Patrick Mahomes & Johnny Manziel: Comparisons, Parallel Universes and What Could Have Been

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Patrick Mahomes =/= Johnny Manziel.

Maybe in a parallel universe we would be talking about Johnny Manziel and Patrick Mahomes playing against each other. Or Manziel would be the one with the NFL MVP award, and Mahomes would be the quarterback out of the league. All the decisions they made, didn’t make, or didn’t even choose to make, play out in an infinite number of worlds.

But in this universe, it was a decision that Mahomes indeed chose to make that was the Big Bang that gave life to this comparison. During the Kansas City Chiefs’ 26-10 win over the New England Patriots this season, Mahomes took the snap at 10:57 in the fourth quarter on New England’s 39-yard line, facing a third and eight. He then ran left for 18 yards, before stepping out of bounds.

He looked to the crowd and made a gesture with his hands. That was it. Something that simple. It wasn’t Manziel’s money sign, he was merely trying to hype up the substantially reduced crowd. But it did start the reactor of comparison, parallels, and everything that may have happened if the universe had allowed it.

Mahomes is everything the former Texas A&M quarterback could have been, or maybe, should have been. Mahomes is the NFL equivalent of Manziel in college.

First, the obvious differences have to be at least acknowledged. One of biggest issues Manziel faced coming out of college was that he was too short to play the position at the highest level. He was listed at six foot exactly, compared to the six foot three Patrick Mahomes when he came out of Texas Tech. Never mind the fact that Russell Wilson was listed at five foot ten at his combine, and despite that he’s managed to carve out a somewhat solid career for himself.

There’s also the off the field image Manziel had. You can get away with partying all the time when you’re great, but there’s a reason the ones that don’t party all the time also happen to be the great ones.

In 2012 Manziel was the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy, and, did so just a few days after turning 20, becoming one of the youngest to ever win the award. In 2019 Mahomes won the NFL MVP aged 23, in his first season as a starter, making him (at the time) the youngest MVP since Ace Ventura star Dan Marino in 1984.

Manziel and Mahomes took over their respective football worlds, demonstrated by the fact that both won major honours so young. Both were new, fresh and exciting – taking the NFL and CFB by storm. Manziel at Texas A&M was fun. Mahomes in his MVP season was fun. They were special – and Mahomes certainly still is.

Kliff Kingsbury deserves some recognition for how he helped mould both quarterbacks. He was Manziel’s offensive coordinator at Texas A&M and was Head Coach at Texas Tech when Mahomes was a Red Raider.

Both played in Kingsbury’s Air Raid offense, which is one of the “most quarterback friendly” systems a team can use. It’s a heavily pass orientated scheme, making plays quick and simple. It also involves running to the line as fast as possible to make adjustments, all to catch out any defenders. Plenty of quarterbacks that came out of the Air Raid system failed to make the jump to the NFL, mainly because pro systems are so much more complex. Even though more and more teams are now utilising aspects of the Air Raid offense, and quarterbacks currently in the NFL are products of the system, it still has its critics.

Manziel’s performance in the NFL shows why those Air Raid critics exist, but the performance of Mahomes in the NFL also proves many of them wrong. But again, the similarities reappear – products of Air Raid, products of Kingsbury.

In terms of playing style, comparing Manziel in 2012 to Mahomes in 2018, again, leads to parallels. Both have big arms, and always looked to get the ball downfield. Both were praised for their abilities to make things happen when plays broke down. Scrambling and extending plays were huge weapons for both in their award laden years, before delivering unconventional, side arm, or underarm throws to receivers. They were gunslingers in the purest sense of the word. Manziel would throw to Mike Evans, Mahomes to Tyreek Hill – both receivers took advantage of their physical skills to respectively outmuscle and outpace defensive backs.

Their biggest strengths were also their biggest flaws. Both threw risky passes downfield and took too many unnecessary risks in college. Mahomes ironed those out, but Manziel? Not so much. He could get by on his athleticism at Texas A&M, but not in the NFL.

