For the first time in a generation, the Chiefs played a season knowing their future quarterback was on the roster.
The future and the Chiefs’ next chapter began Tuesday for Patrick Mahomes II with the news of a deal that will send Alex Smith to Washington.
After trading up to draft Mahomes in 2017, the Chiefs’ had every intention of making him their starting quarterback. It was just a matter of when. They even delivered a sneak peek in the regular-season finale, when Mahomes led the Chiefs to a victory at Denver.
That marked the first time in three decades that a quarterback who was drafted by Kansas City was the starter in a Chiefs’ victory.
In the 27-24 win over the Broncos, Mahomes completed 22 of 35 passes — including some eye-popping completions — for 284 yards, and after he was removed from the game with the lead in the fourth quarter, was put back in when the score was tied.
The 22-year-old Mahomes promptly led a game-winning field goal drive.
Two days after the game, Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib made a prediction.
“I saw enough of Patrick Mahomes to think Alex Smith is gonna be a free agent next year,” Talib said on the Vic Lombardi Show. “(Mahomes) can play some ball. … He’s smart. I saw him checking protections, reading defenses. We know how strong his arm is, man.”
The Chiefs went into the 2017 draft intent on selecting Mahomes, a player they had scouted for multiple years. But with the 27th selection, the team believed they’d have to make a move to secure the gunslinger who had set numerous records at Texas Tech.
They found a partner in Buffalo, trading first-round spots with the Bills and moving up to No. 10, and surrendering a first-round pick in the 2018 draft.
The move marked the first time the Chiefs selected a quarterback in the first round since taking Penn State’s Todd Blackledge in 1983. Since then, the team largely found its quarterbacks through free agency, not through the draft.
Mahomes got his first snaps at Texas Tech as a freshman when starter Davis Webb was injured. He started the final few games and threw for a Big 12 freshman record 598 yards in a game. Mahomes won the starting job as a junior and posted huge numbers, including 36 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.
In his final college year, Mahomes shattered records. In a game against Oklahoma he passed for 734 yards, tying an NCAA record, and his 819 yards of total offense is the best in major-college history. He threw for 5,052 yards and 41 touchdowns.
When he arrived at Chiefs camp last spring, Mahomes immediately went to work with offensive coordinator Matt Nagy and offensive quality control coach Mike Kafka. Since the season ended, Nagy has become the Chicago Bears head coach and Kafka has been elevated to quarterbacks coach.
The Chiefs also have a new offensive coordinator in Eric Bieniemy, the former running backs coach.
Before the Broncos game, Mahomes had only seen action in the preseason, but even that was impressive. Taking snaps in three games, Mahomes completed 63 percent of his passes with four touchdowns and no interceptions.
After that, he played the role of top reserve, but didn’t get many practice snaps with the first-team offense until the final week. Most of his practice work came on the scout team.
Those days are over. The Chiefs will now be led by Mahomes.