Sport: With Patrick Mahomes' new contract, the paradigm shift is complete

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Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes made league history on Monday, when it was reported that he agreed to a ten-year contract extension with the defending Super Bowl Champions. ESPN’s Adam Schefter was first with the news of the ten-year deal, and then Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero from the NFL Network filled in some of the details:

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This massive contract, which will rework the quarterback contract landscape, completes a process that Mahomes moved along his first season as a starting quarterback: The offensive paradigm shift that has been unfolding in front of us over the past five years or so in the NFL.

This, at least, was an argument I advanced in a piece for Pro Football Weekly back during the 2018. A piece that had a rather unusual starting point.

Thomas S. Kuhn.

A philosopher by trade, in the 1960s Kuhn published a history of science titled “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.” In this work, now viewed seminal in the area, Kuhn challenged the then-widely held theories of scientific evolution. At the time, people in scientific fields believed that change was made through a series of small steps, a “development-by-accumulation” model where scientists would change and alter their theories based upon gaining small bits of new information or data. Kuhn shattered that model, positing that scientific evolution – or revolution as he termed it – was due to larger scale shifts. That periods of “revolutionary science” would shatter the old models and create new “paradigms.”

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Kuhn, perhaps foreshadowing the resistance that might be in place in the NFL, wrote this about how the “old guard” would try and stave off drastic change:

Lifelong resistance, particularly from those whose productive careers have committed them to an older tradition of normal science, is not a violation of scientific standards but an index to the nature of scientific research itself. The source of resistance is the assurance that the older paradigm will ultimately solve all its problems, that nature can be shove into the box that the paradigm provides. Inevitability, at times of revolution, that assurance seems stubborn and pigheaded, as it sometimes becomes.” Thomas S. Kuhn “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” pp 151-152

Now think back, for a moment, to the draft evaluation process with respect to Mahomes.

Coming out of Texas Tech, and an Air Raid offense, Mahomes was viewed with skepticism in many NFL circles. In this Pelissero piece from April of 2017 this passage is illuminating:

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Mahomes has been scrutinized as much as any other quarterback by NFL teams — 15 of which brought him in for a private workout and/or visit. (The Cleveland Browns, Chicago Bears, Arizona Cardinals and the New York Jets did both.) Those who have spoken with Mahomes say there’s a lot he doesn’t know but nothing in his makeup to suggest he can’t figure it out. His recall is excellent.

“He was the Big 12 scholar athlete of the year, so evidently he’s smart,” Mahomes’ father said. “He picks up stuff quick.”

Some NFL coaches are fundamentally opposed to drafting anyone from an “Air Raid”-type offense, a term Kingsbury says is misused as it pertains to Texas Tech. Pro Football Hall of Fame executive Bill Polian, among others, has been publicly dismissive of Mahomes as a legitimate prospect.

Beyond the offense he ran, there were questions about his mechanics, and many who thought that Mahomes would never be able to execute at a high level as a result. Even some of his biggest games in college, such as a huge shootout against Baker Mayfield and Oklahoma, were used as evidence against him. Evidence that, in that game at least, he was an undraftable quarterback.

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However, those who did believe, had their reasons as well.

a group of baseball players playing a football game: Mahomes didn't have the NFL's highest passer rating under pressure in 2019 -- that went to Drew Brees (98.6) to Mahomes' 90.4. But no quarterback was more prolific when creating scoring plays -- the reigning Super Bowl MVP threw 12 touchdowns to just three picks, with 1,170 yards. © File photo Mahomes didn't have the NFL's highest passer rating under pressure in 2019 -- that went to Drew Brees (98.6) to Mahomes' 90.4. But no quarterback was more prolific when creating scoring plays -- the reigning Super Bowl MVP threw 12 touchdowns to just three picks, with 1,170 yards.

(Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports)

It became apparent early in his first year as a starter that Mahomes would indeed accelerate the shift in offensive paradigms in the league. Rather than force him to be something he was not, Andy Reid played to his strengths – and perhaps more importantly his background – when Mahomes took over as the full-time starter in the 2018 campaign.

