KC Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes has made an interesting change off the field this year

·5 min read
Tammy Ljungblad/tljungblad@kcstar.com

At a recent film session that followed a training camp practice, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid rotated through a collection of offensive plays, stopping to pick at the finer details — footwork, route precision, quarterback read progression and the like. Offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy took a turn next, and then quarterbacks coach Matt Nagy, too.

But after the coaching staff had completed its instructions, before the meeting moved on, one more person stood up in front of the screen.

Patrick Mahomes.

This has become a new thing in training camp this year — Mahomes taking such an active part in portions of film sessions that he outright leading them.

And while it might sound commonplace, it’s actually rare enough that people who have been around football for a long time find it prudent enough to mention. They haven’t seen it before — not exactly like this and certainly not nearly this much from him.

It can be construed as a sign of Mahomes’ growing comfort in Kansas City and within Reid’s offense — but also vice versa. A 64-year-old coach is allowing a 26-year-old quarterback to take the reins for a portion of team meetings. That’s not typically how these things go.

“This is something where (Mahomes) is going up there, and the coaches are running the remote, but he’s talking to the players,” said general manager Brett Veach. “I think you can’t have enough of that — because everyone learns differently.

“The way Pat describes things, sometimes as a player you can’t have enough of that stuff. I’m sure when those guys hear it from him, it’s even more impactful.”

Even without the remote in hand, Mahomes is apparently often barking out the instructions. Most of his words are reserved for the wide receivers — the position group that endured significant turnover this offseason. Tyreek Hill, Demarcus Robinson and Byron Pringle have departed.

In their place, the Chiefs signed JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling and drafted Skyy Moore. That kind of turnover, and we’re speaking generally here, tends to create an early-season learning curve. It probably still will.

But the quarterback is doing all he can to accelerate the process.

“There’s a side (session) where (Reid) lets Patrick go through, and the wide receivers see it from Patrick’s view. That’s awesome,” Nagy said. “The wideouts, they connect. And Patrick’s really good at communicating — ‘hey, you didn’t run the right route; here’s how you should have run it.’ But he does it without hurting their feelings. A rare trait that he has.”

In a significant percentage of the Chiefs’ plays, wide receivers and tight ends have multiple options for how they might run a route. When you see Mahomes correcting a receiver during a game, it’s not necessarily that a receiver ran the wrong route, as much as they ran the opposite route that he expected.

It’s important against any defense, but especially so against the shell defenses that the Chiefs saw so frequently a year ago. They struggled with it at times. After being blown out by Buffalo in Week 5, Mahomes was quick to mention the need to get on the same page as his targets.

Fast-forward months later, and when he speaks during film sessions in camp, he’s often telling a player what he saw from the defense and therefore how a receiver should’ve reacted to it.

“Pat is kind of working them through what he sees, and so they’re getting it from Coach; they’re getting it from E.B.; they’re getting it from Nagy. Now they’re actually getting it from Pat,” Veach said. “There’s that coaching element.”

A week ago, rookie receiver Skyy Moore described his confusion on a play. As a coach described the action, Moore literally tapped Mahomes on the shoulder and asked for clarification, rather than seeking it from a coach. Why not? He’s right there.

“He’s always able to whisper the answer to me or how he wants things done,” Moore said. “So I try to stay close to him.”

It’s an Andy-Reid designed offense. But Mahomes has the keys.

That’s becoming more and more clear this offseason. In more than a keep-the-quarterback-happy transition, the Chiefs have shown a willingness to relinquish control, which, to be fair, cannot be an easy thing to cede for someone who has been a head coach for more than two decades.

Weeks earlier, Reid allowed Mahomes to skip some of the voluntary organized team activities and instead host a mini-camp, of sorts, in his native Texas. Mahomes sent invitations to the team’s wide receivers, tight ends and running backs. Heck, within hours after signing with the Chiefs in February, Justin Watson received his summons. He was taken aback that the other end of the text thread was actually Patrick Mahomes.

Throughout every training camp for the past few seasons, you’ll hear vague mentions of Mahomes being more focused, more determined. It makes for a nice narrative, but what does it actually mean? What does that entail?

This is it. We have obvious evidence.

A player has turned the focus from his own improvements to those of his teammates.

It’s carried to the field, as well. Mahomes has orchestrated some of these learning sessions as other members of the team are taking breaks. When the special teams units are on the field, for example, Mahomes seeks out conversations about plays from earlier in the day. Any receiver could be on the opposite end of the conversation.

If there’s an element of this that fits into a coaching mindset, it’s that — no time wasted.

“It is so neat to see his growth of where he’s at and what he’s done,” Nagy said. “When you walk into that room for the first time and you see him sitting there having four different conversations — three of them are about football and one’s off to the side on something else.

“You see his growth and his leadership. When he’s out here on the football field, it’s just wild to see what type of leader he is. It’s rare.”