The Patrick Mahomes’ era in Kansas City has officially begun, and the young gunslinger takes over a Chiefs’ offense that’s chock-full of dynamic skill position players.
This includes a trio that rivals any in the league with the NFL’s reigning rushing champion in Kareem Hunt, the NFL’s leader among tight ends with 2,183 yards receiving over the past two years in Travis Kelce, and receiver Tyreek Hill, who has already scored 12 touchdowns of 40-plus yards in his career, which is more than 23 NFL teams have over that same time span.
Mahomes is tasked with spreading the ball around to that group of guys, which also now includes the newly-signed free agent receiver Sammy Watkins, who over the past four years ranks sixth in the league by averaging 15.9 yards per reception.
It’s all led to a level of optimism that’s palpable around Kansas City.
In his only start last year, Mahomes went on the road in Week 17 and helped lead the Chiefs to a win over the Denver Broncos, finishing that game 22 of 35 (62.9 percent) for 284 yards and an interception.
The performance that night also included a game-winning two-minute drive with a number of other backups on the field, and this was also after Mahomes thought his night was finished. He was pulled from the game and only reentered when it became a possibility that the Chiefs might not win.
Mahomes showed Chiefs’ head coach Andy Reid that night that the stage wasn’t too big for him.
“This kid is ready to go. He’s ready to go ahead and lead,’” Reid recalled thinking after that win over the Broncos.
On that final drive—when it mattered the most, Mahomes finished 4 of 5 for 52 yards, setting up kicker Harrison Butker’s 30-yard game-winning field goal as time expired.
To go one step farther in discussing Mahomes’ performances that day, he finished 5 of 7 for 93 yards on third down, which included one drop on a pass in the end zone.
“He gives you the confidence that he’s going to be OK,” Reid added of his young quarterback.
Looking ahead, Mahomes has already embraced his new role heading into 2018—leading daily offseason passing workouts organized through group text chats with the other offensive players on the Chiefs’ roster. He said he threw to every player on the roster at some point over the offseason as guys were in and out of Kansas City.
None of this means there will be instant success with Mahomes. He’s still a young quarterback with a lot to learn—something both he and Reid have mentioned often this offseason, but it is exactly the kind of start you’re looking for from him as he takes over his new responsibilities.
With the additions of veteran quarterbacks Chad Henne and Matt McGloin this offseason, who both bring some experience to the position, the battle for the No. 2 job behind Mahomes is up for grabs and one to watch moving forward.
It’s a position that will obviously be important should they ever have to step in and play, but it’s also important for that position to serve as a sounding board for Mahomes.
Henne, who has been the league for 10 years and worked with six different offensive coordinators over that time, recently said that he embraces the role of helping out a younger player—something he’s done multiple times throughout his career.
“I think it’s just kind of always been in me,” Henne explained of why the mentor role suits him well. “I think it’s the unselfishness. It’s just a lot of fun for me, not only as myself as a player grow, but if I can give back because this league has given so much to me, why not give as much as I can?
“I mean, being with (Jaguars’ quarterback) Blake Bortles, and Blaine Gabbert (before that)—those kind of guys, and just seeing Blake grow in the last four years, it’s been a lot of fun for me.”
Henne, who has started 53 games in his career—completing 59.3 percent of his passes with 58 touchdowns and 63 interceptions over that time—said he’s actually met Mahomes before.
“I actually met Pat last year,” he said. “He came into Jacksonville for a visit, just briefly shook his hand, but seemed like a good country boy which is kind of cool. Definitely a lot of talent. I’ve seen bits and pieces of film on him just being in Jacksonville, but he played that last game against Denver, strong arm, seems to have right kind of head on his shoulders, which is great.
“I think he just has a great work ethic from what I’ve heard, so I think that’s cool.”
McGloin, who spent last season with the Houston Texans, is best remembered for his four years with the Oakland Raiders (2013-16).
During that time, McGloin made seven starts and completed 58.1 percent of his passes with 11 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He played collegiately at Penn State and went undrafted in 2013.
And finally, the fourth quarterback on the Chiefs’ roster for OTAs this year is former Marshall standout Chase Litton, who signed as a college free agent with the Chiefs after the draft. He was with the Chiefs a couple of weeks ago for the three-day rookie minicamp.
According to the legendary personnel man Gil Brandt, Litton (6’5”, 230 pounds) was the top undrafted free agent quarterback available this year.
Litton played in 34 games in his three-year career at Marshall and completed 60 percent of his passes for 3,115 yards with 25 touchdowns and 14 interceptions last season.
“Litton is an early entrant who has the size and enough arm talent to potentially pique the interest of an NFL team looking to develop a big pocket passer,” per NFL.com’s pre-draft scouting report.
While most of the focus (and rightfully so) on the Chiefs’ quarterback situation has to do with the uber-talented, yet unproven young starter in Mahomes, the battle for the other spots should be fun to watch throughout offseason workouts as well.