When Patrick Mahomes II finally received his playbook from the Chiefs on Friday night, it didn’t take him long to start going to work.
“I studied all night,” Mahomes said. “I’m trying to stay on it.”
Mahomes, who recently became the first quarterback the Chiefs have taken in the first round since 1983, wanted to make a positive first impression with his new teammates on Saturday, the beginning of the Chiefs’ three-day rookie minicamp.
Doing that, he knew, would not only require a knowledge of the plays they’d be running that day, but an ability to spit them out in the huddle — something he never did at Texas Tech.
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“We know he can throw the football,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said of Mahomes. “It’s a matter of getting in, getting the verbiage down and the formations, making sure he’s comfortable with that. It’s a good period to learn. There will be a lot of that going on.”
Indeed, for a quarterback blessed with prodigious arm talent and a playmaking moxie, the Chiefs’ extensive offensive verbiage — a vaunted part of Andy Reid’s offense — will likely be his biggest hurdle to playing time.
“There’s no easy way,” Reid explained. “You’ve got to get in the playbook, then you have to stand in front of a mirror and call this stuff. You have no chance to repeat when you’re out here. So if you’re having to repeat in the mirror, you’re probably going to have a problem when you get out here.”
But Reid wasn’t afraid to challenge Mahomes’ ability to consume the playbook. He’s a smart guy, so Reid gave him a little more than normal for day one, as part of an ongoing effort to give him enough to challenge him but still allow him to function.
“Everything won’t be pretty today,” Reid said before Saturday’s practice, “but he’ll do alright. You’ll get an idea of what it’s all about.”
Indeed, as Mahomes’ first practice as a Chief featured about what you’d expect. He showed off the gun early on by repeatedly attempting to slice the ball through a strong wind during a drill — it wobbled some, but it often got there — and there were some impressive throws and tight spirals, particularly into the deep and intermediate portions of the field.
There were also some strike-zone issues, spirals thrown so hard they were dropped at point-blank range, and a handful of questionable attempts into coverage.
It was the complete Mahomes package, one that wouldn’t surprise anyone who watched the 6-foot-2, 225-pound Texan light it up at Texas Tech.
“I come in with a little bit of pressure, but it’s Alex’s team — Alex (Smith) is the starting quarterback,” Mahomes said. “So I have time to really work on my game and become ready and available for whenever Coach Reid needs me."
Saturday’s practice was just the first step in that process.
“When you’re going up there and you’re listening to Coach Reid talk and going through installs, I mean, that’s pretty surreal,” Mahomes said. “Getting used to that will be cool."
It will also be trying.
“It’s just going through the process of making the Mike ID and calling the play and making sure everybody’s in the right position,” Mahomes said. “It’s a lot more than I had at Texas Tech, but we’re learning as we go and getting better with every single rep.”
To aid in that process, Mahomes likes to write the same play down at least three times when he’s studying the playbook, and he’ll also use notecards when he’s trying to master formations.
But Mahomes, who used long plays at Texas Tech but never actually had to say them to teammates, knows that having a thorough understanding of the Chiefs’ offensive concepts goes beyond sheer memorization.
“The words are pretty difficult, but it’s about knowing what’s happening when you say the word,” Mahomes said. “You can study the stuff and get it all down and be able to say the right things to the coaches, but unless you’re out there making the plays, making the checks right, then it doesn’t mean that it’s right.”
That’s why some teams, in an effort to help rookie quarterbacks, reduce some of the offensive verbiage, or ask the quarterback’s teammates to carry on more of that burden.
But Mahomes won’t be getting any help like that, it appears, so he better keep his head in the playbook for the foreseeable future.
“That’s not the way we roll,” said Reid, who shook his head at the sheer notion of reducing the verbiage. “He’s got to learn. There’s only one way to learn. We’re going to give it to you ... learn it.”