It was a great plan when the Chiefs’ offense was operating at an acceptable NFL level. Since that hasn’t been the case for several weeks, Kansas City can’t afford to wait for Mahomes much longer.
The Chiefs continued their free-fall with Sunday’s 16-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills at Arrowhead Stadium. The Bills had allowed a total of 101 points in their previous two games, but the Chiefs managed just a field goal in the first half and a touchdown in the second.
Kansas City coach Andy Reid said he didn’t consider putting Mahomes in the game on Sunday and wouldn’t make a change at quarterback for next Sunday’s game on the road against the Jets.
"That’s not where I’m at right now," Reid said after the Chiefs lost for the fifth time in six games. "We’ve got a couple other things to take care of."
Smith was 23-of-36 for 199 yards and a touchdown against the Bills. He threw an interception in the final two minutes as the Chiefs were driving toward what would have been the go-ahead touchdown.
The Chiefs were leading the NFL in scoring when they were 5-0 but have come to a near-halt offensively of late. The touchdown against the Bills was their only one in the past nine quarters. Kansas City punted after three plays on each of its first five possessions Sunday.
"That’s my responsibility when the offense starts that slow," Reid said. “We couldn’t get much rhythm going until the second half, and then we got a little going. Again, I’ll take responsibility for that.
“Everybody’s got a piece. I can do a better job of putting [Smith] in better position to make plays. The offensive line can block better and receivers, every catch isn’t going to be an easy catch."
Reid is doing the Chiefs a disservice if he's not at least considering a change at quarterback. Their season is in peril. The 6-5 Chiefs once had a seemingly insurmountable lead in the AFC West. But after losing five of their past six games, their advantage in the division is down to a single game.
Kansas City, once the NFL’s last unbeaten team at 5-0, has fallen that far that fast. If the offense struggles similarly next week on the road against the Jets or at any point beyond that, the Chiefs should turn to Mahomes to save their season.
That’s a big ask of a rookie quarterback. It would be better to introduce Mahomes to the starting role next season, when he’s had the entire offseason and training camp to settle in to the job.
But the Chiefs will have little choice but to scrap their plan with Mahomes and have him ready to play this season if their offense doesn’t improve quickly. Their once-promising season has soured faster than anyone anticipated, and the Chiefs have to adjust to it now.
Mahomes could provide a missing spark. He showed an uncanny ability during training camp and the preseason to make something positive out of plays that were seemingly lost.
Smith has the ability to scramble the Chiefs out of a jam now and then, but it’s rare for him to pass his way out of trouble. He has had his two worst games of the season in the past two weeks, against struggling defensive opponents in the Giants and the Bills.
The Chiefs might have to live with some rookie mistakes from Mahomes if he's inserted into the lineup. But he might make enough plays to make it worth their while.
Kansas City is rapidly getting to the point where it needs to find out.