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What could cause KC Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes to fail?

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NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

I had a class with a professor who we’ll call Mr. Titanium during my undergrad. I use this name because the first day of class he told us he had more Titanium in him than a Boeing 767.

Mr. Titanium was one rough teacher. I remember one class where he was able to make a student cry while berating him for having his laptop open...all the while the student two seats over was typing away feverishly on his own laptop.

Even though the class left a lot to be desired, Mr. Titanium did offer a plethora of sage knowledge. One such piece of advice was along the lines of the following:

“Often times people bang their heads against a wall trying to figure something out, when in fact, the opposite of what they’re searching for will lead them to the right path.”

While many Chiefs fans, and bloggers (including myself) have spent countless hours looking into why Patrick Mahomes will succeed — I want to do the opposite and see how or why he could fail.

Maybe by doing this, we’ll see a different side of the coin—a different approach to evaluating Mahomes’ future in Kansas City.

Let’s take a look at a number of common failures for young quarterbacks and see where Mahomes falls on those items:

A good quarterback can be ruined by a bad team

We’ve heard this one time and time again. We wonder how great quarterbacks like David Carr, Tim Couch, Jeff George, and yes, even Alex Smith could have been if they started their NFL careers with a halfway decent team.

In fact, one thing that has always impressed me about Alex Smith has been his ability to overcome and persevere through a terrible situation in San Francisco. Numerous talented quarterbacks have fallen much shorter than Alex Smith when they were given similar circumstances.

But how does this all relate to Patrick Mahomes?

For starters, the Chiefs are not a bad team...they are a great team. Since Andy Reid has come to Kansas City, the Chiefs have the third most wins in the NFL behind the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots.

An offense with Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, and Kareem Hunt SHOULD be explosive.

The only counter to Mahomes’ “good team” in Kansas City relates to the Chiefs defense. If Mahomes were to fail, it could be due to too much pressure being placed on him because of a poor defense in 2018.

This is one of the many reasons why it is so important for Veach to accumulate defensive talent this offseason. It is unfair to ask Mahomes to score 30 points a game to ensure victory.

Verdict: The Chiefs are a good team. Mahomes won’t fail because of the team, but the defense is worrisome.

Injuries

Many promising quarterbacks have failed in the NFL because of issues with injuries. Let’s take a quick look at Mahomes’ injury history in college:

Freshman - No injuries
Sophomore - No injuries
Junior - Left wrist surgery (scaphoid bone), AC joint sprain (right shoulder)

Mahomes played the final five games with the wrist injury and the final eight games with the shoulder sprain. Mahomes put together a phenomenal junior season at Texas Tech, all the while dealing with two injuries. Mahomes is tough; there is no question about that.

Mahomes also has a solid frame. At 6 feet 3 and 230 pounds, he is a very, very solid quarterback who has the frame to withstand hits from NFL defenders.

Verdict: Mahomes has not missed a game due to injury in years, so I don’t see Mahomes’ career being derailed by injury. It would be wise for the Chiefs organization to take care of that shoulder though.

Interceptions

Let’s take a look at Mahomes’ college interception percentage compared to other notable quarterbacks from 2014 to 2016 with at least 750 attempts.

Note: There were 54 qualifying quarterbacks.

College QB INT% - 2014 to 2016 (min 750 attempts)

Rank Player INT%
Rank Player INT%
1 Wes Lunt 0.0126
2 Cody Kessler 0.0134
3 Jacoby Brissett 0.0144
4 Paxton Lynch 0.0152
8 Mason Rudolph 0.0177
9 Dak Prescott 0.0183
11 Jared Goff 0.0193
14 Baker Mayfield 0.0199
18 Patrick Mahomes 0.0215
20 C.J. Beathard 0.0225
35 Joshua Dobbs 0.0262
36 Deshaun Watson 0.0265
37 Chad Kelly 0.0267

Looking at these numbers, nothing about Mahomes’ interception totals would suggest he’s going to be a major liability. He was in the top third of NCAA quarterbacks in terms of interception percentage from 2014 to 2016.

