Sam Mellinger: Patrick Mahomes is playing terrifically, no matter what you may have heard

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Patrick Mahomes doesn’t need my advice, or yours, unless you are Andy Reid in which case: Hi Andy, been meaning to thank you for the prime rib cooking tip. It’s perfection.

So, anyway, the advice. Mahomes doesn’t need it. Life is going just fine for him. But even this early in the column you can probably tell some advice is coming, so we might as well get it out of the way:

Patrick, don’t say you’ve spoiled fans with your play. Your friend LeBron James can tell you how that went for him. Not worth it.

He won’t, of course, because three years into this gig and it’s obvious he always says the right thing. But if he didn’t, and he slipped, and said his play spoils people … well, he wouldn’t be lying.

Most Chiefs fans are old enough to remember Matt Cassel and Tylers Palko and Thigpen at quarterback. And, actually, some of them were so desperate they talked themselves into Thigpen. Three years ago the Chiefs lost a home playoff game as an 8 1/2-point favorite because they got bagel’d in the second half.

Now, the Chiefs are so good they score 32 points in a loss and everyone talks about what the offense should be doing better. And what Mahomes could be doing better. That has to be obnoxious.

“I don’t think he worries about that,” Reid, the Chiefs coach, said.

Reid said that, but he knows different. He knows that Mahomes monitors social media nearly as well as he does defenses. He’s the first Chiefs starting quarterback with a Twitter account, and he’s made his goals with it clear: he jokes with his teammates, supports his foundation, and scours for disrespect with a verified-only search filter.

“In this day and age that we’re in, you’re going to see stuff on social media and stuff like that,” he said. “You try to just still stay within yourself and go out there and prove those people wrong.”

Mahomes has not quite yet reached the Michael Jordan level of inventing disrespect from others — Jordan didn’t get cut in high school — but Mahomes did mock the Bears for letting him drop to the 10th pick in the 2017 draft, and he did mock his No. 4 ranking in the NFL Network’s top 100.

The ego required to find disrespect in being ranked fourth in the world is eclipsed only by the talent required to be underrated at fourth in the world.

And you know what? Good for him.

We’ve entered a weird new phase of Mahomes’ career. In 2017, he was a curiosity. In 2018, a phenom. In 2019, a champion.

Now, in 2020, he is apparently the guy many are sick of hearing about.

Depending on where he goes, Mahomes’ social media feed could be full of impressive throws from other quarterbacks with so many “if Mahomes made this throw” captions that it’s gone through the modern cycle of clever-then-viral-then-tired.

Maybe this is inevitable. Maybe this is just the way it goes — we look for the next thing, celebrate it, then get tired of it and look for the next-next thing. Mahomes was the next thing. Then he was found. Then the next-next thing was Lamar Jackson, and then Josh Allen, and then Aaron Rodgers (nostalgic) but now it might be Russell Wilson (again)?

It’s hard to keep track of.

One of the many ways Mahomes fits Kansas City is that he monitors for slights and takes them personally. Kansas Citians have a developed insecurity that emerges when out-of-towners judge us or, worse, ignore us. The flyover thing hits different from the ground.

Mahomes watches All-22, not the broadcast tape, which means he missed Troy Aikman hitting every chance he had to point out flaws.

And, let’s be clear. Mahomes is not above criticism. Of course he isn’t. He drifts and breaks too early in the pocket sometimes. He doesn’t always see the open receiver. Besides, he’s enjoyed two years of outrageously positive analysis. When his kneecap skipped to the side in Denver last year, social media melted down.

So, sure, maybe the pendulum is just swinging back the other way. But this trend of picking apart the flaws, or presenting the Chiefs offense as if it’s having major problems would be one of the stranger things going if this was not 2020.

Because they’re 5-1 and scoring 29.2 points per game against what says is the second-toughest schedule so far.

Because they’re first in Football Outsiders’ offensive DAVE, first in passing efficiency, first in expected points, third in touchdowns, first downs and fewest turnovers, first in fewest interceptions, second in sack percentage, second in third-down percentage, and fifth in points per possession.

That was a long one. Deep breath. Here’s another long one:

Because Mahomes is on pace for 4,530 yards passing (plus 440 more rushing, which would be a career high), 40 touchdowns (and five more rushing, which would also be a career high), three interceptions (projected career best), 86.9 QBR (again, best of his career) and the top ranking in FO’s DYAR metric. He’s the MVP favorite, according to Pro Football Focus.

With the exception of the sack percentage and Mahomes’ rushing, all of that is made more difficult by opponents consistently stacking the field with defensive backs and calls heavy on coverage while the Chiefs (until the Bills game, at least) failed to make them change.

Pretty dang good, and if not for some sort of applause fatigue the analysis would be that he’s keeping the Chiefs toward the top of the AFC with a broken (again, until the Bills game) run game.

“I feel like I’ve done well,” he said. “I’ve done well enough to win the games for the most part. I’ll always look to improve, always look to get better, but I feel like as an offense and me personally that we’re really improving game-by-game. Really understanding what’s there to be had, and what’s there to go get. We’re doing a great job of that.”

He’s speaking in code a bit here, but the gist is this: he believes the problems presented by the Chargers and Patriots dropping so many in coverage are being fixed.

If that’s true, perhaps we’ll remember the Bills game — 46 rushes for 245 yards — as the moment the Chiefs forced defenses to play them straight up.

And if that’s true, get your slights in now. You don’t have much time.


©2020 The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.)