Wednesday, June 22, 2022
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Patrick Mahomes has lost his status as the best quarterback in the NFL

The Kansas City Chiefs megastar is no longer the golden standard. 

While superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes bested the Green Bay Packers 13-7 this past Sunday, fans all across the Kingdom saw him make some irregular throws, conservative plays and minimal deep passes. 

He just couldn’t execute appropriately against a limited Packers defense.

However, his poor play started weeks ago. 

Against teams like the Tennessee Titans and the Buffalo Bills, he tossed multiple interceptions, horrendous incompletions and attempted too many “freestyle” plays. He’s managed to beat some lackluster teams (the Philadelphia Eagles and the Washington Football Team), but even then he didn’t look like his 2018 self. 

Currently, he has over 2,500 passing yards and 20 passing touchdowns. All of these statistics place him top ten overall in the NFL. 

However, he’s third in total interceptions (ten), has a career-low passer rating (ranked 21st with 92.5), his average yards per pass have dipped significantly (tied for 13th with 7.0 yards per pass completion), and he is 22nd overall with a 65.2% passing completion. 

Here are some other stats that prove that he’s having a disappointing season:

Fans and football enthusiasts alike are asking themselves the same question: what’s going on with Mahomes? Why is he no longer one of the best quarterbacks in the league?

The answers lie within the beginning of the Mahomes era. 

Mahomes in the past

In 2017, the Chiefs found themselves in a predicament. Former quarterback Alex Smith wasn’t getting any younger, and head coach Andy Reid needed a new quarterback who could jumpstart the offense. 

Once the 2017 NFL Draft arrived, rumors circulated that the Chiefs would move from their original 27th pick to select a passer. Once the draft was underway, quarterbacks like Mahomes and Deshaun Watson started to fall from the top five. Mahomes fell down to the tenth spot, a blessing to the organization. The Chiefs would trade away their 2017 first-round and third-round pick with a 2018 first-round pick to select Mahomes. 

Coach Reid was excited to have someone like Mahomes in the locker room with Smith. After the draft, he said, “He’s going into a great room … he can learn from Alex. We have to be patient with him. Tremendous upside. Good person, intelligent with great skill. We think they’re both really good football players. We just thought, with what we do, Mahomes would fit in well.”

While initial grades from the draft were meh at best, there was faith within Chiefs fans that he would be the savior. 

However, famous draft gurus viewed him as a double-edged sword. 

According to Mahomes’ profile made by premiere NFL draft analyst Lance Zierlein, here are some of his strengths and weaknesses coming out of college:

Strengths:

  • “Can deliver strikes from a variety of arm angles.”
  • “Has pocket mobility to escape pressure and the poise to extend plays and find alternate targets.”
  • “Naturally accurate in his every day throws.” 
  • “Can make deep, field side throws.”
  • “Competes as a runner and is willing to go the extra mile for the first down.”
  • “Puts effort into play-action fakes.”

Weaknesses:

  • “Needs to play inside the offense and show more discipline.”
  • “Too eager to go big game hunting.”
  • “Impatient.”
  • “Operates from a narrow base and allows his upper body and arm to race ahead of his feet.”
  • “Will leave the pocket prematurely rather than standing in and winning in rhythm.”
  • “Needs to improve anticipatory reads and learn to take what the defense gives him.”

Throughout 2017, a benched Mahomes watched one of the best game-managers in the league. As each practice passed, the gunslinger impressed Chiefs coaches more and more. 

After a disappointing playoff season, the status of the quarterback room in 2018 was unknown. There were two choices: either continue to start a veteran who plays it safe, or take a gamble and start the young arm who can spark the offense. 

The Chiefs would choose the latter, trading away Smith to the Washington Football Team. The Chiefs handed Mahomes the keys to the franchise.

Flash forward to 2020 and Mahomes had built quite an impressive resume. He was the 2018 MVP, a 2019 AFC champion, the 2020 Super Bowl champion and the 2020 Super Bowl MVP. 

On July 6, 2020, he signed a record ten-year contract worth ​​almost $500 million to no one’s surprise.

Football fans loved his ability to scramble out of the pocket while making impossible throws look normal. He sacrificed his body on runs, including the infamous touchdown run in the AFC Championship against the Titans. All of his draft profile strengths were on full display. He was given the title of the G.O.A.T. at his respective position after his miraculous 2018 performance, which included over 5,000 passing yards and 50 touchdowns. 

The 2020-2021 NFL season was no different for Mahomes. He continued his offensive onslaught, leading to a 14-2 record. He also made headlines during an episode of HBO’s The Shop when he said he “didn’t understand how to read defense until halfway through last year.” 

Just imagine, the NFL’s proclaimed G.O.A.T played great football, not knowing how to read different defensive schemes. Yeesh. 

For a moment, it seemed like Mahomes and the Chiefs were unstoppable. With a shoddy offensive line, but a great passing game, the reigning Super Bowl champs found ways to win in the playoffs. Even an injury to Mahomes couldn’t stop them from winning. 

