Just as no one has written the ultimate book on love---no one has written the ultimate book on the best case scenarios for NFL rookie QBs.
Wait a minute.
These days, pretty much every NFL pundit and analyst has been lauding Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs for the manner in which they have handled and groomed QB Patrick Mahomes, the gunslinger from Texas Tech and current NFL MVP who is now entering his 3rd season.
Even Mahomes himself has stated that it was an ideal scenario for him to sit a year behind the incumbent veteran QB, Alex Smith, so that he could learn Andy Reid’s offense and be all the more prepared to run it in commanding fashion by year 2.
But...could the Chiefs have actually made a first year mistake with Mahomes?
Sure, it’s risky to play rookie QBs as they are prone to making rookie mistakes some of which could cost their teams valuable wins and chances for the playoffs.
However, what I would argue is that the Chiefs had such a good offense in 2017 that Mahomes could have won his fair share of games---and---by season’s end---he could have given the Chiefs a better chance to win in the playoffs than Alex Smith did.
Here the Chiefs were, 10-6, winners of the AFC West, and playing the Tennessee Titans at Arrowhead Stadium in the wild card round of the playoffs---and what a colossal failure of a game this 22-21 loss at home was for the Chiefs.
With 6 minutes left in the game, the Titans took the 22-21 lead and here is the play by play of the Chiefs’ final offensive possession with the game and the season on the line:
1st & 10 at KC 27
- (5:58 - 4th) (Shotgun) A.Smith pass short right to D.Harris to KC 40 for 13 yards (J.Brown; T.Smith).
1st & 10 at KC 40
- (5:20 - 4th) (Shotgun) A.Smith right end pushed ob at TEN 42 for 18 yards (J.Cyprien). PENALTY on KC-D.Harris, Offensive Holding, 10 yards, enforced at TEN 49.
1st & 9 at KC 41
- (4:50 - 4th) (Shotgun) A.Smith pass incomplete short middle to T.Hill (J.Casey).
2nd & 9 at KC 41
- (4:46 - 4th) (Shotgun) A.Smith sacked at KC 41 for 0 yards (B.Orakpo).
3rd & 9 at KC 41
- (4:46 - 4th) (Shotgun) PENALTY on TEN-J.Casey, Neutral Zone Infraction, 5 yards, enforced at KC 41 - No Play.
3rd & 4 at KC 46
- (4:01 - 4th) (Shotgun) A.Smith pass short right to D.Harris to TEN 45 for 9 yards (J.Brown).
1st & 10 at TEN 45
- (4:01 - 4th) (Shotgun) K.Hunt up the middle to TEN 44 for 1 yard (J.Casey; W.Woodyard).
2nd & 9 at TEN 44
- (2:56 - 4th) (Shotgun) A.Smith pass incomplete short left to D.Harris (J.Cyprien).
3rd & 9 at TEN 44
- (2:51 - 4th) (Shotgun) A.Smith sacked at TEN 44 for 0 yards (D.Morgan).
- (2:15 - 4th) Timeout #2 by TEN at 02:15.
4th & 9 at TEN 44
- (2:09 - 4th) (Shotgun) A.Smith pass incomplete deep middle to A.Wilson.
Game and season over.
To me, playing Alex Smith in front of Patrick Mahomes was like the Cardinals playing veteran RB Chris Johnson in front of rookie David Johnson. There is really no question as to which player is more talented and more dynamic.
Plus, there is something to be said about players whom everyone knows are lame ducks, as QB Alex Smith was. Smith and everyone in the NFL universe knew the exact moment Smith became a lame duck when the Chiefs surprisingly came out of nowhere to trade up for QB Patrick Mahomes in the 2017 NFL Draft. To that point it was looking like Smith had found his niche and groove in KC.
Furthermore, it can be argued that had the Chiefs gone with Mahomes in the playoffs in year one, that experience may have helped him perform better in this past year’s playoffs, where the Chiefs, this time as the #1 seed in the AFC, lost for the second straight year at home, 37-31 to the Patriots.
Not only was the NFL deprived of a whole year in 2017 of watching one of the most brilliant young QBs to come into the league in quite some time---the Chiefs squandered a golden opportunity to make the Super Bowl in 2018.
The Chiefs’ home playoff losses in both the 2017 and 2018 are particularly frustrating because as opposing teams will tell you, playing at Arrowhead Stadium amidst that raucous atmosphere and deafening crowd noise is a daunting task, as the Chiefs have achieved a 13-3 there during the past two regular seasons.
One has to wonder whether Andy Reid way have been tempted to go with Mahomes down the stretch in 2017 the way Jim Harbaugh was when he went with Colin Kaepernick over Alex Smith in 2012. Kaepernick took the 49ers to the Super Bowl and actually led a furious comeback in that game versus the Ravens, passing for over 300 yards and a TD, plus rushing for 62 yards and a 15 yard TD that got the 49ers within 29-31 with 9:57 left in the 4th quarter---before losing the game 34-31.
Kaepernick was a 2nd round pick in 2011, unlike Mahomes who was a top 10 pick in 2017. Yet, in his 2nd season, Kaepernick led his team to the Super Bowl.
All of this begs the question---what is the best case scenario for rookie QBs in the NFL? What conditions give young QBs the best chances to succeed at the highest levels?
Before I explain my theory about the best case scenarios, I would be very interested to hear yours.
To make this a tad more interesting, I am going to award a brand new Arizona Cardinals frosty beer mug to the fan whose theory that Seth Cox and I find the most cogent and compelling.