Where does your squad stand in 2023? Adam Rank sets the table by providing a State of the Franchise look at all 32 teams, zeroing in on the key figures to watch and setting the stakes for the season to come.
You were right. I really thought Hill would be too big a loss in the razor-thin world of the NFL. With teams being so talented and closely grouped, I thought not having a guy like Hill was going to be a detriment that the team couldn't overcome. Turns out, it could. Now, we ask: Can the Chiefs repeat as Super Bowl champions? There have been eight teams that have repeated as Super Bowl champions. The last team to do it was the New England Patriots in 2003 and '04. The Chiefs have a legit shot. Before we dive into that, let's take a look back.
One low from last season: There aren't many of them when you lose just three games. I was thinking about when Mahomes injured his ankle against the Jaguars in the Divisional Round, but losing a regular-season road game to Cincinnati had to sting a little bit. The Chiefs lost at home to the Bills in a playoff REVENGE GAME in Week 6 and then fell against the Bengals in Week 13. Idiots like myself thought that proved the Chiefs were good but not that good.
One high from last season: Turns out the Chiefs were THAT good. The Chiefs won the Super Bowl. Andy Reid beat his former team. And if I'm not mistaken, I picked against the Chiefs in every round. Congratulations. You win. In fact, I'm just going to finish this piece right here and go home.
Fine, I'll keep going.
Quarterback: Patrick Mahomes. Here is a legitimate question to ask: Is Mahomes already the best quarterback in NFL history? If you had to choose between Mahomes and prime Peyton Manning, who are you taking? Are you not taking Mahomes here? Mahomes is the first player in NFL history to win multiple regular-season MVP awards and Super Bowl MVP awards in a five-year span. Tom Brady and Joe Montana are the only other players to win multiple NFL MVP and Super Bowl MVP awards.
Mahomes became the first player in NFL history to lead the league in passing yards, passing touchdowns, win the NFL MVP award and be named Super Bowl MVP in the same season. Just three other players have accomplished each of those feats in their entire careers (Brady, Manning and Kurt Warner). Mahomes is also the only player to win multiple Super Bowls, Super Bowl MVPs and regular-season MVPs before turning 28 years old. It seems like a smoldering hot take to make the case for Mahomes as the all-time great. But we are certainly witnessing things we have never seen before on the NFL level. Sure, the generations have changed and the game continues to evolve, but Mahomes could get even better. If we are doing an all-time draft and I can pick any player to start a team, I still lean Brady. It's Mahomes right after that. I'll have that conversation.
Projected 2023 MVP: Mahomes. Sorry, I have more stats to put out there. Mahomes has compiled 10-plus wins in five consecutive seasons, which is tied for the third-longest streak all-time. He is the only player since 1950 with a .500+ win percentage in games in which his team trailed by 10+ points (including the playoffs; minimum of five starts). And if you get into a shootout, he's 17-13 in games when his team allows 28 or more points. It's ridiculous at this point.
New face to know: Jawaan Taylor, offensive tackle. The Chiefs lost tackles Andrew Wylie and Orlando Brown Jr. in free agency, the latter being kind of a stunner because he had the audacity to sign with the rival Bengals. I mean, the Raiders would have been more palatable. Taylor had a great season for the Jaguars last year and he turned that into an opportunity to play for the defending champions.
2023 breakout star: Trent McDuffie, cornerback. The Chiefs traded up eight spots in the 2022 NFL Draft to select the Washington corner, and he played pretty well for the Chiefs in Year 1 (seven passes defensed, one forced fumble, one sack), despite being dogged by injuries. He suffered a hamstring injury in Week 1 at Arizona and missed the next six games. But McDuffie did flash enough to keep you excited for the coming year. And this Mic'd Up session leads you to believe he's going to be a real star.
|Head coach||Andy Reid|
|General manager||Brett Veach|
|Offensive coordinator||Matt Nagy|
|Defensive coordinator||Steve Spagnuolo|
|Special teams coordinator||Dave Toub|
- Andy Reid is starting to inch his way up some all-time lists and is going to be mentioned among the best, a group that includes Bill Belichick, George Halas and Don Shula, among others. Reid has 247 career wins as an NFL head coach (fifth-most in league history). He needs just four more wins to pass Tom Landry for the fourth-most all-time. Also, the Chiefs have played in three of the last four Super Bowls, winning two. They have hosted five consecutive AFC Championship Games. Reid's at the top of his game right now. But how many more Super Bowls does he need before he's in the G.O.A.T. conversation? Is he there now?
- Former offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy left for the same role with the Commanders. He was the OC for each of Mahomes' seasons as a starter. Matt Nagy will assume the role of offensive coordinator in Kansas City, a post he held in 2016-2017. He was the team's quarterback coach last season, so he already has plenty of familiarity with the players and his fellow coaches. Mahomes always speaks very highly of him.
- Brett Veach does a really nice job. I know, how hard can it be when you have Mahomes? I'll get into that a bit later in this piece, but the moves Veach has made on the defense and what he's done to surround Mahomes with targets is pretty impressive. And not only that. He took that Super Bowl loss against the Bucs -- when the Chiefs couldn't keep defenders away from Mahomes -- and completely revamped the offensive line. He's done well.
