A week ago today, the football world held its collective breath as Patrick Mahomes lay prone on the field after a QB sneak. The most exciting young player in football was down and the outlook was grim. Fortunately, the MRI came back as good as possible, according to multiple reports, and the initial diagnosis was that Mahomes would only miss about 4-6 weeks with a dislocated right kneecap.
Thus, a sigh of relief was exhaled everywhere. Nobody wanted to see Mahomes go down with a season-ending injury. He'd be healthy and ready to go for the stretch run and ensure the AFC playoffs wouldn't just be the New England Invitational... again.
But now reports are emerging that Mahomes could return sooner than expected. Much sooner. Like, this Sunday sooner. The way I see it, Mahomes is either a superhuman in the same vein as Adrian Peterson, or the Chiefs are making a massive mistake. I lean towards the latter more than the former.
What reason is there to trot Mahomes out as a starter on Sunday? They're playing the Green Bay Packers on Sunday Night Football. Sure, that's an exciting game that I'm sure Mahomes desperately wants to play in; the chance to show out at home in front of a national audience against Aaron Rodgers, a guy he probably modeled some aspects of his game after? That's a dream come true for a 24-year-old.
But from a team perspective, there is absolutely no justification to play him. The Chiefs are 5-2 with a comfortable lead in their division, and don't appear to face much competition as the Chargers implode and the Raiders claw for .500. The Packers are an inter-conference opponent, and it's very unlikely any sort of playoff tiebreaker will come down to their inter-conference record.
I hate to invoke this parallel, I really do, but we're only seven years removed from the Robert Griffin III debacle in Washington. Yes, the circumstances surrounding the situation are drastically different, from the staff around Mahomes down to the type of injury. But the same thread remains -- an exciting young player going down with a knee injury and rushing back to play at the risk of re-aggravating it, or even making it worse. How things turned out with Griffin is obviously the worst possible scenario, but what justification could the Chiefs use to let their own young superstar play and allow that to become their reality, no matter how remote of a chance it might be?
The Chiefs could enjoy Mahomes' talents for the next 15 years. He seems likely to be a perennial MVP candidate. It's not much of a stretch to say they would be risking a year or two of that to let him play a Sunday night game that, in the big picture, is utterly meaningless. Just sit him down and let him get healthy through the bye. They have everything to lose and nothing to gain by doing otherwise.