Sam Mellinger

Mellinger Minutes: Most intriguing Chiefs season in years ... but first, some boasting

Chiefs’ Mahomes was a multi-sport star ... but football was his third-best sport

Chiefs' quarterback Patrick Mahomes thought about giving up football to concentrate on baseball and basketball after his sophomore year at Whitehouse High in Tyler, Texas. Find out why he didn't.
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Chiefs' quarterback Patrick Mahomes thought about giving up football to concentrate on baseball and basketball after his sophomore year at Whitehouse High in Tyler, Texas. Find out why he didn't.

Newspapers and the journalists who make them are some of the world’s worst self-promoters. Truly, we stink at it.

Whatever insecurity you have — I have a broken blood vessel on the tip of my nose that I spent much of my childhood thinking made me look like Rudolph; now I just wish I could lose like 10 pounds already — is a grain of sand on the beach of newspapers’ collective insecurity when it comes to promoting ourselves.

That comes from a good place, generally, and I can think of at least five reasons.

1. Newspapers, more than any other discipline in the field, operate by the old-school adage of reporting the news, not being the news.

2. Arrogance makes our skin crawl.

3. We know we’re imperfect, and the idea of promoting ourselves and then realizing we misspelled a name in the eighth graph is horrifying.

4. Journalism done right — and the vast majority of newspaper folk do it right — is freaking exhausting. When the day’s over, we’d much rather pour a drink than brag.

5. For decades upon generations upon decades, we haven’t needed to brag.

Well, you probably know that last reason is no longer true, and if we’re honest with ourselves, we know that means the first four must either be managed or ignored. It’s past time for us to open about how we work and why it’s important.

That’s why I’m asking you to spend your hard- and well-earned money to support us. That’s not an easy ask, but it’s one that I make with full confidence in its value, importance and need.

Nobody covers what’s important to Kansas City like the Star. Truly, it’s not even close. We hear about newspapers shrinking, and that’s true, particularly if you judge by the print product. But print has not been our primary medium for quite some time, and the Star’s overall coverage would have to be halved and halved again before anyone else around was close.

This isn’t chest-thumping. This is plain fact, and pride for reporters who live here, love here, and work for everyone who does either — a series on secrecy in Kansas government made the state more accountable to citizens, exposure of corruption in Jackson County government led to convictions, and news that the city planned a no-bid contract for a new airport terminal saved millions.

Coverage of the duck boat tragedy was alternately empathetic for the victims and tough on those who allowed it. A series on child marriage law led to 15-year-olds no longer being able to marry in Missouri. This is work that makes a difference, and on both sides of the political aisle.

This is critically important. You can support what we do and have unlimited access to it for less than $5 per month. There is no better bargain in town. Studies have shown that government costs go up when newspapers aren’t around.

There’s another option to supporting us. You’re presumably reading these words because you are a sports fan, and you probably know we are now offering a sports-only subscription. The price is even lower — $30 for a year, which comes to about eight cents a day — for the best and biggest team of sports reporters in the region.

Vahe Gregorian was voted the best sports columnist in the country this year for stories like the mentor behind Tyreek Hill. Blair Kerkhoff is one of the most experienced (and almost certainly the hardest-working) reporters in town.

Jesse Newell and Gary Bedore bring more than five decades of combined experienced on Kansas sports. Alex Schiffer is so connected at Mizzou that he Ubered to the NBA combine with Michael Porter Jr. Kellis Robinett covers every K-State football and men’s basketball game, home and on the road, and who else in town does that? Sam McDowell brings stories that transcend Sporting Kansas City and beyond.

Brooke Pryor and Lynn Worthy lead our Chiefs coverage, two smart, hard-working reporters who are with the team at every available opportunity. When the Chiefs open their season against the Chargers this weekend, eight independent, Kansas City-based journalists will be there — six from The Star.

Don't have a KC Star subscription? Help support our sports coverage

If you already subscribe to The Star, thanks for your support. If not, our digital sports-only subscription is just $30 per year. It's your ticket to everything sports in Kansas City ... and beyond, and helps us produce sports coverage like this.

When the Royals were changing Kansas City sports history, we had a dozen or more reporters at some games. Soon, we’ll be hiring a new beat writer, to be with the team from the first day of spring training to the last day of winter meetings.

