For about nine months, Patrick Mahomes diligently went about his business as the Chiefs' backup quarterback, working to improve at his craft while not ruffling any feathers.
Teammates praised his gun-slinging mentality and practice performance, which turned out to be an indication of what he could do in prime-time. His lone appearance of the 2017 season produced a win over Denver in the Chiefs' regular-season finale.
But when an agreement was reached with Washington to ship out the man in front of him, veteran Alex Smith, all eyes fell on the new, 22-year-old triggerman in coach Andy Reid's offense.
It's a responsibility Mahomes, the son of a pro baseball player, has taken seriously. Over the last several weeks — and before the start of the Chiefs' offseason workout program on Monday — he has been taking a group of his skill-position teammates to nearby high school fields and working on various passing concepts.
"There are great high schools around and I talked to some of the coaches and they let us use their fields, so we got to go out there," Mahomes said. "And I would have at least four to five guys a day.
"I think I threw to at least every single guy at least once — we had group messages going. I had one with the tight ends, I had one with the running backs, I had one with the receivers, making sure everybody knew when I was throwing.”
Even established stars like tight end Travis Kelce and running back Kareem Hunt showed up.
"When they came back in town, we’d get some work in," Mahomes said. "That just shows how much work ethic (they have) and how those guys want to be great.
"It was easy to get those guys out there.”
The skill players' motivation to work out with Mahomes wasn't completely altruistic. Some quarterbacks don't play favorites at all; they spread the ball around to the open man, no matter what.
Others, like Mahomes and Smith and even the great Tom Brady, get comfortable with "their guys" and look for them more often. Face time with the quarterback can foster on-field rapport, which can lead to better stats, which ultimately leads to more money.
"I tried to simulate it as if there was a defense out there," Mahomes said. "I would give the routes and then I would give them based off of certain coverage, because we run them differently compared to in the game when you have to adjust on the fly. I would say ‘single safety middle zone’ or ‘cover two’ and try to let the receivers run the routes how they would run it versus that so we can build timing and things like that.”
This exercise also challenges Mahomes, because he can't be credibly ordering guys around without knowing their responsibilities, too.
"It helps me get a better understanding of what they’re thinking,” Mahomes said.
Mahomes has already earned a reputation with the Chiefs as someone who isn't afraid to set the tone and challenge teammates verbally. In fact, that attracted the Chiefs to him in the first place last year, when they surrendered a cadre of picks to move up 17 spots and select him in the first round of the NFL Draft.
"He’s not afraid to put a little pressure on you to make sure you do your job," Reid said. "He’s doing the same thing to himself, every day. If you’re playing with him, you better be ready to go."
The Chiefs made several moves this offseason with the goal of fielding an offensive juggernaut. It's expected that much-needed defensive help will come through the Draft, but it might take some time for those young players to jell and develop.
Expectations are high for the two-time defending AFC West champs.
"He’s going to be amazing," Chiefs defensive lineman Chris Jones said of Mahomes. "We are going to light it up on offense. We have Sammy Watkins, we have Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, we have a monster in the backfield. We’re ready to take off, thanks to Alex Smith, such a professional guy. But Patrick is going to be something serious.”
Center Mitch Morse was among of host of teammates who agreed Monday.
“I think you can’t deny the fact that he can toss that thing — he’s a good football player," Morse said. "I think like every rookie, Patrick made excellent progress. I wish I was able to see him more, but I think we’re going to have a pretty special unit with Patrick at the helm.”
The best news for the Chiefs, however, is that Mahomes' offseason work with his skill players proves his desire to actually live up to that hype.
"He believes in us," Hill said. "He is going to give us every opportunity to win. He is a young quarterback, but I feel like, in my heart, Pat is going to get the job done. We all know Alex (Smith) was a great quarterback, but I feel like Pat is going to step in, it isn’t going to be like anything is missing.”
So much so that Mahomes' goal is to field the NFL's best offense.
"I think we can be one of, if not the best, offenses in the NFL," Mahomes said. "We have a ton of talent everywhere and we’re deep at every position.
"I think with the offensive line all coming back pretty much and then having a good stable of running backs, having receivers and tight ends that can make plays, for me it’s all about just getting them the ball and letting them make the plays.”