But while we think of Purdy and Mahomes as operating on two totally different planes, their games have been more similar than you’d think.
Heck, Purdy seems to be checking the ball down less often than Mahomes. Even with Kittle and McCaffrey, Purdy recorded 151 passes to his running backs and tight ends, the ninth most in the NFL, per FOX Sports research. Mahomes recorded 210, the most of any QB.
You read that right: Mahomes (not Purdy) is the Checkdown King of the NFL.
Purdy is pushing the ball downfield, too. When it comes to big-time throws in the regular season — a stat Pro Football Focus defines as a pass with excellent ball location and timing, generally thrown further down the field and/or into a tighter window — Mahomes had 25 (tied for 12th) and Purdy had 27 (tied for 10th).
What is clear from my vantage, however, is that Mahomes is the greatest game manager in the game. This year, more than ever, Mahomes is a game manager. (Just look at those stats above!)
Even he is willing to admit it.
Historic franchise tag coming?
The Chiefs have the option of using a franchise tag on Jones since it’s unlikely that a new contract will be worked out prior to his fake/dummy 2024 through 2028 contract years voiding. A franchise tag would be an expensive proposition. Jones’ franchise tag projects to $32,169,912 because of how the 120% of prior year’s salary provisions work with the designation. This would easily be the largest franchise tag for a non-quarterback in league history. The franchise tag value would instantly become an important data point to Jones’ camp and frame any contract discussions for the Chiefs to retain the five-time Pro Bowler on a multiyear contract.
Placing a franchise tag on Jones with the intention of trading him isn’t out of the question. Jones’ trade value should be more than the 2025 compensatory pick — which would be at the end of the third round at best — the Chiefs would get for him leaving in free agency.
3. PATRICK MAHOMES AND TRAVIS KELCE
Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce embody modern football.
As recently as 15 years ago, so much of the sport was defined by rigidity. Pass catchers were expected to get to exact landmarks at a specific time, and the quarterback was expected to operate with perfect timing and execution to get them the ball.
The NFL has since moved away from that in favor of leaving more room for creativity and interpretation.
That’s what Mahomes and Kelce have dominated with. They can do all the simple, on-time stuff, but Mahomes and Kelce are special because of the plays they make when the chalkboard stuff goes awry. Mahomes is as free a scrambler as the league has ever seen, and Kelce has admitted countless times he will freestyle on routes.
Somehow, Kelce always gets open when Mahomes scrambles, just the same as Mahomes understands what Kelce wants when he’s freestyling on a route. There’s a weird, chaotic mindmeld those two that doesn’t feel like anything else on this list.
And oh yeah, they win. A lot.
Mahomes and Kelce’s connection has been building for nearly a decade, from the early days when Kelce had to share targets with Tyreek Hill, to the middle successes when the tight end emerged as his quarterback’s third-down security blanket, to where it is now, a near-telepathic sense of where the other is on the field and what they need on a given play. It’s always been an important link for Mahomes—as every young quarterback can use a reliable tight end. But this season, with an inexperienced receiving corps that’s still trying to build its own rapport with the world’s best quarterback, the Chiefs have leaned on Mahomes and Kelce’s relationship more than ever. And it could lead the team to its most improbable Super Bowl triumph yet.
There have been a bunch of famous quarterback–pass catcher duos throughout NFL history—Joe Montana to Jerry Rice, Peyton Manning to Marvin Harrison, Tom Brady to Rob Gronkowski—but what Mahomes and Kelce have looks different. Not better, necessarily. Just different. While those other duos were largely known for timing and precision honed over grueling (and repetitive) drills on the practice field, what Mahomes and Kelce do feels less contrived. Less scripted, but just as effective.
Superficially, they are an odd couple.
The coach has the mustache of a walrus; the QB gets his hair cut in a mohawk reminiscent of an exotic bird. A sneaker collection lines Mahomes’ closet, whereas Reid has wall-to-wall Hawaiian shirts. Mahomes can rage; Reid is placid like Lake Tahoe.
Yet seven years into their union, they have complemented each other as well as a coach and quarterback can.
Mahomes is a devotee of ketchup. Reid professes his love of cheeseburgers. Of course they go together well.
In their beginnings, Reid was taken aback by how much Mahomes wanted to be taught. It was uncommon. And Reid was the ideal teacher to help him achieve his goals.
