Whether Bowe plays Sunday night against the Broncos in Denver in the biggest game of the season for the Chiefs is almost beside the point now. The last thing the Chiefs needed as they prepare for the Broncos was a distraction.
But the Chiefs have a major one on their hands. The Chiefs have excelled all season at being able to concentrate on the task at hand, but that ability will now get tested more than it ever has been since Andy Reid arrived as head coach in January.
On the field, the 2013 version of Bowe can be replaced. He was second on the Chiefs in receptions (33) and third in receiving yards (369) and scored two touchdowns. He's on pace for, statistically, the worst full season of his career.
The Chiefs haven't declared whether Bowe will be available to play against the Broncos. If not, he would be replaced by Junior Hemingway. Hemingway, like Bowe, has a big body (6-foot-1, 225 pounds) but has better hands and runs better routes. At this point, he may be a better option for the Chiefs, anyway.
The bigger picture is what the Chiefs do with Bowe, who was given a five-year contract worth $56 million during the offseason. The Chiefs invested heavily in a player whose production is slipping and now let them down at a most crucial time.
His enormous contract might leave the Chiefs no choice but to stick with Bowe and hope he can rehabilitate himself and his career. But if the Chiefs don't go out and find someone capable of replacing Bowe as their No. 1 receiver at the end of the season, they've failed again.