A year after reaching the highest point in his professional career, Patrick Mahomes faced the aftermath of the biggest defeat he had experienced as an NFL player — losing to Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl LV.
It was a feeling Mahomes had experienced before, but not one that was going to shake the foundation of one of the league’s brightest young stars.
“It’s not really much of a change, but you’re definitely driven to go harder in the offseason,” Mahomes told AOL.com. “I remember when we lost the AFC Championship game, it was a similar feeling. You’re right there and you don’t finish the job."
Much like the Chiefs parlayed the emotions from the 2019 playoff loss — again to Brady — into a Super Bowl win the following year, Mahomes envisions a scenario where last February’s defeat sparks Kansas City.
“Obviously you want to win it and win as many as possible but, if you use [defeat] the right way, as motivation to prepare yourself knowing every single week that you can win or lose, it could help,” Mahomes said. “Time will tell. It all comes down to how people are going to handle it and I think we have guys who are going to handle it the right way and we’re going to find a way to get back in that game again.”
Although the “one week at a time” mantra is a tired football cliche on the surface, it’s one that has proven successful in building NFL dynasties like the one Kansas City is on the cusp of cementing, having just become the third team this century to make back-to-back Super Bowls.
It also shows Mahomes's understanding of the game from a mental standpoint, offering a consistent approach regardless of the Chiefs' standing in the league.
“I’ve always thought that every single week is just as important as the one before or the one after,” Mahomes said. “The NFL is different from all other sports because every game counts for so much at the end of the year. At the end of the day you start every season from scratch, so even last year we had to come in with the mentality of building day by day, putting in a ton of work if we wanted to have a chance of getting to where we wanted to be.”
As philosophically stable as Mahomes and the Chiefs look to remain heading into the season, there have been significant roster changes this offseason, almost certainly directly influenced by February’s loss.
After Tampa Bay’s defense sacked Mahomes three times and had nine QB hits during Super Bowl LV, Kansas City dramatically overhauled its offensive line.
In March, the Chiefs released longtime tackles Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz and signed Kyle Long, Joe Thuney and Austin Blythe. Then, in April, Kansas City made a blockbuster trade, sending three draft picks, including its first-round selection, to Baltimore in exchange for Pro Bowl tackle Orlando Brown.
The flurry of transactions, combined with the return of Laurent Duvernay-Tardif — who opted out of last season to help with the COVID-19 pandemic — means 80% of the Chiefs’ projected starting offensive line will essentially be new.
“I think having some guys that we had the last few years and having some new guys with new energy, it’s definitely been a great mix and I’m definitely excited to get in and get things rolling,” Mahomes said.
“It’s been really cool to see how [the offensive linemen] have already come together and become this unit where they are almost like best friends. It only took a couple of weeks. I’m excited for them as they continue to gel, continue to learn. It’s a bunch of talented dudes, so when they really start jelling, I’m excited for the future that they have.”
Mahomes and his teammates will likely benefit from a bit more of normalcy when it comes to the offseason programs. Last year, teams were forced to conduct organized team activities and minicamps virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite the impact of COVID-19 still being seen around the country, the uncertainty that existed this time last year is largely gone and, on July 28th, the team will open training camp at Missouri Western State University for the 11th time in the past 12 seasons.
“It definitely does feel a little more normal,” Mahomes said. “To be able to go through somewhat of a typical OTA schedule, to be around some of your teammates and be able to know what to expect going into the season. We’re going back to training camp at the college that we usually go to so it’s a lot more normal.”
From a personal standpoint, Mahomes’ life changed dramatically this offseason as well. Weeks after Super Bowl LV, Mahomes and his fiancee, Brittany Matthews, welcomed their first child, Sterling Skye Mahomes. On top of that, Mahomes and Matthews are in the midst of planning a wedding, scheduled to take place in 2022.
“Obviously it’s awesome to be a dad, to have a baby girl and see her grow every single day,” Mahomes said. “I think having great people around me [helps], starting with Brittany, she’s been an amazing mom and is planning the wedding. She’s great at juggling all of those things and still having a positive attitude every day. It's made it easy for me to be a dad and plan the wedding as best I can, while also being able to do what I need to do to be great on the field.”
As if juggling fatherhood, wedding planning and offseason workouts weren’t enough, Mahomes has also continued to grow his brand this offseason. The 25-year-old quarterback renewed his partnership with Head and Shoulders for a third year. Mahomes and NFL legend Troy Polamalu are again partnering for the company’s “Never Stop Working” campaign this summer.
“It’s funny because I remember watching Troy in these commercials growing up and all of the different hairstyles I had growing up,” Mahomes said. “When I started doing this mohawk, I knew one day I wanted to be in a Head and Shoulders commercial. It’s been kind of cool to see it get rolling now and seeing kids, especially around the Kansas City area, copying the hairstyle. I really appreciate it. It’s truly a cool thing.”
And despite being two of the greatest football players at their respective positions, the two stars usually avoid talking shop when they get together on set.
“We talk about our family stuff, off-the-field stuff like charities and things like that,” Mahomes said. “I think that’s the best part about it, we really enjoy being around each other and shooting the commercials. It’s awesome to work with him because he’s such a good dude and really cares about you as a person.”
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