KANSAS CITY, Mo. — When the Chiefs drafted Patrick Mahomes last season, head coach Andy Reid immediately said that every quarterback puts his own stamp on the West Coast offense, and if the team’s offseason program is any sign that process looks well underway with the rookie gunslinger running the show.
“There’s definitely a little bit more flavor to what I like,” Mahomes said Thursday during his final session with the media before heading home for the break before training camp.
Indeed, every move the Chiefs made on offense this past offseason has a connection toward evolving the team’s approach on that side of the ball. The club delivered a $48 million, three-year contract to wide receiver Sammy Watkins, surrounding Mahomes with an arsenal of playmakers that might be unmatched in the league. Even below the radar moves such as the acquisition of running backs, receivers and tight ends for backup roles places a premium on athletic pass catchers who can play multiple roles in an evolving offense.
Chris Conley, the vocal veteran leader in wide receiver room bridging the Alex Smith and Mahomes eras, already sees a difference.
“Right now we’ve been very multiple in our sets,” Conley said. “We’ve added a couple of new personnels that move and shuffle everyone around to every spot, literally every spot.”
Or as Mahomes puts it, “We can attack everywhere on the field with different guys.”
Reid appears pushing past the notion of defined roles for specific players on offense. Instead there are five playmakers on the field on every play who can lineup up anywhere at anytime depending on where the weakest spot of the defense appears.
“That’s the kind of the thing we get whenever we have guys like Travis Kelce who’s a tight end but basically a receiver,” Mahomes said. “And then you have guys like Sammy Watkins who’s a big receiver, then you have a small receiver with Tyreek Hill. We have guys everywhere that can really hurt defenses in every aspect of the game.”
Reid’s plan hinges on the ability of Mahomes to quickly grow into the role. Rather than merely trying to build up the confidence of the young quarterback, Reid chose to push him this offseason to see how much Mahomes could handle.
“One of the things that we did was we wanted to come in and make sure we challenged him and I thought he handle that very well,” Reid said.
That mean testing Mahomes with the things that often perplex young quarterbacks, particularly blitzes and zone coverages. Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton didn’t hold back when throwing everything he could at the new franchise quarterback.
“Coach Sutton was throwing a lot out there but at the same time I thought it’s going to help me a ton in the season,” Mahomes said.
The quarterback passed the test with flying colors.
“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,” Reid said. “And Bob can do that, he’s got a pretty good package of blitzes. And I thought he handled that very well, even better than I expected.”
Mahomes also showed Reid progression with reading zone defenses, which seemed a challenge at times for the quarterback during last year’s training camp.
“I saw him picking those up even quicker,” Reid said. “So if it’s a cover three you got this read, if it’s a cover two you’ve got this read. And he just kind of snapped through that, and our defense does a lot of disguising.”
Yet with just one NFL start under his belt, Mahomes remains a work in progress. He continues feeling his way through what he can and cannot do on the field. He also continues striving for balance between aggressively pushing the ball down field versus taking the easy gain.
“There’s sometimes I might overthrow Tyreek trying to go for a big shot instead of taking the check down,” Mahomes explained. “And there’s sometimes where I just need to work on working the 10-yard completion and moving the chains.”
But when the team’s emphasis on motion and personnel groups create a mismatch, that’s where Mahomes sees his skill set making a difference between his brand of the West Coast offense and the other quarterbacks who have come before him.
“Of course every quarterback is different,” Mahomes said. “But at the same time, a lot of that stuff has had success for many years so we’re going to try to make sure we’re perfect at all the bases of it and then being able to have a specialty play every once in a while in the game.”