On Wednesday afternoon, Kansas City Chiefs’ head coach Andy Reid confirmed the news that many fans anticipated following the division-clinching win in Week 17.
In the opening statement of his press conference, Reid revealed the plan to rest quarterback Patrick Mahomes in Week 18, giving the starting reigns to backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert for the week.
“We’ll rotate the other guys in as we go,” Reid added to his announcement.
Mahomes and any other starter getting a full game of rest will be using it to further prepare for the playoffs. The Chiefs are locked into the AFC’s No. 3 seed, meaning the team will host a postseason game on Wild Card Weekend no matter what happens on Sunday.
In Reid’s eyes, that doesn’t lead to the Week 18 bout against the Los Angeles Chargers becoming meaningless. There are just different things to take away from Sunday’s result.
“This is not a less-important game,” Reid assured. “It’s just different guys in important positions playing the game and playing well. You don’t just throw these games out; that’s not what we’re doing with that.”
Reid shared that practice squad quarterback Chris Oladokun will be brought up the game-day roster as a backup to Gabbert. Both signal callers have been with the team since the beginning of the offseason and have been throwing to the second line of wide receivers.
According to Gabbert, who also spoke to reporters on Wednesday, that pass-catching group will get a bigger opportunity in Los Angeles.
“Justyn Ross, [Kadarius Toney], Mecole [Hardman], these guys are going to play a significant amount this weekend,” Gabbert shared with the media gathering. “It’s great to get more reps under your belt, so when your number is called in the playoffs, you’re ready to go.
Chiefs fans will be most intrigued with Ross, the second-year wideout who has worked through a list of injuries over multiple years to earn his place on the 53-man roster. He has only caught four passes this season, so Week 18 is a big opportunity to further display the talent his teammates see in practice.
“You look back, and he hasn’t played football since his freshman year of college.” Gabbert reflected on Ross. “But the amount of athletic ability he has is extremely rare. I have been around the game for a long time, and seeing what he can do in and out of cuts, catching the football, and making plays, it’s fun to watch. These reps throughout the week and practice are going to be extremely valuable for him as his career progresses.”
While young receivers are itching for the field, one veteran may still want to start on Sunday: tight end Travis Kelce, who is 16 yards shy of 1,000 receiving yards this season. That would extend his NFL record for tight ends to eight consecutive years.
Legacy is important to any player, but nothing about Kelce tells Gabbert that he will be chasing an individual accolade.
“That’s not how Trav plays,” Gabbert emphasized. “He wants team success first, he has always been that way. He genuinely loves football, and if he wants to play, he’ll play; if it’s coach Reid’s decision to let him rest, he’ll rest.”
However, the veteran gunslinger would take a lot of pride in getting Kelce over the mark.
“If we’re out there, we’re going to do our damn best to get him 17 yards.”
The only thing left on the Chiefs’ agenda this week is to prepare for one of the five opponents they could face to begin the postseason.
“I have some of the assistants looking at the other things, the possibilities,” Reid told reporters. “A couple of the possibilities, you already know, so you could spend less time on that... Now they have a couple more teams that they have to stay ahead for... that’s what they do anyways, the quality control guys.”
While fans look forward to the postseason, the Chiefs’ coaches are focused on getting the most out of the players available to them in Los Angeles.