PowerMizzou - Mizzou assistant saw the start of the legend of Patrick Mahomes
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Mizzou assistant saw the start of the legend of Patrick Mahomes

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These days, David Gibbs is coaching defensive backs at Missouri. Barry Odom hired him prior to the 2019 season and Eli Drinkwitz retained him to continue the improvement of a Tiger pass defense that was one of the worst in the country two years ago. But Gibbs knows something about challenges.

Five years ago, David Gibbs had one of the toughest jobs in football. He was named the defensive coordinator at Texas Tech following the 2014 season. Entering spring football, Gibbs prepared to practice against a Red Raider offense that was searching for its starting quarterback. Davis Webb had played in 18 games and thrown for 5200 yards and 44 touchdowns in Kliff Kingsbury’s air raid attack over the previous two seasons. But he was being challenged for the starting job by a sophomore who had thrown for 1547 yards, 16 touchdowns and four interceptions in seven games as a true freshman after Webb got hurt.

That kid’s name was Patrick Mahomes, who has gone from a relatively unknown sophomore trying to win a starting job in Lubbock to the most famous football player on the planet in the last five years.

“You could just tell he was the man even back then,” Gibbs said. “He could throw the ball freaking 80 yards down the field and he can scramble, he can move around."

David Gibbs was hired at Mizzou following four seasons as the defensive coordinator at Texas Tech.
David Gibbs was hired at Mizzou following four seasons as the defensive coordinator at Texas Tech. (USA Today)

Mahomes would win the job and never look back. He threw for 425 yards and four touchdowns against Sam Houston State in the first game of the 2015 season. He ended the year completing 63.5% of his passes for 4,653 yards, 36 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Webb would grad transfer to California after that season, while Mahomes would throw for 5,000 yards as a junior and leave Lubbock early for the 2017 NFL Draft, where the Kansas City Chiefs would trade up to the 10th spot to select him with their first round pick.

“I never even saw the Chiefs that whole spring,” Gibbs said. “I’m sure that was part of their plan. I saw John Lynch and the 49ers.”

Gibbs was an assistant coach for the Broncos in 2004, which was Lynch’s first year in Denver. The latter is now the general manager of the San Francisco 49ers, Mahomes’ and the Chiefs’ opponent in Super Bowl LIV on Sunday. If Lynch’s team can slow down Mahomes, they’ll be wearing rings in the near future. Of course, that’s easier said than done. Gibbs knows.

“I’ve been doing this a long time and it doesn’t happen for everybody,” Gibbs said. “They play college football the same way they did in high school; he’s one of the very few that goes to the NFL against the best in the world and he’s still playing the way he did in high school.

“He’s been doing this for a long time. Just a special cat, special dude.”

Mahomes has taken the NFL by storm, winning the Most Valuable Player award in his first season as a starter and leading the Chiefs to their first Super Bowl appearance in 50 years in his second. He dominates highlight shows with his array of arm angles, left-handed throws and no-look passes. That’s all old news to Gibbs. He saw it all the time years ago.

“He probably did it his true freshman year, sophomore year where he first started the no-look passing thing,” Gibbs said. “We would post it on Twitter and Instagram, but it never went viral. Now every time he does it in the NFL it’s all over SportsCenter and everything else. He used to do it to us.

“A lot of times on defense you teach read the quarterback’s eyes. But you can’t read his eyes.”

Before Mahomes was the biggest thing in the NFL he had to fight to win the starting job as a sophomore at Texas Tech.
Before Mahomes was the biggest thing in the NFL he had to fight to win the starting job as a sophomore at Texas Tech.

For all the highlight reel passes, that’s not what jumps out most to Gibbs. Yes, Mahomes has a rocket arm and freakish field vision. But most NFL quarterbacks have great arms and see the field well.

“Without a doubt it’s the hardest thing to do at any level of football is when the quarterback is a good passer but has the ability to scramble and run the ball. You always have to account for him,” Gibbs said. “The problem with Pat is he’s so used to people spying him and the answer for coverage is you only rush three and you spy with a fourth…If you rush three at him and spy him with one, he’s going to maneuver around those three and the fourth rusher, because he comes from depth, is not going to be able to affect that."

If you do manage to corral Mahomes, Gibbs said the hardest part of the job still lies ahead.

“He doesn’t look like he’s hard to tackle, but he’s a great athlete,” Gibbs said. “When you see him and you hang out with him, I don’t think you believe it until he actually does it to you. The best defensive players in the country couldn’t tackle him. I’m not surprised what he’s doing.”

Mahomes isn’t Gibbs’ only connection to the Chiefs and this Super Bowl. He was college teammates with Eric Bienemy at Colorado in the late 1980s and through the Buffs’ 1990 national championship season. He remains in touch with the Chiefs offensive coordinator and even went to the team’s OTA’s with Tiger defensive coordinator Ryan Walters—another Colorado alum—last year.

“That bond goes way back,” Gibbs said. “I know who I’ll be rooting for.”