In Kansas City, especially given the climate of its current sports scene—the Royals once again years away—the Patrick Mahomes hype is at an all-time high. Training camp, the preseason and the eventual regular season could not come sooner.
When the Chiefs decided it was time for the Mahomes era this offseason by trading Alex Smith to the Washington Redskins, I’d argue this was probably expected locally.
But rather than becoming overwhelmed — or in a much worse, opposite direction, cocky —Mahomes sounds like he’s leaning in.
“You see it,” Mahomes said of the national hype. “You watch SportsCenter or you watch other networks and you see that stuff. For me, I am just trying to come in and play football. As a kid, you dream of moments of being able to play in NFL games and so I am just enjoying that and trying to win a lot of games doing it.”
He’s keeping it simple; he’s staying calm.
And that temperament in Mahomes was palpable as you watched him from the sideline of six open OTA practices during the past month.
Games will no doubt be a much different animal, but the assuredness the coaching staff saw in Week 17 that made them make the franchise-altering trade seems to have translated to this season.
“One of the things that we did was that we wanted to come in and make sure we challenged him,” Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said of Mahomes. “I thought he handled that very well. One of the big things for young kids is just the blitz game, so we put a big emphasis on that and tried to give him a lot of different looks there. Bob (Sutton) can do that. He’s got a pretty good package with blitzes.
“I thought he handled that very well, even better than I expected. I really thought he handled the whole thing very well. It was pretty smooth. Again, I tried to challenge him with a number of plays and he handled it very well.”
Keep in mind — a head coach is never going to stand at the podium after OTAs are complete and tell you their 22-year-old quarterback took a step back. But the difference here in Reid’s quote is in the details.
One of the areas Mahomes will need to adjust to is the speed and identity of the pro game. Many college teams do what they do. Pro defenses will show quarterbacks a lot of different looks. That will be something Mahomes will need to adjust to.
“I saw [Mahomes] picking those up even quicker,” Reid added, before providing an example. “If it’s a cover-3 you’ve got this read, if it’s a cover-2, you’ve got this read. He just kind of snapped through that. Our defense does a lot of disguising, so you’re doing that as the ball is coming to you. I thought he handled all of that well.
“The little things, the snap count — he was well over 50 percent of changing the snap count up and moving it around. Getting in and out of the huddle, we clock everything so I have an idea of how he’s doing with that and with the verbiage of the plays and he handled that real well. It just kind of progressively got better in those areas as we went along.”
All good things. But with the good, there is also the bad.
As I mentioned in my blazing hot takes out of Chiefs OTAs, throughout the camp I saw multiple overthrows, interceptions, miscommunications and questionable decisions.
But Mahomes acknowledged all of that, using the mistakes he made to grow.
“Sometimes I might overthrow Tyreek (Hill), try to go for a big shot instead of taking the checkdown,” Mahomes said. “Sometimes I just need to work on the 10-yard completion and moving the chains, so you have to find that median of when you want to work on those deep ones but at the same time, training good habits and being able to find the 10-yard completion when you need it.”
The offseason program is what it is. With no pads and little contact allowed, even Reid admitted you can only garner so much information in such an environment.
But the bottom line is that the hype is there and Mahomes still, using a Reidism, “worked his tail off.” And that was promising to see because it is what the great ones do.
I don’t know if Mahomes is going to be the next Brett Favre or Tom Brady, but that attitude you hear about — the fact that you can’t beat hard work?
From all the signs, it seems like Mahomes has it.
And onto training camp we go.