In my last post, I discussed one of the two quarterbacks that are the focus of a number of NFL circle jerks. Jimmy Garoppolo is one and Patrick Mahomes is the other. Both had made NFL starts, but Garoppolo has made a bigger impact so far.
With Garoppolo, the amount of hype that’s building is understandable yet relatively tame, but the discussion about Mahomes has been acrimonious at points. Mahomes is not the problem, but he has been weaponized in various Internet fights this season.
I’m Going to Be Honest Here.
For the past few years, I have been interested in the Kansas City Chiefs. My reasons are obvious: I like Alex Smith and I hated how he had to leave the 49ers. I was never big on Colin Kaepernick but I felt he needed to be developed and given a real chance to succeed. As I expressed a year ago, I felt the 49ers’ staff failed him to a degree.
That said, the Chiefs organization grew on me. I had grown to care about more of their players and head coach Andy Reid, and I feel that the team has one of the best owner situations in the whole league.
The fandom is a mixed bag, though. All fandoms are, to be sure, but there are a few things that have bother me about Chiefs fans.
Credit where credit is due, though: I have lurked quite a bit of blogs and forums for different teams, but I have learned the most from Arrowhead Pride. When times are good, the members there are so insightful and funny.
But when times are bad …
Some of the worst moments have come when the quarterback position was being discussed. When Smith was traded to the Chiefs in 2013, some fans were cautiously optimistic, but there was a loud group of fans who hated the decision.
Much of the disappointment was understandable. The team had suffered from poor QB play for years since Len Dawson retired, minus some years with Joe Montana, Rich Gannon, and Trent Green. The Chiefs had gone years without developing their own QB and before this season, it had been 30 years since a QB the team drafted started and won a game for them.
Enter Patrick Mahomes.
In the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, the Kansas City Chiefs moved up and selected QB Patrick Mahomes, who came from Texas Tech. They moved up a few spots so they could get him and many Chiefs fans were extremely excited about it.
When Mahomes played in the preseason, the excitement intensified. He showed off his cannon for an arm and his ability to scramble while keeping plays alive. He was favorably compared to Brett Favre, but there were concerns about Mahomes’ footwork.
Throughout the season, there were rumblings about starting Mahomes during the regular season. This was especially true when the Chiefs struggled after jumping out to a 5-0 start. In a few of those games — namely against the Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Giants, and Buffalo Bills — Smith had his worst games of the season. And by the time KC lost to the Bills, there were calls for Smith to benched.
Fans finally got their wish — somewhat, but it was because the Chiefs had turned their season around and won their division by winning 3 straight to go 9-6. They didn’t have to win their last game of the regular season (against the Denver Broncos), but it was still an important game for a few reasons since Mahomes was making the start.
After building a 24-10 lead, the Chiefs third-string QB, Tyler Bray, was given a few snaps. He then proceeded to lose a fumble that was returned for a TD. The Broncos eventually tied the game up at 24-24. However, Mahomes was put back in and he was able to lead the offenses down the field for the game-winning field goal.
Is Patrick Mahomie? IDK.
Now, I get the excitement to an extent.
- The Chiefs may finally have their own QB to develop.
- Mahomes finally broke the 30-year curse.
- Mahomes came back into the game and won.
- Additionally, with their starters being rested, the Chiefs won against the Broncos’ starting defense.
- Finally, we got a good look at Chiefs wide receiver Albert Wilson, who had 147 yards on 10 receptions. These are career highs.
This is all impressive.
However, the response of some Chiefs fans to Mahomes presence and first start isn’t justified. In some threads I’ve read, the discussions devolved into full circle jerks. It’s ridiculous and it has taken much of the fun out of visiting those websites and the postseason. In some cases, some fans have insisted that Mahomes should start in the playoffs.
(On Saturday, the Kansas Chiefs will host the Tennessee Titans on Saturday in a Wild Card Playoff game. Since going 2-14 in 2012, the Chiefs have had 5 straight seasons with a winning record and they’ve been to the playoffs 4 out of those 5 years. Some Mahomes fans want him to play on Saturday because they say he gives his team a better chance to beat the Steelers and Patriots, but KC would have to get past the Titans first.)