Look at this touchdown throw from Mahomes’ first start of the 2018 season, his second start in the league. This play comes on what some might consider a “college-type design,” a mesh fake between Mahomes and his running back in the backfield and a quick slant from Tyreek Hill. Two things to watch on this play: The throw Mahomes makes with a defensive lineman in his lap, and the window he delivers this pass into:

a group of people playing football on a field © Provided by Touchdown Wire

Even when things break down a bit, and there is pressure up front, the designs and execution make the throwing window an easier one to throw into, raising the odds of success. Mahomes’ ability to make throws from any throwing platform and from any arm angle, while not sacrificing velocity or placement, make him incredibly difficult to defend. Yes there is a run/pass element here, with the potential run action and sliding blockers in front of the running back, yet this play at its core is a slant/flat concept, a West Coast staple for years. But the added element of the run look in the backfield, coupled with a quarterback well versed at making quick decisions and off-platform throws that are prevalent in spread and Air Raid systems, make it that much harder to defend. A precision strikingly better than its older competitor, to use Kuhn’s words again.

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And, for those who questioned Mahomes’ inability to make anticipation throws, look at when he releases this ball. Hill has yet to cross behind the underneath defender, but Mahomes throws him open to space.

Mahomes pushed the paradigm further when he began to stress defenses using designs that are ripped from Air Raid playbooks. Such as this 2018 touchdown strike against the Pittsburgh Steelers:

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The route concept implemented here has its Air Raid roots. Hill runs a straight vertical route but Chris Conley and Travis Kelce run double posts, or DINO, a concept that you can see in almost any Air Raid playbook, from Lincoln Riley to Mike Leach and Larry Fedora. The Steelers align with two deep safeties, but with Hill on the boundary the safety over the trips formation widens, worried about Hill’s speed on the boundary..and for another reason, as we will see in a moment. But because of the width between the safeties, Kelce is able to split them for another fairly easy throw, for a TD.

Now look at the end zone angle. Watch the eyes from Mahomes. Upon the snap he flashes his eyes toward the boundary, and Hill, putting the safety into peril. At the last moment he turns back toward the middle of the field, and finds Kelce for the score:

a group of football players on a field © Provided by Touchdown Wire

This isn’t against a Big 12 defense, but Mahomes makes it look like one. The conventional rules go out the window when the quarterback is making no-look passes on a Sunday afternoon against the teeth of the Steelers’ defense.

So by incorporating familiar offensive designs for Mahomes into his playbook, Andy Reid pushed the offensive paradigm further into the future, and helped his young passer enjoy a huge breakout season. However, that 2018 campaign ended on a chilly January night in Arrowhead Stadium, as the visiting New England Patriots pulled out a win in overtime in the AFC Championship Game. Mahomes might have missed out on a Super Bowl appearance in his first year as a starter, but as we saw last year, perhaps his best football was yet to come.

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a group of football players playing a football game: Patrick Mahomes: $5.3 million (Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports) © File photo Patrick Mahomes: $5.3 million (Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

(Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

Facing Bill Belichick on the road is the ultimate litmus test for any young passer.

During the 2018 season, Mahomes lost at Gillette Stadium in another thrilling game between the Chiefs and the Patriots that was decided in the closing seconds, on a Steven Gostkowski field goal. But this past year, Mahomes had a chance to go into Foxborough and pull out a win. Early in the second quarter, the Chiefs faced a 3rd and 19 near midfield, not exactly ideal conditions to move the chains, but Mahomes pulled it off:

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So much goes into this conversion from the quarterback. Kansas City begins this play in a Y-Iso alignment, with Kelce alone on the right side of the formation. Mahomes sees a safety down shaded near the box over the tight end, and anticipates a potential bracket coverage on Kelce. Given how Belichick has defended Kelce in the past, as well as he defended tight ends such as Zach Ertz in 2019 (like using Stephon Gilmore on him for critical downs) Mahomes would be right to expect such a coverage.

But right before the snap, the Patriots rotate their coverage and the safeties drop into a two-high look and use man coverage principles underneath. So Mahomes needs to diagnose that, which he does. Then, he needs to buy a little time for this play, given the yardage they need to gain, which he does. That, however, comes at a cost. Jamie Collins, the Patriots linebacker, brings late pressure in the form of a green dog blitz after spying the quarterback, which the QB has to stare down before releasing this throw.

Which he puts right on Hill to move the chains.

Look at this play from the end zone angle for a true appreciation of what Mahomes did:

a group of people playing a game of football © Provided by Touchdown Wire

You cannot make this throw without the arm talent – which we know Mahomes possesses – or without the mental acumen to read the rotation, understand and feel where the pressure is coming from, and the mental toughness to hang in the pocket with Collins closing down on you.

