Unlocking the playbook: How Peyton Manning’s strategies influenced the rise of Patrick Mahomes.

Peyton Manning’s Legacy and its Impact on Patrick Mahomes

When Peyton Manning retired from the NFL in 2016 after an illustrious 18-year career, he left behind an undeniable legacy as one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game. However, his influence extends well beyond his on-field accomplishments. One quarterback who has directly benefited from Manning’s legacy is Kansas City Chiefs superstar Patrick Mahomes. While their playing careers overlapped by just one season, Manning left an indelible mark on Mahomes through his playing style, mentorship, the offensive scheme he helped develop, and his legendary work ethic. These factors have all contributed greatly to Mahomes’ meteoric rise to stardom in the NFL.

Playing Style

One of the clearest ways Manning influenced Mahomes is through their similar playing styles. Both quarterbacks are known for their intelligence, accuracy, and ability to extend plays outside the pocket. Manning was a master at diagnosing defenses pre-snap and making adjustments. He thrived in the no-huddle, hurry-up offense by identifying mismatches and exploiting them. This allowed Manning to consistently put his team in the best position to succeed before the ball was even snapped.

Physically, Manning was not the most gifted athlete but he had incredible pocket presence and awareness. He knew how to subtly step up in the pocket to avoid pressure while keeping his eyes downfield looking for openings in the defense. When pressure did arrive, Manning showcased excellent footwork to sidestep or climb the pocket to buy more time. His lower body strength allowed him to withstand hits as he delivered strikes downfield.

This style of playing with intelligence, accuracy and mobility served Manning incredibly well over his career. He threw for over 71,000 yards and 539 touchdowns in his career while winning five MVP awards. His 2013 season where he led the NFL with 55 touchdown passes is arguably the greatest quarterbacking season of all time. Manning helped prove that playing from the pocket did not have to mean taking sacks or checking down – it could mean extending plays and attacking all areas of the field.

Mahomes has taken this style that Manning popularized to new heights with his rare combination of physical tools. Like Manning, Mahomes is a pre-snap master who uses his football IQ to its maximum advantage. He routinely identifies leverage and coverage pre-snap then exploits them with pinpoint accuracy. Mahomes also shows the pocket presence and awareness of Manning, feeling pressure around him while keeping his eyes downfield.

However, Mahomes possesses a stronger, more athletic build than Manning which allows him to make even more spectacular plays. When pressure breaks down his pocket, Mahomes can outrun defenders with impressive speed and agility. He also has a howitzer for an arm that allows him to make throws Manning could only dream of from different arm angles and platforms. All this is done while still maintaining Manning’s precision and field vision.

In just four seasons as a starter, Mahomes has established himself as the heir to Manning’s throne by taking this style to the next level. He already has an NFL MVP award, Super Bowl title and is on pace to shatter Manning’s career records. Manning helped prove an intelligent, accurate quarterback did not need a cannon arm or blazing speed to dominate – and Mahomes has shown how unstoppable that style can be with his rare physical gifts.


Beyond influencing Mahomes through his playing style, Manning also directly mentored the young quarterback during their brief time together in Kansas City. After being released by the Denver Broncos, the 39-year old Manning decided to sign with the Chiefs for the 2016 season, his final year in the NFL. Coincidentally, that same year the Chiefs drafted Mahomes in the first round out of Texas Tech to be the quarterback of the future.

This created a unique opportunity for Manning, in the twilight of his career, to impart some of his vast football knowledge onto a young, impressionable player. Though Manning started most of the season for the Chiefs, Mahomes saw significant playing time in mop-up duty during blowouts. Behind the scenes, Manning took Mahomes under his wing. He would often be one of the last players to leave the facility, staying late to review film and answer any questions Mahomes had.

Manning focused on teaching Mahomes the mental side of the game, how to identify defenses and leverage pre-snap, make adjustments at the line, and go through progressions. But he also provided invaluable advice on work habits and how to prepare like a pro. Manning stressed taking meticulous notes in meetings and knowing the playbook inside and out. All these lessons would serve Mahomes well when he took over as the full-time starter the next season.

