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The Cardinals wanted to draft Patrick Mahomes, and it would have changed the NFL

There are so many incredible “what ifs?” when it comes to the NFL, but the latest from Bruce Arians would have drastically altered the league in ways that are unfathomable. Three of the last five Super Bowls would have been different, and the ensuing dominoes would have completely changed the league.

Appearing on Pardon My Take Wednesday, Arians said that the Cardinals were targeting Patrick Mahomes in the 2017 NFL Draft, and believed he would fall to them — until the Chiefs surprised them and took the quarterback.

“As that draft was falling I was like ‘He’s ours.’ It’s either him or Deshaun. But Pat, he was right there — Kansas City doesn’t need a quarterback. They take him, and I was like ‘what?’ They had Alex Smith … just went to a Pro Bowl. We loved him”

It’s easy to forget now, but the Chiefs taking Mahomes was a shocker at the time. Obviously the team needed to start planning for the future at the position given that Alex Smith was 32-years-old, but coming off a 12-4 season it seemed unlikely Kansas City would look for a passer, let alone trade up from No. 27 to No. 10 to get one. To add another layer the Chiefs took Mahomes over Deshaun Watson, who was widely regarded to be the better quarterback by draft experts.

Obviously we know this was one an absolute stroke of genius. The Chiefs got one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, and a player who has a very real chance to be one of the greatest of all-time if his form holds — all while managing to never bottom out.

Imagine for a second that didn’t happen. The Chiefs decide to stand pat instead of trading up for Pat — what happens to the rest of the league?

The 2017 Draft

The Bills obviously didn’t feel they needed a quarterback for a variety of reasons. They were still recovering from whiffing on E.J. Manuel, and Tyrod Taylor was coming off a promising two-year run that showed potential he could be a long-term option.

A major weakness was now glaring at cornerback. Stephon Gilmore left in free agency for the Patriots, leaving a massive hole that needed to be plugged. There’s every chance the Bills draft Marshon Lattimore at No. 10, leaving both quarterbacks on the board. The Saints then take Marlon Humphrey at No. 11, because they need a defensive back too.

With one more pick before the Cardinals are on the clock, the Texans trade up just like they did in 2017 to take Watson, which was the logical decision based on most draft boards. The Cardinals then select Patrick Mahomes with the No. 13 pick.

What happens to the Chiefs?

Alex Smith had a great 2017 before falling off. The Chiefs play out through Alex Smith’s decline and are faced with back-to-back shallow quarterback classes in 2019 and 2020, unable to really find a good replacement.

They don’t win the Super Bowl in 2020, and are likely still trying to find a franchise quarterback today.

What happens to the Cardinals?

It’s almost impossible to understand just how bad Arizona’s quarterback room was in 2016. Carson Palmer was on his last legs, and the other options were Blaine Gabbert and Drew Stanton. This team desperately needed a new quarterback, so what if they landed Mahomes in the 2017 draft?

Firstly, the team has a future. Palmer is still the starter, but Mahomes is able to take over for him instead. Knowing Pat has the chops to be a future franchise quarterback it’s entirely likely Bruce Arians decides not to retire from the NFL after the 2017 season and stays in Arizona, believing they have a chance to win a Super Bowl.

It’s unclear if they achieve that goal, but with Mahomes there’s every possibility we’re looking at the Cardinals winning in 2020, with Larry Fitzgerald retiring from the NFL with the Super Bowl ring he so deserved.

What other fallout happens as a result of Mahomes going to Arizona instead?

While the change in fortunes for the Chiefs and Cardinals is fairly easy to track as a result of Pat Mahomes playing for a different team, the other dominoes are even wilder to imagine.

  • The Chiefs pick up Nick Foles’ second year option in 2017 to back up Alex Smith, and see if he can become their starter. As a result he doesn’t go to Philadelphia. The Eagles don’t have a player they can turn to when Carson Wentz is hurt, and they don’t win the Super Bowl.
  • Bruce Arians stays in Arizona, which means the Buccaneers don’t have him to be their new head coach in 2019. It’s unlikely Tom Brady elects to come to Tampa Bay without an established and proven head coach in place. Instead Brady goes to the Dolphins, who were seen as the second most likely team to land TB12.
  • Desperate to win now, the Buccaneers could potentially become the team to trade for Matthew Stafford instead of the Rams.
  • Kliff Kingsbury becomes the head coach of the Jets in 2019, where he interviewed prior to Arizona — and New York could have been the team to draft Kyler Murray instead.

If Mahomes went to the Cardinals the NFL wouldn’t look remotely the same

That’s what’s so fun about imagining how one change alters the NFL. It just happens that Mahomes, being one of the best players in the NFL, caused a lot more dominoes to shift than anyone else in recent memory.

There are even more questions left unanswered if this came to pass. Would Andy Reid have lasted in KC? Would Tom Brady have retired if he didn’t succeed again? The scenarios keep mounting and will twist your brain into a pretzel.

As it stands the Chiefs are in an amazing position, the Cardinals are in a good spot — and the rest is history.



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