Patrick Mahomes: 2018 AP NFL MVP

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In 2018, quarterback Patrick Mahomes had the luxury of taking over a Kansas City Chiefs team that had averaged 11 wins over its prior three seasons. 

In his first snap in Week One at Los Angeles, Mahomes had the luxury of a 7-0 lead before ever touching the football, thanks to a Tyreek Hill punt return touchdown. In that moment, Mahomes also had the luxury of handing off to the NFL’s incumbent rushing champion, Kareem Hunt.

These “luxuries” are the arguments to be made against his MVP candidacy. But something marvelous happened over the course of the season.

In 17 short weeks, Mahomes proved week in and week out that the greatest misnomer was assuming who was being afforded a “luxury.” Now we all know the truth.

The NFL has the luxury of Patrick Mahomes.

The Chargers were unfortunate enough to have to play the Chiefs first. Anthony Lynn probably entered the game the same way any other coach would have against a 23-year-old first-year starter.

“Load up on the run,” they said.

“Make that kid beat us,” they said. 

They did. And then he did.

It happened the next week at Pittsburgh. Again at Denver. 

Over the course of September, the focus of opposing defenses had shifted to Mahomes and the Chiefs’ potent passing offense. In the ensuing weeks, as defensive coordinators futilely scrambled to try to crack Mahomes’ code, Hunt and the running game began to open up.

Mahomes makes every player in his offense better.

Dominant wins. Close shaves. Left-handed passes. No-look passes. Even the season’s first defeat, a 43-40 Week 6 loss at New England, didn’t really feel like a beating. The Chiefs just had fewer points when the clock hit zeroes.

No player in the league incurred more water-cooler “did you see what he did?” plays than Patrick Mahomes in 2018. It wasn’t even close.

One can point to a myriad of statistics to back up Mahomes’ MVP case: 5,000 yards and 50 TDs have only been accomplished twice before. Perhaps the most telling statistic was in the consistency of the offensive unit as a whole. Andy Reid’s squad set an NFL record in scoring 26 points or more in every game this season. Remarkably, the offense hardly sputtered when Hunt was abruptly released in Week 13.

Despite gaudy pass rush numbers (leading the NFL in sacks and forced fumbles), Kansas City’s defense rarely helped the team win. Quite to the contrary, Bob Sutton’s unit was dead last in Rushing DVOA and 31st in total yards allowed. It was most obvious in the Chiefs’ biggest games. 

It’s no exaggeration to say that no NFL defense contained Patrick Mahomes better than Kansas City’s did; a statement that is equally aggravating and encouraging for Chiefs fans. 

Yet with all of their defensive woes, there stood the Chiefs in January: #1 seed in the AFC and one drive away from punching their ticket to the Super Bowl.

Everyone knew about the arm strength. But no one predicted this kind of character, leadership, consistency, and transcendent ability in Year One as a starter.

The Chiefs found themselves one or two years ahead of schedule because they have finally found their quarterback.