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The arguments for not waiting and starting Patrick Mahomes now

NFL: Kansa City Chiefs-OTA Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

I’m not going to beat around the bush with this one. The purpose of this article is to provide some arguments that Mahomes should be the starter in Kansas City over Alex Smith. The chiefs dismissed the idea of him starting so quickly that I hadn’t considered reasons for him starting, if there are any good ones.

The Super Bowl

The overarching goal of every team in the NFL is to win the Super Bowl. So, can Alex Smith win a Super Bowl? The obvious answer is “we don’t know”, but ultimately it comes down to your personal opinion.

If you believe Alex Smith can win a Super Bowl then there is no reason you shouldn’t want him as your starter on opening day in 2017.

However, if you believe Alex Smith can’t win a Super Bowl then what is the point of starting him?

The argument is pretty simple: If Alex Smith can’t win a Super Bowl, then the Chiefs should go with Patrick Mahomes.

The Super Bowl argument is an all or nothing argument, and we don’t like to think in binary here, so I’d say it’s flimsy at best. We all know the true answer is far more complex than that.

Mahomes’ Development

Alex Smith was taken number one overall in the 2005 NFL draft while Aaron Rodgers was selected 24th overall.

Smith was thrust into a starting role while Rodgers was allowed to sit behind Brett Favre. Smith grew to be a decent starter while Rodgers became a perennial MVP candidate.

Sometimes I wonder if there exists an alternate universe where Alex Smith was taken 24th overall and allowed to sit while Aaron Rodgers was the first overall pick and thrust into a starting role. I wonder if in this universe, Alex Smith is a better quarterback than Aaron Rodgers, or if Aaron Rodgers is still better. Who do you think would be better?

I still ponder over the whole idea of a quarterback needing a year to sit and learn to reach their full potential. It’s not that I necessarily disagree, it’s just that I question it. I don’t know.

Would the likes of Dan Marino, John Elway, Troy Aikman, Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan, and Andrew Luck be better players if they sat for a year or two before they started? Or were they just simply great to begin with?

Did Rick Mirer, Jim Druckenmiller, Tim Couch, Matt Leinart, JaMarcus Russell, and Vince Young all fail because they were rushed into a starting role too soon? Or were they just not cut out for the NFL to begin with?

There are two directions one can go with their thinking here. Either quarterbacks are better because they had time to sit and learn, or quarterbacks are better simply because they were great to begin with.

If you believe quarterbacks are better because they sit and learn, then by all means Alex Smith should be the starter. Let Mahomes sit.

However, if you believe quarterbacks are great because of the player they are, then once again the door opens for Mahomes to be the starter. Why not start Mahomes now if there is no detriment to his long term development?

I didn’t really know what to think about this, so I decided I’d make a list of the great quarterbacks who were drafted after the year 2000 and see who sat vs who started immediately.

I found nine “great” quarterbacks drafted during this time. Five sat for at least a year (Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Carson Palmer, Philip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers.) Four were immediate starters (Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford, Andrew Luck.)

With the split being so close, I’m not quite sold on the idea quarterbacks must sit to be successful. I believe it can help, but at the end of the day I believe a quarterback is great simply because they were bound to be great.

Going back to the alternate universe where Alex Smith was allowed to sit, I believe Aaron Rodgers would still be the better quarterback of the two.

So the argument would be something like this: Quarterbacks aren’t great because they sit, they’re great because they already have the ability to be great. Mahomes doesn’t need to sit to be a great quarterback.

Timing

Until Patrick Mahomes sees real time on the field, in meaningful regular season games, no one can truly know how he will perform.

We’ve all read the writing on the wall that appears to say the Chiefs will cut Alex Smith in 2018 to make cap room. Would you rather have to make the decision to cut Alex Smith knowing what Patrick Mahomes can bring to the table, or not knowing what Mahomes can bring to the table?

What if Mahomes is terrible? What if he looks well and fine in practice, but once the real games start he poops the bed? The Chiefs organization won’t know this if they don’t see him play on the field.

Would you want to cut a quarterback in Alex Smith who has done nothing but win for you over the past four or five years and replace them with a complete unknown? The less risky option is to see what the Chiefs have with Mahomes in 2017, and then handle Smith accordingly going forward.

If Mahomes plays well in 2017 the Chiefs should have confidence in moving on from Alex Smith after that.

The argument here would go something like: The Chiefs need to see what Patrick Mahomes can bring to the table before they part ways with Alex Smith. If Mahomes is awful they still have a chance at keeping Smith. If Mahomes is great they can move on from Smith with confidence. This will keep the Chiefs from cutting a known winner in Alex Smith for a virtual unknown in 2018. Starting Mahomes in 2017 could be less risky over the long haul.

Good Coaching

I made a list of first year starting quarterback and coaching tandems since 2000. I wanted to see if good coaches ever had a bad season after starting a first year quarterback. Here’s the list of coaches, quarterbacks, and win/loss totals.

(Note, I only counted first year quarterbacks who started in 12 games or more.)

Rookie QB/Coaching Tandems

QB Record Coach
QB Record Coach
Dak Prescott 13-3 Jason Garrett
Ben Roethlisberger 13-0 Bill Cowher
Russell Wilson 11-5 Pete Carroll
Andrew Luck 11-5 Chuck Pagano
Matt Ryan 11-5 Mike Smith
Joe Flacco 11-5 John Harbaugh
Kyle Orton 10-5 Lovie Smith
Andy Dalton 9-7 Marvin Lewis
Robert Griffin 9-6 Mike Shanahan
Geno Smith 8-8 Rex Ryan
Mark Sanchez 8-7 Rex Ryan
Vince Young 8-5 Jeff Fisher
Sam Bradford 7-9 Steve Spagnuolo
Carson Wentz 7-9 Doug Pederson
Ryan Tannehill 7-9 Joe Philbin
Jameis Winston 6-10 Lovie Smith
Cam Newton 6-10 Ron Rivera
Carson Palmer 6-7 Marvin Lewis
Teddy Bridgewater 6-6 Mike Zimmer
Brandon Weeden 5-10 Pat Shurmur
Byron Leftwich 5-8 Jack Del Rio
David Carr 4-12 Dom Capers
Blaine Gabbert 4-10 Mel Tucker/Jack Del Rio
Mike Glennon 4-9 Greg Schiano
Derek Carr 3-13 Dennis Allen
Blake Bortles 3-10 Gus Bradley
Marcus Mariota 3-9 Ken Whisenhunt
Joey Harrington 3-9 Marty Mornhinweg
Chris Weinke 1-14 George Seifert

If you look at this list, you’ll notice that great head coaches don’t usually lose when they start rookie quarterbacks (since 2000 at least.)

If I were to rank Reid next to these coaches from this list I’d put him in the same field as Bill Cowher, Pete Carroll, John Harbaugh, and Mike Shanahan. Each of these coaches earned 13, 11, 11, and nine wins respectively when starting a rookie quarterback.

It would appear that coaching plays a huge role in a teams ability to win with a young quarterback. The teams who tend to do more poorly in the win/loss column are often from teams with poor coaching.

I mean, if Rex Ryan can win eight games with a rookie Geno Smith as his starter, you’d have to think Andy Reid could get the Chiefs to the playoffs with Mahomes, right???

So the argument would be something along the lines of: Great coaches win with rookie quarterbacks. Andy Reid is a great coach, so he could find a way to win games with Patrick Mahomes starting as a rookie.

What are your arguments? What are your rebuttals? Please keep it clean, no hits below the belt.