Hopefully you clicked this link because you’ve enjoyed the Minutes before, or maybe you prefer the times I do actual reporting on stories of high-interest in Kansas City.

No matter your path to us, I hope you consider the value of the destination. For years, we’ve given our product away for free, a misguided hope that digital advertising would make up the difference. That was a mistake. What we do costs money, same as other non-tangible products to which you might subscribe — radio, television, food delivery, or even a child-care finder.

Our job is to make it money well spent. Hopefully, you’re here because you think we’ve done that. We’re finally ready to tell you why you should support us. Please give us an opportunity to continue to make it worth your time and money.

This week’s eating recommendation is the shredded beef arepa at Empanada Madness, and the reading recommendation is Sarah Spain with the jaw-dropping story of a Chiefs assistant coach’s search for his biological parents.

Please give me a follow on Twitter and Facebook, and as always, thanks for your help, and thanks for reading.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">As someone who isn’t sold on Veach just yet, I’m looking closely this year at how the roster moves he’s made play out. What are the top items you are watching in 2018 in determining his success, or lack there of?</p>&mdash; J-D JR (@jimmyjay555) <a href="https://twitter.com/jimmyjay555/status/1036670309829623809?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">September 3, 2018</a></blockquote>

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This is the first team for which Brett Veach has had a full offseason, so I don’t know that anyone should be “sold” or, um, whatever the opposite of sold is on him as a GM.

What I know about him is encouraging. He works hard, he cares, he’s confident in the right ways and humble in others. He has a specific football worldview — oversimplified, he wants youth, toughness, and reliability — and has taken real steps to build that here.

Also, not insignificantly, he has a good working relationship with Andy Reid.

All of these are good things.

But if you’re looking to judge him over the next few years, here’s a list*:

* a list!

  • This year’s draft class. Pretty obvious, right? Already, Derrick Nnadi looks like a starter, because he has a specific skill (a pocket wrecking bull rush) that can play immediately. Breeland Speaks was the class’ first pick, and that’s always the simplest way to judge. My amateur eye says he has a long way to go as a pass rusher, but remember he played everywhere up front in the SEC, so they might be able to move him back inside.

  • Anthony Hitchens and Reggie Ragland each have to provide a defensive backbone that just hasn’t been there the last two years. Those are both Veach guys, and that Hitchens contract — five years, $45 million, including a $14 million bonus and $25 million guaranteed — is really big for a guy who doesn’t rush the passer.

  • The secondary. The Chiefs really didn’t do much to address the secondary this offseason, and I know it’s tempting to say they assumed they were good there, but my sense is they just couldn’t address everything they wanted. I’ll write something later this week expanding on the point, but right now I’ll be surprised if they don’t take at least one corner high in next year’s draft. Either way, the secondary — safeties and corners — needs to be significantly better by next season.

  • Lottery tickets. Football is won on the margins, and GMs can shine with lower profile pickups. Ragland came over for a fourth-round pick, and was an immediate starter. Charvarius Ward and Jordan Lucas came over for late-round picks. If either or both end up helping, that’s a win.

Those are the big spots. You’ll notice I’m not including Sammy Watkins here, and that’s because I consider Watkins more connected to Reid.

Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Reggie Ragland talks about his knee swelling after an airplane trip and the defense improving against the run at training camp in St. Joe.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">I’m unreasonably impressed with this practice squad. I see multiple genuine NFL players on here<br><br>Calm me down or tell me how smart I am.</p>&mdash; Jonathan Gill (@mrgillchoirguy) <a href="https://twitter.com/mrgillchoirguy/status/1036697670985965568?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">September 3, 2018</a></blockquote>

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Yeah, I’d slow down.

There are some potential dudes there. Chase Litton is really talented. Arrion Springs is intriguing. Ryan Hunter and Leon McQuay. There’s some future in there, and we’re not even counting Byron Pringle, who may’ve been headed for the 53-man roster before a hamstring injury.

But let’s not get carried away. Nobody has an amazing practice squad.

I’m including this question here because we just talked about Veach. This is a critical skill for a GM, to be able to build depth and contingency plans. The Chiefs have depth in some spots, most notably running back, but the secondary could be a problem and they really need a pass rusher to emerge opposite Justin Houston.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">I&#39;m firmly in the &quot;he&#39;ll make your jaw drop a couple times a game, but also struggle as he figures stuff out his first full year&quot; camp - but if Patrick Mahomes ends up at either extreme, is he more likely to look like a total bust, or to instantly be a top-5 QB?</p>&mdash; Paul Foeller (@pfoeller) <a href="https://twitter.com/pfoeller/status/1036980854596280320?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">September 4, 2018</a></blockquote>

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Oh, well, sure, if you insist — I’ll link the story from Mahomes’ hometown here*.

