‘If you don’t have the intestinal fortitude to test the offense, you’re going to be one of those quarterbacks that checks it down every time.’ - Chiefs’ Andy Reid on Patrick Mahomes’ interceptions
Yes, the berserkly hyped Patrick Mahomes has thrown some interceptions in training camp. Never mind that this is exactly what you might expect out of the young quarterback in practice.
Especially after coach Andy Reid declared on Day One that the preseason priority would be encouraging him to “see what you can get away with” before setting parameters for a more refined approach.
So understand that Reid on Thursday was merely reinforcing that point and trying to clarify the context of Mahomes’ camp performances when he said the following (which we also seek to put in context by using the full quote-burst instead of just the supposedly controversial part):
“I know people wrote about the interceptions; I told you at the beginning of camp, I don’t care about all that stuff,” Reid said. “I want him to test the offense. That’s so important … We give him a ton of plays, I want him to test it.
“If you don’t have the intestinal fortitude to go test it, you’re going to be one of these quarterbacks who checks it down every time. And that’s not what it’s all about.”
Cue the snark and cynicism that this was a not-so-veiled jab at Alex Smith, who at times in his first years with the Chiefs was reasonably labeled Captain Checkdown or a pedestrian game manager.
As former Chiefs receiver Jeremy Maclin might furrow his brow and put it … nah.
First and foremost, sorry, but Reid would never ridicule Smith. He appreciated him on every level, from his athleticism to his sheer guts to his leadership — including his remarkable grace in committing to groom Mahomes to be his replacement last season.
For that matter, if the economics of the situation and other Chiefs needs didn’t make it a no-brainer to trade Smith (to Washington for cornerback Kendall Fuller and a third-round draft pick), it’s not out of the question that Reid may have preferred another season with Smith.
He knows Smith was a pillar of turning around the organization five years ago, when the incoming Reid and then-general manager John Dorsey looked to him to help revive a franchise that had been 25-55 in the previous five seasons.
In the Smith era, the Chiefs went 53-27 and won their first playoff game in a generation. And with the glaring exception of the postseason loss to the Steelers two seasons ago, Smith played well enough to win a couple other playoff games — particularly at Indianapolis in the preposterous 45-44 loss that ended that first season — if not for defensive liabilities.
Moreover, with an enhanced cast of playmakers around him the last few years, what do you know, Smith came into his own: No one accused him of conservatism last season, when he threw for a career-high 4,042 yards with 26 touchdowns to just five interceptions.
All that said, Reid’s words led to a glimpse of something revealing — but not contemptuous — about how he views coaching Mahomes in the wake of having worked with Smith.
One of the reasons Smith had been made expendable by the 49ers after being the overall No. 1 pick in 2005 was the flux around him that led to having a different offensive coordinator every season in San Francisco. So Smith was scrambled up in some ways, and for one reason or another had become risk-averse when he arrived.
Looking to go downfield, Reid said, was “not what he came from. He worked on that.”
Ultimately, Smith grew into having the trust in himself and his receivers to go downfield more. And that speaks some to where Reid is coming from on this as he works with Mahomes.
Reid has a clean slate to work with, a lump of clay to shape, and his ideal version of this is to let Mahomes cut loose and not stifle the mindset … and then pull him back.
As opposed to the opposite experience of coaxing Smith to take more chances.
So, sure, coaching Smith in some ways informs his approach to Mahomes. But that element of the game is only part of playing the position, and his point Thursday was about how he wants Mahomes to think — not gratuitously insulting someone he admires.