by Jordy McElroy
After converting a quarterback sneak on a fourth down in the red zone, a few audible gasps could be heard before a deafening silence swooped over Empower Field at Mile High on Thursday night. Patrick Mahomes, the Kansas City Chiefs’ otherworldly gunslinger behind center, remained on the ground in complete distraught after dislocating his right knee cap.
A devastating moment that must have felt like a gut punch for the Chiefs was heartbreaking to every legitimate football fan regardless of team colors and rooting interests. Mahomes is must-see television—a one-of-a-kind sensation the likes of which the NFL has never seen at the quarterback position.
Although the medical staff managed to pop his knee back into place and he optimistically walked away under his own power, there was also the terrifying reality of that moment having a profound impact on the Chiefs’ 2019 season.
Early indications are a right patellar injury with expectations of Mahomes returning after three weeks of rest. However, the Chiefs won’t know the full extent of the damage until he undergoes an MRI on Friday. A big decision could be looming for Chiefs coach Andy Reid if his 24-year-old star quarterback is given the green light to slap on a knee brace and continue playing.
Will he err on the side of caution by taking the maximum length of rest and rehabilitation, even if it means missing the playoffs? Or, would he be willing to roll the dice on Mahomes if he’s theoretically good enough to play on the injured knee?
The latter option could have ramifications that could affect the rest of Mahomes’ career.
There has to be a long-term picture in mind when making these decisions. Forget about competing in 2019 if it means compromising a once-in-a-generation talent that could potentially help the Chiefs compete for the next 10-plus years. Mahomes has his entire career ahead of him to be great. Why risk everything for one season?
An argument could be made on why Mahomes was attempting a quarterback sneak in the first place considering he was already playing on a bad ankle. Reid has to do a better job of protecting his quarterback, even if it means protecting him from himself.
No one is ever going to question Mahomes’ heart and determination, especially not his teammates, who would probably run through a brick wall with him. He’s obviously going to do everything he can to get back on the field as soon as possible. Yet, the Chiefs’ future may not be able to withstand fourth-and-one Andy looking at the situation through a short-term lens. God forbid Mahomes returns and reinjures his knee to the point where it compromises him in 2020 and beyond.
He isn’t exactly playing behind a trustworthy offensive line, and the Chiefs haven’t shown the ability to run the ball consistently enough to take some of the pressure off him.
Of course, a worst case scenario would take the decision out of Reid’s hands entirely if the MRI shows serious ligament damage. That would force Mahomes into season-ending surgery and put the Chiefs’ entire season in doubt. It’s a pebble in the ocean compared to the potentially disastrous alternative of an even worse injury.
Reid will make the right decision as long as he remembers the Chiefs are a young football team led by one of the greatest talents to ever play the quarterback position. Rolling the dice and losing could cost him more than just a short-term goal.
It could cost the Chiefs their franchise quarterback, which could ultimately cost Reid his job.