* Please do read it, if you haven’t already. This is part of what I’m talking about above, the stories we can tell because we have the resources. We need your help, so if you enjoy insight like this, if you find it worth your time, please consider supporting us.

OK. Where were we? Oh, yes. The quarterback.

We are in the same camp here. I expect him to throw four interceptions in a game at some point, and would be shocked if he doesn’t have one or two games with three. He’ll make throws and create moments we just have never seen with the Chiefs, and will turn this team into one neutral fans use as the flipback-during-commercials game because it’s going to be fun.

The most likely outcome this season is something like 4,000 yards, 30 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. You can (obviously) bet on these things — the last numbers from Bovada I saw were 3,750 yards, 23 touchdowns and 13 1/2 interceptions.

I’d bet the over on all of it.

To get to an instant top-5 type of quarterback, he’d basically have to replicate what Deshaun Watson was doing, but over a full season, and probably without as many interceptions.

To instantly look like a bust, he’s going to have be confused and frustrated, with a coach who doesn’t know how to get him right.

Both outcomes seem unlikely, but if you’re asking which is likelier, I’d take the former. The reasons are pretty obvious. He has a top 10 receiver, top two tight end, and the league’s leading rusher. Sammy Watkins looked terrible in the preseason, but how many teams have a 25-year-old with a 1,000-and-nine receiving season on his Pro Football Reference page as the No. 3 receiving option?

Reid is pot committed here. He signed Chad Henne as a nonthreatening, study partner of a backup. Marcus Peters is gone, so the locker room is Patrick’s within a year or two. The play-calls will be as quarterback-friendly as they’ve ever been. Reid’s coaching future depends largely on Mahomes, and he will operate accordingly.

I’ll have a game-by-game prediction later this week, but I’m actually not all that optimistic about the Chiefs as a team. There are reasons for that, and I’ll explain, but either way I’m not sure the last time I was this excited about a Chiefs season.

For what seems like forever, the Chiefs have been the same team — some good players, but not enough, and a system quarterback that was hard to dream for.

That’s all gone now, in the most drastic way possible.

Truly, he may throw three picks and a fumble in a loss this weekend, which figures to be the hardest division game of the season.

He also might have the top five plays on the highlight shows, and win 45-41.

Anything is possible, and when’s the last time you could say that?

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Now that we see what the Raiders got for Mack going to Chicago, at minimum what should the Chiefs have gotten in the Marcus Peters trade?</p>&mdash; Jon Schlitt (@jschlitt) <a href="https://twitter.com/jschlitt/status/1036627616667762689?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">September 3, 2018</a></blockquote>

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Well, what they should have received in return is exactly what they did receive — which is why it was a bad deal.

But let’s make an outline here. The Mack trade is complicated. The Bears gave up first-round picks in 2019 and 2020, a third in 2020, a sixth in 2019, and immediately made him the highest paid defensive player in NFL history. The Raiders gave up Mack, a second-round pick in 2020, and a conditional fifth in 2020.

That’s, um, a lot.

The Marcus Peters trade was simpler. The Rams sent Peters and a sixth to the Chiefs in exchange for a fourth and a second.

Money is always part of this, so if we’re going to compare the trades we have to acknowledge the Rams are paying Peters just $1.7 million this season, and $9.1 million in 2019. They can extend him or, more likely, franchise him at around $20 million for 2020. That would give them control and keep the incentive and motivation on their side through Peters’ 28th birthday. They could even franchise him again for 2021.

Now, let’s be honest about a few things. This is not a direct comparison. Mack should cost more.

Much, much more.

He’s a better player, for one, but also plays a more important position and basically has the opposite reputation of Peters.

He’s what football people often refer to as “a program guy,” meaning he’s all about football, does his work, leads where he can, and is generally part of building a positive culture.

You know where I stand on Peters, and the trade. But even those of us who like him as a player and believe he’s one of the best corners around can see he’s a difficult employee.

To me, particularly when you take into account the money involved, Peters should be worth a first and a third.

