SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – The NFC championship game was a cautionary tale to NFL teams, particularly those vying for a title, about the risks of having only two quarterbacks active on game day.
However, if catastrophe befalls the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday in Super Bowl 57, they have a plethora of emergency quarterback options – so many, that it’s not immediately clear who would take snaps if presumptive MVP Patrick Mahomes and his, backup, Chad Henne, were unable to go. Obviously, that would be a worst-case scenario. But at least the AFC champs might become so wildly unpredictable that it could keep them in a game – at least temporarily.
Among Kansas City’s choices:
► All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce, who played quarterback in high school and briefly at the University of Cincinnati. He’s only completed one of three regular-season passes in the NFL and was intercepted once. But Kelce did throw a touchdown in a playoff blowout of the Pittsburgh Steelers last season.
► Tight end Blake Bell, who was QB1 for the University of Oklahoma in 2013 and threw 12 TDs. He has not thrown a pass in his eight-year NFL career.
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► Running back Jerick ‘Jet’ McKinnon, who played several positions in college at Georgia Southern, quarterback being one. He’s thrown one pass during his nine-year NFL career.
► Tight end Noah Gray, who’s only thrown one pass since high school – an 11-yard completion for Duke in 2020 – but did manage 21 TD passes as a junior for Leominster (Massachusetts) High School.
‘We have all those guys kinda get ready in practice. Jet has been a lot of times for us that emergency guy,’ K.C. quarterbacks coach Matt Nagy, formerly head coach for the Chicago Bears, told USA TODAY Sports.
‘We have a set of plays we use, we practice it every week, and that’s what we stick to – and then ultimately that’s (coach Andy Reid’s) decision on what he wants to do.’
McKinnon has taken some direct snaps in games, and the Chiefs have also used Kelce in Wildcat packages in the past.
But Kansas City’s quarterbacks favor the McKinnon emergency route.
‘I think it’s Jet. Jet’s the guy – or Noah Gray, he’s also been working at it,’ said Henne.
Asked for his preference, third-string quarterback Shane Buechele replied: ‘What we can do with the Wildcat with Jet would be tough to stop.’
And there does appear to be consensus that Kelce should not be the guy under center unless all options are exhausted.
‘He has a pretty good arm, I’ve seen him sling it out there,’ Bell said of Kelce. ‘But the problem is, we need him running the routes. We need him catching the ball.’
Asked whether he or Bell is the better alternative, Kelce said: ‘I’m gonna say Blake Bell by a landslide.
‘I’ve seen a little bit of highlights, and I’ve seen him play – I’m taking Blake Bell over me.’
There seems to be agreement that the NFL should reinstitute a rule allowing teams the ability to deploy a third emergency quarterback who wouldn’t count against the roster limit on game day provided the others can’t continue. That certainly would have behooved the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC title game, when starter Brock Purdy tore his UCL on the Niners’ first drive. Backup Josh Johnson later suffered a concussion, forcing Purdy back into the game even though he could do little more than hand off.
‘I think they (the competition committee) have done a great job with listening and making rule changes when needed, so we’ll see,’ said Nagy.
‘Absolutely,’ he said. ‘You develop younger quarterbacks, and you don’t have such a big falloff (from the backup).
‘If we can do that and not counts toward a roster spot, it would benefit the league a lot.’
Naturally, everyone concurs that the best outcome is for Mahomes to remain upright.
‘Any one of us could give the team a chance to win. I hope we don’t get into that situation, but I’m not worried about it,’ said McKinnon.
‘On another note, we’ve got 15 (Mahomes)!’
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.