Tamba Hali on Patrick Mahomes in 2017: "At times, we wanted him to play"

In June 2018, before the football world knew what Patrick Mahomes can do, Chiefs defensive end Tamba Hali saw it coming.

"You're going to get a complete player," Hali said. "I mean, he's a smart player. He can throw the ball. Athletically, he's gifted. You don't have to coach it. . . . I don't want to hype him, but I compare him to Brett Favre. He runs around the field and he throws the ball and he's just having fun."

Hali was so convinced of Mahomes that he at the press conference regarding his addition to the Chiefs Hall of Fame, that he and his teammates wanted to see Mahomes before he debuted in his second NFL season.

"At times, we wanted him to play," Hali said. "We wanted him to be on the field."

It's no surprise. In October 2017, tight end Travis Kelce said on PFT Live that Mahomes is doing "unbelievable" things in practice.

It's tempting to wonder what would have happened if the Chiefs had flipped to Mahomes from Alex Smith during the 2017 season. And it's not hard to spot where on the schedule Hali and others wanted to see Mahomes on the field.

Kansas City started 5-0 that year, and then went 1-3 entering the bye.

Of course, the bye is always the perfect reset for an Andy Reid-coached team, right? They got it right after the break, right? Wrong.

They lost two more in a row, scoring only nine points against the Giants and only 10 against the Bills. If there was ever a time for the Chiefs players to want to flip to Mahomes, that was it. A 5-0 start had become 6-5.

Reid didn't bench Smith for Mahomes. The offense responded with 31 points against the Jets. (Unfortunately, New York scored 38.)

The Chiefs then won four in a row to end the regular season (Mahomes started the meaningless Week 17 win over the Broncos). After they lost in the wild-card round at home to the Titans (the Chiefs blew a 21-3 lead by being outscored 19-0 in the second half), the stage was set for Smith to be traded and for Mahomes to ascend.

What would have happened if the Chiefs had unleashed Mahomes late in his rookie season? They've been to six AFC Championships in a row with Mahomes as the starter. Would it be seven for seven if the Chiefs had given Mahomes a shot during that post-bye slump?

Would it be five Super Bowl appearances in seven years instead of four in six? Four wins instead of three?

The Chiefs drafted Mahomes because they determined Smith had taken them as far as he could. That was confirmed in 2017. Given how great Mahomes has been, it's not crazy to think he could have gotten his career — and Kansas City's current run of greatness — going before it officially started in 2018.