If you’re not going to get that, keep him.

If you’re intent on trading him, then you have to wear the mistake, and be OK with people noting you gave away a game- and potentially season-changing talent at a discount because even though your coach specializes in handling “difficult” personalities you couldn’t make it work.

Also, you probably need to accept that it’s a really bad look that your secondary is now a mess.

Chiefs general manager Brett Veach talks about the decision to trade Marcus Peters to the Los Angeles Rams on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">If you were to eliminate one player from the Chargers and one from the Broncos that would cause the most damage (not including QBs) who would it be?</p>&mdash; MJ Masterson (@Jaymaul4) <a href="https://twitter.com/Jaymaul4/status/1036627539085668352?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">September 3, 2018</a></blockquote>

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This is a good question. Obviously, the guy with the Raiders would’ve been Mack, and I’m not joking when I say I’m not sure there’s a real answer for them now.

You didn’t ask about the Raiders without Mack, but jeez, Bruce Irvin? Amari Cooper? They’re going 4-12, you guys.

With the Chargers, I’d take Joey Bosa. He has 23 sacks in two seasons, just turned 23 this summer, and his tape is NSFW. Melvin Ingram is also a monster, Casey Hayward is one of the league’s best corners, and Keenan Allen can be impossible to cover at times, but Bosa is the answer. Eliminating him makes the Chargers much easier to play.

With the Broncos, the answer is still Von Miller. He’s just so damn disruptive, and consistent. Can’t block him with one guy. Chris Harris is worth considering here, too, and perhaps Demaryius Thomas. But Miller is the one who makes them go.

Here’s a question: Who would you pick for the Chiefs? Way I see it, there are basically six acceptable answers here.

6. Chris Jones. This might be too low, but I want to see him play like a star before ranking him like one.

5. Kendall Fuller. Imagine that secondary without him.

4. Eric Berry. We don’t have to imagine that secondary without him.

3. Justin Houston. I believe he’s beginning the Non Force Of Nature part of his career, but he’s still a terrific defender, able to shut down the run on the way to the quarterback.

2. Travis Kelce. I’m not sure how exactly to separate him and the next man on the list.

1. Tyreek Hill. Mostly because his absence would mean some of what Mahomes does so well is made less effective.

The order can be quibbled with, obviously. There’s a logical case for any of the top four to be No. 1. I put the two offensive players at the top because the defense is probably going to struggle one way or the other. This team’s path for survival is with a lot of points, and losing Kelce or Hill makes that significantly more difficult.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Sam, are you having as much fun as this season ticket holder is watching the Royals this last week? I know it&#39;s the Tigers and the Orioles but it&#39;s been a blast watching real Royals baseball.</p>&mdash; Dan Smith (@KCBigDan) <a href="https://twitter.com/KCBigDan/status/1036629838071820290?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">September 3, 2018</a></blockquote>

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There’s some real stuff to believe in here, you guys. The first four months were worse than I ever would’ve expected, but it’s also OK to point out they’ve won eight of their last 10, and are actually 20-25 since July 13.

This is probably bending over backward to say something nice, but that’s a 74-win pace, which is basically what the Royals projected internally for 2018.

Now, what matters more than the what is the how. They’re transitioning away from the mercenary, get-you-over team that started the season into something that more resembles their future — Hunter Dozier, Adalberto Mondesi, Jorge Bonifacio, Brett Phillips, Ryan O’Hearn, Heath Fillmyer, Jakob Junis, and Brad Keller playing bigger roles.

Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost is wanting the young guys on the team to see more playing time, in different positions, for the rest of the 2018 season.

I don’t know what the Royals have in O’Hearn. Maybe nothing. He’s never been on a prospects list, and I know the Royals have metrics that say he was raking into bad luck, but he hit .243/.324/.423 in 869 career plate appearances in Omaha.

He’s also 25 years old and hit nine homers in his first 24 games. The sample is absurdly small, Royals fans of a certain age will remember Ryan Shealy, and there are some potential strikeout concerns here — but if you believe in BABIP he’s actually been unlucky so far.

Either way, he’s symbolic of some new possibilities here. The Royals have some high-ceiling talent, some other lottery picks, and all the time in the world to find out what they have.

That can be fun, and this is the flip side of what made the first three months so hard to watch — losing can be productive, but losing with older players is like buying a junker with no AC and making sure to take the scenic route.

