Last year, Patrick Mahomes became the first rookie quarterback in almost 30 years to start and win a game for the Kansas City Chiefs.
He did that in Week 17 against the Denver Broncos—orchestrating a game-winning two-minute drive at the end of that one that showed fans why they should be excited about a player who hadn’t yet stepped on the field at that point.
And it’s not as if the Chiefs haven’t won a lot of games over the past 30 years, because they have, but it’s never been with a young quarterback they’ve brought up through their system and one they drafted.
That’s not the case anymore.
Now, as we get ready for Mahomes and company to take the field next week at training camp on the campus of Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph, there’s a new era of Chiefs’ football being ushered in to a new generation of Chiefs’ fans.
It’s one full of hope, excitement, and intrigue, and standing in the center of it all is a young quarterback who has had all the comparisons discussed of his abilities, and none of which really mean anything.
“You see it,” Mahomes acknowledged. “You watch ESPN, or you watch other networks and you see that stuff. But for me, I’m just trying to come in and play football. As a kid, you dream of the moments being able to play in NFL games, and so I’m just enjoying that and trying to win a lot of games doing it.”
The Chiefs might not know exactly what they have yet in Mahomes—often citing the fact that even with a load of natural talent—there’s still a learning curve to playing the highest level of football in the world with just one career game under your belt. They know it’s going to take some time and patience.
But the indications coming off an offseason program that had Mahomes respond to the challenges of a 20-year veteran NFL head coach in Andy Reid, who currently ranks ninth in NFL history with 194 career wins, means the boxes are being checked.
“We wanted to come in and make sure we challenged him,” Reid explained. “I thought he handled that very well. One of the big things for young kids is just the blitz game, so we put a big emphasis on that and tried to give him a lot of different looks there. (Chiefs’ Defensive Coordinator) Bob [Sutton] can do that. He’s got a pretty good package with blitzes.
“I thought [Mahomes] handled that very well, even better than I expected. Again, I also tried to challenge him with a number of plays, and he handled it very well, too”
Reid then went into a little detail on what he meant by Mahomes overcoming all of the other challenges he was facing during offseason workouts.
“If it’s a Cover 3, you’ve got this read, if it’s a Cover 2, you’ve got this read,” Reid explained. “[Mahomes] just kind of snapped through that. Our defense does a lot of disguising, so you’re doing that as the ball is coming to you. I thought he handled all of that well.
“The little things—the snap count, he was well over 50 percent of changing the snap count up and moving it around. Getting in and out of the huddle, I mean, we clock everything so I have an idea of how he’s doing with that and with the verbiage of the plays and he handled that really well.
“It just kind of progressively got better in those areas as we went along.”
Mahomes can expect to be challenged again at training camp—preparing him for a season in which the expectations haven’t changed for the team, despite a major switch at the most difficult position to play in all of sports—starting quarterback.
“I feel like we’re going to have a great season,” Mahomes noted. “We can attack everywhere on the field with different guys and hurt defenses in every aspect of the game.”
Mahomes is referring to the fact that he may have the best set of skill position players around him in the entire NFL—led by arguably the best tight end in the NFL in Travis Kelce, not to mention the league’s reigning rushing champion in Kareem Hunt, a veteran offensive line, and receivers like Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, and Chris Conley, who is coming back from injury and looked to be healthy during offseason workouts.
Watkins and Hill ranked as the best two receivers in the league against off-man coverage last year, and if teams plan on putting safety help over the top of both, the box becomes light for Hunt, and if they don’t and try and press cover them, that’s a recipe for shots down the field.
The relationship and timing between Mahomes and Watkins, who was one of general manager Brett Veach’s prize free-agent signings this offseason, was obvious to everyone watching.
“He made some catches sometimes that I don’t know how are possible,” Mahomes said of Watkins, who is the only receiver in the NFL since 2014 to average at least 15 yards-per-catch, and also have scored at least 25 touchdowns.
With all of the talent in the world and after impressing those around him all offseason—both from an ability and leadership standpoint, Reid wasn’t worried about the four-week break Mahomes was going to get before training camp.
“He’s not one of these guys that you’re going to have to remind to be asked to work,” Reid noted. “That’s not how he goes.”
Well, if you’re a Chiefs’ fan, the one place you need to go this summer is to St. Joseph, Missouri, to watch Mahomes and the rest of this team usher in a new era of Chiefs’ football.
It’s going to be something to remember.