“They have genuine respect for one another,” says Bob LaMonte, Reid’s longtime agent. “(Mahomes) looks to Andy like a guru.”
"Selfishly I want the Chiefs to win so we can take them down, take them off that pedestal."@CrosbyMaxx wants to have the opportunity to beat the Super Bowl winner next season. pic.twitter.com/bgkyKnNx6i— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) February 7, 2024
Asked whether the rant changed the way he is viewed inside the Chiefs organization, he offered no assurances.
“At the end of the day, I’m not a fortune teller,” Toney told Newsday. “I don’t know. I don’t know.”
Regardless, it’s fair to wonder whether Toney’s case lingers as a distraction.
“He’s not a distraction,” Reid flatly stated to USA TODAY Sports. “That hasn’t been a problem.”
That’s about what you’d expect to hear from Reid, whose job involves minimizing distractions – especially this week.
From over here, it seems like Toney is a shoo-in to make anybody’s “distraction watch list.” That’s not to suggest that Toney is a candidate to get distracted by the temptations of Las Vegas (which, by the way, has the buffer of a 25-mile distance between the hotels where the Chiefs and 49ers are headquartered and The Strip) but rather to pay attention if he’s idled again with a Super Bowl on the line.
Around the NFL
On his Let’s Go! podcast, former Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was asked by co-host Jim Gray whether he was surprised that Belichick didn’t land a head-coaching job during this cycle, now that all the jobs have been filled.
“I’m not one to hire (coaches),” Brady recently said. “I don’t know the criteria for hiring these guys, for hiring coaches. I’ve never been a part of it.”
“I mean, I’m surprised that the greatest coach ever doesn’t have a job, absolutely. But I’m surprised (by) a lot of things in the NFL.”
Belichick was linked predominantly to the Atlanta Falcons’ job, having interviewed twice with the franchise, including meeting one-on-one with team owner Arthur Blank.
That opening, however, was filled by Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris. That means that — as things stand now — when Week 1 rolls around it will be the first time Belichick isn’t a head coach for the first time since the 1999 NFL season.
Just five years ago, Williams had surgery to remove a potentially life-threatening cancerous growth from his scalp, a procedure that left him wondering when — or if — he would play football again.
And yet, here Williams was on Wednesday at a Lake Las Vegas hotel, sitting at a podium and holding court with reporters for an hour midway through his first week as a Super Bowl participant in his 14-year career.
“I’ve definitely taken it in,” Williams said. “I’m continuing to take it in. I’m just thanking God every day because this is what you dream of, it’s what you pray for. It’s what you grind for. A lot of countless hours spent in the lab trying to perfect my craft and get better just to get an opportunity to get to this stage. So, I’m very grateful being here and I’m taking in every second.”
Ninety-two percent of NFL players prefer grass fields over turf surfaces, per NFLPA executive director Lloyd Howell, who relayed the findings during an NFLPA news conference in Las Vegas on Wednesday.
“It’s really basic,” Howell said, per ESPN’s Paul Gutierrez. “It’s not rocket science. Ninety-two percent of our union wants grass. That’s compelling. The bottom line is, it’s unquestionable that our union wants to have a working condition where they play on grass.”
Roughly 1,700 players voted in the poll, per Howell (h/t The MMQB’s Albert Breer). The outliers were kickers, who preferred turf.
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
Bieniemy seemed to make a tangible impact on the players, according to Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who would go on to have 241 yards and a touchdown in the AFC title victory.
“It’s always great to have EB in the building, just being there,” said Mahomes. “The energy that he brings, the mentality that he brings, you can feel, just because he has that intensity, but he loves it. He loves being there. He loves being a part of the team and being a part of that culture, and so just having them back in the building was really cool, and listening to him talk, his energy.
“I think guys had a little bit of like chill bumps, in like, ‘EB’s back here,’ and obviously, he didn’t get that head coaching opportunity, but I’m excited for him to continue to coach football and continue to make his impact on the game.”
Reid said that Bieniemy is still up for a couple of positions but would not commit to bringing him back for the 2024 season.
“I have no spots right now, but I would tell you I think his coaching future is great,” said Reid. “I’m obviously a big fan of his, and I know the things that he can do.”
Social media to make you think
Where does Patrick Mahomes rank all-time amongst quarterbacks with a win Sunday?— Mark Gunnels (@MarkAGunnels) February 8, 2024