None of this changes the timeline. The quickest path to contention still feels like 2021. There is still so much to do. If the core of the next playoff team is in the system right now, a lot of it is still in Class A. Some of it was just drafted, and some more could be drafted next summer.

But, yes, absolutely. For those of us who love baseball, it’s nice to see some of the future.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">I read the col on <a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=%24tate&amp;src=ctag&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">$tate</a> of Royals. Much was based on attendance. I hear a lot about tv/revenue sharing. How much flexibility does that give?</p>&mdash; Andrew Logue (@AndrewMLogue) <a href="https://twitter.com/AndrewMLogue/status/1036689065955999744?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">September 3, 2018</a></blockquote>

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Thanks for reading!

I don’t have the revenue sharing numbers, and the Royals clearly get a lot. But all that stuff is baked into the existing numbers, including from Forbes.

I focused on attendance for two reasons. First, the drop is more than significant. Losing nearly 25 percent of the gate — plus all the in-stadium spending that brings — is a big ol’ dent in anyone’s budget.

But also, along with the TV contract, that’s the most important money a team brings in because it’s the money they get to (mostly) keep for themselves. If you’re getting killed at the gate, some of that can be made up with more revenue sharing, but you’re still taking a capital L.

Now, I do want to point something out.

If you’re going to lose a lot of money, this isn’t the worst time.

The Royals were always going to shed payroll this offseason. Maybe that process is accelerated, but the general plan won’t change.

They’ll probably shed payroll again after next season, and would have anyway. Alex Gordon’s contract will be off the books then, and Ian Kennedy’s after the 2020 season.

Next season is the last under the team’s current TV contract, and depending on the structure of the deal, the Royals should immediately have $10 million or more in extra annual revenue*.

* I’m being conservative here. The deal will likely pay out around $40 million more each season than the average of the current deal, so it’s more a product of how much of that bump is given up front.

David Glass is not changing his ways. Winning a World Series presumably reinforced that he can be successful this way, so these annual losses will be absorbed one way or the other.

That puts the onus on Dayton Moore, whose team worked a miracle once already.

Put in those terms, the second time will either bring another party or prove how unlikely the first was.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Seems like Yost is just cashing his check. I think we need new leadership next year--your thoughts please. <a href="https://t.co/v8kZm1we50">https://t.co/v8kZm1we50</a></p>&mdash; John Lathrop (@hst1948) <a href="https://twitter.com/hst1948/status/1036741483834081281?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">September 3, 2018</a></blockquote>

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I agree, with the caveat that Yost could be that new leadership.

The Royals had a million problems this season, and I’ve never believed managers are as important as most believe, so this isn’t something I gotten too worked up about. Put what I (and others) see as his lost fire No. 10 on the reasons the Royals stink, and I think that’s about right.

Whatever extent you credit Yost for the rise — and he absolutely was an important part of it — you can credit him for the fall.

My sense is he’s not communicating as much as he used to, not connecting as much as he used to.

Some of that is human nature, because the season got away pretty quick.

Some of that is circumstance, because it’s impossible to push a group of rentals in a losing season the same way you do a homegrown core during a long-term championship push.

But it happened, and I get what Yost says about it being better for the organization if he takes the arrows right now, but Kansas City isn’t exactly a brutal market and he’s not the only one who can take criticism.

So if he’s coming back next year — and all indications are that he is — then the Royals need it to be with a renewed drive, a freshened commitment to communicate and connect and be a guiding presence in a clubhouse that will need it more next year than they have in 2018.

In theory, Yost’s skillset is most valuable for what the Royals expect to be from 2019 to 2021 or so. This is when young players will be exposed, when they’ll make mistakes, when they could really use a guy who’s seen this before and came out with a championship.

Yost loves the paycheck, because who wouldn’t? But I don’t believe for a second that he’s in this primarily for the money. He doesn’t need the money, for starters. He loves the job. Loves baseball. Loves leading. I’m sure he doesn’t love the travel, but he and his wife are empty nesters, and she can come to Kansas City or meet him on the road.

He has a good life to get back to in Georgia, and when he does he’ll have no regrets.

He says he wants to come back, and the Royals will obviously have him. If that’s the way it goes, the best scenario will be for Yost to be re-energized with what by then will be a full-on, prospects-playing-and-more-on-the-way rebuild.

