Patrick Mahomes jogged off the field at Mile High Stadium after leading a field goal drive in the third quarter and went straight to the metal bench on the visitors’ sideline.
He grabbed a Microsoft tablet and started intently studying the details of the previous series.
It didn’t take long for Andy Reid to join him, grabbing a seat next to his quarterback with his headset still fitted snugly over his red ball cap and his color-coded play sheet in hand.
With his own blue tablet in tow, backup quarterback Chad Henne sat down on the other side of Mahomes to compare notes.
Together, the trio talked about the drive: What went right, what didn’t, and what might work better the next time.
That scene, captured by ESPN cameras Monday night, happened over and over in the Chiefs’ 27-23 win against the Broncos.
In the time between the Chiefs’ series, Reid, Henne, offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and quarterback coach Mike Kafka talked with Mahomes, often as a group, trading ideas as frequently as they gave each other advice. It was a collaborative coaching effort, one that was a major factor in the Chiefs’ primetime win and undefeated start to the season.
“Coach Reid, Kafka, Bieniemy, all of us are giving ideas to each other and then getting on the same page about what we all like against a defense that they’re showing out there,” Mahomes said. “I feel like it paid off a lot this last week so we could go out and go into the fourth quarter strong.”
While Bob Sutton takes the reins of the defense, Reid often ambles over to Mahomes. He doesn’t talk at the quarterback, instead talking with him, engaging in meaningful discussions in the middle of a chaotic atmosphere.
“I do a lot of listening when I’m over there, and likewise,” Reid said. “And just see where he’s at, see what he’s seeing, which is real important. He’s got great vision.”
Mahomes is used to talking with his coach during games from his time with Kliff Kingsbury at Texas Tech, but the melding of so many minds is new to him.
“I didn’t have the every different voice of Bieniemy, Kafka, Coach Reid and Chad,” Mahomes said. “You get different kind of things from each person. You can kind of build it into one thing and then get stuff going from there.”
It’s been a while since Reid sat down with his quarterback on the sideline. For the last five years, he worked with veteran Alex Smith. The two often swapped notes in Smith’s first year, but as Smith found his place in the offense, the sideline summits weren’t as necessary anymore — especially because Smith joined the Chiefs as a 29-year-old with seven seasons as a starting quarterback under his belt.
Before Smith, Reid remembers collaborating with Philadelphia quarterback Donovan McNabb early in his career.
Being with Mahomes now transports Reid back to those times when he was pivotal in shaping his quarterbacks, but this time, it’s almost more special because he’s been working with Mahomes since the day he was drafted by the Chiefs.
Though Mahomes is young and inexperienced — at least compared to the decades of experience around him in the coaching huddle — he’s not afraid to voice his opinion.
“I enjoy that part,” Reid said. “He gives you great feedback. If you’re going over there, and it’s just call what you want to call, then you don’t need to do that. But to have that open communication is good.”
Mahomes is many things. But a Yes Man, he is not.
“Patrick is kind of stern on what he likes, what he doesn’t like, and you definitely have to be like that in the NFL,” Henne said. “Because if you just say you like everything and then a play comes in and there in the back of your mind, you’re kind of second-guessing it, the play isn’t going to turn out the way you want it to.
“If you can just shut it off right there, I mean coach brings up so many plays and a lot of coordinators do. They love every play. But all that matters is if the quarterback likes the play. If he can do it and he likes it, the play is going to be more successful.”
One day, Mahomes won’t need to constantly confer with the coaching staff during games. But the extra communication now isn’t a bad thing. It’s a key reason why Mahomes is playing beyond his years just four games into his career as a starter.
“It’s extremely valuable, just being on the same page,” Mahomes said of the meetings. “Whenever I’m out there, I can be comfortable with the plays that are called because I’ve already kind of seen what could be called and then being able to be calm enough to know this is where I can go. I’m never surprised by a call. So that stuff makes you extremely comfortable out there, and that’s how you play fast.”