The quarterbacks had an aura about them. Johnny Manziel was nicknamed Johnny Football, purely because he dominated the sport. Mahomes is already in a position to be considered, by some, the best to ever play.

Manziel in college showed the promise of everything Mahomes became. In another world Manziel is drafted by another team and had Andy Reid as his coach. He then wouldn’t end up with the Cleveland Browns, the one place where, recently, the only thing they guarantee to quarterbacks is disappointment. Or in yet another world Mahomes goes to Cleveland and turns around the franchise. So many things could, should, or would have been, and it’s so easy to say that. But the two were kindred spirits – electric, young quarterbacks with the footballing world at their feet.

In retrospect it’s sad, so much could have been for Johnny Football. Infinite universes mean infinite possibilities and who knows what’s happening in another world at this moment. They were so similar, but when it mattered most, they were so different.

Manziel and Mahomes were even born in the same city in Texas. What could have been for one, has been for another.

This is a little bit different to what I normally do, but I thought I’d give it a try. It’s a little shorter and less stats heavy, but I thought it was worth a post. Next time I’ll more than likely be back to what could be considered regularly scheduled programming.

Buc-kle Up

(Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Long time no see (for all 3 of you here) but anyway – Brady is a Buc bay-bee!

Now we’ve all got lots of spare time, let’s talk about Tom Brady. He’s a Tampa Bay Buccaneer nowadays, if you didn’t know.

People seem to act like like Tom Brady is washed up, over the hill and too old. Maybe to a certain extent he is, it’s possible that numbers don’t lie. But in terms of a little context, only Carson Wentz was a quarterback on a playoff team that completed more passes than Brady, and only Russell Wilson was a quarterback on a playoff team that threw for more yards than Brady. These aren’t the only passing stats – I understand that.

27th in the league in yards per pass attempt is a little bit of a yikes. Plus, it’s not like his O-Line was as awful as some people made it out to be. He was sacked 4.2% of the time he tried to pass – that’s 5th best in the league.

But to me, it looks like he can still do job. Especially when he has a receiver that can get some separation from his defender. Can you name a receiver that The New England Patriots had (besides Edelman) this year? OK. Can you name me one who was actually any good this year? It’s pretty hard isn’t it?

No disrespect to those pass catchers, but they weren’t setting the world alight. You all saw that in the playoff game against the Titans. Yes, Tennessee’s defence played very well, but even on his pick 6 he was throwing into a tiny window, to a receiver that had no space.

If Mike Evans was on the New England Patriots they win that game. Yes, bold statement I know, one of the best Wide Receivers in the league would make a team better. But you know what I mean.

Mike Evans is going to be catching those passes from Brady in the coming season now anyway. He doesn’t need that much separation I guess, being one of the more reliable jump ball catchers in the NFL. He’s pretty good, and I reckon he’ll like playing with a quarterback that’s won stuff, and isn’t a walking interception.

Chris Godwin had a pretty good year too. 3rd in the NFL in receiving yards behind Michael Thomas and Julio Jones (but Thomas was so far ahead it’s basically second). Him and Evans are in the top 4 for receiving yards per game (2nd and 4th respectively). Heck, both of them are basically a first down in terms of receiving yards per target (Godwin had 11 and Evans had 9.8). So safe to say, Brady is throwing to better players than he was towards the end of his time in New England.

The questions come more with the running game and coaching in Tampa Bay.

Will Brady need a decent run game? I really don’t know. The Bucs were 24th in the NFL in rushing, about 300 yards behind the league average. But if they’re pumping all this money into the passing game, will they be that bothered about that?

Also, Bruce Arian’s offence is based around big plays, launching the ball down the field – so rushing might not be a concern. But does Tom Brady fit into this? His last season in New England he made more short passes, no some much dinking and dumping down the field, but he certainly wasn’t launching it all the time. Again, was that because of the receivers? Who knows. I do know he didn’t have Randy Moss to take the top off the defence like he had in years past.

Carson Palmer talked about how difficult Arian’s offensive system is – lots of formation changes, lots of changes at the line of scrimmage, and a crap load of plays that can be used in each game. But Brady is better than Palmer and Jameis Winston, and if anybody’s brain can handle that, it’s probably Tom Brady.

Andrew Luck had the most interceptions in a season of his career (18) under Arians in Indianapolis, but also the tied best record he’s ever had in a season (11-5). So will Brady be throwing loads, getting picked off loads, and scoring loads? I have no idea, but it’s likely. This is considering what Carson Palmer said, what Andrew Luck did, and especially what Jameis Winston’s season just looked like. I’m not sure what they’ll be running next season – will Brady do what Arians wants, or will Arians decide to try and stick with what his 42-year-old quarterback is used to? Either way, it’ll be interesting to see.

Either way, he’s still The GOAT, Tampa Bay still have good receivers and he went there for a reason. He’ll probably do just fine. All we need to do is watch – those cannons will more than likely be firing a fair few times in the coming season.

All information taken from somewhere not stated is from NFL.com or Pro Football Reference.

Quick side note – I am trying to post stuff more frequently, so watch this space, hopefully I’ll get back on the horse (in one way or another). Cheers!

Super Bowl LIV in review

(Mark J. Terrill/AP Photo)
A quick look back on the Kansas City Chief’s 31-20 win over the San Francisco 49ers. All of these things could probably be looked at in a lot more depth, but, I just wanted to get my thoughts out there while they were still fresh.

Well I don’t know about you, but I quite enjoyed that.

Patrick Mahomes is a pretty exciting player. He has been since the start of last season, to the end of this one. I’ve mentioned his arm strength before, and boy can he fling ’em, but you can tell him and the Chiefs came to play right from the start.

I thought Mahomes’ run on 3rd and 11 near the end of the first quarter, which ended in that big hit from Jimmie Ward and the ball flying out of bounds, was an example of that. He wasn’t sliding. He wanted to take that in for the touchdown.

Yes, also, exciting sometimes doesn’t mean taking care of the ball – and Mahomes had two interceptions. That first one was kind of a pretty un-Mahomes-like throw, I’m no professional Quarterback, but I really don’t know why he threw that – maybe it was a symptom of Mahomes blatantly disregarding the rules (as usual, and to some success) and thinking “I trust my arm, I can squeeze that in there”. But he couldn’t. The other interception was pretty unlucky in my opinion. It was slightly behind Tyreek Hill, but for me, he could do something with it.

But either way, big runs, big throws, big turnovers – Mahomes was exciting.

That 3rd and 11 run by Mahomes led to one of two huge 4th down conversions for the Chiefs too. For me, going for it on 4th down is super exciting, and these were both ace. The first Damien Williams one up the middle was just classic-bread-and-butter-good-old running the ball stuff. The Mahomes option/flip to Williams in the 2nd quarter was pretty slick too. Nick Bosa was right there.

Despite the two interceptions, Shea Serrano summed up Mahomes pretty well:

That bomb really changed the whole momentum of the game. That bomb was pure Mahomes. The stones to throw that pass, in that situation, at that time in the game, at that score. My lord. Patrick Mahomes take a bow if you haven’t already. He also had that pass to Sammy Watkins over Richard Sherman (who had a tough day) on a 2nd and 7 in the 4th quarter. It wasn’t Mahomes’ best game, but when they needed him, he stepped up.

Damien Williams was ace too – 104 yards and a touchdown on the ground isn’t too shabby. Many saw him as MVP but I can see why Mahomes got it. As we were saying during the game, it’s not Man of the Match like in football, it’s the Most Valuable Player. Patrick Mahomes was the most valuable.

49ers’ fans would probably argue the referees were pretty valuable for the Chief’s too.

Kansas City probably got away with a false start in the 4th quarter on a 3rd and 14 for San Francisco. That pass interference on George Kittle earlier in the game in the 2nd quarter with 14 seconds left was harsh. Let’s be honest, it was harsh. But the rule is harsh. A push is a push, even if it’s a little push – it’s still a push. You can see it bought him some space, so the right call for me. But still harsh, people have got away with more.

Speaking of George Kittle’s San Francisco 49ers, I hate to say it, but, I think they bottled it.

Jimmy Garoppolo missed a few open passes. That deep shot to Emmanuel Sanders. That wide open George Kittle over the middle. The questions were there when he only threw the ball 8 times for 77 yards against Green Bay in the conference championship. I hate to do it, but, he just wasn’t good enough. Is he good enough? I really don’t know. He had some moments in the regular season (the win in New Orleans) but, the questions have always been there.

And Poor Kyle Shanahan.

The man is a fantastic coach, there’s no doubt about it. But I think he bottled it too. Just keep running the ball. You’re up by 10 in the 4th quarter. Just keep running the ball. Yes, Chris Simms said on NBC’s Pro-Football Talk that it’s not like they were just ripping off huge runs each time, which is true, but the reason they were in the Super Bowl was because they ran the ball so well all year. Just do what you do best. To me, those weird little flips, reverses, and motions seemed to do well. Just keep doing that. Who cares if it’s a bit gimmicky, you win the Super Bowl!

Now people will always mention 28-3, and now 20-10, and I’m not slating Shanahan – but in my opinion these criticisms seem to have a bit of justification now. He will be back, and this next season will be a huge challenge for him as an NFL head coach. To pick himself up, and pick his team up, and to go again will be hard. We saw it with McVay this year. But he can do it.

All in all, I think the best team won. Well, actually maybe not. The best player won. Mahomes willed them to that win. Plus I think everyone is happy for Andy Reid (me included).

The interesting thing is to see what will happen next with Kansas City. Mahomes contract runs out at the end of next year, and you know they’re going to give him as much money as they can – and he deserves it, everyone in the world would do the same. But will it be a crippling contract? Or is now the start of the ‘Mahomes Era’?

All info from Pro Football Reference, Spotrac and me watching the ruddy Super Bowl.

Success and Andy Reid

(AP)
Regardless of how Reid is respected around the NFL without a championship, and with Super Bowl LIV around the corner, I want people to know – he’s already successful.

Andy Reid is 7th in NFL history for the most wins. He has taken two different teams to the Super Bowl (and if you know the outcome of the upcoming one let me know, I’ve got my eyes on 12/1 and 16/1 odds for Kelce or Kittle to be the game’s MVP but that’s neither here nor there), been to seven Conference Championship games, and won nine division titles – in twenty years as a head coach.

Reid will more than likely move up to sixth on the list next season (touch wood) being only six wins behind Paul Brown with 207. But the six coaches above him have a combined 29 NFL/Super Bowl titles between them. They’re all, besides Belichick, Hall of Famers (as I think Reid should be) but the only other coach without a ring and over 200 wins isn’t in Canton.

The criticism has been around that he “can’t win the big one”, which, to be fair, is at least true? I mean, he’s not won the big one, he doesn’t have a Super Bowl. He’s got a decent chance to do it this year, that Mahomes dude is pretty good. His arm strength reminds me of that episode of Samurai Jack when he complains that his sword isn’t strong enough – but actually it’s his arm. So he gets kind of like a bionic sleeve to make his arm strong, which leads to him chopping through stuff like a madness as his arm’s dead strong. That’s Mahomes. Futuristic weaponry for a right arm.

Anyway where was I? Oh yes, Mr. Reid.

I’ve already listed some accomplishments, but I want you to all know – none of this Super Bowl malarky matters. I believe it’s different for coaches. As Thierry Henry said in a recent interview:

What is success? I had some coaches who I won nothing with, but they made me a better player. That is success.

I’d like to start with two quarterbacks taken first overall in their respective drafts – Michael Vick and Alex Smith. Both played under Reid, Vick in Philadelphia and Smith in Kansas City.

In 2006 with Atlanta, Vick rushed for 1,039 yards, a then record for a quarterback, averaging 64.9 yards a game on the ground. He passed for 2,474 (averaging 154.6 yards a game), which is the second best in his time at Atlanta. But was I wanted to point out, is that when he got to the Eagles, his passing yards exploded. In 2010 and 2011 he threw for 3,018 yards (averaging 251.5) and 3,303 yards (averaging 254.1) respectively, whilst still running for 676 yards in 2010 (averaging 56.3) and 589 in 2011 (averaging 45.3). His rushing went down a little as you can see. Was that age? The system? I’m not sure, but, it was clearly still an important part of Reid’s offense at that time.