He didn’t have that this year, and I’m sure the terrifying offseason accident changed things.

But next year, he should be back in his comfort zone. If that’s the way it happens, the Royals will have different leadership, even if it’s from the same man.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">I’m all for the new helmet rule. It will help the guys I cheer for later in their life...I’m all in. Everyone plays by the same rules. Tell me Ragland hitting you without using his helmet is not a violent and entertaining event.</p>&mdash; Jim Weber (@jaydubya90) <a href="https://twitter.com/jaydubya90/status/1036640307964796928?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">September 3, 2018</a></blockquote>

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Well, I will tell you with great force and sincerity that Reggie Ragland hitting me without using his helmet would not be an entertaining event. I have never been more certain about anything in my life, sir.

But, yes, I get the point. And I agree! Mostly. The helmet should be taken out of tackling, as much as possible, and this is something that’s been coached and legislated to varying degrees for years.

The problem is not the intent of the rule.

The problem is the implementation, the enforcing.

Television is a lie. The view from the stands is a lie. The view from the press box might be the biggest lie of all.

Seen from a distance, the brutal chaos of football — particularly at the highest level — can be softened, if not completely lost.

Many plays are relatively nondescript. Both sides, generally, know what’s happening and are trained to react in controlled ways. But many plays are unpredictable car wrecks, and that analogy is used so often it’s probably lost its impact, but truly, think about that — car wrecks, without the benefit of an air bag or seat belts.

There are times where helmets will collide. Running backs lower their head for protection, or a linebacker mistimes or is fooled by a move, and his helmet comes down. A receiver goes over the middle, and a shorter or otherwise lower safety comes in for the tackle. A pass rusher trips, or is shoved from the side or behind.

There are a million more ways helmets can collide, either with each other or another player’s chest. Not all of them are intentionally violent. Not all of them are avoidable.

These are the plays where punishment — particularly 15-yard penalties, or ejections — are harsh beyond reason, and we haven’t even addressed the impossible contortions now demanded of pass rushers.

One easy fix, and I know this has been suggested by others: Make helmet calls reviewable.

This is an imperfect solution. Games will be slowed. Intent is hard to judge. But it’s better than part-time officials being required to stick to split-second decisions that could swing games and impact careers. This rule was sort of jammed through late and quickly. The league would be smart to give itself a buffer here.

But, Jim’s larger point stands, and I think most would agree. The intent is positive. It’s the execution that will be messy.

Whether it's kickoffs, tackling or point after attempts, here are the biggest NFL rule changes heading into the 2018 season.

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His potential is essentially limitless.

These things are completely fluid, obviously. A year ago, Lamar Jackson was the consensus best quarterback in college football. Baker Mayfield was, at best, third. Josh Allen was a curiosity.

But, for sure, the potential is all there. He’s big but athletic, with a quick release and plenty of arm to get to both sidelines and push the safeties deep. The knocks are generally what you’d expect of a guy still in college — he sometimes predetermines throws, lacks field vision at times, and can be inconsistent.

I’m glad he came back to Mizzou. Some of that is selfish, to watch him more, but he also has a chance to jump in the draft and make a lot of money.

It could be good for him to have to perform under so much pressure — Mizzou’s season depends on him, and he literally has millions of dollars at stake. If he’s smooth with that, and appears to keep his focus on the right things, NFL teams are likely to give him the benefit of the doubt if needed.

One thing I worry about with him is whether there’s enough help. People talk about his complete percentage needing to rise, and that’s probably true, but there are also a lot of drops.

This is interesting to me, though. I was talking with a scout recently — the same one who predicted Nicholls State over KU, actually — and asked about Lock.

“Oh, I love him,” the scout said, and went on about some of the traits listed above.

You think he’s a good pick next year then?

“For sure,” he said. “Second, third round, something like that.”

So, that’s a little confusing. Quarterbacks in the second or third round aren’t generally difference makers. Davis Webb was taken in the third round last year, and he’s now on the Jets’ practice squad.

So, maybe my guy was just speaking off the cuff, maybe he means a second- or third-round grade if he would’ve entered after last season, maybe he’s not including the “quarterback bump.”

But that’s pretty symbolic, I think. Lots of potential, and still lots to prove.

