blew a 28 point lead to the Colts in the playoffs in 2014, or the team that went on an 11 game win streak after starting 1-5 in the 2015 regular season? This is my case for why the Chiefs are the most confusing team in the league. They look differently than they actually play. And Andy Reid and Co. better start figuring out how to balance the two, or the Kansas City Chiefs will continue down this dark, curvy road they built for themselves.