Once they defeated the Buffalo Bills in the 2021 AFC Championship game, the 2021 Super Bowl odds were in the Chiefs’ favor. That was until the Tampa Bay Buccaneers gifted every NFL head coach the formula to shut down the league’s best quarterback. 

All they did was drop back two safeties deep, send everyone else in coverage and have the defensive line blitz. Those three changes messed up Mahomes and the entire offensive game plan. The former MVP started to show some of his weaknesses from his college days. 

Mahomes barely stayed inside the pocket. He scrambled all over the field, trying to make something out of nothing. He constantly looked downfield, trying too hard to make a deep throw, and his impatience led to dire consequences. 

The Chiefs would lose to the Buccaneers 31-9. Mahomes’ stat line was lackluster, with 270 passing yards, barely completing 50% of his throws, no touchdowns and two interceptions. 

After this heartbreaking loss, many blamed the Chiefs’ offensive line for Mahomes’ terrible performance. So in a heartbeat, general manager Brett Veach made every move possible to protect the expensive face of their franchise. 

Once the offensive line was reconfigured, which included Joe Thuney (via free agency), Orlando Brown (via trade), Creed Humphrey (via draft), and Trey Smith (via draft), the Chiefs put opposing teams on notice. Many expected the Chiefs to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl with an offense built for Mahomes and a bend-don’t-break defense. 

Welp, so much for all the built-up hype. 

Current troubles

Teams are exposing the Chiefs’ offense by following Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl formula. Mahomes’ college weaknesses are coming to fruition once again, and he is no longer the G.O.A.T. of the NFL. 

To find his way back to former glory, Mahomes needs to draw inspiration from three quarterbacks that are vastly superior: Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford. 

As the seven-time Super Bowl champion, Brady doesn’t carry the athletic gifts that Mahomes has or even the abilities that many other dual threats show off on the field. His intelligence, genius decision making and pocket mobility have always made him the best to live.

In his 20+ years of playing in the NFL, Brady has over 600 touchdowns and about 200 interceptions — a 3:1 ratio. He’s never thrown 15 picks in a season and has only two seasons where he didn’t pass for at least 3,000, and he isn’t athletic! 

Simply, his ability to make the right plays at the right time, his footwork inside the pocket, and the confidence he had with his whole offense have kept him afloat for years.

Rodgers is known as “a bad man” for a good reason as well. As a Green Bay Packer, he’s thrown for 400+ touchdowns and only 91 interceptions. When he starts for 15+ games (which would be 11 seasons), Rodgers has thrown for over 3,800 yards. 

He can feel the opposing pass rush when the pressure comes. His arm and feet have made some impressive plays throughout the years, even with a limited offense. On top of that, he can make all the intelligent throws that other quarterbacks can’t, inside or outside the pocket.

All of these qualities make him one of the best to ever play.

Meanwhile, Stafford is also in a league of his own. In his entire career with the underwhelming Detroit Lions, he has shown a mix of both a dynamic arm and patience. 

The cannon-armed quarterback can make any throw inside the pocket, but occasionally will run outside to make a game-changing play. He goes through his progressions flawlessly and hits the intended target in stride. 

While the start of his career was anything but superb, his progress over time has led him to be one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the NFL. He’s even made some plays that Mahomes would make in the past. 

In total, Stafford has tossed for over 45,000 yards, 282 touchdowns and only 144 interceptions, with 21 of those picks coming in the first two years of his career. Meanwhile, in every season he has started in 16 games (nine out of 13 seasons), he’s averaged 4,423 yards, 27 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. 

However, his years of constant injuries make his stats unbelievable. These injuries included torn ligaments, ankle sprains, thumb sprains, finger fractures, finger dislocations, and a shoulder A/C joint separation at the start of his career. All of these have occurred due to lousy offensive line play. 

Suppose Mahomes wants to reclaim his status as the best, but most importantly, steer the Chiefs back to the right course. In that case, he’s going to have to rely on three essential people: Reid, offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, and himself. 

Reid and Bieniemy need to re-design the offensive playbook to take advantage of what defenses are showing. They must return to the west-coast style of offense that made Alex Smith a solid quarterback years ago. If other teams play consistent zone coverages, Reid must rely on his offensive line and running backs to gain yards and open up more plays later on. 

Meanwhile, Mahomes needs to stay patient inside the pocket like Brady and Stafford. He can’t run outside the pocket all the time and expect to make plays consistently. He must understand the coverages given to him and throw the ball quickly to the first open target. 

Also, his footwork inside the pocket has to improve. Quarterbacks like Rodgers can dance in the pocket while feeling the pressure all around him, and it all starts with footwork. Mahomes’ feet are still very sloppy, which leads to untimely sacks in crucial moments.

With all his issues, Mahomes no longer deserves the status of the G.O.A.T. at the quarterback position. It’s time for him to step out of his rookie mentality and become the apex of the NFL. 

camtkb@umsystem.edu

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