With his quiet laugh, Andy Reid brushed aside talk of dynasty.
“I don’t know what a dynasty is,” Reid said from the podium less than an hour after his Kansas City Chiefs beat the San Francisco 49ers 25-22 in overtime to win Super Bowl LVIII on Sunday spoke. “You have the thesaurus so you can figure it out.”
However, Kansas City is in the midst of a dynasty. After winning their third Super Bowl in the Patrick Mahomes era – and their second in a row – which began when he became a full-time starter in 2018, the Chiefs and their quarterback are in the hunt for Tom Brady and the Patriots and no one else. You know that; That much was clear Sunday night when Mahomes and tight end Travis Kelce started talking about a three-peat before confetti even fell from the rafters of Allegiant Stadium.
The thing about dynasties is that they are not built, but maintained – winning a single championship can be an act of insane, focused pursuit, but winning multiple championships is usually the result of sustained tactical adjustments. With that in mind, there is no clearer sign that Kansas City has reached this peak than what the Chiefs have already talked about What’s next.
“I’m going to celebrate tonight, I’m going to celebrate at the parade,” Mahomes said. “Then I will do everything I can to be back in this game next year and try to get the three. It’s an ongoing thing in the NFL. Once you win that championship, you have those saves and you get those rings, and then you’re no longer the champion.”
And so it continues with the next season.
As if they needed more champagne problems, Kansas City’s offseason needs are pretty obvious. With a free agent class led by defensive stars L’Jarius Sneed and Chris Jones, general manager Brett Veach will have to do his best to keep Steve Spagnuolo’s unit together, and then he’ll have to improve the wide receiver room.
I’m not sure they were the worst Chiefs team of the Mahomes era – in the postseason, Spagnuolo’s defense beat the NFL’s top four teams by offensive DVOA, holding them to an average of 15.8 points per game – but it was certainly the weakest offense Mahomes has navigated. While it’s a testament to his skill and discipline that they still won a championship, Mahomes had his worst season in 2023 in terms of expected points added per dropback and success rate. His receivers led the NFL in drops and high-profile mistakes like Kadarius Toney’s offside penalty against Buffalo threatened to become a defining moment of the season.
Mahomes in early December by QBR ranked 22nd among starting quarterbacks on throws to wideouts. He was still his typically excellent self when targeting running backs and tight ends, but when throwing to wide receivers, Mahomes was less productive than Desmond Ridder, whose lack of wideout production is legendary in the fantasy community.
The Chiefs tried to acquire receivers for Mahomes, but most of the moves didn’t work. Neither Toney, who arrived in a trade in 2022, nor 2022 draft pick Skyy Moore played a snap during the Super Bowl. But both Toney and Moore were low-cost, low-risk additions — essentially bargain buys. Maybe Kansas City will take a different approach this offseason.
Kansas City’s salary cap is somewhat surprising considering Mahomes is projected to make $58 million next season and that the salary cap is relatively healthy. Over the Cap estimates the team will have $23 million in cap space this offseason, putting them right in the middle of the pack at 16th overall. (To Veach’s credit, Over the Cap currently has less than $500,000 in dead money left for the Chiefs in 2024.) The headliner of this free-agent receiver class is Cincinnati’s Tee Higgins, but Curtis Samuel, Michael Pittman Jr., Calvin Ridley, Gabriel Davis and Odell Beckham Jr. will also hit the market.
The Chiefs need an influx of reliable receiver talent, but they don’t necessarily need a new number. 1, especially if they believe rookie receiver Rashee Rice’s development this season will continue into 2024. Rice was the rare bright spot at his position for Kansas City in the second half of the season, and he talked about key moments after the Super Bowl. He had grown throughout the year, from the first day of training camp, when he ran so many sprints that he was at the sideline, to the touchdown catch against Detroit in Week 1 that gave him the confidence that he could be a real part of this offense. Until the touchdown, he scored on a mesh concept play against the Raiders – the same play that Reid made took advantage again on Sunday when they had to score a crucial third-and-6 in overtime.
“Last year I just watched the Super Bowl and I didn’t realize how long it took to get to this point,” Rice said.
Rice is also proof that Kansas City may Design and development on site. They’ll be last in the draft order again this year and only have six total picks, but that includes their first-, second-, third- and fourth-round picks, as well as the Cowboys’ fifth-round pick and a conditional pick Seventh round pick.
Better receiver play would help them get deeper into the offense, the style of play that was a staple back when Tyreek Hill was the WR1. While Mahomes showed a new level of maturity this season, taking advantage of the defenses available to him with limited support around him, it came at a physical cost. As opponents closed in, he faced the most pressure of his career in 2023 and relied on his legs for key plays, especially as the season progressed.
Historically, the Chiefs have been careful with their prized player. Kansas City hasn’t used Mahomes on a quarterback sneak since he dislocated his kneecap on a sneak in 2019, a decision that echoed Reid’s decision Sunday to play on fourth-and-very short in his own territory in the third quarter , may have taken into account . After Mahomes suffered a concussion in the 2021 playoffs, Reid shied away from planned quarterback runs for a while. However, in this current version of the offense, Mahomes’ legs went from luxury to necessity. On the Chiefs’ game-winning drive in overtime, he ran the ball twice; One of the runs was an RPO, and one was an 8-yard pickup on fourth-and-1, which was potentially a game-winning play.
The Super Bowl is exactly the right time to make these plays, but if the Chiefs’ offense is still relying on Mahomes trying to avoid pressure and as a factor in the designed running game, they are putting him at unnecessary risk.
There’s also the matter of Kelce. While the future Hall of Fame tight end couldn’t fully confirm his return for next season, his multiple references to him wanting to go for a three-pointer seemed to hint at a return. Still, Kelce admitted after the game that his career is coming to an end. If he returns, the Chiefs won’t be able to make Kelce, who turns 35 in October, the focal point of their offense like they once did.
“I’m closer to not playing than I am [the beginning],” he said.
Along with Mahomes, Kelce is the defining player of this first part of the Chiefs dynasty. Honorable mentions go to Jones and Hill, who have been out for two seasons now. While Kansas City would certainly rather have Jones back than let him leave in free agency, the Chiefs will soon have to prepare for life without Jones or Kelce, or both. With Rice and second-year running back Isiah Pacheco, the Chiefs appear to have found some of the season’s core players next wave, but they need more.
From that interview podium in Las Vegas, Reid described the success of this Super Bowl in terms of the growth it took to get there.
“It’s a great win because I know how hard it is and how hard the season has been,” Reid said. “The ups and downs of the season and how proud I am of the boys for just sticking together and treating each other positively. The young people grew up, and no one ever pointed the finger at the offense when the offense got bigger.”
It’s a fitting way to acknowledge the dynasty, even if Reid wouldn’t do it directly. Now that the Chiefs are on a team, staying there means the growth can never stop.