Patrick Mahomes looks like an NFL MVP in his first season as a starter with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Since his time as a quarterback with the Texas Tech Red Raiders, Patrick Mahomes has been demonstrating that he has a cannon for an arm that’s worthy of top recognition. Unfortunately, the Tech defense couldn’t find a rhythm in his time there. And while the Kansas City Chiefs’ defense has its own issues, Mahomes has consistently proven why the “system” conversation experts insist on having every season needs to be replaced with praise for inventiveness, grit, and resourcefulness.
With Mahomes being Texas Tech’s top overall pick in program history, and Baker Mayfield taking the first-round spot last year, it’s started another debate on how “system quarterbacks” are fitting in the League. While teams throughout the league from the Rams to the Chiefs are embracing a more avant-garde approach to schematics, perhaps Mahomes’ performance throughout the 2018 season should provide a glimpse into what offensive coordinators should be looking for while updating their playbooks and personnel.
For Patrick Mahomes, however, record after record broken this season, he not only padded his statistics en route to the League MVP title, he also made his supporting cast like tight end Travis Kelce (1,336) appear goliath on the field. With production increases all around, it’s impossible to overlook Mahomes as the leading candidate for the prestigious award.
Mahomes has accounted for 5, 097 passing yards and leads the league with 50 touchdowns. His 8.8 yards-per-pass almost guaranteed a first down on every snap, and while he trails Ben Roethlisberger for No. 1. in the AFC in passing, Mahomes’ YPP averages 1.4 yards more than Roethlisberger’s.
Many of the experts believe the MVP race is between Mahomes and New Orleans Saints’ quarterback Drew Brees. Brees ranks 13th in the NFL in total passing, at 3,992 yards, 32 touchdowns, and a game average of 266.1 yards. If we’re comparing stats solely, league-wide, Mahomes is still the second-best passer in the league.
Mahomes has made throws into windows so tight the reception probability was exceptionally narrow, but if you watched him at Texas Tech, those throws were the standard, making Mahomes one of the most prolific quarterbacks in program history. Now, those improbable throws are turning Mahomes into a one-man highlight reel, and making pundits question every negative thing they’ve said about “system quarterbacks.” Instead, it’s made people begin to understand that every offense that a quarterback develops in is its own “system,” and that it’s become a buzzword to diminish innovation.
Patrick Mahomes throws off balance, he stares down the soul of defenders while connecting with his receivers. He throws oddly angled sidearm passes and evades tackles as only a Big 12 quarterback could. What’s more, Mahomes is only 23 and only has a full season under his belt. He has only shown us the beginning of what he’s capable of, and as the Kansas City Chiefs continue to build the team around him and his progression, the NFL could be witnessing the next Tom Brady-type legend emerge.
Mahomes certainly has had a season for the record books, but his play has elevated him into the levels of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. He was named on Friday to the 2018 NFL All-Pro team, along with Kelce and wide receiver Tyreek Hill, and even broke fantasy football history by posting the greatest fantasy season by a quarterback, with 417 total points.
If the NFL MVP award is truly given to the player who was most valuable to the League, then Patrick Mahomes is it, and it’s not even close. He’s not a prototypical player, and when he took over when Alex Smith was traded last season, it was viewed as the biggest gamble in Andy Reid’s head coaching career. That gamble has paid off, and now Mahomes is consistently outplaying league veterans and rewriting the rules.
T. J. Houshmandzadeh made a case for Mahomes against Drew Brees saying that the NFL MVP shouldn’t be a “lifetime achievement award because it’s a disservice to Patrick Mahomes,” and even dovetails to the contributions Brees has had at defense compared to Mahomes, who has to turn the burners on to compensate where the Chiefs’ defense has lacked this season.
The NFL MVP Award will be selected on February 2, and it’s clear that it’s already becoming one of the most polarizing pre-Super Bowl debates, which could dominate post-season discussions. When Mahomes hit 5,000 yards, he joined an elite group of professional quarterbacks and became the first player ever to throw for 5,000 yards in a season in college and in NFL. To say his talent and electric performances aren’t deserving of the League’s most prestigious award is disrespectful to the sport.
Regardless of the outcome, it’s clear with players like Baker Mayfield and Mahomes and coaches like Reid and Sean McVay, the “system” is here to stay.