The Kansas City Chiefs are one of five teams to have only one quarterback attempt a pass in the 2017 regular season. In true Kansas City fashion, the one year garbage time would mean everything to a fanbase, the team can’t get to it. They let a tight end and a receiver throw interceptions before they let rookie Patrick Mahomes see the field.
Finally, his long anticipated debut is here. On Sunday against the Denver Broncos, Mahomes will attempt his first official pass and provide an early peek at the future of the franchise. A Christmas present 51 weeks early.
Mahomes has loomed over this team the entire season. You could argue that his impact on the field has been felt by helping nudge Alex Smith to a career year. He’s rarely seen, never heard from, but we all know he’s there. However, it has never felt to me that we completely comprehend all that Mahomes means.
How could we? We’re new here. We’ve only been observers of both the good and bad of the Great Franchise Quarterback Experiment. Fans waited 34 years between first round selections of the most important position in sports. This has been a long time coming. We finally threw our name into the hat. It’s long overdue, and the fear of failing that kept this organization from daring to be great has put fans and Mahomes in an unnecessarily difficult situation.
Several times this year, I’ve imagined the chaos that would ensue if Alex Smith went down with an injury. I genuinely believe that Mahomes first snap coming out of nowhere in the middle of a game would be too much for most to handle. We know he’s the backup, we know there’s always a possibility he can come in the game. We aren’t truly prepared for it.
That 34-year wait comes with a 34-year weight. Built up frustration, fear and anxiety. Recently, anticipation and excitement. We have all parts of the emotional spectrum covered. Time does that.
The clock starts ticking on the legacy this week. The long term questions start coming to the forefront. What if he fails? What if he succeeds? What if he’s just okay? What if he gets hurt? The crippling fear or irrational levels of joy of an entire city (sans that random Broncos fan in your office who is the absolute worst) has been placed in the hands of a 22-year old.
Until this year, a generation (probably two) of Chiefs fans has never known what Mahomes now embodies. None of us really know how to handle everything that comes with it. Some high picks fail, some succeed, some fail and then succeed. It will be an emotional roller coaster from here on out. It would have if we were four years removed from the last first round quarterback. Adding thirty to that number puts thousands of people in unfamiliar territory.
It’s not fair to the fans. It’s not fair to Mahomes. It’s reality, however.
The city will be on edge emotionally, highs and lows, with every snap of Mahomes’ career. A vast majority of us have never seen a promising young quarterback fail or succeed. We’re unprepared. We’ll be learning as we go along. We’ll be handling success and failure right along with him. The bond we will develop with him will only strengthen as a result of that.
Mahomes has a chance to be as beloved as a football player can be. If he’s good, he is the one who ends the home grown drought, brings hope and removes all of the built-up aggression. The other side of that is more sadness and frustration. Worsening, festering sadness and frustration. The weight of the wait becomes all the more heavier.
Whether he’s Kyle Boller, Matt Stafford or Russell Wilson, we’re going to be some kind of wreck.
The stakes for this rookie quarterback are arguably the highest they’ve been for any organization. The range of outcomes closely reflects the draft profiles of the Texas Tech signal caller.
There were nine Olympics between first round quarterback selections. It’s largely organizational failure if this thing doesn’t work out. A drought this long is intentional strategic decision making. You don’t ignore the position for that long without there being some methodology behind it. It’s 34 years of varying levels of organizational failure by the Hunt family, Carl Peterson and Scott Pioli. Not to take anything away from the legacies of Montana, Trent Green or Alex Smith. Life after any them hadn’t been addressed until this April.
The organization dug this hole, and it will take a special player to get them out of it. Mahomes is going to have to do it the hardest way. I believe him to be up to the task. I believe in him to be a lottery ticket worth giving away valuable picks for. The coaching staff and roster around him will help. Still, he will deserve all the respect and admiration he gets if he is able to satisfy that franchise quarterback-sized void.
Mahomes will either be everything that we’ve been waiting 34 years for, or everything that’s been wrong with the last 34 years. Buckle up. The ride starts Sunday.