There is a good reason that the AFC championship trophy is named after the late, great Lamar Hunt. From his founding of the AFL to naming the Super Bowl, Hunt made a profound impact on the game we all love so much.
There are also good reasons the Kansas City Chiefs have never hoisted the trophy named after him—the biggest being the apathy they’ve shown historically towards investing in a young quarterback of their own.
The Chiefs broke one of the most incredible streaks in football when they traded up to select Patrick Mahomes in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. They finally ended the gap between first-round quarterbacks at 34 years, from Todd Blackledge in 1983 to Mahomes.
On Wednesday’s episode of The Drive on 610 Sports Radio, Steven Spector said that he believes the Mahomes acquisition is the most important trade in Kansas City history.
With respect to the trades by the 2014-15 Royals, whose returns built a significant piece of the nucleus that would go to back-to-back World Series (Zach Greinke, James Shields/Wade Davis, Johnny Cueto, Ben Zobrist), I agree. And I think you can make that argument regardless of whether or not he has success.
This trade holds more weight, good or bad, than it ever should have.
Mahomes Mania has somehow only grown this summer. All things Pat are heavily consumed by our city. One of your friends is going to dress up for Halloween in a sleeveless T-Bones jersey and jorts. The energy about the kid is palpable and hasn’t been dormant during the dead period of the NFL calendar. In fact, the national media attention and staunch belief have rapidly increased.
Mahomes has played in exactly one official NFL game. He rewarded us with a performance to be very optimistic about. That Week 17 effort only fueled the excitement levels and created more GOAT jokes and hyperbole, which often get confused for actual takes.
But here’s the thing. Drafting a quarterback in the first round isn’t supposed to be a once-in-a-lifetime ordeal. Unfortunately, for a large section of the fanbase, it has been.
The Chiefs have ignored the desires of the fans to make a bold investment in the most important position in sports for far too long and now they are faced with a franchise-altering commitment to a young quarterback. They’ve let a city’s signal-caller anxiety fester for far too long. The width of the emotional spectrum is giant for an inexperienced group of people trying to navigate their feelings toward a potential franchise savior.
The Chiefs’ general manager, Brett Veach, called Mahomes one of the best talents he’s ever seen. Reid has not done much to get in the way of slowing the excitement down. Louis Riddick, an ESPN analyst who is well connected to the Chiefs, is unwavering in his belief in Mahomes based on the practice tape he’s seen and the whispers from One Arrowhead Drive. The coaches and personnel staff are embracing the energy.
They better be right.
Whoever wound up being the one who broke the streak was going to receive a raw deal. The fans have no off button with this. They’re making up for lost time. They’re a hungry 12-year-old that was handed a Costco size bag of Doritos. They’re savoring through mass consumption.
The experience has been fun, but it’s going to be a terrible, terrible fall if things don’t turn out the way we all hope they will. The Chiefs did this to themselves.
They didn’t sit out 34 hands, they’ve just been raising the stakes this whole time.
The fans have never experienced the highs and lows of a young quarterback. When (and there will be a when) Mahomes turns the ball over late in a loss to a team they should have beat, how are fans going to respond?
Small, normal, important bumps in the developmental process of a quarterback now are magnified.
Mahomes deserves a ton of grace he’ll never get. The Chiefs are to blame for that. A more-than-three-decade coincidence is an organizational philosophy. It will be difficult for things to not become emotional for a number of people. The comedown could be disproportionate to the reality. How does a 22-year-old handle that?
The most valuable asset in football is a quarterback on a rookie deal. They have done a phenomenal job developing the infrastructure around him. The personnel is excellent, as is the man positioning the personnel on the field. It’s more than stable within the building. They’ve set him up for success internally. They’ve failed externally.
Your chances at winning a Super Bowl are exponentially greater when you have a top-tier quarterback. The Chiefs tried it the hard way for far too long. They’ve been risk averse with the quarterback position and their bottom line for a long period of time. Stability and mediocrity sell enough tickets. They finally stuck their neck out with Mahomes and are risking complete dejection if they fail. That dejection could be irreparable, the reward unprecedented. The risk-aversion is finally at a breaking point. Their bottom line could take a significant hit.
Mahomes has handled this all extremely well. He has been fearless and tireless in his growth and development. He’s given people reasons to be excited about the outlook for the future.
If you asked me if I think he’ll succeed, I’d tell you I do. The talent, work ethic and self-awareness are all clearly present. I believe him capable to handle the pressure, but it’s way more than it needed to be.
I’ve already started writing the talk off the ledge I’ll feel the need to write at the first sign of struggle. This is a fanbase enjoying the ride they hope they won’t have to get off for a while.
I hope we can rationalize and put into proper context what many of us are experiencing for the first time.
It’s not just Mahomes that’s new at this, and that’s the bed the Chiefs made.