Running the football is not important to the success of the Kansas City Chiefs. I know it pains old-school football minds to hear that, but the truth hurts sometimes.
I have heard over and over again that the Chiefs need to better establish the run to make their offense as good as it can be. The reason given for this claim is “that is how football works”. That may be how football works as a general rule, but those rules have never applied to Patrick Mahomes.
General football rules said a first-year starter can’t throw for 50 touchdowns and 5,000 yards. A first-year starter can not win the league MVP award or drag a bottom ten defense all-time to the AFC Championship game. Mahomes has changed that rule book since his first start in the NFL, so people need to stop treating him like the general rules matter.
When I am talking about the running game I am not talking about Mahomes’s scrambling. Those are not designed runs, they are smart football moves when the receivers are not open. What I am talking about are the designed handoffs to running backs.
I am not claiming that the Chiefs should never run the football. They are great plays to give the offense a rest and a good way to eat the clock in the fourth quarter of blowout wins. So yes, we need running backs and there are times and places for those plays. But, those times and places should come few and far between.
Just look at the two games the Chiefs have played to this point in 2021. They have handed off to a running back 29 times for a total of 95 yards rushing. That is a 3.2 yards per carry clip. They have thrown the ball 67 times for a total of 667 yards. That equates to a 9.9 yard per pass attempt clip. That is averaging three times as many yards when we throw the ball versus run the ball.
It blows my mind when someone reads those numbers and still says “we need to run the ball more”. I’ve heard that we need to get back to the 2018 offense when we ran the ball so well. We ran the ball with running backs 336 times. That was 30 fewer rushes than in 2019 and 25 fewer than 2020.
Andy Reid has never been a running game head coach. He has had many good running backs from LeSean McCoy to Jamaal Charles and Kareem Hunt. Even with lesser quarterback play and weapons in the passing game, Andy has been accused of abandoning the running game too early. If he isn’t going to depend on the running game with far worse quarterbacks and receivers, why would he do it with the greatest quarterback of all time, and two Hall of Famers to throw to?
It was this knowledge that made the drafting of Clyde Edwards-Helaire so baffling. I am a fan of Brett Veach. He’s not perfect, but he has more successful decisions than not. But his worse selection so far was the drafting of Clyde in the first round.
I think Clyde is a good player, the fumble was a fluke just like Charles’s fumble versus the Broncos in 2015. But, he could never be as valuable in the Chiefs offense with Patrick Mahomes as a lineman or defensive upgrade would have been.
That pick has made many in Chiefs Kingdom believe that the run game should be a bigger part of the Chiefs offense. The stats are clear, a Chiefs’ handoff to a running back is a win for the opposing team’s defense. I, for one, do not ever what to do something that will make the opposing defense happy.
Up 20 in the fourth quarter, fine pound the rock. Receivers need a break, fine hand the ball off. But that should be all the Chiefs take the ball out of Mahomes’ hand for. Especially with the game on the line, as the Chiefs learned the hard way against the Ravens. That is a mistake I do not believe the Chiefs will be making again.