While Kansas City Chiefs fans have probably spent much of the offseason going back and watching highlights of Patrick Mahomes' NFL debut last year on the road against the Denver Broncos, the Chiefs' coaching staff was also watching tape on him, but they were going back to his days of slinging it around at Texas Tech.
Much like they did with Alex Smith—going back to his days at the University of Utah to incorporate some of the zone read and run-pass options that Smith was comfortable with from his college days into the Chiefs' offense—head coach Andy Reid and company did the same thing this offseason—looking at things Mahomes found success with at Texas Tech.
"We've done that," Reid explained this week. "I have a whole notebook full of his old plays that he ran (in college). (Quarterbacks coach) Mike Kafka looked at all of it. And one of the guys you don't hear much about—(pass game analyst/Asst. quarterbacks coach) Joe Bleymaier, does a phenomenal job with all that. He gets in there and puts together packages, and he's kind of the unsung hero behind all of it.
"We've done quite a little bit of research on what [Mahomes] did well in college, and a lot of it fits into what we do here."
And with the understatement of the year, that's a good sign.
In his final two years of college, Mahomes completed more than 64 percent of his passes and threw for more than 9,700 yards with 77 touchdowns.
Basically, Mahomes was tossing it around at video-game-like numbers, but as he gets set to take over as QB1 here in his second year in Kansas City, Reid is equally as impressed as to how Mahomes has carried himself since stepping onto an NFL field for the first time about a year ago.
"He's not afraid to put a little pressure on you to make sure you do your job," Reid explained. "He's doing the same thing to himself, every day. If you're playing with him, you better be ready to go.
"He's pretty passionate about how he goes about his business."
This offseason, Mahomes made it a point to get together with his teammates whenever they were in town to get some work done—helping establish himself as a leader—even at just 22 years old.
"We had group messages going," Mahomes explained. "I had one with the tight ends, I had one with the running backs, and I had one with the receivers making sure everybody knew when I was throwing.
"I would have at least four to five guys a day. They want to get better so it was easy to get those guys out there."
Mahomes, who added that he threw to every skill position player on the Chiefs at least once this offseason, has already garnered that respect from some of the other veteran leaders on that side of the ball.
"He's not shy about taking a lead, and that makes it easier on all of us to see the direction of where this thing can go," Travis Kelce—the All-Pro tight end who finds himself, even at just 28 years old, as one of the older players on the offense—added of those workouts this offseason with Mahomes.
"I tried to simulate it as if there was a defense out there," Mahomes said of those workouts, which took place at high schools around the Kansas City area. "I would give the guys the routes and then I would give them certain (defensive) coverages because we run (the routes) differently (against them). I would say 'single safety middle zone' or 'cover two,' and try to let the receivers run the routes how they would run it versus the coverages so that we can build timing and things like that."
It was a way for all of them to communicate amongst themselves and learn how they will all work together.
"Having veteran guys like Chris Conley and (Travis) Kelce and all of those guys that can help explain the routes even better to me—it helps me get a better understanding of what they're thinking," Mahomes added of the kinds of things they'd discuss at those workouts.
All this work is laying the foundation for an offense that has high expectations for this season.
One of the many reasons for so much optimism for this offense has to do with the offseason addition of receiver Sammy Watkins, who joins an offense that already features the league's rushing leader from last year in Kareem Hunt, plus an All-Pro tight end in Kelce, and the league's most-explosive playmaker in Tyreek Hill.
In fact, Watkins was one of just seven receivers in the league last year who averaged at least 15 yards per reception and had seven or more touchdowns, and Hill was another.
"I think we can be one of, if not the best offense in the NFL," Mahomes added. "We have a ton of talent everywhere and we're deep at every position. For me, it's all about just getting them the ball and letting them make the plays."
And after only spending a little time with Watkins so far this offseason, Mahomes has already come away impressed.
"I knew he had the speed, and I knew he had the athleticism to be a great receiver, but he's just getting introduced to these routes now and to see how smooth he is already in and out of transitions, it's impressive to see," Mahomes explained.
And when it comes to things like establishing himself as a leader—something he knows that's more about time and action than words, Mahomes said it's simply about putting in the work with the guys every day.
"It comes with all of this offseason work, the weight room, the running," he said. "If you're giving it your all every single day, people will respect you and respect whenever you say anything on the field."
Luckily for the Chiefs, nobody had to tell Mahomes to do any of this. It's just who he is and what he's about.
"He's got some natural leadership ability," Reid noted. "We appreciated it when he was in college, and it was one of the things that attracted us to him."