In interviews since, Mahomes has expressed how impactful that year of learning from Manning was for him. “Just to see how he went about his business and the way he prepared himself was amazing to watch in person,” Mahomes said. Manning’s attention to detail and standard of excellence left a mark on Mahomes. He would carry those lessons with him as he embarked on his own journey to becoming an NFL star. Manning helped groom the young quarterback to be ready for the responsibilities of the role.

Offensive Scheme

Another way Manning left his imprint was through the offensive scheme he helped develop and excel in during his career. When Andy Reid was the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, he designed an innovative, quarterback-friendly system to maximize Manning’s talents. It featured spread concepts, no-huddle hurry-up principles, and an emphasis on pre-snap adjustments and audibles at the line of scrimmage.

This scheme played perfectly to Manning’s strengths of pre-snap diagnostics and exploiting leverage through route combinations. It created mismatches and stressed defenses with its up-tempo pace. Manning thrived conducting this “Manning-led” offense in Indianapolis, putting up huge numbers and leading the Colts deep into the playoffs annually. When Reid later became the Chiefs head coach, he brought these same principles with him.

The continuity allowed Mahomes to step right into a scheme he was already familiar with from studying Manning’s film. The spread, no-huddle concepts played directly to Mahomes’ skills as well by giving him options to attack all areas of the field. It allowed Mahomes to showcase his big arm on deep shots and decision making through adjustments. Like Manning, Mahomes could identify leverage pre-snap and pick apart zones with option routes.

Reid has expanded the system even further to maximize Mahomes’ rare physical tools such as his scrambling ability. But the foundation was laid by Manning’s success running a similar scheme in Indianapolis. Having this offensive fit allowed Mahomes to hit the ground running as the starter in Kansas City. He put up MVP numbers in his first season due to the scheme’s emphasis on his strengths. Manning helped pioneer an offense that has fueled Mahomes’ rapid rise.

Work Ethic

Perhaps the biggest influence Manning left on Mahomes was through his legendary work ethic and dedication to the game. By all accounts, Manning approached football with a relentless intensity and passion for perfection that was unparalleled. He was notoriously one of the first players at the facility and last to leave, spending hours poring over film, refining his mechanics, and mentally preparing for opponents.

Nothing was left to chance in Manning’s preparation. He treated every practice, meeting, and workout as seriously as a game. This work ethic became lore around the NFL and helped Manning sustain his high level of play deep into his 30s, leading the Broncos to a Super Bowl title at age 39. For young players, especially quarterbacks, Manning set the gold standard for professionalism.

Mahomes has followed suit by adopting Manning’s tireless approach. He arrives at the facility before dawn and is often the last to leave at night. Like Manning, Mahomes obsessively studies film, taking detailed notes on defenses. He works constantly with his receivers and quarterbacks coach to refine his footwork, throwing motion, and decision making. Even during the offseason, Mahomes treats every training session and workout as an opportunity to improve.

This work ethic has allowed Mahomes to avoid the traditional sophomore slump. It has also helped him bounce back from the Super Bowl loss in year two by leading the Chiefs back and winning the championship the following season. At just 27 years old, Mahomes’ work ethic positions him well to sustain elite play for over a decade, just as Manning did. By following the example set by Manning, Mahomes seems destined for greatness.

Legacy of Influence

Through their similar playing styles, Manning’s direct mentorship, the offensive scheme he helped develop, and his legendary work ethic, Peyton Manning left an undeniable imprint on Patrick Mahomes. While their careers overlapped by a single season, Manning established the gold standard at the quarterback position that Mahomes has modeled himself after. He has taken the intelligent, accurate style Manning popularized to new heights with his rare physical gifts.

Manning also ensured his successor was prepared through personal tutelage in Kansas City. Reid’s offensive system, which originated from Manning’s success in Indianapolis, provided Mahomes with the perfect scheme fit. Most importantly, Mahomes has embraced Manning’s relentless approach to the game through meticulous preparation and constant self-improvement. All these factors have played a major role in Mahomes’ ascension to becoming one of the NFL.

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