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Why the Patrick Mahomes hype train doesn’t need to slow down

The Kansas City Chiefs quarterback deserves the hype, writes Kent Swanson

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

It’s only May, and the hype train is picking up steam for second-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Whether it’s Louis Riddick sharing his love and calling him Ferrari Pat, or Dan Orlovsky breaking down the things that get him excited about the young signal-caller, or some low-level nerd on a Chiefs website building his offense, there’s a lot of buzz surrounding him.

We’ve seen a small sample size of Mahomes. The week 17 win against Denver was a reward for a fan base desperate to see its lone first-round quarterback selection in the last 30 years. Even though there were some rough spots, there weren’t enough to ignore the talent. Mahomes showed everything we’ve wanted and waited for. Even though he’s getting a ton of hype, there are reasons to believe he’ll be able to live up to it.

Dan Orlovsky showed a few this morning. I discussed what I saw Mahomes improve on from preseason to week 17 here. I’ll re-purpose a few of those clips just to reiterate some of the little things we talked about in early January. It’s worth a read to see all the examples.

The reason Mahomes fell to the Chiefs at 10 and only really began building hype in the preseason was because of the raw elements that he presented in college. Everyone could clearly see the talent. They just saw a longer way to go. When there’s a gap between what a player is and what they can be, people tend to not stick their neck out as much. There were too many unknowns about his development, and a long way to go.

The rawness of Mahomes was tricky for evaluators and media alike, but the best coaches saw someone they wanted to get their hands on and be the one to develop. There are several key factors here. The first that is often understated is the athletic professionals he’s spent his entire life around. This is a critical factor to why we’ve seen the growth and development of Mahomes. His dad spent 11 years in Major League Baseball. His son got to see what is required of great athletes behind the scenes. Having a clear understanding of what is required to be great at a young age can help mold a mentality. It’s obvious it did.

Mahomes got to be around Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez for brief stints. He watched them do the mundane things like Rodriguez hitting off a tee in preparation. His godfather and one of his mentors is LaTroy Hawkins, who spent 20 years as a pitcher at the highest level. He’s being held accountable by former professional athletes that want to see Mahomes the person grow, not just Mahomes the athlete. His ability to stay in the right mindset is what gives him a chance to be special. It can’t be understated what that influence has done for him and will continue to do.

Mahomes listens. He listens to Hawkins and his father, he paid attention to the process, put his head down and earned some respect in the locker room for his work ethic. He competed with Alex Smith, but showed enough respect for the team and Smith to be a follower. He soaked in every single thing Smith would share with him. Mahomes deserves credit for being a sponge, and Smith deserves praise for the man and leader he was. One of the first things Mahomes did upon Smith’s trade to Washington was text him and thank him. He’s got the right mentality. He understands professionalism, what’s required, and is grateful for the situation he was placed in.

Did Mahomes have a lot to work on coming into the league? Absolutely. Has that background sped up the process? Absolutely. His mechanics were cleaner, his decision making was good (even the interception was a good read with just too much excitement behind it) and he got better as the game went on. Mahomes took the time to develop on his own, accepted coaching and didn’t waste a day of his development.

His growth was on full display in week 17, as I wrote about when it happened. One example shows how far the QB came.

From that article:

It’s third-and-8 and the Broncos are sugaring both A-gaps with linebackers. They dialed up several pressures throughout the day to try to confuse and rattle the young signal-caller. They have six players at the line of scrimmage showing a zero blitz (straight man-to-man, no help behind it). The Chiefs have Jehu Chesson and Demetrius Harris lined up to the left in the boundary. Harris short motions in from outside Chesson. Anthony Sherman is to the left of Mahomes.

Based on alignment, that edge rusher on the left has to peel with Sherman if he leaves the backfield. Either that or one of the A-gap linebackers will have to chase Sherman. If not, the Chiefs have three pass catchers for two defenders. Sherman will either remove one rusher from the play or he’ll out leverage any defender.

The Chiefs have five blockers for six defenders. Mahomes knows this, but also knows that he has three receivers for two defenders if all six come. A five-man protection like this will typically account for the two defensive lineman, both edge rushers and one linebacker. Mahomes is alert to a potential blitz from the nickel, and slides the protection one man over, leaving the edge rusher on the left free. Mahomes is responsible for that man now, what he does will determine where he goes with the football.

Chesson runs a post and Harris runs through his defender, likely running some kind of out breaking route. Sherman leaks to the flat. The rusher doesn’t peel off with Sherman, leaving him wide open in space. Mahomes invites the pressure, then dumps the pass off to Sherman. It sure looked like he got first down yardage to me, but I digress. Regardless, it was the right call in the right situation. Mahomes’ preparation paid off here. He was ready and knew where to go with the football. That got me excited.

Mahomes is coming along with the mental processing. This wasn’t a throw that required immense talent. It was a play that required exhaustive preparation and the poise and toughness to stand and deliver a throw in the face of pressure. You don’t get here in a matter of months by accident. It requires the mentality to want to be great. Want to keep working. A commitment to the process. His talent is rare, but the desire to get the most out of himself is why people are starting up the hype train.

He’s still got a long way to go. We all acknowledge that. He’s not going to be perfect. He’s going to make mistakes. He’ll probably go through a rough stretch or two this year. But the raw elements started to come together last year, and I would be stunned if we didn’t see another jump once training camp comes around.

Mahomes was dropped into a phenomenal situation in which he could learn. He leaned into it, embraced it. Took the year to get the absolute most out of it. The coaches are excited, and they aren’t slowing the hype down to their media connections. I’m leaning into the hype. I’m embracing it. The mentality matches the ability. He’s got room for improvement, but we’ve already seen rapid growth.

Of course, he could fail: most first-round quarterbacks do. I think we’ve already seen some of the things that the ones that make it possess though.

One more takeaway from that January article:

Mahomes sent a simple message on Sunday: I’m talented, I’m smart, I’m not scared and I’m here to work.

I’m not betting against him.

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