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Chiefs' Struggles Show Nobody Can Escape the NFL's Parity

As Kansas City drops to the bottom of the AFC West, we must acknowledge that even giants can fall in the ever-changing football landscape.
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Even before Chad Henne came in to quarterback the Chiefs late in Sunday’s 27–3 blowout, there was something we collectively failed to acknowledge about the pseudo dynasty forming in Kansas City: everything cannot—and will not—be perfect and beautiful all the time.

Patrick Mahomes will not always be the idea of Patrick Mahomes we’ve conjured in our mind. Andy Reid will not always be the red-coated scientist, with a cadre of plays inspired by the 1954 Cotton Bowl to dole out in any difficult situation. Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill will not, every week, single-handedly tilt the result of some fantasy football contest.

We should take a moment to realize how amazing it was that they did it for so long before this kind of beatdown. We should note that, while they’ve sunken into a last-place tie at the bottom of the AFC West, no one expects them to remain there. We should also note that, even if they do, it probably won’t be another five years before we see Reid and Mahomes carving up the NFL again.

In a lot of ways, the Chiefs are dealing with a micro version of what we’re seeing Bill Belichick and the Patriots confront in New England right now. Belichick was expected to continue to be this over-arching coach and cultural salve despite the fact that the franchise lost one of its foundational pillars. Rebuilding with a rookie quarterback is going to take time, but our idea of Belichick doesn’t allow us the patience to provide that time. We immediately assume that his contributions to the dynasty were irrelevant and that the greatness we saw was somehow a mirage.

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Kansas City was as close to perfection as any team over the past three years. In each season: 12 wins or more, a top five finish in either total yards or total points (the Chiefs were never not a top six team in scoring since Mahomes took over) and a legitimate MVP run from their starting quarterback, who won the award in 2018. They did this despite the unprecedented speed at which NFL teams catch up in the modern game. Technology, combined with an ever-expanding pool of talent, are destroyers of dynastic aspirations. Just ask the Eagles, who loudly extended all of their core players through a window in the early 2020s, only to trade their franchise quarterback and dismiss their Super Bowl winning head coach a few years later.

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To say these things are inevitable is to not excuse what has been happening. The Chiefs have struggled to expand their running game beyond middling. There are (despite some strengths) some obvious soft spots on their offensive line. Their defense, which came into the week 28th in both yards surrendered and points surrendered, as well as 30th in net passing yards per attempt and 30th in net rushing yards per attempt, is atrocious. The roster has taken on a kind of top-heavy feel, in which they are dependent on a few critical pieces to carry the load.

When one of those pieces sustains a hit like Mahomes did late in the Titans game, (Mahomes, according to Andy Reid, cleared concussion protocol but because of the score differential opted not to put Mahomes back in) it places a lot of their current situation into perspective. They are no longer a pseudo-dynasty. They are between pseudo-dynasties, much like we’ve seen from the Packers over the course of Aaron Rodgers’s tenure, or Peyton Manning’s Colts, or Drew Brees’s Saints. There are going to be some lean years mixed in over the course of a Hall of Fame career.

That should be okay. That should be something we understand even if it always feels strange at the beginning. The Chiefs may not return to the Super Bowl this year. Mahomes may not finish as the NFL’s touchdown leader (even though he came into the week as such). Reid may not see his coaching tree raided like a fraternity refrigerator during the coaching carousel. That means the rest of the NFL is working, and that we’re just a short window of time away from wishing Kansas City would stop destroying everyone all the time again. 

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