6 things it’ll take for the Chiefs to win back-to-back Super Bowls
Fifty years was a long wait. But it sure felt worth it back on February 2 as Patrick Mahomes hoisted the Lombardi trophy high over the crowd in Miami.
Nothing about the Chiefs in 2019 was normal. The team fell behind in all three playoff games, including the Super Bowl. There were some concerning moments, particularly when the Chiefs trailed the Houston Texans 24-0 before rallying to score fifty-one points and a signature win.
Now it’s time to turn the page and judge whether the team is ready for a repeat performance in 2020. History does not bode well—it’s been fifteen years since the last back-to-back rings were won—but the Chiefs are returning with almost the entire team that won the Super Bowl just six months ago.
Since the confetti fell, the Chiefs have locked up Mahomes with a ten-year deal worth up to $503 million dollars. National pundits are predicting the team will continue to have one of the most potent offenses in league history.
Before we anoint the Chiefs champs again, there’s plenty that still has to go right for this team.
Beat the Pressure to Repeat
The league’s rules favor parity through the assignment of draft picks and scheduling. That means it’s hard to stay on top. The Chiefs have a historic offense and made some solid moves on defense, bringing back a total nineteen of twenty-two starters, but they’ll have to stay focused throughout an odd training camp and season.
We’ll see the team’s mettle in 2020, and it starts with a coaching staff that has to toughen this team up for what will be a tough slate of nationally televised games, starting with the opener against Houston.
Keeping Mahomes Healthy
Any team that loses its starting quarterback is likely going to struggle. But in the case of the Chiefs—a team that’s powered by Mahomes Magic and has invested a huge portion of their salary cap in the QB—the club simply cannot let him get hurt in 2020.
There’s always that chance Mahomes suffers a fluke injury as he did in a Thursday night win over the Broncos, but the most frequent cause of injuries is being sacked in the pocket.
Tackles Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz should keep Mahomes protected, but opponents will do whatever they can to throw Mahomes off his game in 2020, including hitting him whenever they get a chance.
How could this team get any faster? Well, they indeed are quicker thanks to dynamic pass-catching running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, whom the team took out of LSU with its first pick. Some have compared Edwards-Helaire to former Eagles running back Brian Westbrook, which is high praise. The Chiefs also hope second-round wideout Mecole Hardman can be more involved this year.
The team also looked to speed up its defense through the draft by taking linebacker Willie Gay Jr. and safety L’Jarius Sneed.
Keep Pieces in Place
Look closely at the great dynasties of the past—the Green Bay Packers teams of Lombardi or Chuck Noll’s Pittsburgh Steelers—and you’ll see that rosters didn’t turn over much.
The NFL was a different league before modern free agency, of course, but the point remains that those teams stayed on top through consistency. That’s what the Chiefs are trying to build in Kansas City, which we see in a roster that remains steady. Returning starters know how things work and preserve the winning culture of the locker room.
The Chiefs have even kept their coaching staff intact, something you rarely see these days as the assistants from Super Bowl champions are targeted by other teams. General manager Brett Veach and coach Andy Reid have built a culture that makes people want to stay and be part of the success.
Get the Wideouts More Involved
Mahomes has put up massive numbers in his first two seasons as the Chiefs starter, but he’s done it without a true number one wideout—an Irvin to his Aikmen or a Rice to his Montana.
The top candidate is Tyreek Hill, a small, speedy receiver who continues to develop. He’s entering his fifth season, and this could be the breakout year the team has been waiting on. Two seasons ago, Hill pulled in eighty-seven catches for almost fifteen hundred yards and a dozen scores, but he regressed last season.
Second year receiver Mecole Hardman is another player who’s shown flashes but hasn’t consistently dominated. In his rookie year, Hardman had forty-one grabs for five hundred yards and six scores.
Veterans Sammy Watkins and DeMarcus Robinson can also make an impact, but they aren’t on the same tier.
Of course, Mahomes won’t stop looking at his favorite pass catcher, tight end Travis Kelce, who led the team with ninety-seven grabs for twelve hundred yards and five scores. Kelce is a special player. Don’t expect Mahomes to stop throwing to him to force-feed the wideouts, but do look for higher expectations from that unit.
A Division to Dominate
In order to repeat, the Chiefs have to make the postseason—one third of the teams that win a Super Bowl don’t. While nothing in the NFL is a given, the Chiefs’ odds are buoyed by playing in the AFC West. Last year, the Chiefs won twelve games, including a six-game sweep of a division where they beat up on the Broncos, Raiders and Chargers.
They blew out the now-Vegas Raiders and allowed the Broncos to only score a combined nine points in two matchups. The Chargers were the only division foe to offer serious competition, and they didn’t come within a touchdown in two meetings.
The other AFC West teams did what they could to improve this offseason, but it’s a stretch to think any of them are going to put up much of a fight. The Chargers, for example, are without longtime QB Philip Rivers, who took a free agency deal with the Indianapolis Colts. Tyrod Taylor is expected to be the opening day starter for the Chargers, eventually giving way to rookie Justin Herbert, who is leveling up after feasting on soft Pac-12 competition.
The other teams in the division went a combined 19-29 a season ago, and that’s not out of the question for 2020. It’s not unrealistic to expect the team to have the division wrapped up by Thanksgiving. Regardless, it should be a fun ride, and as much as any team in recent memory, the Chiefs have a great shot at re-hoisting the Lombardi trophy in February.
27-3: The Chiefs’ record against the AFC West over the past five years. Their divisional dominance is an NFL record.
15: Years since the last back-to-back Super Bowl wins, claimed by the Patriots.
19 of 22: Starters returning.
108.9: Career quarterback rating of Patrick Mahomes going into the 2020 season.
36: Touchdowns allowed
2.62: Chiefs’ average points per drive
1.9: Opponents’ average points per drive