Patrick Mahomes is entering his Donovan McNabb era

Patrick Mahomes is entering his Donovan McNabb era

The Kansas City Chiefs can point to a myriad of issues behind their offensive struggles, including Matt Nagy’s playcalling, but their rapid disarmament over the last two years has hit them where it hurts. If you’re searching for a culprit for Kansas City’s offensive demise and fall from top 10 in scoring for the first time since 2016, their wideouts have already been caught holding the bloody knife on the gridiron over the Super Bowl champions’ body. Patrick Mahomes, king of the tight spiral, discovered this season that he, too, is subject to the whims of his wideouts. For the second time in a matter of weeks, a Chiefs receiver has become the main NFL Twitter protagonist after butchering a miraculous Mahomes play on national television.

Kadarius Toney provided a glimpse into what type of season this would be in the Chiefs season-opening loss to the Detroit Lions. That night featured a perfect trinity of drops by Toney including his pièce de résistance in the final two minutes, on a bobbled pass that should have put the Chiefs in position to win. Lightning struck again when Marquez Valdes-Scantling dropped a deep bomb inside Philly’s 5 on one of the final plays of their Week 11 loss to the Eagles. On Sunday, Toney treated the line of scrimmage like an abstract concept, lined up offsides and wiped out the highlight of his and Kelce’s careers. The Chiefs offense is spiraling and the calls are coming from inside the house.

The root of this period of discontent has been Kansas City’s neglect in drafting or signing an elite receiver for Mahomes. It’s analogous to New England’s miscalculations in evaluating offensive skill positions during Tom Brady’s twilight with the Pats refusing to draft a wideout in the first round.

Reid has experimented with this method of team-building around cardboard cutout receivers before and it failed. Welcome to the Donovan McNabb experience. During Reid’s early years at the helm of the Philadelphia Eagles, he surrounded McNabb with flotsam at receiver, developed Brian Westbrook into an amorphous multi-purpose back who could create splash plays at receiver or in the run game.

The McNabb era in Philadelphia was defined by McNabb’s hero ball despite receivers who dropped the ball like they had carpal tunnel. The one season Philadelphia was gracious enough to bless him with Terrell Owens resulted in Philadelphia advancing past the NFC Championship in their fourth try and reaching the Super Bowl in McNabb and T.O.’s only full season together.

It was a near perfect storm that resulted in McNabb setting career-highs in yardage, yards-per-attempt, touchdowns and quarterback rating. Mahomes’ career has been the inverse of McNabb’s. He is a superior quarterback in nearly every way above the shoulders than McNabb, but Philadelphia’s bayonet offense forced McNabb to do considerably more of the dirty work than Mahomes has had to do with Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins and Travis Kelce creating separation downfield in the Chiefs high-octane attack.

McNabb was haunted by the follies of his wide receivers. Freddie Mitchell thanking god for his hands was the highlight of his Eagles career. James Thrash dropped a crucial pass in the 2004 NFC title game that cost the Eagles a trip to the Super Bowl, months before they acquired Owens. Staley and Todd Pinkston were denizens of Drop City during that championship loss to the Rams, while McNabb gutted it out for nearly three quarters with injured ribs.

In Owens’ shadow, Mitchell and Pinkston were the only Eagles receivers to reel in touchdowns for Philadelphia during their Super Bowl campaign, catching a grand total of three. Philadelphia should erect a monument to the heavy lifting McNabb did with such a mediocre cast of receivers.

During his stint in Philly, Westbrook, Pinkston, Chad Lewis, L.J. Smith, Thrash, Staley and Reggie Brown were his leading receivers. There isn’t a single 1,000-yard receiving season between the three of them. Not a single one. McNabb molded masterpieces from clay and dung.

Kansas City’s contemporary receivers highlight the importance of having competent hands in your lineup. For years, NFL cognoscenti have made it their mission to minimize the effect a great receiving corps can have on an offense spearheaded by a quarterback deity. Great offense is a polytheistic exercise. If anything, Kansas City’s shortcomings should only strengthen Tyreek Hill’s MVP case.

One season of this is enough. Kansas City can’t afford to prolong Mahomes and the passing attack’s suffering. If this season has taught us anything, it’s that while Reid has secured a slot in Canton after starting over in Kansas City, we should put a lot more respect on Donovan McNabb’s name and it should serve as a warning for Reid not to repeat his mistakes of that era.

Follow DJ Dunson on X: @cerebralsportex

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About the Author

Anthony Barnett
Anthony is the author of the Science & Technology section of ANH.