With two weeks remaining in the NFL season, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is considered the favorite to win his second Most Valuable Player award. Should he take home the honor, one of the main factors will likely be his ability to elevate his play in spite of the team’s heavy roster turnover this season .
Even after the Chiefs traded star wide receiver Tyreek Hill — who is now having a career year with the Miami Dolphins — Mahomes is on pace to pass for over 5,000 yards. The changes on offense, however, have gone even deeper than Hill. This season, Mahomes has completed 163 passes to seven players who are new to Kansas City.
Mahomes believes that success is due to Chiefs head coach Andy Reid — and a decade’s worth of winning culture.
“That started before I even got here with Coach Reid and the coaches that they’ve had,” ” Mahomes explained before Wednesday’s practice. “They built this culture of, ‘This is how we’re going to work, this is how we’re going to prepare — and this is how we’re going to win.’
“I just try to embrace that as much as possible [and] show the guys who are new how we do things. In the NFL, there’s a lot of new guys every single year. If you continue to build that culture, you can continue to go out there and win football games.”
Reid, on the other hand, cited Mahomes’ continued growth as the reason the Kansas City offense hasn’t fallen off after an offseason of transition.
“He’s got a keen eye,” Reid said of his quarterback, “and he’s done it long enough now to where he’s got a good feel on where a guy needs to be — and how to get him there. He does a nice job with all that.”
In 2021, the Chiefs’ offense was thought to be too dependent on big plays from Hill and tight end Travis Kelce. Mahomes now believes 2022’s deeper receiver room has actually helped him.
“It helped me grow as a quarterback,” he said, “just having to get through the offense — the entire offense — knowing that we’re going to move guys around. We’re going to have playmakers everywhere. And you’ve got to just continue to get through your reads to get to the right guy.
“I think I got in some things — last year especially — where it was ‘Tyreek or Travis, Tyreek or Travis.’ I think it’s kind of helped me become a better quarterback — having to move around to having so many different weapons everywhere that I just have to get through the reads.”
And Mahomes expects that he will continue his evolution in Kansas City long after his current teammates are gone.
“We’ll have a lot of different guys in my tenure here,” he acknowledged with a smile. “I’ll be here for a long time — and one day, I’ll get [to be] here as long as Travis has been here.”
Reid also credited the skills of general manager Brett Veach.
“I think you go back to Brett,” observed Reid, “and the people that he brings in. He knows the offense. He grew up in the profession with this offense — in the NFL with this offense. So he has a pretty good feel of what needs to be fitted in there. And how guys — even though they might not have been in the scheme — have certain qualities that would work for us.”
But in Reid’s mind, it doesn’t stop with Veach.
“And then [there’s] Pat’s ability to kind of welcome everybody in. Kelce welcomes everybody in. Patrick’s become one of the old vets, but Kelce’s been the oldest vet. That’s a comfortable thing for new guys coming in here — that they’re not going to just be pushed aside. We’re going to take your strengths, and ‘Let’s go!’ Then you can learn the other stuff as we go along.”
The contributions of both quarterback and general manager were clearly on display when former New York Giants wide receiver Kadarius Toney was welcomed to the team after a midseason trade. The deal was announced on October 27. Toney caught two passes in his first Chiefs game on November 6. A week later, he caught his first NFL touchdown pass — after playing in a dozen Giants games without one.
Mahomes also clarified his role in adding talent to the team, reiterating that he leaves personnel decisions to the professionals — but is always happy to offer his thoughts.
“I’m involved a little bit,” he confirmed. “It’s usually like a thing where it’s just, ‘Hey, we’re talking to this guy — what do you think?’ I’ll look at the tape and kind of give my insight on stuff like that.
“I try to stay away from making decisions on people. We have great guys in great positions — great coaches and great personnel people — that usually can do that. I’ll give my take on people, but they do a great job of bringing in a lot of great players.”
Even so, Mahomes admits to having a strong take on wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, whom the Chiefs signed in March after missing out on him during the 2021 offseason.
“They said that we were interested in JuJu,” Mahomes recalled. “I knew him previously, so I knew what type of guy he was — and how hard he worked. I definitely like the ability he has. I think you see it this year. He can do a lot of stuff that we utilize in this offense in a variety of ways.
“I was definitely texting him — like Coach Reid was — trying to get him to come here.”