Why does this bother me?
For one thing, the fans saying this are delusional. Although Mahomes played relatively well against a top-ranked defense, one game doesn’t mean he ready for the playoffs.
Secondly, this situation has brought up a few issues, most of which plagued discussions among 49ers fans in 2012-2013. With that in mind, here are five points I would like to make:
1. Alex Smith Won Enough Games to Get into the Playoffs.
Even though he had a rough patch during the season, it wasn’t all his fault. For him to help right the ship means he has earned the right to lead his team in the post season. The fact that he has improved QB play since he arrived in KC — a place where he requested to be traded in the first place — means that he has earned the right to start in the playoffs.
Anything can happen on Saturday. They Chiefs could lose or they can win, but Smith will the guy for the time being.
The Mahomes question should be put off until he has to play or the Chiefs’ postseason concludes.
2. The Mahomes Circle Jerks Were Started out of Spite.
At least in part. Now, there are Chiefs fans who are genuinely hopeful that they will have a great QB situation moving forward. Otherwise, there is a loud group of fans who just want Anyone But Smith.
Ever since Smith struggled in his first few years in the NFL, a contingent of 49ers fans called for him to be benched, occasionally rooting for his backups to take over. This included Sean Hill and David Carr. The latter calls were infamously immortalized during a game the 49ers played against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Of course, spite was also a factor of the Smith Wars in 2012, even before that regular season started. There were some 49ers fans who wanted Kaepernick to take over, arguing that he could everything Smith could do and more. By then, Smith was blamed for losing to the Giants in the NFC Championship Game that previous January and the “Game Manager” title was effectively pinned to him.
I didn’t like seeing Jim Harbaugh (who was the 49ers’ head coach back then) effectively bench Smith after Week 9. The team had gone 6-2-1 with Smith as the starter (the tie occurred after Smith played less than half of a game against the Rams because he suffered a concussion). I felt that he had earned the right to finish the year.
That decision stung because Smith was on pace for a career year and we never got to see how he could have finished.
This Year …
Smith had himself a career year. His numbers were relatively meager compared to the top quarterbacks, but he a much better deep passer this year, his deep passing was a factor in his team’s wins, and after he passed 4,000 for the first time this year, the Chiefs finished with a number of notable NFL records:
Despite that, there are people who want him gone. Some even want him to go to Cleveland. When you add in the snide comments about fans who followed him to KC going with him to his next team, you know this is purely about spite. The charge has been led by people who never wanted Smith in KC, but they’re being shortsighted and ungrateful.
When he came to the Chiefs in 2013, there were few options, even in the draft (EJ Manuel and Geno Smith were the top 2 QB’s drafted in a thin draft at the position). In 2014, Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater, and Derek Carr were the first four QB’s taken. While some will argue the latter two should have been picked up by the Chiefs, Smith was on the tail end of a reasonable contract and the team had Chase Daniel as the backup. The team was also focused on other needs, like WR.
That said, the Chief had to eventually address the QB position. This year, they moved up to get Mahomes in the 1st round of the draft. Yet that doesn’t mean Mahomes is the QB of the future or that he should start right away. And if he does, I caution fans to be careful what they wish for.
3. Like in 2012, Some Fans Are Going Crazy Off of Potential.
Now, there is a chance that Mahomes could surpass all expectations, as lofty as they are.
He could meet those expectations.
He could have a career comparable to Drew Brees or Big Ben.
He could just be a serviceable quarterback his whole career, but consistently give his team a chance.
Or he could disappoint.
None of those outcomes is guaranteed.
Above, I mentioned that the Chiefs had been to the playoffs 4 out of those 5 years. However, they’ve only won 1 playoff game since 2013. Still, that doesn’t mean Mahomes should start in the playoffs now.
One game doesn’t tell us much. If people think this is an impressive start, I would remind them that Cam Newton put up 400 yards in his first start. He also finished with the rookie record for yards thrown in a season, but he didn’t get the TD record and his first season didn’t foretell the rest of his career, did it? Cam Newton also went to the SB in his 5th season, but he didn’t win, did he?
This Type of Discussion Was One Thing That Bothered Me About the Kaepernick Hype in 2012.
