On Tuesday morning, Patrick Mahomes was sitting in the Chiefs’ quarterbacks room with Alex Smith and Tyler Bray, watching film and following the typical preparation ritual when coach Andy Reid revealed some big news.
Mahomes would be making his first career start on Sunday against Denver.
“I pretty much told him I was ready,” Mahomes said. “I’m ready to go out there and do what I can to go out there and win a football game.”
On Wednesday, Chiefs coach Andy Reid made the news public. Mahomes — the 10th overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft — will get the nod at quarterback in the team’s regular-season finale against the Broncos.
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“Every snap he gets is a valuable snap for him,” Reid said, when asked for his reasoning behind the decision. “He’s everything everyone said he was. A great person, works hard. All those things we’ve seen.”
The decision means Mahomes, the prized rookie out of Texas Tech, will get the first-string reps in practice this week while the Chiefs’ starter, veteran Alex Smith, works on the scout team.
Mahomes said Smith and other teammates were supportive when they heard the news.
“They just gave me confidence and told me just to go out there, play my game, play fast and come out of there with a win,” Mahomes said.
The Chiefs clinched a playoff berth and the AFC’s fourth seed with their 29-13 win over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, which makes the result of the Denver game moot. In the past, Reid has used such opportunities to rest his starters and evaluate young players.
He’s doing it again this weekend.
“I’ve done this before,” Reid said, “and it’s worked pretty good.”
Smith, who has completed 67.2 percent of his passes for 4,042 yards, 26 touchdowns and five interceptions this season, will take the reins again the following week when the Chiefs prepare for their wild-card home game against the Bills, Ravens or Titans.
Smith said he understood the reasoning behind Reid’s decision to rest certain starters, like himself.
“At this point, I think it’s a good thing to get healthy,” Smith said. “Not every team gets something like this, to get an extra week to get healthy heading into the playoffs.”
Reid expressed appreciation for Smith’s mindset, noting the team is “fortunate” to have a quarterback like him. He is also confident Mahomes has learned a lot by observing Smith during a roller-coaster of a 9-6 season that has featured plenty of highs (winning streaks of five and three games) and lows (losing six of seven).
“He’s having an MVP-caliber year,” Reid said of Smith. “To have the opportunity to be in the room (Mahomes) is in is priceless.”
Smith, true to form, said he will do what he can to help get Mahomes ready for his first career start. Whether it’s helping him watch tape or answering his questions, he’ll be there for the rookie.
“When we’re watching tape, getting ready, I bounce a lot of things off those guys all the time, asking questions,” Smith said, referring to Mahomes and No. 3 quarterback Tyler Bray. “It’s so nice to have sounding boards — I do that all the time with these young guys, so it’s kind of a role reversal there.”
Mahomes said not much will change about the way he goes about his preparations this week. As the Chiefs’ No. 2 quarterback, he had already been charged with being ready to play weekly. Plus, he’s had a veteran teacher in Smith.
“He’s one of the best as being prepared,” Mahomes said of Smith. “Knowing every situation, knowing that if this happens, he needs to go here. I’ve watched him make those adjustments on the sideline.”
Reid said he’s been happy with Mahomes’ development since the Chiefs traded two first-round picks to acquire him in this year’s NFL Draft. Smith echoed that sentiment, noting how impressed he is with Mahomes’ natural creativity and ability to improvise under center.
“As a young guy, he has a great ability to play the game and not get locked in to scheme, too many fundamentals and things like that,” Smith said. “Those things are important, don’t get me wrong. But I think he has a great ability to just go play, which is really important as well. I think he invests a lot, has really worked hard since he’s been here. He’s been diligent, so I think that stuff’s gonna pay off.”
Mahomes had an impressive preseason, completing 63 percent of his passes for 390 yards and four touchdowns. But Denver, despite its 5-10 record, offers a legitimate test for the rookie: The Broncos still boast the league’s second-ranked defense.
Mahomes is eager to make his NFL debut all the same.
“It was exciting news, but now it’s going to work and getting the film done and all the practices,” Mahomes said. “Being able to play is going to be awesome.”