Below is a rundown of the Chiefs' most notable roster developments for the 2023 season, including this year's draft class, as well as key acquisitions and departures via free agency and trade.
|Draft class (round-pick)||Key additions||Key departures|
|Felix Anudike-Uzomah, DE, Kansas State (1-31)||Blaine Gabbert, QB||Chad Henne, QB|
|Rashee Rice, WR, SMU (2-55)||Richie James, WR||Michael Burton, FB|
|Wanya Morris, OL, Oklahoma (3-92)||Jawaan Taylor, OT||Mecole Hardman, WR|
|Chamarri Connor, DB, Virginia Tech (4-119)||Richie James, WR||JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR|
|BJ Thompson, DE, S.F. Austin (5-166)||Jawaan Taylor, OT||Orlando Brown Jr., OT|
|Keondre Coburn, DT, Texas (6-194)||Donovan Smith, OT||Andrew Wylie, OT|
|Nic Jones, CB, Ball State (7-250)||Charles Omenihu, Edge||Frank Clark, Edge|
|Drue Tranquill, LB||Carlos Dunlap, Edge|
|Lamar Jackson, CB||Khalen Saunders, DL|
|Mike Edwards, S||Juan Thornhill, S|
Three key dates:
- Week 4 at New York Jets (Sunday night). I believe this is a huge game. The Jets had some big wins last season and didn't really falter until the quarterback position completely bottomed out. Now they have Aaron Rodgers.
- Week 11 vs. Philadelphia Eagles (Monday night). The Chiefs play in a Super Bowl rematch on Monday Night Football, with both teams coming off a bye. Kansas City will play in three MNF games this season.
- Week 17 vs. Cincinnati Bengals. After three straight losses to Joe Burrow's Bengals, the Chiefs finally beat them in last season's AFC title game. If you watched the new Netflix series Quarterback, you'll know how important that was for Mahomes and the team. This is quickly becoming one of the best rivalries in the NFL.
Will the Chiefs be able to ...
... find somebody other than Travis Kelce to catch the football? The Chiefs led the NFL in points, total yards and passing yards in 2022. The Chiefs have had a top five scoring offense in four of Mahomes' five seasons as a starter; they finished sixth in scoring in 2020. So, perhaps it really doesn't matter who is catching the ball. I mean, Kelce has been amazing. He had 110 receptions, 1,338 receiving yards and 12 receiving touchdowns in 2022. He has 507 receptions over the last five seasons, second in the NFL behind Davante Adams. The Chiefs lost JuJu Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman in free agency. JuJu led Chiefs wide receivers with 78 receptions and 933 yards in 2022. Hardman had four touchdowns. I know there will be those who might favor Kadarius Toney. The team acquired him before the trade deadline last fall and he went on to make some huge plays in the playoffs. But the guy I'm interested in is Skyy Moore, a 2022 second-round pick. He's going to be living in the slot and he could end up being a huge breakout receiver for the Chiefs.
... have their defensive investments pay off? The Chiefs have drafted six defensive players in the first two rounds since 2020, including 2022 first-round pick George Karlaftis, who had six sacks in his first year. Nick Bolton, a second-rounder in 2021, racked up 180 tackles (second most in the NFL) and was an absolute menace in the Super Bowl (SEE: fumble recovery for a TD). Also, the Chiefs found value in 2020 fourth-round pick L'Jarius Sneed, who led the team with three picks and 11 passes defensed last year. All-Pro Chris Jones led all NFL interior defensive linemen with 15.5 sacks and 29 quarterback hits in 2022. He's been amazing. The Chiefs' defense had the second-most sacks league-wide with 55 in 2022, but it allowed 33 passing touchdowns, which was the most in the NFL. Once teams got into the red zone against the Chiefs, there was a pretty good chance they were going to score a touchdown. I would expect the Chiefs to be better against the pass and in the red zone this fall, which is scary.
One storyline ...
... people are overlooking: The Chiefs' running backs are getting it done. Am I bitter that a few years ago I bought in to the narrative that Clyde Edwards-Helaire was the next Brian Westbrook? I was until I made sure I had Isiah Pacheco and Jerick McKinnon on my fantasy rosters last year. Pacheco led the Chiefs with 830 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns during his rookie season. But the absolute dime was McKinnon, who led all NFL running backs with nine receiving touchdowns, which is tied for the most by a running back in a season since the 1970 merger. "Jet," who re-signed with the team this offseason, finished 2022 with 10 scrimmage touchdowns after having just seven total receiving touchdowns in his SIX YEARS prior to last season. I swear to goodness, everything the Chiefs touch just seems to turn into gold. I mean, even Matt Nagy is back on the up and up. Look, I was magnanimous previously when talking about Nagy. But my Bears bias was going to come out eventually.
For 2023 to be a success, the Chiefs MUST:
- Win the Super Bowl. That's the standard for the Chiefs right now. What's ridiculous is the Chiefs don't ever play road playoff games. Seriously, Mahomes has never played a true road playoff game in his career! His only playoff games away from Arrowhead Stadium were the Super Bowls. This team is ridiculous and thriving at an all-time level. I've often referred to the Patriots as the greatest dynasty in team sports because they had two decades of dominance in a sport where dynasties are rare. The Chiefs are now entering that conversation. And anything less than a Super Bowl WIN is considered a bummer, even in an AFC loaded with top teams.