Sean Payton on Patrick Mahomes, ‘the best college QB I’ve ever evaluated’

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John Sigler
·2 min read
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New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton appeared on NFL Network’s “Good Morning Football” program to survey the 2021 offseason and preview Super Bowl LV’s matchup between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs — two teams Payton’s Saints took down to the wire in games this year. And the Chiefs are built around quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who nearly wore black and gold himself.

“Yeah, we spent a full day on that campus,” Payton said of his 2017 pre-draft visit to Texas Tech, having flown into Lubbock on the owner’s jet with a handful of assistants. “We came away from there, like, just blown away. Impressed. I know I made the comment that [Mahomes] is the best quarterback, the best college quarterback I’ve ever evaluated.”

At that point, the priority was stealthily hurrying back to the airport and flying out to the next stop on the pro day circuit. But everything Mahomes showed them stuck with Payton: “There were all the other checks, the things you don’t see on video. His personality was fantastic. He was one of those guys probably always hanging out in the gym after high school, he comes from an athletic family. He’s got a bright smile. It was all there.”

Unfortunately, it wasn’t mean to be. New Orleans’ visit to Texas Tech was leaked, along with Payton’s interest in drafting Mahomes. On draft day, the Chiefs traded all the way up from No. 27, leapfrogging the Saints at the last minute before Payton could make the call to pick Mahomes.

“We were picking at 11, Andy [Reid] went to 10,” Payton recounted. “And as soon as that trade took place we knew it was Mahomes. We were staring at Lattimore and Mahomes, so those were two great scenarios. He’s fun to watch and certainly tough to defend.”

While Payton and the Saints have publicly moved on quickly from the missed opportunity to transition from Drew Brees to Mahomes, fans have been left reeling and wondering how things may have gone differently. And if Payton’s extended anecdote is anything to go off of, the Saints may still be privately kicking themselves for not being more aggressive.