Vahe Gregorian

Airing of passes ... and grievances: How and why Patrick Mahomes has become more vocal

We know Chiefs’ quarterback Patrick Mahomes best as the man with the golden arm who has hoisted a city. And for the absurd 360-degree peripheral vision or extrasensory perception or combination thereof that animates his play and has confounded the NFL. For being unflappable and uncannily polite for someone of his stature.

The infinite currency this has created for the 24-year-old reigning NFL Most Valuable Player enables another element to his repertoire as the 3-0 Chiefs prepare to play on Sunday at Detroit: a willingness to call out teammates and coaches — as he was captured on candid camera doing several times last week.

Before we elaborate, it’s important to note that Mahomes is foremost an exuberant encourager, looking to ignite the team and credit others. He’s quick to take the blame when it’s his and probably even when it’s not and seems engaged in some way or another all across the locker room.

All adding up to being just about the perfect teammate.

Even so, the admonishments are another form of imposing his influence, an edge he can wield freely even at this young age because of the combination of his remarkable talent and sheer connectivity with the offense in particular.

It’s a strange image to get used to, actually.

But good for him. Good for the Chiefs.

“You just want to have success on every single play, and that’s something that I think we have as a team, is we hold each other accountable,” Mahomes said. “It’s not just me saying stuff to those guys; I mean, they’ll say stuff to me if I do something wrong.

“If you have that type of chemistry, (then) you can talk to each other in that way and still respect each other and still love each other. That’s when you get the best out of each other.”

If he weren’t the person he is and the player he is, this would have a different feel to it. But he hardly could be more universally liked and respected. Or better heard.

“He’s being a leader; that’s what he’s supposed to do,” said rookie Mecole Hardman, who was scolded by Mahomes after finessing a sideline pattern at Oakland that led to an incompletion. “If he’s seeing something different than what we see, then he’ll let us know.”

With tangible impact.

That day, Mahomes spoke with Hardman on the sideline and told him he had to be faster into his cuts and have a better grasp of down and distance.

“He kind of tried to sell it a little bit more with a nod, and he was open,” Mahomes said after the game. “But it was late, and the pressure (on Mahomes to throw) was there.

“So I just told him, ‘You have to speed it up. You have to play with that speed; use your speed.’ You saw him the rest of the game — he sped it up and made big plays for us.”

Call it coincidence, but Hardman is looking more on pace by the snap and followed up with an 83-yard touchdown reception from Mahomes last week as the trust between them has accelerated.

Message received.

“Yeah,” Hardman said, smiling, “I had to speed it up.”

Some of Mahomes’ other airings of grievances have been more about simple accountability.

Like last week against Baltimore, when he was visibly agitated with center Austin Reiter for a low snap with a wet ball that led to Mahomes getting smacked down.

And on the sideline just before halftime when Mahomes was frustrated with clock management from the bench. That relegated the end of the half to one play from the Ravens’ 24-yard-line, a field goal, when there could have been ample time to take a shot at the end zone.

With a meaningful caveat, this is all more than fine by Chiefs’ coach Andy Reid, who enjoys something verging on a symbiotic relationship with Mahomes.

While he cautions that if Mahomes squawks about something on every play “people are just going to turn (him) off,” he always welcomes Mahomes’ input and believes he “weighs it well” when it comes to raising objections.

So do Mahomes’ teammates.

“In this age of people getting their feelings hurt, (Mahomes and Reid) really love to communicate everything out in the open,” said punter Dustin Colquitt, who has seen what true dysfunction looks like earlier on in his club-record 225 games.

Counterintuitive as it might sound, Colquitt reckons any such superficial friction is going toward the worthy cause of making the offense “frictionless” … which it virtually has been while averaging nearly 34 points this season.

Mahomes “is about bringing guys together (toward) that common goal,” Colquitt said.

Colquitt is among some who believe that it’s not much different than the way Mahomes exhorted teammates last year: It just feels that way since the Mahomes Effect has made him “probably the most recognizable face in North America” with cameras focused on every micro-movement.

But that perspective is in the eye — or the ear, perhaps — of the beholder.

Receiver Sammy Watkins, who took it to heart when he was chided by Mahomes in training camp for coming in last in sprints, believes Mahomes is more apt to speak up now.

Like others, he also figures it’s his own fault when they’re not on the same page.

“He likes things a certain way. … It’s not (about) what I like to do; I try to incorporate my game into what he wants out of me,” Watkins said, smiling and adding that when Mahomes calls him out his answer is, “‘Hey, alright, bro, I got you.’”

With no need for Mahomes to walk it back later.

“We know as players that we need to do what our quarterback needs us to do,” said Watkins, noting the relationships among the receivers also allows for them to critique each other. “It’s not about an ego thing. I don’t think any guy in our room has an ego problem with him getting on us or saying something. It’s about making the team better and better.”

Or as Reiter put it recalling last week: “If you don’t really know the person, sometimes you might take it personally, and I think that wouldn’t be a good thing. … (But) it’s like brothers, man. We’re all holding each other accountable. And mistakes like that, we’re going to get on each other …

“It’s just that we hold each other to that high of a standard. We have a lot of passion.”

Especially that being generated by the pivot point of an intricate operation that is completely dependent on Mahomes’ communication with Reid and his line, receivers and backs.

If they don’t see the defense through the same lens, before and during the play, all the scheming and would-be choreography is for naught.

So if Mahomes and Reiter, say, see something different in what the blocking call should be before the snap …

“If he doesn’t like it,” Reiter said, “he’ll tell us where to go.”

Reiter meant that literally, but, somehow, the slang meaning came to mind.

Just another way Mahomes is a force with which to be reckoned — and another dimension to how his game and charisma compels followers.

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Vahe Gregorian has been a sports columnist for The Kansas City Star since 2013 after 25 years at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He has covered a wide spectrum of sports, including 10 Olympics. Vahe was an English major at the University of Pennsylvania and earned his master’s degree at Mizzou.