The San Francisco 49ers and Chicago Bears are in the midst of their preseason training camps, and they are trying to mold their quarterbacks into Pro Bowl-caliber players.
Coming off a big preseason win against the Houston Texans, the San Francisco 49ers and Chicago Bears are looking to take advantage of their quarterbacks’ early success.
What’s the most exciting thing that happened in the NFL this offseason? I’ll give you a hint, the quarterback position got a little clearer. The Chicago Bears made a big move in free agency signing former Washington Redskins quarterback, Patrick Mahomes II. It was a shock move, but it made sense to upgrade at the position. What’s not to like? The Bears are getting the best passer in the league who threw for over 5,000 yards in his last full season.
Patrick Mahomes may be the greatest quarterback in the NFL, but that wasn’t always the case. Mahomes spent nearly all of his first season behind Alex Smith after being selected 10th overall by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2017. He subsequently went on to win the NFL MVP in his second season. Some clubs take their quarterbacks along this route, while others do not. However, the San Francisco 49ers and Chicago Bears are already attempting to transform Trey Lance and Justin Fields, their rookie quarterbacks, into Mahomes.
A rookie quarterback’s management isn’t a one-size-fits-all scenario. Some rookies are compelled to start week one depending on the individual and the team’s needs. This season, consider Zach Wilson of the New York Jets and Trevor Lawrence of the Jacksonville Jaguars. And not everyone is physically endowed in the same way that Mahomes is. However, some players need more time to develop, and the 49ers and Bears are at least trying to follow Mahomes’ lead in 2021.
Because he waited behind Alex Smith for the most of his first season, Mahomes didn’t take off until his second.
Prior to the 2017 draft, there were a lot of concerns about Mahomes. Inconsistency, a lack of discipline and footwork in the pocket, a proclivity to try for the big play, impatience, and decision making were among the concerns, according to NFL.com. There are many reasons why the greatest player in the NFL was nearly selected outside of the top ten.
At first look, it seems like a good portion of the questions surrounding the Texas Tech product may be answered with time and practice. Andy Reid’s experience with quarterbacks didn’t hurt, but Mahomes had the opportunity to work on some of his flaws without the burden of winning games. Smith was in charge of this.
The 6-foot-3 quarterback didn’t make his debut until the last week of his rookie season, when the Chiefs had already clinched a playoff berth. The eventual MVP completed 22 of 35 passes for 284 yards and one interception. After that, Smith returned for the team’s lone postseason game.
The next year, Mahomes earned MVP after passing for over 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns.
With different approaches to dealing with Lance and Fields, San Francisco and Chicago are attempting to create their own Mahomes.
During a preseason game against the Buffalo Bills, Justin Fields of the Chicago Bears looks for a receiver. | Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Lance and Fields had some of the same flaws as Mahomes when they graduated from college: Inconsistency, a lack of patience (or, in Lance’s case, too much patience), untrained feet, and a lack of knowledge of how to handle the pocket are all factors. Again, these are characteristics that may be enhanced with time and care.
According to NCBSports, Mahomes has often stated how important Smith was in launching his early-career success:
“Alex Smith taught me a great deal. He is responsible for a lot of my achievement, particularly so early in my career.
“Just watching how he went about being a professional, going out and having the tremendous year he had my first year, and just seeing how he went about it every single day. He had a knack for game planning and recognizing coverages.”
Patrick Mahomes reflects on his first season as a backup quarterback to Alex Smith.
Kyle Shanahan, the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, has said that if Lance is ready to play, he will not hesitate to start him. During training camp, the North Dakota State product received first-team reps in practice. Lance, on the other hand, is 20 years old and has only played one season of college football at the FCS level. Jimmy Garoppolo, the 49ers’ current quarterback, has six seasons in the league and led the team to the Super Bowl two years ago (and lost, ironically, to Mahomes and the Chiefs).
Fields’ position has been dramatically different, as the entire Bears front staff, including head coach Matt Nagy, has said many times that Andy Dalton will start for Chicago in week one. Dalton said that he joined with the club because he was guaranteed a starting position. Fields has had a strong preseason, but all indications are that the former Ohio State Buckeye will start the season with a clipboard.
The Mahomes Strategy is the ideal plan if clubs are patient with their young quarterbacks.
Wilson and Lawrence are expected to start the first game of the season since their clubs have no better alternatives. That is, assuming Gardner Minshew continues to refuse to be the Jaguars’ No. 2.
Lance and Fields, on the other hand, are almost likely to start games in 2021. It’s unclear when that will happen. However, as Kansas City shown with Mahomes, allowing a rookie to wait, observe, and grow early in his career may pay off in the long run.
Pro-Football-Reference provided all statistics.
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