Chiefs receiver Skyy Moore posted a video on his YouTube channel showing highlights of last month’s workouts in Texas, which were organized by Patrick Mahomes. Kadarius Toney, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Noah Gray, Justyn Ross, Richie James, Jody Fortson, Ihmir Smith-Marsette and Blake Bell were all in Texas. So was four-time All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce, who said those workouts are a big reason why he has such a special connection with Mahomes. Kelce explained more on that while talking with Alex Smith on SiriusXM NFL Radio earlier this month.
“Obviously, you don’t develop these kinds of things without being in practice going full speed, every single rep in the offseason and training camps,” Kelce said. “Because those are all instincts that you build for in-game decisions. “I feel like the one thing that Pat does naturally better than any quarterback or player I’ve ever been around is improvise when the play shuts down. His ability to get out of the pocket, still be able to throw it anywhere on the field as far as he needs to throw it, as short as he needs to throw it. Just being able to get it into somebody’s hands.”
Kelce actually prefers it when Mahomes improvises. “When I saw that he has that ability, now it’s almost (like) you get more excited when the first play breaks down,” Kelce said. “They glove us on the first play, they just have our card, they have the right defense or the right coverage. And now, it’s even more fun because when Pat gets out of the pocket, guys tend to move more, it starts to become more of a broken-down play. The coverages don’t stay the same, voids open up in other areas. It’s really just backyard ball, you just go to the open spot and let Pat kind of throw you open.
“Being on the field with him during these OTA reps, during training camp reps, throughout the season, seeing how he throws the ball to other guys . … Now when I know I’m in that situation, I’m ready for the football whenever it’s in the air.” Kelce was drafted by the Chiefs in 2013, the same year Andy Reid was hired as head coach and the team traded for Smith. By Kelce’s third season with the Chiefs, he made the Pro Bowl. The following season Kelce was an All-Pro and topped 1,000 yards receiving for the first time.
Smith relayed a great story about how Kelce grew into becoming the best tight end in the NFL by having options on every route he runs. Smith said when a play is written on paper, lines indicate where a pass catcher is supposed to run. But Kelce often tweaks those routes. “I’ll never forget, it was like my second to last year in Kansas City and we’d had a rough patch as an offense, and so I went in to watch tape with Matt Nagy, (who) at the time was the QB coach, and we turned on the film from the day before and we’re going through offensive plays,” Smith recalled. “You have your list as a quarterback, like Cover-3, it’s supposed to go here. Cover-2 it’s supposed to be here. And like without a doubt every play we would kind of reflect at the end and like well, ‘Travis is open right here.’
“And then it’d be like, ‘Well, Travis is open again. You know, he’s not supposed to be open versus Cover-2, but he’s open again.’ It’s the route but it’s not the line on the paper. It just kind of morphed and we basically walked out of the meeting saying, ‘Hey, listen, when in doubt, find Travis and throw him the ball.’ And Travis has gone to this where — and he’s earned it — but like he uncovers man and if you watch him: man, zone ,outside leverage, inside leverage, linebacker, safety, corner, it never looks the same.” Kelce appreciated the kind words from Smith and gave credit to Reid and offensive coordinator Matt Nagy. “I’m always trying to be as available and as open as I possibly can for the guy that’s got the ball back there,” Kelce said. “That’s my job is to make it as easy as I can for the QB back there. It takes a smart quarterback and a confident quarterback to trust what I’m doing out there because like you said it’s not going to look like the line on the paper.
“And it’s just a lot of trial and error. And I’ve been fortunate to coach Reid throughout the years who’s kind of guided me along with that and told me, ‘Hey, no more of that (play) or ‘Yeah, we can possibly tweak that.’ “I feel like that’s how you’ve got to keep evolving. Why put a box around a certain route if it’s not affecting anybody else’s? I’m still able to get open for the quarterback and I’ve just always just had it in the back of my mind like here, let me paint this picture to make it easy for the QB to be able to just find me in the open areas in the field, no matter what coverages they are running.” Smith also talked about the special bond between Mahomes and Kelce, who also are close friends off the field. “For all the listeners out there, these guys are like step brothers,” Smith said. “They have a bond that’s really, really rare in professional sports. I mean, I played for 16 years, it just doesn’t happen often to have two guys at that level that have the relationship they have off and on the field where they just have that closeness that they can rib each other and then the bond on the field.”