The 2016 football season ended as a major disappointment for the Texas Tech Red Raiders. Tech finished with a 5-7 record, with no truly good wins and a couple of bad losses (most notably by 56 points to 3-9 Iowa State). However, there was a bright spot on this team: Patrick Mahomes.
Mahomes played in high school for the Whitehouse Wildcats, located just outside of Tyler, Texas. Touted as one of the better dual-threat quarterbacks in the 2014 class, Mahomes was recruited by many schools across the country, but only received offers from Texas Tech, Baylor and Oklahoma State. Mahomes committed to the Red Raiders in early 2013, still in his junior year of high school. Under Mahomes, Whitehouse finished the 2013 season 12-1, their only loss to fellow powerhouse Poteet in the regional semifinals. Mahomes went to Texas Tech in 2014 as the backup to Davis Webb, playing only limited minutes for the first two thirds of his freshman year. Before the Texas game, Webb was injured, and Mahomes got his chance in the spotlight.
In his first game as starter, against the Texas Longhorns, Mahomes was given limited control of the offense, as he was both a freshman and a first time starter. The next game, against Oklahoma, Mahomes was featured in much more of a starring role, going 27/50 with nearly 400 yards and four touchdowns. Two weeks later, in the Red Raiders’ final game, Mahomes was tasked with facing the mighty Baylor Bears, widely considered a frontrunner to make the inaugural College Football Playoff. Mahomes had by far his best game thus far, throwing for 596 yards on just 30 completions, and passing for six touchdowns. Despite being only 4-7, Texas Tech came incredibly close to stunning the 7th ranked Bears, falling short 48-46. Still, the future looked bright for Tech with Mahomes at the helm.
The 2015 season was a much better season than 2014 in Lubbock. Mahomes was named starter over Webb just days before the season opener against Sam Houston State. While the team finished just barely above .500, all but one of their six losses was to a team that finished ranked. One of these games was a heartbreaking loss to TCU, ranked second at the time, in which Mahomes threw for 392 yards and two touchdowns. Mahomes ended the season with 4653 passing yards and 456 rushing yards. Despite being 7-6, the general belief around the program was that Tech could go very far with Mahomes as the leader.
The 2016 campaign was disappointing for the Red Raiders, but Mahomes had his best season yet. He threw for over 300 yards in nine out of 12 games, including a record-tying 734 yards against 16th ranked Oklahoma. The Oklahoma game featured many broken records in offensive categories, and Mahomes was the primary contributor to this. Despite his 5052 passing yards in only 12 games, not to mention 53 total touchdowns, Tech did not receive an invitation to a bowl game, and the team finished 6th in the conference.
Mahomes has only a 13-16 record as starter, which does not suggest he’s even an average quarterback, let alone an NFL prospect. However, if you look at what Mahomes has done statistically, and what he has done with some very questionable personnel around him, its hard to argue he isn’t the best quarterback to ever go through Lubbock. While Kliff Kingsbury and Graham Harrell both had very successful careers, with Harrell even leading Tech to a #2 ranking in 2008, Mahomes has been more explosive than either, and is much higher on NFL big boards than the other two were. