As teams get mathematically eliminated from the NFL playoffs, we’ll give you a jump on their offseason by examining what went right, what went wrong and what needs to change before next season.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
The Chiefs had a weird season. Early on they looked like a Super Bowl favorite. Then they slumped badly, and it looked like they might miss the playoffs. They rallied late to win the AFC West. Then they turned a 21-3 halftime lead into a 22-21 wild-card playoff loss to the Titans, which was a perfect reflection of their up-and-down season.
What went right: The Chiefs offense emerged as one of the best in the NFL. Alex Smith led the NFL in passer rating. Kareem Hunt led the NFL in rushing. Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce had fantastic seasons. The Chiefs were balanced and dangerous when they had the ball, which we could see as they picked the Titans apart in the first half of their playoff game. Of course, that went sour after halftime.
What went wrong: The defense really missed safety Eric Berry, who suffered a season-ending injury in Week 1. The Chiefs ended up as one of the worst defenses in the NFL, and were especially bad against the run. It seems like Kansas City really wasted a chance. They looked like one of the best teams in the NFL early on and couldn’t even win a first-round playoff game against a mediocre Titans team. Losing offensive coordinator Matt Nagy, who was hired as head coach of the Bears, doesn’t help either.
Will the coach be back?: I understand the frustration with Andy Reid in the postseason. But for anyone saying the Chiefs need to fire him, do you think they’ll do better with their next hire? Reid is an amazing coach. He’s 53-27 with the Chiefs, and 63 games over .500 for his career. Yes, he hasn’t won it all. The Chiefs have had some horrible playoff disappointments. But I’d take my chances on Reid catching some breaks in the postseason over trying to find another coach who consistently cranks out 10-plus wins a season.
Do they have a quarterback?: Two, actually! The Chiefs are in an unusual spot, though one many teams would love to be in. Alex Smith is coming off a very good season. He led the NFL in passer rating and made the Pro Bowl as an injury replacement. Not many teams would want to move on from that. But the Chiefs traded up and drafted Patrick Mahomes 10th overall because it seemed clear they didn’t think Smith could get them over the hump. This season’s playoff failure doesn’t help that perception. The Chiefs would save $17 million on the cap by trading or cutting Smith, according to Over The Cap. It seems clear that the Chiefs need to move on and try super-talented Mahomes, but the risk of moving on from Smith after the fine season he had is obvious.
Quick free agent fix: The Chiefs could really use a No. 2 receiver. It has been a long time since they’ve had a second outside option who defenses had to worry about (though Kansas City uses versatile Travis Kelce in that role a lot). If the Chiefs move on from Alex Smith, getting even more targets would help Patrick Mahomes’ transition to the starting role. Funny enough, the $17 million the Chiefs would save from getting rid of Smith could be used on that receiver. There’s not a ton of great free-agent receivers, but perhaps they could take a short-term flier on someone like Donte Moncrief after his two disappointing seasons.
Quick draft fix: The Chiefs don’t have a first-round pick due to the Mahomes deal. That makes it harder to fill some holes like cornerback and depth on both lines. Finding a cornerback opposite Marcus Peters is a priority, but it’s not easy to find an immediate starter there in the late second round.
Give it to me straight, can my team make the playoffs in 2018?: The Chiefs should still be very good. Reid is an outstanding coach, and there’s a lot of talent on both sides of the ball. It all comes down to the quarterback situation. Smith probably would get the Chiefs back to the playoffs, but without much hope that they could win it all. Mahomes has a higher ceiling, but also a lower floor. Going to Mahomes would make the Chiefs much more unpredictable, for better or worse.
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