Mizzou quarterback Drew Lock said the offense has a different feel under new coordinator Derek Dooley in Tigers' opener against Tennessee-Martin

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Lots of hand wringing over the KU loss, but what are the realistic expectations for football in Lawrence?</p>&mdash; Jason Fuehne (@jfuehne) <a href="https://twitter.com/jfuehne/status/1036625352586678272?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">September 3, 2018</a></blockquote>

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Well, for one, a realistic expectation should be to avoid consistent embarrassment, to not be so bad that your lame duck coach is now 2-2 against FCS schools.

Kansas should not be a football power. The Jayhawks have culture, money, and geography working against them. Football has never been particularly important there, facilities are significantly behind their peers, and the few Division I prospects who come from Kansas generally prefer the consistent winner down I-70.

But there’s no reason that in a five-year span — the life cycle of a player who redshirts and uses all his eligibility — Kansas shouldn’t get to a bowl game or two, and maybe once every 10 years be a factor for a conference championship.

That’s realistic. It requires a coaching staff that makes the most of two- and three-star recruits, that doesn’t let good players get out of the area without at least an offer, that would, for instance, at least check in to see if Ronnie Bell might want to get out of his Missouri State basketball scholarship after winning the Simone instead of watching him go to Michigan.

It requires a teardown to build back up, a system centered more around skill position and scheme than athleticism and size. It needs to be backed by a hell of a strength program, a class of unheralded recruits who turn out much better than expected, and a lot of luck.

It needs money, which requires excitement, which requires something to be excited about, which means we’re back at the beginning of this awful cycle.

Some of this is outside the control of David Beaty and whoever will replace him.

But the stuff that is in the coach’s control, that’s what the next man needs to lock up.

Kansas Jayhawks coach David Beaty discusses a third-and-6 play call in overtime of his team's loss to Nicholls State.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">There seems to be no definitive answer publicly available, so I&#39;m interested in your professional opinion. Taking all factors into consideration, does the KU football program make money or lose money for the university?</p>&mdash; Steve DuBois (@Twitlysium) <a href="https://twitter.com/Twitlysium/status/1036998974392164355?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">September 4, 2018</a></blockquote>

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I don’t trust anyone who thinks they can quantify this.

If you take everything into account, if the question is whether the academic mission of a “Power 5” university would be better or worse without sports, there are two answers:

1. In a vacuum, probably worse.

2. In reality, probably better.

The problem with trying to quantify this or providing a definitive answer is you don’t know where the money from sports stops. KU’s football program is an unmitigated disaster, but because Kansas has student-athletes who wear uniforms and play a full schedule, the university received a $34.3 million check from the last fiscal year.

It’s not just that, either. Donations and applications increase with athletic success. Energy goes up, pride goes up. I don’t know how to quantify that into dollars. Some would overstate it, others would guess too low.

But it’s a real thing.

Because it’s easy to say that if the money given to and taken up by sports — I’m talking about donations, facilities, tickets, salaries, all of it — was instead given to and taken up by academics that universities would be better off.

And that is objectively true. They would be better academic institutions, and might even have lower tuition costs.

You can use Ivy League schools here if you want, but to me that’s a bad comparison, because, well, lets just be honest here — the demographics there are much different than at state schools.

But that’s not the only reason we shouldn’t be so naive to think that’s realistic. Millions are given each year to Kansas’ Williams Fund so that they can keep their basketball tickets. If the basketball team disbanded, those donors aren’t just giving to the engineering school.

They’re buying a boat, or a lake house. Or maybe another boat, and another lake house.

Universities are playing for entertainment dollars here, so I have no idea how to definitively show they’d be better or worse off sticking to academics.

But you and I both know they’re not going to try.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">It’s bar-game pentathlon time (darts, pool, foosball, shufflepuck, Golden Tee) &amp; you get to bring one current KC sports athlete as your partner. Who do you bring? What if you could bring a coach or FO person, who then? One historical athlete?<br><br>Oh, you’re against me &amp; George Brett</p>&mdash; Jay Sparks (@sparksjay) <a href="https://twitter.com/sparksjay/status/1036982045174448128?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">September 4, 2018</a></blockquote>

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You are smart to choose a baseball player, and I’ve never seen it in person, but I’m told George is a heck of a golfer*. That’s hand-eye coordination, key to all bar games, and the fact that George can be trusted to perform after a couple beers is a nice plus, too.

* He should be, for how much he plays.