The other part of it was this underserved sense of elitism from fans, along with the obsession with elite quarterbacks. In 2012, there were people who complained about the way Smith played and the over conservative nature of the offense. “We don’t just want to win, we want to dominate!” To be honest, Kap was never a dominant player, either.
In the 49ers’ case, the team had five Super Bowl championships under its belt, but when it reached the playoffs in 2011, it was the first team the team had a winning record in 10 years. The Chiefs have had a less stellar post season record. You have to crawl before you can walk.
What Happened with Kaepernick?
Ultimately, the quarterback move didn’t pay off. Sure, the 49ers went to the Super Bowl in that 2012 season, but they lost. They put a blemish on their record and it stung. I don’t know if Smith would have gotten there (let alone won the whole thing), but you can’t put that loss on him.
He was still largely forgiven for that because, you know …
4. Even if Someone Is Physically Gifted, That Doesn’t Guarantee Greatness.
The league eventually catches up to QB’s. All quarterbacks have weaknesses, especially those who aren’t students of the game. There is a chance other teams could figure him out and neutralize his natural gifts.
The whole team could be stacked, and that doesn’t guarantee greatness. See, this is another parallel to the 2012 Niners team. Smith was given virtually nothing when he got there. By 2011, his best receiver was his tight end and Michael Crabtree wasn’t nearly as good as he is now. But by the time Kap was handed the keys, the team had finally building around Smith.
Thus, even if Mahomes impresses in his first 10 starts, he wouldn’t have done it alone. But he would have to develop chemistry and a rapport with Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, and the others.
Additionally, I will also remind people that Kaepernick struggled when the best players for the Niners left. The team went to the NFC Championship again, but they lost. Then they went 8-8 in 2014 and then they sucked.
So, what happens if and when the best players leave the Chiefs? A quarterback can’t do it alone.
5. Youth Doesn’t Guarantee Longevity.
This concern isn’t tied to the Niners, but to the Indianapolis Colts, who drafted a guy they felt would be a franchise quarterback in 2012. That year, the Colts kicked Peyton Manning to the curb in order to draft Andrew Luck.
In a 2013 interview, the Colts’ owner, Jim Ursay, talked about why he made the decision to draft Luck. One of the reasons he gave was that Luck could give the Colts 15 years and a bigger window to win more championships.
The first three years of Luck’s career, it looked like that gamble paid off, as Luck took his team to the playoffs the first three years, while advancing further in the playoffs each year. However, in 2015, Luck started dealing with injuries. He has missed a significant amount of time since then and he didn’t play a down in 2017.
That said, there are a few valid arguments about starting Mahomes in 2018:
- He’s younger than Smith.
- Mahomes is on a rookie contract.
- Smith is due $17 million in 2018.
- The Chiefs gave up draft picks to get Mahomes in the first round.
- If Smith fails to win a Super Bowl this year (or a single playoff game), the choice to let him go will be easier to make.
Again, these are valid points. But again, there are no guarantees. An injury could change everything, and then people will have to worry about who’s behind Mahomes. If Smith was allowed to finish out his contract, the Chiefs would at least have Mahomes behind him.
My Point Is Simple.
I’m not saying whether or not the Chiefs should move onto Mahomes next year. Andy Reid should do what’s best for his team in the long run.
I’m just annoyed by these quarterback wars and they fans who feel the need to go after people who like Smith at any level because they can’t go after him directly. Mahomes is being used as a stick to beat Smith with. Thus, these circle jerks are partly fueled by spite.
There’s just no point in it all, especially when people question who is a fan or not. Does it really matter? I don’t care who’s a bandwagoner as long as they are somewhat respectful. My concern is that some of the longtime fans have been rather tactless.
FYI: I don’t know how I’ll feel when Smith finally leaves the Chiefs, but I won’t follow him to his next team. I will still be interested in him as a player and in the Chiefs as an organization.
And I might have some more reasons to smile if the Niners get good again.
That is all.
(Dang, this was longer than I’d thought it would be.)
- Previous: Enough, Already! Why I Really Don’t Care for Circle Jerks (Part 2)
- Where This Started: Enough, Already! Why I Really Don’t Care for Circle Jerks (Part 1)