From the FanPosts. Love this post -Joel
For the next 12 months, we'll hear about the steep learning curve that Patrick Mahomes has in his quest to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. There are a lot of different things he's going to have to learn and make into habit. Here, I'll break down an example of his entire responsibility from the start of the play clock to the final execution of the play. All of the things below have to be understood and executed in a span of just 45 seconds. A quarterback will do this 60-70 times a game.
When a pass play is called, there's more responsibility falling on the quarterback so we'll use that as an example. Andy Reid will call in a play to the headset.Reid: "Okay Patrick, let's go with Y-MO Double Right Jet Right 594 F Whip." (35 seconds on the play clock)
This isn't quite the same structure that Reid's system use, but it's the one I'm most familiar with. The playcall I outlined is actually similar to what former Chiefs Offensive Coordinator Al Saunders used to use, and what I was versed in. Here's what Mahomes was just told.
Y-MO - The pre-snap shift or motion (Y indicates the person moving)
Doubles Right - Formation (Where all players end up after motion)
Jet Right- Protection (Blocking assignment for the lineman and the running back)
594 F Whip - Route assignment for all receivers. (X - 5, Y - 9, Z - 4, F - Whip)
In Reid's system, the Y-MO Doubles Right Jet Right might be similar. However the way Reid calls routes isn't by naming each route for each receiver, but by bunching them in to concepts. So for example the 5 and 9 routes together might be Jose, and the 4 and Whip routes might be called Ringo. So Reid's system might be something like Y-MO Double Right Jet Right Jose Ringo (definitely not close to correct names, just using this as an example).
This structure allow's Reid to adjust play calls in game. By using concepts he can line people up in new formations at half time or in-game, but still use the concepts that he's developed.
In some cases, Reid might give Mahomes only part of the play call and expect him to recall the entire verbiage to his teammates in the huddle. There may be only one play call that uses "Ringo Jose". So to save time, Reid might just tell him "Ringo Jose".
There are times when Mahomes will be given both a run and pass play to call in the huddle and he'll have to pick one based on the defensive alignment.
Mahomes needs to be quick and efficient in calling the play. He needs to break the huddle in enough time for shifts and motions to occur.
If a teammate has a hard time remembering some of his responsibilities in practice or they adjusted a play for the week, Mahomes might have to make sure to remind someone about that in the huddle before calling a play. "Hey Conley, remember to adjust your split here."Mahomes: "On two, on two. Ready Break." (20 seconds on the play clock)
After relaying the play call, the Chiefs break the huddle and line up. You've heard Reid mention that Mahomes has to identify the Mike. Why they have to do that is to set the protection properly. If the Chiefs are playing a 4-3 team, the offensive line is responsible to block the four down lineman, plus whoever the team decides to identify as the Mike linebacker. When Mahomes calls out the Mike, he is telling his lineman they are responsible for blocking him as well.
There are dozens of protections that the Chiefs use with unique rules for identifying the Mike for each one. Sometimes it is very simple, and sometimes it is not. Who they identify can sometimes change week-to-week in certain protections based on alignment. Failing to correctly identify the Mike can lead to protection breakdowns that can lead to sacks.
All of these protections have footwork associated with them. Some protections may be three step drop, some may be 5 or 7 steps.
After identifying the Mike (sometimes before), the Y motions into his final destination. Teams use motions and shifts to help identify coverage pre-snap or to put a player into a favorable match up. If a defender chases a motion across the field, that almost always means it is man coverage. Reid is excellent at using shifts and motions for this reason.
The Chiefs might go on two (or even three) to see if the defense will tip their hand in what coverage they're playing. These little things can help make it easier on Mahomes to identify the coverage and make a proper decision. Based on alignment, Mahomes has been versed on what he could possibly expect to see once the ball is snapped, but he won't always be sure until he does.Mahomes: "Set Hut" (1 second left on the play clock)
Once the ball is snapped, he's got to trust the process that has been drilled into his head since rookie minicamp. He's got to use all the information he's gathered in the last 39 seconds to get the ball to the correct receiver.
In the time it takes to drop 3, 5 or 7 steps, Mahomes will have to identify the coverage, go through his progression and deliver an accurate throw. For our purposes, we'll say Mahomes is taking a 7 step drop.
Blitzes: On the snap, Mahomes has to identify any blitzes that could be coming his way, and understand how those blitzes will be handled by the protection that was called. From meetings throughout the week, there will be certain looks that he is prepared for. This also helps him identify coverages as certain blitzes are often tied to a certain coverage. If the protection can stand up to the blitz, Mahomes has to trust his line to protect him. If the blitz can't be properly protected, he will have to throw hot. What that means is, certain receivers have to adjust their route based on the blitz and Mahomes has to throw to them to beat it.
Coverage: If he hasn't been able to identify the coverage before the snap, Mahomes will have to use the movement of specific players on the field to help him know what the defense is running. Often times, the safety movement is where QB's start. Their actions will help him determine his progression. Good quarterbacks are able to see both blitzes and safety movement at the same time. This helps them speed their process.
Progression: There are four or five receivers running routes on most plays. But often times, a quarterback isn't reading them all.
The process of picking a receiver to throw to is more of an IF/THEN puzzle than reading each individual receiver. Most plays will have a solution to any coverage he faces. It is Mahomes' responsibility to solve the puzzle.
One of the concepts in the play call might be good for some coverages, and the concept on the other side of the field may be good for others. Mahomes has to know on every play call what concept works for each coverage and has to recall it very quickly. Once he knows the concept he needs to work, then he will read the receivers running their routes and the defenders. The order in which he looks at those receivers is called a progression. For example, if he identifies the coverage as Cover 2, he will look at the 4 to the Whip in that order, reading the defenders on that side to determine which one he throws. If he has to scramble out of the pocket, the receivers have a set of rules for how they should run when the quarterback breaks from the pocket.
Some progressions may have all 4 or 5 routes in them, but not always. And most often a quarterback won't be able to get to his fifth progression.
There are also plays where the receiver will adjust his route or change to an entirely different route based on the coverage. Mahomes will have to know the responsibilities and adjustments for every receiver for every play.
In some instances, there is even adjustments to the footwork that Mahomes will have to use based on the route he intends to throw. Mahomes may have to adjust his usual steps or rhythm in order to be on time to throw the route he has decided on.
Delivering the throw: While doing all this, Mahomes may have to deal with a messy pocket. He'll have to use peripheral vision to adjust in the pocket or bail out. This is where toughness, awareness and footwork can help a quarterback. A gun-shy quarterback who already isn't confident in what he is seeing may panic and throw a poor balls. A quarterback who is confident in what his process and aware of his surroundings will probably find a completion on the field.
It Takes Time
Even the best prospects take time to develop this process. Some have been doing most of this process in college and it just requires handling an expanded playbook and adjusting to the speed of the game. Mahomes' battle is much more difficult, requiring a lot of changes to the system and process he was using.
That being said, he has all of the tools you're looking to develop. He has to break some bad habits and be introduced to some things he's never learned, but you can't teach vision, arm talent, toughness in and out of the pocket, awareness and poise. He's got a lot to adjust to, but I'm confident in his ability to get there.