I am (not) sorry to bring this up again, but I just got done writing that Patrick Mahomes story, and I can’t get it out of my head that he:

- was recruited by Texas as a safety.

- was a seven-figure prospect as a pitcher.

- was also an intriguing prospect as an outfielder.

- was apparently a badass basketball player, too, dropping 30-some in a playoff game against Armani Watts’ team and his high school coach called him the best leader he’s ever seen.

- would’ve considered quarterback his fifth-most marketable athletic skill as late as his junior year of high school.

Also, his godfather told me Patrick is “so good at pingpong you’d be disgusted.” Seems like a good guy to have on your side in darts.

Whit Merrifield would be pretty awesome at this, too. Ridiculous hand-eye, very competitive, off-the-charts confidence, proven versatility. I’d go to bar-game war with Whit. Sal Perez would probably be strong — great hands, lots of enthusiasm, would get the crowd on your side for sure.

Coach or front office — Royals AGM Scott Sharp is a former college player, and there’s something about his way that tells me he’d slice through some guys in bar games.

All-time athlete — Bo Jackson is my answer to every question in which Bo Jackson is a potential answer.

But I also assume Satchel Paige would be AMAZING at this stuff.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Given how much fun <a href="https://twitter.com/UMKCFootball?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@UMKCFootball</a> has been, should UMKC explore actually adding football?</p>&mdash; Alex Manners (@DrAlexManners) <a href="https://twitter.com/DrAlexManners/status/1036628288863580160?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">September 3, 2018</a></blockquote>

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It’s fun to think about, but also unrealistic.

To start football, the school would probably need to drop down to Division II which, if we’re honest, is likely the right move anyway.

But even then, you’d be competing against some real powers in the area for the type of athlete who’s not quite good enough for Division I, and with the costs of starting and maintaining a football program that’s not a smart bet.

If they ever do it, I hope to the heavens that they actually do hire Terez as head coach.

Those press conferences are going to be great, especially after a loss.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Saddest sad and lowest low among local teams: current state of Kansas football, K-State’s Ron Prince debacle, Chiefs under Todd Haley, Mizzou basketball under Kim Anderson, or Royals prior to Dayton Moore?</p>&mdash; Ben Simpson (@bsimpson) <a href="https://twitter.com/bsimpson/status/1036654022470578177?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">September 3, 2018</a></blockquote>

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My god, man, why would you do this?

But, OK, fine:

The answer is the Royals before Dayton Moore, and I’ll tell you why, in the order of your list:

- KU still has basketball.

- The Ron Prince stuff, come on. I know it was frustrating, and I know the secret contract was patently embarrassing, but it wasn’t long, and besides, the team was 17-20 those years. Let’s keep some perspective.

- The better Chiefs descriptor here is “under Scott Pioli,” and as bad as that was — AND IT WAS HORRENDOUS — they did win a division title. The 2012 season was the worst of any NFL franchise in modern history, and I will fight anyone who disagrees, but the whole operation was flipped and they won 11 games the next year*.

* Course, because it’s the Chiefs, they promptly blew a 38-10 lead in the playoffs and, PLEASE DON’T BREAK THIS SCREEN LET’S JUST MOVE ON.

- Mizzou under Anderson, that’s a rough one, because not only was the product irredeemable but it was being led by a True Son, and as much as everyone hated the guy he replaced, Anderson was objectively worse. I don’t have a good yeah but here, unless you count an SEC East football title in 2014 a good yeah but? No? Me neither.

- The Royals before Moore were a complete disaster, from top to bottom, a train of failure that lasted an entire generation — by the time 2013 happened, there were adults with mortgages and marriages whose only memory of even a winning record was The Great Fluke of 2003, and it’s an argument FOR the Royals being the worst on this list that an 83-79 record, third-place finish, and hopeless fade down the stretch that set the scene for 310 losses and the Carlos Beltran trade over the next three seasons felt like a respite from the pain.

The Royals before Moore were Mizzou under Anderson if he stuck around for 20 years, is what I’m saying.

This week, I’m particularly grateful that, finally — FINALLY — the 4-year-old’s preschool is starting. Everyone else’s back-to-school pics are now dated, but the kid goes back this morning, which means learning and friends and all of that but ALSO NOT INSIGNIFICANTLY means more time for mom and dad to get stuff done because both kids will be in school on the same days.

Sam Mellinger

Sam Mellinger is a Kansas City Star sports columnist.

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