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Fast forward to the AFC Championship Game.

Everyone remembers the run Mahomes pulled off before halftime, to give the Chiefs the lead before the second quarter ended. But that run was set in motion by another third down conversion that is a prime example of the offensive paradigm shift concept, and Mahomes’ own growth as a passer.

Facing a 3rd and 3, the Chiefs bring Mecole Hardman in motion pre-snap from right to left. For context, in the first quarter Kansas City scored their first touchdown of the game when Mahomes simply flipped the football to Hill after using this same motion, on a fly sweep. Now, the Tennessee Titans are looking for that potential play from Mahomes and a flip to Hardman.

Instead, the rookie releases to the flat and the Chiefs run another Air Raid staple: Mesh Sit. Two routes cross underneath while Sammy Watkins sits down over the top of the crossers.

Mahomes sees immediately that the Titans drop into a zone coverage scheme and look to wall off both routes underneath. He also feels pressure off his left edge in the form of Harold Landry. So the QB needs to buy just enough time and space, after making the right coverage read, to find Watkins over the top of the crossers.

He does just that:

  With Patrick Mahomes' new contract, the paradigm shift is complete © Provided by Touchdown Wire

Again, the end zone angle, which displays Mahomes creating time in the pocket with his feet and feel, and the throw to Watkins through the teeth of the defense:

  With Patrick Mahomes' new contract, the paradigm shift is complete © Provided by Touchdown Wire

Two plays later, Mahomes would tightrope along the left sideline for 27 yards, into both the end zone, and NFL lore.

Then, of course, you cannot discuss Mahomes’ 2019 season without at least mentioning the Super Bowl, and the huge conversion late to Hill:

a crowd of people in a field © Provided by Touchdown Wire

Richard Sherman retreats a few steps right before the snap, and then one safety drops down after the snap. The 49ers are indeed in zone coverage, but instead are running a three-high zone coverage called Cover 6 Buzz. The weak safety is the safety rotating down while the strongside safety drops to the deep middle of the field.

Watkins runs a deep in route, and the outside cornerback to the top of the screen has to respect that route because he has no safety help over the top. Kelce also runs a deep crosser, which draws the attention of the linebackers and the safety rotating down into the box. That allows Hill to get vertical and it creates a one-on-one with him and the free safety, and the FS is in a bad spot.

Mahomes does all this with pressure bearing down on him in the form of DeForest Bucker, and the added pressure of the fact that the Super Bowl was on the line.

We all know how that ended.

Which leads us to this news of Mahomes’ contract, and the completion of the paradigm shift. The thought that he would be an unlikely NFL quarterback seems so outdated now, but was almost conventional wisdom just a few years ago. Andy Reid, by playing to Mahomes’ past as a quarterback, found the way to unlock the quarterback that he could become. Mahomes, from there, built upon that early success with his mental growth as a passer combined with his incredible traits for the position.

In the years since then, we have seen other quarterbacks viewed with similar skepticism have success, thanks to their respective coaches pushing that paradigm of offensive philosophy into the future. Deshaun Watson, under the guidance of Bill O’Brien (as much as we here at Touchdown Wire like to give the coach grief) has become the passer that only a few thought he could be coming out of Clemson. Following in the footsteps of Mahomes is of course Lamar Jackson, who had his own breakout season ago with the Baltimore Ravens, running a very diverse offense with vertical concepts, heavy tight end packages and designed runs.

By drawing more from the experience of their young QBs, and less from their own experience as coaches, offensive minds such as Reid and Eric Bieniemy, O’Brien, Greg Roman and others have changed the future of offensive thought. As the NFL is a copycat league, you can expect to see more and more coaches turn their offenses over to their young passers, in an effort to duplicate what Mahomes and others have done.

And with the news of this contract, there are sure to be more passers following in Mahomes’ footsteps, financially speaking, in the years to come.

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Chris Jones shares how Patrick Mahomes helped get Chiefs contract extension done .
Mahomes didn’t hide his excitement when Jones’ extension was announced, and it certainly seems he played an indirect role in making it happen. Jones credits him for it, anyway. Jones had nine sacks last season for the Chiefs after collecting 15.5 in 2018. The 26-year-old is now locked up by Kansas City through 2023.Subscribe to Yardbarker's Morning Bark, the most comprehensive newsletter in sports. Customize your email to get the latest news on your favorite sports, teams and schools. Emailed daily.

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