Championship windows are an interesting concept, in theory. However, they assume too much. One one hand, it’s impossible to project how rosters will look from year-to-year. Half the league’s championship prospects are a one-window apartment facing an alley. Teams like the Chiefs, Packers, and Bills have a porch sunroom. One championship window closes and another opens.
Kansas City surrendering Tyrann Mathieu and Tyreek Hill this offseason has spawned a flawed groupthink notion that the Chiefs’ championship window has slammed shut. The hyperbole describing the Mahomes-Reid Chiefs era has fluctuated before. After their Super Bowl victory, the Chiefs were already slotted into the imagination of NFL fans as the winners of multiple championships. Mahomes was touted as the man slated to replace Brady as the greatest quarterback in NFL history. During the 2020 offseason, Sammy Watkins envisioned the beginning of a Chiefs dynasty. One year later, he was wearing the Ravens’ purple and black.
The Chiefs’ offseason remodeling has been difficult for fans to digest. However, that soothing, champion zephyr is still flowing in Mahomes and Reid’s direction. The Chiefs have won 50 of 65 games since Mahomes was named their starter before the 2018 season. All due respect to All-Pros Tyreek Hill and Tyrann Mathieu, but as long as Mahomes is held upright and Steve Spagnulo’s defense doesn’t self-immolate again, the Chiefs’ remodeling plan should keep those championship windows quite drafty.
In his capacity as an ESPN talking head, Tedy Bruschi proclaimed the “window was slammed shut” when they waived tackles Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz, after the Bucs battered a decimated Chiefs offensive line. The Chiefs’ offense was supposedly “figured out” by the NFL’s defensive masterminds. It’s as if Bruschi retired, inserted his analyst brain where his football brain used to be, forgetting he played his entire career for an organization known for cost-cutting expensive vets.
Instead, the Chiefs retooled in a hurry by trading their 2021 1st round, 3rd round, and 4th round picks and their 2022 5th round pick in exchange for Orlando Brown, a 2021 2nd round pick (58th), and a 2022 6th round pick. Rookie guard Lucas Niang reported to camp after opting out of the 2019 season due to COVID-19. Creed Humphrey had a stellar rookie season starting at center after he was drafted in the first round out of Oklahoma.
Actual dynasties are perpetually staving off old age, refreshing stale strategies, and reinventing around their stars. Change is inevitable in the NFL. Fortunately, General Manager Brett Veach will have an extra first and a second to flesh out the post-Hill/Mathieu Chiefs.
The same overreaction analyst brain that’s influenced people who should know better has propagated this idea that Hill and Mahomes were the sun and moon of the Chiefs’ dynasty instead of Reid and Mahomes. Meanwhile, overreaction artists within the NFL media sphere such as Fox Sports 1’s Marcellus Wiley have joined in to pile on the Chiefs.
The Chiefs never achieved the dynasty status they were thirsty for, but their modus operandi is lifted from the Patriots’ playbook. For years, the Pats traded or waived defensive stars ranging from Chandler Jones to Richard Seymour to Lawyer Milloy in their prime. Yet, Bill Belichick consistently reloaded. Kansas City was able to snag the younger, faster Justin Reid for three years, $31.5 million to step up and serve as the next man up at strong safety.
Offensively, the Chiefs window is linked to Andy Reid and Mahomes’ synergy. Tyreek Hill’s six consecutive Pro Bowls and three All-Pro selections will be missed, but his request for $30 million would have hampered their ability to keep Mahomes healthy. The receiving corps will be a more workman-like group, but paying Hill would been harmful to their negotiations, with Mahomes’ blindside tackle, Orlando Brown, Signing Mahomes over Brown have been akin to Marvel paying Terrence Howard Robert Downey Jr. money after Iron Man instead of replacing him with Don Cheadle.
Reid’s Eagles teams played in four consecutive Pro Bowls 20 years ago with the likes of James Thrash and Todd Pinkston at receiver. Mahomes is a few levels above Donovan McNabb’s peak, while Juju Smith-Schuster has thrived as a No. 1 receiver before with a middling quarterback. 2022 is also the time for speedster Mecole Hardman to realize his potential in a breakout, expanded role.
Almost every year, there’s some elite receiver seeking to parachute into a better situation to help salvage their career. In 2019, it was Antonio Brown signing with the Bucs. In 2018, the Cowboys acquired a struggling Amari Cooper from the Raiders in a midseason trade. The Pats saved Randy Moss from his Oakland purgatory. Keep an eye on Julio Jones, who was released by the Tennessee Titans.
Hill’s effect on the gravity of opposing coverages was immense, but his impact on the grander scheme is exaggerated. Mahomes is the Steph Curry of the Chiefs’ offense. Travis Kelce, a pass catching black hole, will still be at his disposal
If Mahomes continues to be the Midas Touch virtuoso he’s shown himself to be for the entirety of his career to date, the Chiefs should remain box office.