Patrick Mahomes had some stigma smashing to do when he entered the NFL.
The former Texas Tech quarterback put up unreal numbers in college, but was only the tenth player chosen in the 2017 draft because previous Air Raid passers didn’t work out in the pros.
Mahomes answered all the doubters this year, leading the Chiefs to the AFC Championship game in a campaign that should nab him the league’s MVP award.
The question now: Can Mahomes’ former mentor at Texas Tech, Kliff Kingsbury, find schematic success using the Air Raid with the Cardinals? Count Mahomes among the believers.
“A lot of the Air Raid that people talk about, it’s involved in a lot of these (NFL) offenses,” Mahomes said Thursday from the Pro Bowl. “If you see coach Kingsbury and the way he does pro concepts, you’ll know that it will translate well as he gets here and keeps adding on to the pro concepts.”
The Chiefs ended up hitting a home run with the selection of Mahomes, as they now boast the most valuable asset in the NFL due to his combination of talent and low salary cap hit. The Cardinals were last in the NFL in offense in 2018, and if Kingsbury can get that turned around, he could also prove to hold tremendous value.
There are plenty of critics wondering if an Air Raid-heavy offense can work against NFL defenses, but many people who have worked closely with Kingsbury are optimistic.
Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans is also in Orlando this week preparing for the Pro Bowl. He played under Kingsbury, then the offensive coordinator at Texas A&M, as a freshman in 2012. Evans had 82 catches for 1,105 yards and five touchdowns that season and believes Kingsbury is “very deserving” of this NFL coaching shot.
“He understands players and he understands offenses,” Evans said. “I’m looking for him to be very successful in Arizona.”
The Cardinals have hired several coaches with NFL experience as offensive assistants, giving Kingsbury a nice sounding board on what may or may not translate effectively.
Notably, though, Mahomes and other Air Raid quarterbacks have found NFL success because their professional coaches did not force them into pro-style schemes. It seems clear Kingsbury will stick to many of the concepts that worked for him in the past, confident they will translate to the NFL game.
“I’m anxious to get in with a bunch of experienced offensive coaches and kind of mesh things together and come up with the best product we can come up with,” Kingsbury said. “I do think that there’s a lot of things that we do, that we did at Texas Tech, that can be successful.”
Images of Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson and other Pro Bowlers during the week leading up to the game