No one can deny that 2006 season for Vick was exciting as hell, but, Reid’s system made his passing insane. All of these below stats were his best – and they were all in Philly.

  • Completion Percentage – 62.6%
  • Passing Touchdowns – 21
  • Passing Yards in a Season – 3,303
  • Interception Percentage – 1.6% (except in Pittsburgh, but he only played a few games and it’s .1% better)
  • Yards Gained per Pass Attempt – 8.1

Reid had him throwing bombs too, because Vick had a cannon. That Eagle’s offense also passed what I’ve heard Bill Simmons call the “Eye Test” – they did some cool stuff (see the Monday Night Massacre) nothing revolutionary, but it was fun. Actually, here’s kind of what I mean, watch the first play on this – the roll to the left, then the deep throw. Cracking stuff.

Vick was always a good player though, and had success before he played for Andy Reid. Alex Smith did too, but, I feel what Reid did with him is fantastic.

Smith’s struggles in his first few seasons with San Francisco are well documented, but I want to look at his 2011 season first, that was under Jim Harbaugh. In his best season as a 49er, he threw for over 3,000 yards in a season for the first time in his career, threw the second most touchdowns (and his career high was only one more than the 17 he threw in 2011) and had his best Quarterback Rating by far (90.7). Then Kaepernick took over and the 49ers went somewhere else, and Smith was traded to Kansas City, for Andy Reid’s first season with the Chiefs.

In his five years in Kansas City, Smith was a Pro Bowler for three of them (the only times in his career so far) and threw for over 3,000 yards in every single one of them. He attempted more passes per season in KC than he ever did in San Fran, and threw for over 20 Touchdowns for the first times in his career too, and only had a Quarterback Rating under 90.7 once (and that was 89.1) . I’m not too sure where I’m going with this, except to say that Reid worked his magic again, and turned Smith into more than the game manager he was in San Francisco. His 2017 season was the best of his career by far (and was under Reid) – 4,042 yards passing, 26 touchdowns, and a Quarterback Rating of 104.7. He gained almost 270 yards of offense a game that season, 54 more than his most in San Francisco, and when you think about average starting positions on offense – that’s points baby!

There’s no doubt that Reid seems to like pace in his systems, from Jackson for the Eagles to Hill for the Chiefs, and that could be why these quarterbacks seem to progress so much. Smith’s longest career passes were all under Reid.

You see that system with Mahomes too, who has undoubtedly flourished under Reid. Yes the man has talent, but the reservations people seemed to have when drafting him because of the Air Raid system he played under at Texas Tech (with its focus on passing) let him slide in the draft to Kansas City. Surely that focus on passing is what helped him stand out under an offensive minded Head Coach, throwing for 50 (!!!) Touchdowns in his first (!!!) season as a starter. Maybe the success with Mahomes comes from the regular comparisons to Brett Favre, who he was the Quarterback Coach for in Green Bay from 1997 to 1998.

Reid improves Quarterbacks, there’s no denying this. That is good coaching. Making players better is success, as Thierry says.

Reid’s coaching tree is pretty impressive as well. He has employed Sean McDermott, Matt Nagy, Ron Rivera, Doug Pederson and John Harbaugh. Rivera and Nagy both have Coach of the Year awards, and Perderson and Harbaugh both have Super Bowl rings.

Maybe it’s cruel that his assistants have championships before him, but they’ve not have Reid’s success. 20 years in the NFL, improving players, winning games. I’m sure you all saw the stat that only he and Bill Belichick are the only coaches to beat every NFL team twice. I’m not claiming to be the first person to praise Andy Reid’s handling of Quarterbacks, I just wanted to express my feelings.

Andy’s had success, now he just needs a ring.

All information taken from somewhere not stated is from NFL.com, Pro Football Reference and Max Kellerman’s vocal cords.