As part of a new series to kick off the offseason, we will work our way up and down the roster of the Kansas City Chiefs, taking a closer look at every position group and what the Chiefs can do to improve it before the 2021 season begins. First up, the primary position in football: quarterback.
Any conversation about the Chiefs' quarterback position begins with Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes finished his third season as the Chiefs' starting signal-caller with another incredible season, finishing with his second-consecutive Super Bowl appearance, a third-place finish in MVP voting and 5,950 total yards and 45 total touchdowns including the postseason. It ended with a Super Bowl loss, but Mahomes' performance in that Super Bowl was still among the most-praised quarterback performances in a postseason loss ever, as he dealt with a record-breaking amount of pressure and multiple mind-blowing dropped touchdown passes. Mahomes also finished with a 91.8 grade by Pro Football Focus (PFF), giving him a 90+ PFF grade in all of his first three seasons as a starter. The only other quarterbacks to have even one 90+ PFF grade in their first three seasons as a starter since 2006 are Aaron Rodgers (2010), Russell Wilson (2012), Lamar Jackson (2019) and Josh Allen (2020). Mahomes is clearly off to an amazing start in his quest to be the NFL G.O.A.T.
However, in each of the last two seasons, the Chiefs have come across a scenario where they needed someone to come in for Mahomes due to injury. In 2019, his dislocated kneecap in Denver forced him to miss the following two games. In the divisional round of the 2020 playoffs, Mahomes' concussion-like symptoms held him out of the fourth quarter with the Chiefs' season on the line. To try to work around this scenario, the Chiefs need to make sure they have a competent backup in case of emergency. That is where our next four players come in.
In 2019, Matt Moore was given the reigns following Mahomes' injury at Mile High. Moore went on to do a pretty solid job, holding on to the lead Mahomes gave him and even throwing a 57-yard touchdown pass to Tyreek Hill to help secure the win. Moore would then have to start the next two games, facing the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings, and he'd play even better in those matchups. Against the Packers, Moore threw for 267 yards, 7.4 yards per pass attempt, two touchdowns and zero interceptions, but they fell short to Aaron Rodgers, who was doing Aaron Rodgers things. Then against the Vikings, Moore threw for 275 yards, 7.9 yards per pass attempt, one touchdown and zero interceptions in an excellent victory. After that game, Mahomes returned and Moore didn't see the field again.
Entering the 2020 season, the Chiefs regained the previously-injured Chad Henne, who won the top backup spot over Moore and Jordan Ta'amu. Henne started in Week 17 in a loss to Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers as the Chiefs rested their starters for the playoffs, but needed Henne in the playoffs as well after Mahomes' concussion-like symptoms. Henne, thankfully, brought out a couple of big plays when the Chiefs needed it most, running for 13 yards on 3rd-and-14 and throwing to Tyreek Hill on 4th-and-inches to clinch the win.
Ta'amu has been a Chiefs backup quarterback a couple of times now. He originally signed on April 2 following a stint with the St. Louis Battlehawks in the XFL, but was waived on September 5 and brought back on the practice squad. In October, he tested positive for COVID-19 and was released later that month. After a short stint as a free agent and with the Detroit Lions, Ta'amu was signed to the Chiefs' practice squad again on January 12, was released on January 13 and then signed to a reserve/future contract on January 14. I think there is some real excitement to be had with Ta'amu. Ta'amu finished second in the SEC in passing yards in his senior season at Ole Miss, only trailing Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa, and he was arguably the best quarterback in the XFL while he was there. He's an agile, fun to watch quarterback who has some arm talent. On top of that, he is much younger than both Moore and Henne, which could be a positive if you want to develop a backup quarterback and maybe even trade him for draft capital.
The last quarterback on the Chiefs roster is another player signed to a reserve/future contract and just joined the team, former Washington State quarterback Anthony Gordon. Following a 2018 junior year where he was Gardner Minshew's backup, Gordon took the starting job in 2019 and put up huge numbers for the Cougars. In 13 games, Gordon threw for 5,563 passing yards and 48 touchdowns, both of which were the second-most in college football, trailing only LSU quarterback Joe Burrow in his record-breaking and Heisman-winning season. In one game that season against UCLA, Gordon threw for 560 yards and NINE touchdowns over 61 passing attempts! That was one of six games of four or more touchdown passes and one of four games of five or more touchdown passes on the season for Gordon. Last season, Gordon was signed by the Seattle Seahawks as an undrafted free agent after the 2020 NFL Draft and he was released on September 5. The Chiefs signed him on January 12 and I believe he deserves at least a look for a backup quarterback spot in Kansas City.
Another thing the Chiefs could do, if they wanted to, is to add a rookie or a free agent to this competition. There are no free agents who really interest me and the Chiefs shouldn't invest any significant draft capital either, but there is a late-round or UDFA option or two that the Chiefs could take a look at, mainly SMU's Shane Buechele.
This past year, Buechele, who transferred to the Mustangs from Texas between the 2018 and 2019 seasons, was a big part of SMU's two most-successful seasons since their legendary Pony Express teams that came shortly before they were given the "death penalty" by the NCAA in 1987. SMU finished 10-3 and 6-2 in the American in 2019 and 7-3 and 4-3 in the American in 2020 after failing to finish with a record better than 8-5 in the previous 30 seasons. Over those two seasons, of which he played 23 games, Buechele finished with 7,042 passing yards, 453 rushing yards, 57 passing touchdowns, four rushing touchdowns and 16 interceptions. Buechele also finished with 8.0 or more yards per pass attempt in each season. If the Chiefs were to add a quarterback, he'd be the option I would look at.
Looking at what we have here, I think the Chiefs have some really solid options to try to find their emergency quarterback option for Mahomes. Gordon and Ta'amu are young and highly accomplished college quarterbacks in major conferences, and Henne and Moore are both more than a decade into their NFL career (Moore entered the NFL in 2007 and Henne in 2008!) and bring the experience that can help lead a team in need of leadership. Both Moore and Henne have done some great things already for the Chiefs when they were needed, but Gordon and Ta'amu have certainly shown their potential for their respective college programs and, in Ta'amu's case, the XFL as well.
I would personally like to see one of each of these groups get a shot on the roster. If I were in charge, I would keep Matt Moore for my veteran backup option and Jordan Ta'amu for my younger option. Moore played better in his moments of need for the Chiefs than Henne did and, from what I have seen from both, Ta'amu is a better quarterback than Gordon. I would also save the draft capital and focus on other positions for the undrafted guys, especially since I would predict Buechele doesn't go undrafted.