Kansas City Chiefs Head Coach Andy Reid made it official, Patrick Mahomes has been benched! With nothing to play for on Sunday in Los Angeles, backup Quarterback Blaine Gabbert will run the offense in the meaningless season finale against the Chargers.
It might be meaningful for Tight End Travis Kelce, who needs 16 yards to break the 1,000-yard barrier for the eighth season. It also means something to wide receivers Kadarius Toney, Mecole Hardman, and Justyn Ross, who will get extended playing time on Sunday.
The Chiefs can rest their regulars battling injuries like Isiah Pacheco, L’Jarius Sneed, Chris Jones, and Rashee Rice, who didn’t practice Wednesday.
Andy Reid made it clear that anyone chasing individual accomplishments, including Kelce, won’t have much say. It’ll be the coach’s decision, and that’s the end of the discussion.
It helps that your head coach has gone to playoffs nine straight years and has won the AFC West for the eighth straight time, so to have a bye week certainly is a blessing.
Yet, the biggest take from this game will be the opportunity that Blaine Gabbert will get to play football in a real NFL game. Granted, the Chargers are not the most challenging opponent, but the time on the field will benefit Gabbert and the Chiefs.
We all know that in both the Chiefs Super Bowl Championship years, Mahomes missed significant post-season time, and Chad Henne had to save the day. In both those instances, Henne had played the final regular season game.
You can’t foresee injuries during the playoffs, but having an experienced NFL backup quarterback who has started many games in this league, including an AFC Title game, never hurts.
For me, it will be the player who emerges from this game to make an impact in the playoffs. When this playoff streak began, running back Kniles Davis had a big game against the San Diego Chargers. A week later, he opened the team’s first playoff game in the Andy Reid era with a 106-yard kick-off return.
I bet either Kadarius Toney or Justyn Ross could be that player this year. With the team desperate to find another receiver option, particularly Toney, in the Super Bowl, this could be a moment in time we look back on years from now.
I know it’s a stretch with Toney, considering his drops, mistakes on the field, and injuries, to be that guy in the playoffs, but let’s call it a hunch.
Either way, some young kids will get their time in the spotlight, and the walking wounded will get some much-needed rest.