The Kansas City Chiefs suffered a crushing blow in Week 7, losing superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes to a knee injury. As of this posting, the exact severity of said injury is undetermined. That said, the injury is expected to be a patella dislocation, and Mahomes could be sidelined anywhere from a few weeks to an entire season. While the world waits on the MRI, the Kansas City Chiefs need to look around and see who they could get to replace Mahomes in a worst-case scenario.
Possible Kansas City Chiefs Quarterback Options Without Patrick Mahomes
Andy Dalton isn’t in the same stratosphere as Patrick Mahomes, but he is a starting-caliber quarterback. Long considered the prime meridian of quarterback play, Dalton is always as good as his surroundings. He’s not the type of quarterback capable of elevating the talent around him, but he can play at a relatively high level when he has elite talent. Back in 2015, Dalton threw for 3,250 yards, 25 touchdowns, and seven interceptions in 13 games while targeting the likes of A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert, Marvin Jones, and Mohamed Sanu.
The Kansas City Chiefs have the offensive talent to make Dalton look like an above-average starter. Andy Reid is the best offensive mind in the game, Tyreek Hill is a game-changing receiver, and Travis Kelce is probably the best receiving tight end in the league. Dalton isn’t going to put up Patrick Mahomes’ numbers, but he has the talent to duplicate what Alex Smith did in 2017. That team went 10-6, won the AFC West, and finished with the fourth-best offense by DVOA. Considering the sorry state of the AFC West, the Chiefs could easily win the division with Dalton under center, and maybe more.
The Chiefs have one of the best deep passing weapons in the league, and nobody loves throwing it deep more than Ryan Fitzpatrick. While he can’t possibly match Mahomes’ level of consistent greatness, Fitzpatrick has a history of going on hot stretches that rival anyone. In 2015, Fitzpatrick led the New York Jets to a 10-6 record while throwing to Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. Last year, Fitzpatrick started off the season by throwing for 1,230 yards, 11 touchdowns, and four interceptions in three games with Tampa Bay.
Fitzpatrick has never been able to maintain a high level of play, but his aggressive downfield tendencies make him a highly volatile player. Andy Reid excels at scheming up open throws, and Fitzpatrick isn’t afraid to take his chances through the air. The AFC West is weak, so the Chiefs could win the division without asking anything heroic out of Fitzpatrick. If Mahomes isn’t ready for the playoffs, then Kansas City would need to bet on Fitzpatrick randomly catching fire for a three- or four-game stretch. It’s not particularly likely, but crazier things have happened.
Josh Rosen hasn’t looked good in his short NFL career, but he’s never had any sort of fair shot. The former first-round pick started his career on an atrocious Arizona Cardinals team before joining the Miami Dolphins in the 2019 off-season. Maimi, of course, is blatantly tanking and would happily trade Rosen away for a decent pick. It doesn’t get much better than playing quarterback for the Chiefs, so Rosen should succeed if he truly is an NFL-caliber player. If Rosen plays well, then the Chiefs could probably flip him for more than they give up to acquire him.
The former second-overall pick is now second on the Tennessee Titans depth chart after Ryan Tannehill won the starting job. Mariota’s battled injury and ineffectiveness over the years and hasn’t played up to his first-round billing. That said, Tennessee isn’t exactly the most quarterback-friendly place in the world, and Mariota looked like a future franchise quarterback before Mike Vrabel showed up. Mariota is entering the final year of his deal and should be available at a low rate. If the Chiefs believe the talent is still there, Mariota could make a lot of sense for this roster.
If all else fails, Tyrod Taylor still exists. Taylor is nobody’s idea of a perfect starter, but he’s better than Matt Moore and has plenty of starting NFL experience. Taylor’s conservative, mistake-free style of play doesn’t mesh with Kansas City’s aggressive offense and subpar defense, but you could do a lot worse. The biggest obstacle here is trying to imagine a world where the Los Angeles Chargers trade away their backup in the division. Los Angeles is well behind the Chiefs in the standings, but they’re not completely out of the playoff picture yet. They won’t want to sell Taylor, and the Chiefs should look for a better option anyway.
Stay the Course
Of course, the Chiefs could choose to do nothing and stay the course with Matt Moore under center. Doing this would probably blow up in their face, as Moore hasn’t started a game since 2017 and hasn’t been a regular starter since 2011. In his day, he was a solid backup capable of managing an offense for two or three games at a time. However, his day is long past. At age 35, Moore actually entered the offseason as a scout with the Miami Dolphins before the Chiefs called him along.
Moore played relatively well in relief of Mahomes, but it’s hard to imagine that lasting for the remainder of the season. If Mahomes is really gone for just two weeks or a month, the Chiefs can weather the storm. However, if the reigning MVP misses more time than that, then the Chiefs should look for outside help at the games’ most important position.
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