Alex Smith was ‘the greatest thing’ for Patrick Mahomes
Patrick Mahomes took the league by storm when he became the starting quarterback in Kansas City, but this is the year he doesn’t game that played perhaps the biggest role in his trajectory as a superstar.
Mahomes’ memorable first season as the Chiefs’ top quarterback saw him win the NFL’s Most Valuable Player award and nearly lead Kansas City to the Super Bowl. A year later, he won a Lombardi Trophy with a furious comeback in Super Bowl LIV. And it all came after spending a season learning behind Alex Smith.
This period of football history is revisited now because another quarterback – Ryan Tannehill of Tennessee – has publicly stated that it was not his job to mentor his eventual replacement, rookie Malik Willis. Tannehill’s stance makes sense, of course, but it’s important to note that Chiefs coach Andy Reid didn’t expect Smith to help Mahomes either.
“I said to Alex, ‘Man, go out and have the best year you’ve ever had, and you don’t have to teach Pat,'” Reid says Colin Cowherd of Fox Sports Last week. “We are here to do that as coaches. You are there to produce and win matches and do your best for your team. “And that’s how we approached it with him.
“Now Alex, by nature, however, was the greatest thing that ever happened to Pat Mahomes…Alex let Patrick into his world unforced…So it worked out (perfectly). I didn’t I have to say a lot more than, “Go play and win games, let’s win a championship, and do your best at quarterback.”
The 2017 season saw Mahomes comfortably relax on the sidelines while absorbing as much wisdom as possible from Smith, who entered a career year, completing 67.5% of his passes for 4,042 yards, a touchdown ratio to interception of 26-5 and a passer rating of 104.7. Those numbers were enough to earn Smith a trip to the Pro Bowl as the quarterback led the Chiefs to an AFC West title and playoff appearance.
A year later, the Chiefs raised their ceiling with Mahomes, and they haven’t looked back.
Tannehill has found himself in the crosshairs of criticism since his honest response regarding his own future with the Titans, but perhaps we should take the pressure off the veteran quarterback who had to complete his own comeback to reverse his fortunes in the NFL. Tannehill replaced Marcus Mariota at Tennessee in 2019, earning Pro Bowl honors while helping the Titans on an unlikely run to the AFC Championship Game where they fell – you guessed it – the Chiefs of Mahomes.
Since then, he’s been Tennessee’s entrenched starter, but his own struggles (including a three-steel outing in a divisional round loss to Cincinnati) have forced the Titans to consider a Tannehill-less future they’ve been preparing for. selecting Willis in the 2022 NFL. Draft. Willis is seen as a player who has the physical tools to thrive, but could use a year on the bench learning from behind a veteran in a process similar to that which helped Mahomes quickly become a superstar.
Naturally, Tannehill isn’t about to help speed up the process of his replacement by sharing his secrets with Willis. Instead, he’ll play as a returning starter from Tennessee and let it all play out from there.