The Chiefs are not a good football team at the moment. They started 5-0, averaging more than 30 points per game. In their last six games, they have gone 1-5, with an offense that has been inactive.
If you're reading this because you're hoping to support starting quarterback Pat Mahomes, you'll be disappointed.
The Chiefs offense is in an important routine. There is no denying that. After starting 5-0, the Chiefs faced the Pittsburgh Steelers, who have the number of Chiefs. The Chiefs lost 19-13.
The following Thursday, the Chiefs lost to the Raiders on the road, 31-30, in the regulation final play, a touchdown throw by Derek Carr. The following week, the Chiefs returned to the winning column, defeating to the Broncos 29-19. The Chiefs were 6-2 after that, and there were not many concerns about this team.
Then the offensive spiral began.
Before the week off, the Chiefs went to Dallas and lost 28-17 in a game that was not as tight as the score indicated. After a regular season of the rest week, Andy Reid's teams are 16-2. The Chiefs traveled to the 1-8 Giants and were embarrbaded 12-9, with an offensive and pathetic performance. Fast forward to Sunday, and the Chiefs offense could not do it again, and they lost 16-10 at home to the Bills.
The Chiefs' offense has stalled for many reasons besides the quarterback game.
When the offense buzzed during the first five weeks, the Chiefs were able to impose their will on the opponents, especially with the running game. They brought a new university career scheme, which I highlighted here, which allows them to use all their interchangeable parts on the edge.
Running the ball well opened the action pbad, which allowed Smith to throw the ball into the field and make homers, something he had not done in previous seasons. He took advantage of the aggressiveness of the defenses playing the race, which is no longer the case with the decreasing success of running the ball.
Running game dried up
Representatives of Kareem Hunt have fallen dramatically. For the first five weeks, Hunt averaged 19.4 carries per game, and the last six games, 14.5 per game. This has always been a downfall of an Andy Reid offense. Too fast to disconnect the game if things are not going well.
When the running game is not shooting, it is only fair to point the offensive line. The Chiefs' offensive line is having too many communication problems and individual failures. As with any land game with difficulties, it is not a complete unit of bad offensive linemen. The left tackle is a play, the center on the next play and the right guard the next, and so on. This unit needs to be increased and begins simply by knowing who to block.
Injuries and the pbading game
Now let's see Alex Smith and the pbading game. I'm not going to show you a bunch of GIF files from "open" receivers that Smith has lost. On the one hand, that's not fair to him because we do not know who the first reading is, or even the second reading. Secondly, I am still learning more about the concepts of route against certain coverages. Besides maybe 10 people on Twitter, nobody else knows either. So I'm not doing that.
During the first five games of the season, Smith had his full complement of offensive skills players: Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Chris Conley and Albert Wilson. He trusted those guys. He threw them all out of season and during the first five games of the season. In game five, Conley broke his late Achilles against the Texans. In that same game, Wilson fell, and since then he has been in and out of the lineup with knee and hamstring problems. He has not been attacked often when playing, until the Buffalo game, where he had seven goals.
Smith is due to Hill, Kelce, and young players with whom he has no chemistry. This is important for Smith, who has a limited set of skills. You need to play with confidence in your reception objectives and launch rhythm. He is not Tom Brady, who can insert someone into the receiver and be successful.
You also need to play with confidence in your pocket, which you have lost. In the first month of the season, the Chiefs pulled their five initial offensive linemen. Smith was comfortable checking his readings. Then they lost their center and their right guard for a good period of time. Along with his young left guard, who has had problems at times, the inside of his pocket was hard for weeks. Smith was being pressured and he was nervous again in his pocket, without trusting his linemen, even with the starters back and, in general, pbad protecting well.
There are much worse offensive pbad protection units. By entering this weekend, Football Outsiders ranked the Eagles, Redskins, Seahawks, Lions and Packers under the Chiefs in pbad protection.
