Sunday night at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens the confetti was falling, the hugs were plentiful, the Championship shirts and hats were on, and the Kansas City Chiefs were celebrating their first Super Bowl win in 50 years. And, while many aspects of their Championship run can be analyzed, you have to keep coming back to one clear point in the difference in them hoisting the Lombardi trophy or being just another team: the quarterback play of Patrick Mahomes.
Say what you want about the weapons around the Chiefs third-year signal-caller (and they’re plentiful) , being able to get some run yardage out of former Dolphins back Damien Williams, their offensive line or their defense stepping up to make plays, this game came down to Kansas City having a gun-slinging quarterback (above) who riddled the 49ers for 21 points and nearly 200 yards of offense in the final eight minutes of the game.
He’s the reason they are champs.
And, to relate this to our three state NFL teams in Florida, they must all ponder what to do coming up in free agency and the draft with their own quarterback situation? This after Sunday’s stark reminder that their own poor quarterback’s play was their biggest undoings in 2019.
While it’s obvious that most teams in the NFL would lust to have Mahomes, his arm talent, and a coach like Andy Reid to guide him, it’s not as if the Bucs, the Dolphins, and the Jaguars haven’t been trying to get the quarterback thing correct for years.
In Tampa Bay, Jameis Winston has almost run out of chances after having had a third consecutive losing season, as the primary starter at QB and having his worst interception output of his career. This, when he was supposed to have a coaching staff led by Bruce Arians that helped him throw less of the ints and win more games.
While critics may point to Mahomes having thrown to earlier interceptions and also having two other fumbles Sunday night. That was an aberration.
Jameis Winston had six such games.
Oh, and most importantly for this comparison: when the game was on the line, and with a championship hanging in the balance, Mahomes didn’t throw the ball to the other team. Not, like Winston did time and again this past season with the kill the Bucs chances at making the playoffs.
And, Winston’s done it too many times to recount over the past few years.
So, the Buccaneers are left with deciding whether to let Winston try free agency and/or sign another quarterback themselves or even, draft one in April?
As for the Dolphins, they couldn’t get Ryan Tannehill healthy and then, as we wrote yesterday critically decided to get rid of him for injury and salary-cap reasons only to watch him succeed mightily in Tennessee. Miami chose to go with a two-headed monster of journeyman 35 year old veteran quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick, but with an eye on former Cardinals number one pick Josh Rosen, whom the Fins traded for, being their potential quarterback of the future.
However, first-year coach Brian Flores and his now fired first-year offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea could not get Fitzpatrick to stop throwing interceptions early in the year and Rosen looks shaky from the jump in the offseason, the preseason and then, when he got his chances to play.
Miami was probably going to have a bad season no matter what, but it was made worse, because their quarterback play by and large with poor until it was way too late in 2019.
Miami has now reloaded with veteran offensive coordinator and former two-time head coach in Dallas and Buffalo, Chan Gailey. And, the Dolphins will likely take a quarterback with the 5th overall pick in April or may even try to move up to grab one.
Finally, in Jacksonville, they got a taste of what Mahomes could do in week one when he torched them at TIAA Bank field for the Chiefs first win of this now, Championship season. Ironically, Jacksonville had tried to solve their quarterback problem by paying Nick Foles a whopping $50 million, but the Chiefs fractured left collarbone in the first quarter and he would miss nine more weeks.
Yes, rookie sixth round pick Gardner Minshew won some games and showed some promise, but the most disheartening thing for the Jaguars was: when they returned to Foles, his play in November and early December was, for the most part, awful.
So, coach Doug Marrone put him back on the bench for Minshew signaling that Foles may be relegated to backup status no matter what the Jaguars decide to do for quarterback in 2020. Of course, Jacksonville had the chance to take either DeShaun Watson or Mahomes in the 2017 NFL draft.
Instead, they took LSU running back Leonard Fournette and wanted to continue to try to mask and hide the deficiencies of Blake Bortles as their passer.
And, when push came to shove with Bortles having to make big throws, he seldom was able to do so.
Yes, Jacksonville had a magical run to the AFC Championship game in 2017, but that was largely on their defense and Fournette running and not sustainable.
Bortles proved it wasn’t sustainable and was awful in 2018. He got benched in November, and was eventually released last March. Bortles stayed on the bench for the L.A. Rams this year, while the QB Jacksonville (and others) could’ve taken Mahomes and had him blossom into one of the top passing weapons in the NFL.
Argue all you want about other deficiencies for any of the three state NFL teams, or any other NFL team for that matter. But, good to great quarterback play can cover for most all of it.
Kansas City has had it for two seasons.
Last night trailing 20-10 with it all on the line, Mahomes was fantastic.
And now, they have a Super Bowl win to talk about for all time, because of it.