Winter is looking bleak but at least we have playoff football with the Chiefs and the Division I national championship game to look toward to.

The Chiefs made a real statement with their solid showing against the Denver Broncos the last game of the regular season. The backups gave us all a positive outlook for the future of the team. Patrick Mahomes can spin the football for sure. He is a natural with the football in his hand.

An overlooked positive in the Denver win was how well the young defensive players looked throughout the game, particularly at the linebacker position. Ramik Wilson showed his quickness at the insider linebacker position. The two outside linebackers Tanoh Kpassagnon and Ukeme Eligwe had sacks and showed great pass rushing ability. They also handled the run well. The other backup inside linebacker Terrance Smith had an interception and he ran to the ball very well.

Cornerback Keith Reaser did a great job at a position that needs some help in the future. Defensive tackle Justin Hamilton is big and can move. He is a guy who could provide depth next year. The other defensive back, Leon McQuay, looked like he was very strong against the run and held up his end when he was involved in passing situations.

Chiefs defense stars Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali unfortunately are approaching the end of the road and these guys show promise as replacements. The No. 1 priority in the draft this year should be defense and hopefully it will be a cornerback who can start right away.

The hype and talk all year has been focused on Mahomes and his natural gifts, and it looks like he can be great. The best thing that happened to Mahomes is his opportunity to learn under a real pro like Alex Smith. The Chiefs were good enough to let the rookie learn and watch how things work in the NFL without getting his block knocked off. Not many NFL teams have the luxury of having two quality QBs on their roster.

Smith has led the Chiefs to one of the most successful five-year stretches in the history of the franchise. Under Smith the team has made the playoffs in four of those five years and won back-to-back AFC West titles. If Mahomes goes on to a great career, he will no doubt have Smith to thank. Smith has taught the kid how to prepare to be a pro.

It may be the end of the road for Smith, however. The Chiefs have their back to the wall with the salary cap situation. They cannot pay $17 million for him in 2018. I am one of the few people in town who wishes they could work out something so Smith could stick around at least one more year to help develop Mahomes.

Aaron Rodgers was a backup to Brett Favre for four seasons. Rodgers is the best QB in the NFL and even tom Brady admits to his special talents. Mahomes has that “it factor,” but being thrown into the main man role too quickly could hurt his development. Smith has gotten very little credit, but he returned a pitiful organization to a consistently successful team. His timing was not the best as the city and fan base is no longer satisfied with being in the playoffs – they are ready for a Super Bowl appearance.

The disappointment has been brutal through the years. However, winning in any sport is a process and patience can run thin. The greatest strength of head coach Andy Reid is his ability to stay patient and stick with the plan. The freaky part of coaching is when patience becomes a problem.

The team will probably have to get rid of Alex Smith, but my bet is Reid would like to give Mahomes at least one more year of learning under the leadership of Smith. For fans inexperienced in coaching football it probably sounds crazy, but I see it as a benefit to the team and Mahomes.

• The NCAA Division I semifinal games produced one exciting game but the other was a dog. The Oklahoma-Georgia double overtime game was full of offensive fireworks. Without question the Sooners were the best offensive team in the country. They were a great team to watch play offense but could not stop their opponent. Two Bulldog backs had 326 rushing yards and five touchdowns between them. The Georgia running backs scored on runs of 78, 54, 48, 48 and 27 yards. On two of the long runs it was a one play drive. On three of the touchdown runs not a single Sooner defender put a hand on the back. He ran into the end zone untouched. On three occasions the Sooners took themselves totally out of play by moving out of position before the snap. Without question it was the worst inside linebacker play in the history of the college football playoff history. How could such a great offensive team be so terrible? Answer – the defense is designed to only stop Big 12 teams that play only spread football.

• All year everyone talked about was how Alabama is not that good this year. The one guy that will tell you differently is Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney. The Tide was playing hungry and you should never “Poke the Bear”! If you do he will eat you.

• I predict Georgia will come out the victor over the Tide. They have three running backs who can run a 4.3 40-yard dash, squat 500 pounds and have 38-inch verticals with an offensive line that averages 340 pounds. In addition, they have an All-American inside linebacker who will run sideline to sideline and will get you. However, I’ll say it again, NEVER poke an angry bear!

• My quote of the week comes from John McKay, former NFL and college head coach: “I am a big believer in the ‘mirror’ test. By that I mean that you shouldn’t worry about the fans or the press or trying to satisfy the expectations of anyone else. All that matters is if you can look in the mirror and honestly tell the person you see there that you’ve done your best.”

– Tim Crone, a William Chrisman High School graduate, is a former activities director and coach for Blue Springs High School and is a host of a weekly radio show, “Off the Wall with Tim Crone,” on KCWJ (1030 AM) 6 p.m. every Monday. He writes a weekly column for The Examiner. Reach him at