The Kansas City Chiefs made a big move up in the NFL Draft last night to select Patrick Mahomes II, quarterback and passing provocateur from Texas Tech. They gave up an awful lot, adding both next year’s first-round pick and this year’s third-round pick to go from 27th to 10th. Time will tell if that proves to be foolhardy or full of foresight.
This should be the kind of move I absolutely hate. I’m a strong believer that teams should generally not trade up by mortgaging lots of picks, and certainly shouldn’t trade away future picks at a large interest rate (where next year’s 1st round is valued at this year’s 2nd). The Chiefs gave up a lot of value, paying nearly $1.50 on the dollar to make the move. So there is that big part of me that feels queasy about that.
But then there’s the other part.
The Chiefs have needed to make a bold move at quarterback for awhile. This is the franchise that hasn’t had a quarterback drafted by the team win a game since Todd Blackledge, drafted ahead of Jim Kelly, Dan Marino, and Ken O’Brien in 1983, “led” the Chiefs to a win over the Chargers on opening day of 1987 by going 6 of 15 for 79 yards.
The youngest quarterback to star for the franchise was Len Dawson, at age 27 and acquired after being released from the NFL, when the team was still known as the Dallas Texans. They’ve had some great moves with veterans that worked out in the short-term. Steve DeBerg was part of the revival in Kansas City, Joe Montana revitalized his career and went to the AFC title game (the last for the franchise, in January 1994), and getting Trent Green was a great trade in 2001.
The move to get Alex Smith was also a good one back in 2013. That was the Eric Fisher draft, with no top quarterbacks available. Smith was the best option–E.J. Manuel, Geno Smith, Mike Glennon, and Matt Barkley were the first four quarterbacks drafted. Smith was steady, and the team has gone 41-20 in games Smith started over the last four years, coming off what was a pretty dark time for the franchise before Andy Reid and John Dorsey arrived.
But, in my opinion, it was time to move on. I had no idea how the Chiefs front office and coaches felt, but I thought this had to be the draft to change all of that history. Smith can still be the starter at the outset next year, so that a young guy can get practice reps before being thrown into the fire. Andy Reid is one of the best quarterback coaches in the league. The team has some needs, sure, like all teams, but when I looked at the difference between the Chiefs and the teams they simply could not overcome in recent years–the Patriots, the Steelers–well, the final answer was under center.
Alex Smith has been a divisive figure in Kansas City. He’s good enough to start and safe enough to win games against mediocre teams. He’s also not going to stick the ball in tough spots and make aggressive throws that can swing a game. Maybe I’m being greedy, but I want “Aaron Rodgers drawing up a deep out in the dirt” rather than kneeling when in your own territory in a close game.
I’ll acknowledge this is an “it’s not you, it’s me” situation. We all have our types, at a lot of things in life, things we are attracted to. I definitely have a type when it comes to quarterbacks and what I personally find pleasing. I’ve been known to defend Tony Romo, and have been an apologist for Jay Cutler in the distant past. Despite his playing for a division rival, I think Philip Rivers is tremendously under appreciated.
Several years ago, at Pro Football Reference, I wrote about Passer Personality Types, borrowing from the Meyers-Briggs personality type model. I came up with four traits: Bomber vs Completer (YPA vs Comp%), Fun vs Safe (TD rate vs INT rate), TD Vultures vs Yard Eaters (TD Rate vs YPA), and Gamblers vs Holders (Comp% and Sack Rate vs. INT Rate).
Alex Smith is most definitely an extreme “C-S-Y-H.” I said of that QB personality type then:
"These guys are your classic game managers—and not in the derogatory sense that the term is too often applied. They take what the defense gives them, and complete passes while avoiding turnovers. At their best, they can efficiently move a team down the field, often letting others get the glory for the touchdown. At their worst, they can check down every pass, and take too many sacks while they avoid those interceptions."
Well, the polar opposite of that is the B-F-V-G (Bomber/Fun/Vulture/Gambler). Here’s what I wrote of that type:
"These guys take what the defense gives them, too—if you consider that patch of green behind the last safety something the defense is giving them. The BFVG’s are the quintessential gunslingers. When they are on, they can combine with a running game to provide quick strike scores and rip the heart out of the opponent. When they are off, they can rip their own fans’ hearts out with costly interceptions and lots of incompletions."
Well, there can be no doubt when watching the tape that Patrick Mahomes is going to fit the Fun, Vulture, Gambler phenotype. He’ll *probably* also be a Bomber, but Brett Favre actually had a higher league-adjusted completion percentage than yards per attempt playing in the same West Coast offense.
That passer personality type (F-V-G traits) has contributed the largest variety of Super Bowl quarterbacks, from Hall of Famers to journeymen, which includes: Terry Bradshaw, Eli Manning, Daryle Lamonica, Mark Rypien, Boomer Esiason, Trent Dilfer, Brett Favre, Dan Marino, Peyton Manning, David Woodley, and Billy Kilmer.
It also includes the likes of Tony Romo and Philip Rivers, and it’s what I enjoy watching on Sundays.
So I hear the criticisms of the Patrick Mahomes pick. Jason McIntyre on our site wrote about the past failures of the Air Raid quarterbacks. Ryan Phillips of our site listed it among the worst picks of the first round. He’s been called reckless, and a mess, and you hear plenty on the system.
But then I drop in and watch his games from last year, and … damn. Some may see reckless. I see I guy who isn’t going to hold the ball and is going to make plays. Through two games, I saw him get sacked once while throwing a gajillion times, and escaping pressure constantly while keeping his eyes downfield. After watching Alex Smith get his eyes adjusted downward at the first sign of pressure, it was too good to be true. I saw him throw a ball out of bounds left-handed just before crossing the boundary, just to avoid the loss while getting pushed out. That’s someone I can roll with.
And then, there’s the plays. Yes, there was some bad. But there were at least 15 plays in the Oklahoma game that elicited a “oh my goodness” exclamation at 1 a.m. last night, or an expletive much stronger. I’ve seen all the Texas Tech pop-armed passers that had guys running open on scheme; that’s not Mahomes. I mean, go watch Jon Gruden again. I know he has a reputation for liking everyone, but he clearly was in football love with Mahomes, and later said the gunslinger, who reminds him of Brett Favre, would be his first quarterback taken.
So, there’s a part of me that hates what the Chiefs gave up. But the rest of me is ecstatic that the organization made a bold move–the move that this franchise that hasn’t been to a Super Bowl since before the merger hasn’t made–and is going for a gunslinger. Sure, it’s a gamble, but that’s what it takes to get into tight windows in the NFL, or in the Super Bowl. It’s time to stop playing checkers, and start playing “chuck the chess piece through a window the size of a chessboard 30 yards downfield.”
My blood pressure is ready, I think.