Kansas City Chiefs’ coach reluctant to bench struggling quarterback
Calls grow to replace experienced Alex Smith with draft pick Patrick Mahomes
Quarterback Alex Smith (No 11) of Kansas City Chiefs takes the field with teammates prior to the game against the Buffalo Bills in Kansas City, Missouri. Photograph: Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid is not an impulsive man. He learned at the feet of Mike Holmgren, a coach who could be maddening at times in his devotion to an offense he trusted and the players he believed would make it work.
Holmgren didn’t bench many players if they had a few bad weeks and Reid has rarely done the same himself.
But even Reid can’t sit patient watching his offense stagnate as his team stumbles into an abyss from which it may not recover this season. On Sunday, Kansas City lost for the fifth time in six games with a dismal 16-10 home loss to Buffalo.
A team that started the season 5-0 with big victories over New England and Philadelphia, and seemed like a true Super Bowl contender are now 6-5 and in first place in the AFC West by the grace of a dreadful division. If they keep playing the way they have for the last few weeks they will even squander that.
Reid’s quarterback, Alex Smith, has been a solid and sometimes underappreciated leader. He took Kansas City to within two games of the Super Bowl last season and looked ready to go deep in the playoffs this winter.
But Smith has been sluggish in recent weeks as the Chiefs offense has grown cold. On Sunday they converted on just two of 13 third downs. Nobody can win with numbers like those.
And now will come the calls for Reid to replace the 33-year-old Smith with Patrick Mahomes, the Texas Tech quarterback they traded up to get with the 10th overall pick in this year’s draft. After all, if Smith can’t move Kansas City any better than he has lately, wouldn’t Mahomes be worth the shot?
“That’s not where I am right now,” Reid told reporters after Sunday’s game.
The surprise would be if Reid seemed open to the idea. The record of the top quarterbacks picked this year is not inspiring.
Chicago were laughably conservative when they started playing second overall pick, Mitchell Trubisky, once letting him throw just seven passes. On Sunday, throwing 33 times he was intercepted twice.
DeShaun Watson the 12th pick, played brilliantly for Houston before going down with a season-ending injury. DeShone Kizer, a second round selection by Cleveland, has been inconsistent though much of that might have to do with the fact the Browns haven’t given him much to work with. Playing Mahomes is a risk Reid does not appear to want to take.
In many ways, he is doing the right thing. Too often teams are impatient with top quarterback prospects, rushing them onto the field simply because they were first-round picks. Playing Mahomes now might ruin him.
And yet, why would Kansas City move up in the draft if they weren’t going to use him? At this point, they may not have a choice. How much farther can they fall?
The Chiefs don’t have a winning team left on their schedule. Given the state of the AFC West they could probably squeak into the postseason by winning two more games. But to what end? To lose their first playoff game and start the clock next spring on a quarterback they have yet to test?
Reid has shown an amazing ability to tune out criticism for much of his coaching life. Will he be able to resist the swell about to come his way? – Guardian service