The 2022 NFL offseason began as a thudding reality for the Kansas City Chiefs.
Leading 21-3 early in January’s AFC Championship game versus the Cincinnati Bengals, KC seemed poised to appear in a third consecutive Super Bowl. But an 18-point second-half comeback, spurred on by Cincinnati’s ascending star quarterback Joe Burrow, pushed the Bengals into the big game and Kansas City into the unknown.
“When you’re up 21 to 3 at one point in the game, you can’t lose it,” quarterback Patrick Mahomes said postgame. His 1.4 second-half quarterback rating was the worst of his short tenure as starter.
Patrick Mahomes QBR by half Sunday:— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 31, 2022
1st Half - 98.0
2nd Half/OT - 1.4
It's the largest gap in a player's QBR by half in the playoffs since QBR tracking began in 2006 (min. 10 attempts each half). pic.twitter.com/f6ZmzWQ4tv
“I put that on myself,” Mahomes said. KC’s offense cratered in the final two quarters, managing just 83 yards of total offense after halftime, compared to 292 before the break.
“Obviously, our second half wasn’t good enough,” head coach Andy Reid told reporters the Monday after his team’s 27-24 overtime loss. “Whether it’s schemes or whether it’s the roster,” Reid continued, “we’ll spend the offseason here getting things worked out.”
The first major domino to getting things “worked out” in Kansas City seemingly fell in March. With contract negotiations between the front office and star wideout Tyreek Hill reaching an impasse, the team reportedly agreed to let “the Cheetah” find a new home.
Hours later, Hill became a Miami Dolphin.
End of an era ✌ !!! Miami I’m coming home pic.twitter.com/ykcZcSuy7N— Ty Hill (@cheetah) March 23, 2022
“Myself and [Chiefs general manager Brett Veach] kept it wide open with Patrick … There’s a pretty good chance there’s change that’s going to take place throughout your career,” Reid said of the deal in mid-April. “It’s part of playing that position,” he concluded.
Change didn’t stop with the Cheetah. Longtime front office exec Ryan Poles bolted for the GM job in Chicago, taking a handful of KC contributors with him. Veteran safety Tyrann Mathieu was eschewed in favor of Texans safety Justin Reid. And key defensive contributors in cornerback Charvarious Ward and defensive linemen Jarran Reed and Melvin Ingram found new homes as well.
With holes to fill on the team and staff, KC welcomed back an old friend in former Bears head coach Matt Nagy (as senior assistant and quarterbacks coach), restructured the contract of edge rusher Frank Clark, and inked the tandem of lanky wideouts JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling to team friendly deals.
We have signed WR JuJu Smith-Schuster ✍️— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) March 20, 2022
“Any time you can add weapons for Mahomes is something we’ll think about,” GM Brett Veach said in a February state of the franchise address with reporters. “We have some draft capital to work with,” he continued. “It’s just a matter of filling in the holes … and marrying that with what we think is available in the draft.”
Entering the 2022 NFL Draft in Las Vegas with 12 total selections, Kansas City used it to fatten up at thin positions. First-round rookies Trent McDuffie and George Karlfatis both figure to be Week 1 starters for the defending AFC West champs. Meanwhile, late-round value picks Joshua Williams and Isiah Pacheco have earned critical snaps with strong play in training camp.
An offseason that opened with a heartbreaking loss draws to a close with a promise of brighter days ahead.
“When you have a player as talented as Pat [Mahomes], I think your window is always open,” Veach said.