Before reaching the Mahomes vs. debate Smith, let's see the training. Andy Reid is brilliant in the design of game plans. There is no debate about that. However, it is fair to comment on the lack of adjustments in the game. This is not just an Andy Reid thing. Most of the offensive coordinators struggle with the adjustments in the game because they have already mentally planned a game for each situation, including fights.
For example, what exactly can Reid change in the middle of a game when the players are not running well enough? I think it's fair to question the execution scheme on Sunday. They ran too sideways. That did not work and they kept going back to that. But if the men are open and Smith does not hit them, that's not on the staff.
Finally, I'd love to see the Chiefs go up and extend the field. It would force Smith to make quick decisions with the ball and get the defenses right on his heels.
Pat Mahomes or Alex Smith?
When Pat Mahomes was drafted, he did so with the understanding that he was going to take some time to catch up with Reid's offense and the NFL's defenses.
This from The MMQB sums it up well:
At Texas Tech, Mahomes played in an extended offense, which, remarkably, he executed with very little discipline. Dexterity in raw sand games works in college, but it does not transfer to the NFL, not as the base of a quarterback, anyway. It will take at least one off season (and probably more) for Mahomes to develop the awareness and discipline to execute a full NFL offense, particularly one as complete as Reid's.
Nothing has changed since that evaluation, apart from a few pocket plays made by Mahomes in the preseason. Unlike Deshaun Watson (who was ready for NFL action and backing Tom Savage), Mahomes received zero reps in practice with the first team offense, and maybe one or two runs in the preseason with that unit. There was never any plan for him to play, except injury.
This Chiefs offense is designed for Smith. He has career concepts that his legs use, something that Muhammad did not do in college. The time paths conform to what Smith can do, and what he needs to do better. Route concepts are often layered and require a complex understanding of both routes and defense. Smith is asked to make multiple controls throughout the game depending on the coverages. Some are execution checks to execute based on security, others are past checks. Alex also makes the protection adjustments in the pressures.
The most important thing, and if you could not know, Reid trusts him and so do the players in the group. That goes a long way for this veteran coaching staff.
Let me address some of the lines I understand about why Mahomes should be playing now.
"Well, Travis Kelce said that what Mahomes does in practice is simply amazing."
Okay, well Mahomes has an excellent arm. I'm not surprised that it seems incredible in practice. However, Mahomes will take most of these reps with the scout team. In the scout team, you only look at a card and execute that play. Often, as offensive linemen, we got into trouble for executing our techniques for a play when the defense wants it to be done otherwise. Just do what the defense wants. Mahomes has no reading coverage and is free of errors.
Finally, I can probably make a list of 20 defensive scout linemen who would be All-Pros if you only watch practice movies. Then, when they call the program, they can not do anything. I am not saying that Mahomes would be a failure, simply trying to give context to that Kelce comment.
I often hear that "Mahomes can give a spark". What does that mean? The team is not losing because of lack of effort. Does it mean that Mahomes can run out of pocket and throw the ball 40 yards down? That's not an offense, especially in a West Coast system. That is a novelty and finally it wears out.
There are very few quarterbacks in the NFL who are successful doing that for a living. The many times Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson make plays with their legs to complete a deep throw, they sit in their pockets and fire missiles across the field. The successful quarterback game starts in your pocket.
"We know how everything ends with Alex, I prefer to see Mahomes throw 20 selections".
Sure, we could know how this season ends with Alex. So be it. Mahomes could be Watson, or it could be Nathan Peterman or Paxton Lynch. The opposite of what you think or want.
The coaching staff has a job to do, and that's to win games … now. They do not get bonus points for preparing to win next season, not when the Chiefs still lead the division.
Because of the way the Chiefs offense ran the first five weeks of the season, which I'll admit could be foolish, the coaching staff and the players think they can always get that shape back. They will continue working to recover that flow and success.
There is no magic bullet for the offensive problems of the Chiefs. It will take an improved game of all in general and more of the coaching staff. That is the answer. Play better Run the ball more Force Alex to take risks with empty formations. Block better in the running game. Trust your pocket. Catch the ball. That's. It's simple.
I hope the Chiefs solve it in time for this weekend against the Jets.