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The Chiefs' Handling of Patrick Mahomes Could Ruin Him

DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 17:  Patrick Mahomes #15 of the Kansas City Chiefs is tended to by trainers after sustaining an injury in the second quarter of a game against the Denver Broncos at Empower Field at Mile High on October 17, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Ever since his knee injury on Thursday Night Football against the Denver Broncos, it seems that the status of Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes has changed every day.

First it was a long-term injury. Then it looked like Mahomes had gotten off easy and would miss only a few games -- perhaps three. Suddenly to everyone's surprise, he had returned to the practice field on that banged-up knee, and rumors abounded that he may actually start the much-anticipated Sunday Night showdown with the Green Bay Packers.

It came to nothing, and while backup Matt Moore performed well, the Chiefs dropped their third game in four weeks, bringing a sense of urgency to the table. What was once thought a long-term injury to Mahomes suddenly became a week-to-week issue. It cropped up again this week, when he took some reps in Wednesday and Thursday's practice sessions. There is still a chance that Patrick Mahomes may defy the odds and take the field for Sunday's game against the Minnesota Vikings. Chiefs head coach Andy Reid has only listed him as "questionable" to start, per a report from The Athletic's Nate Taylor.

However - and I don't claim to be a doctor, nor does anyone else here - but given past experience with flashy young quarterbacks with similar injuries, perhaps it would be best for Reid to exercise caution until Mahomes' knee is 100 percent.

The most famous example that comes to mind is with Robert Griffin III, one of the great tragedies of NFL history. Griffin led the Washington Redskins to an NFC East title and wowed for three-quarters of a rookie season until a gruesome knee injury.

He'd recovered in time for a playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks, but reinjured his knee late in the game on a bad snap. Against all common sense, head coach Mike Shanahan sent him out onto the ill-kept FedExField turf to finish the game, which led to Griffin reducing his ACL and LCL to a twisted wreck.

After that dismal quarter, the man they call "RG3" was never the same, though he's far from the only case of a quarterback rushing back from injury and ruining his career.

In the long-term, the same happened to Andrew Luck, the other darling of the 2012 draft class. During the 2015 season, Luck suffered a shoulder injury and missed two weeks. In hindsight, he would have been better off sitting out longer. He returned to the field still in pain, and after his first game back, suffered torn cartilage on his ribs in addition to a lacerate kidney he'd already sustained - a set of injuries that CBS Sports' Will Brinson likened to "being involved in a car crash".

Little wonder, then, that Luck retired earlier this season in what should have been the prime of his athletic career. The Colts' mishandling of Luck cost him at least three seasons and perhaps a shot at a Super Bowl victory.

While Mahomes' injuries aren't as severe as what RG3 and Luck suffered, the Chiefs' handling of him is matching the pattern that led to the re-injury and subsequent drop in performance of those two quarterbacks. For this to happen to Mahomes would be a crushing blow not just to the Chiefs' faithful, but to the NFL, who have been banking off of the excitement the young quarterback has produced.

Kansas City is making another Super Bowl run, sure, but Matt Moore has done a good job of holding up the offense, and he has one of the NFL's most complete teams to prop him up. Despite some defensive deficiencies, this team is set for a long playoff burn even without their star QB. There is no reason to curtail his natural recovery and risk his future by rushing him back onto the field one or two weeks early.

Mahomes can't produce any excitement on the bench, sure, but that's still better than what he can produce on a stretcher.