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Building the offense for Patrick Mahomes: no huddle

One of the more exciting parts of the upcoming Patrick Mahomes Chiefs offense

Texas Tech v Arizona State
Pat Mahomes as a pup.
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

This is part nine in our Building the Offense for Patrick Mahomes series. Here is where you can find part one, part two, part three, part four, part five, part six, part seven and part eight.


These last six weeks have felt like 16. I’m about done imagining things this offseason. Like most of you, I’m ready to stop living in the past and start looking to the future.

We’re less than two weeks away from camp opening up; we’ve almost made it.

We close out this series with the last piece of the puzzle I want to talk about: one series of no-huddle offense.

The Kansas City Chiefs were one of the slowest paced teams in the league last year, per Football Outsiders. With Alex Smith at the helm, the Chiefs were more methodical and thoughtful. As his tenure progressed, they entrusted him with more and more autonomy to get them into the right plays. It ultimately revealed itself to be a perfect way to maximize Smith’s ability.

The Chiefs are going to look different this year. There’s going to be more of the field to worry about. Mahomes will be placing the ball at all levels of the field, not just over the top and short but trying to stick balls everywhere in between as well. He’ll be stretching and stressing defenses. It’s going to be explosive, a little more reckless and a lot of fun. They’re going to put their foot on the gas, as Brett Veach alluded to in his pre-draft press conference when he said they’re going to light the scoreboard up.

Mahomes is familiar with playing no huddle. Texas Tech didn’t huddle. He’s comfortable playing with pace. So why does it benefit the Chiefs to implement it?

College teams try to play up-tempo as much as they can. They have to allow defenses to make substitutions should they choose. Regardless, offenses are still able to wear defenses out and play with pace.

In the NFL, if the offense doesn’t substitute, the defense doesn’t get a chance to either. If the offense gets into a favorable personnel matchup they like, they can leave the defense on the field and exploit it or force a timeout. The Chiefs have one of the most dynamic, diverse groups of offensive weapons in the NFL and a creative coach to maximize their potential. The Chiefs have the flexibility to go no-huddle with a wide variety of personnel groupings, and if the defense gets in a bad group to defend it, the Chiefs should let Mahomes free.

Any attempt to go up-tempo has to start with an easy completion or run play. We call them drive-starters. Get the drive off to a positive start.

If you’re set on going no tempo for a series, you need to kick it off for the quarterback with an easy throw or a handoff. This would be a good time to dial up one of the run-pass options the Chief should utilize with Mahomes at quarterback. You can ensure that you'll have good leverage no matter what option you choose if Mahomes reads it well (and he will).

They would make a great drive starter.

Up-tempo doesn’t mean you have to snap the ball as quick as you possibly can. It does mean that you line up immediately in the formation called. Reid can still help Mahomes via headset until the play clock hits 15 seconds. It’s a safety net for a young quarterback to have Reid’s influence through the process. The Chiefs get lined up in a look off the bat and Reid has time to help Mahomes get into a great play.

If you catch the defense in the middle of check or aligning, you can exploit it with a quick snap. The tempo will still wear down the defense whether you’re snapping the ball with 20-plus seconds left on the clock or not. You're still keeping them on the field.

Keeping the clock moving, keeping the defense on the field is easier if you’re continually getting positive plays. Getting into your staple concepts with tempo makes them less predictable. The game is moving fast.

This is Texas Tech working with tempo to get the ball snapped quickly. Mahomes finds an easy completion on mesh concept, an Air Raid staple. If you keep the chains moving, as defenses get worn out, mistakes are made.

Two of the benefits of no-huddle up-tempo here. Arizona State has a defensive lineman offsides, leaving Mahomes with one of the best things in football for a quarterback: a free play.

Mahomes can be risky with the ball. He can take a shot for pay dirt. The bottom receiver gets a near-free release on the vertical. The inside slot receiver runs a vertical as well. The safety is put in a bind, and Mahomes helps make the decision for him by using his eyes to get him to commit the middle-field seam. I believe Mahomes placed the ball to keep the safety from driving on it. The receiver finished the pay for a touchdown.

The Chiefs force difficult personnel decision on teams. I’ve seen teams run dime, nickel and base personnel against three tight end looks. Reid is more than capable of finding weaknesses and then attacking them. What better way to than to keep the mismatch on the field. I would entrust Mahomes with one series a game of no-huddle. Reid can be in his ear the first 25 seconds of the play clock, the Chiefs can exploit a matchup and force teams to prepare during the week for an added wrinkle.

I am calling for six plays a week of no-huddle up-tempo. It’s really just one series.

I like the idea of Reid rewarding Mahomes for his progress over the last year plus with more freedom on game day for a series. I want to see how Mahomes would navigate the situation and get an idea of what he’s seeing. It’s a litmus test that benefits the team.

If Reid trusts him enough, I’d love to see the Chiefs move with tempo.

Breakdown

  • 33/65 plays - RPOs (23) and called run plays (10)
  • 6/65 plays - tendency breakers out of the 3x1 looks the Chiefs run RPOs
  • 6/65 plays - empty formation, five-man protection passes
  • 5/65 plays - two running back pass concepts (also 5/10 discretionary run plays mentioned in part one)
  • 3/65 plays - under center, play action passes (also 5/10 discretionary run plays mentioned in part one)
  • 2/65 plays - condensed formation pass plays (also 2/10 discretionary run plays mentioned in part one)
  • 2/65 plays - sprint out pass concepts
  • 2/65 plays - designed screen passes
  • 6/65 plays - no-huddle

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