But what happens if we only look at Mahomes’ junior season in 2016?

Note: There were 99 qualifying quarterbacks.

College QB INT% - 2016 (min 250 attempts)

Rank Name INT%
Rank Name INT%
1 Mason Rudolph 0.0089
3 Mitch Trubisky 0.0134
8 Brad Kaaya 0.0166
10 Patrick Mahomes 0.0169
40 Baker Mayfield 0.0223
43 Nathan Peterman 0.0229
46 Drew Lock 0.0230
52 Chad Kelly 0.0244
53 Sam Darnold 0.0246
56 DeShone Kizer 0.0249
72 Deshaun Watson 0.0294

So you’re telling me Mahomes was chucking the ball all over the field to keep his team in the game, and still found a way to have the 10th best interception percentage in college?

Where in the actual hell did the interception-happy Mahomes narrative come from?

If any quarterback deserves the interception criticism it should be Deshaun Watson. Out of 99 qualifying quarterbacks, he had the 72nd best interception percentage.

Leading up to the 2017 draft I had watched a lot of tape on Mahomes, and there was nothing in his game that suggested to me he would have consistent interception problems. If anything, his ability to look safeties off and move the defense with his eyes were strong indicators he wouldn’t throw a lot of interceptions in the NFL.

Of course, there are the “hotshot blunder” plays where Mahomes tries to do too much and those should be addressed, but I don’t believe they’re as big of a problem as many have tried to suggest.

Verdict: There is really no reason to think Mahomes will throw a lot of interceptions in the NFL. In fact, his history suggests he’ll do a good job of taking care of the ball.

Completion percentage

When I was in grad school, I wrote my thesis on improving NFL draft accuracy. One college statistic that was very telling when it came to future success in the NFL was completion percentage. I believe completion percentage is relevant because it is the stat that can most closely represent accuracy.

Let’s take a look where Mahomes stacks up.

Using the same qualifying players as before, Mahomes finished 14th in completion percentage from 2014 to 2016 (remember, 54 qualifying players). Mahomes also finished 12th in 2016 (out of 99 qualifying players).

Mahomes also had a completion percentage of 63 percent vs the Broncos, even after at least three drops on easily catchable balls.

Mahomes had impressive completion percentages during his career in college, particularly his last year. That completion percentage carried over to the Broncos game and I don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t continue.

Verdict: I see no reason to believe Mahomes will have accuracy problems in the NFL.

Work ethic

You need two things to be great in the NFL: above average talent and a strong work ethic.

In case some of you haven’t heard yet, Mahomes mentioned in an interview with Matt Miller that he was at the Chiefs facilities at 6 AM nearly every morning. He also said he would recite plays over and over again until he could recall each receiver route and know which route would beat which protection.

Verdict: Mahomes is putting in the work and he won’t fail due to lack of effort.

Lack of talent

Verdict: Ahahahhahahahaaah ahahahahaahahahahaha **long inhale**(hahahaahahahaaha!!!!! No way in hell will Mahomes fail due to lack of talent.

Final verdict

It’s 3:45 a.m. Arrowhead Time on a Thursday morning and I’m getting a bit tired, so we’re going to quit for now. To be honest with you, I’m not sure if my brain is working all that well right now.

Looking back at some common ground for quarterback failure in the NFL, I just don’t see any red flags that are jumping out at me. The only reasonable thing that could potentially put Mahomes in a bad position is if the Chiefs defense isn’t improved heading into 2018.

Asking a young quarterback to do too much can put a lot of stress on a player who is trying to prove himself.

Other than that, I don’t have much, which leads me to believe Aqib Talib and Derrick Johnson were right.

Mahomes is going to thrive in 2018. There is absolutely no reason for him not to.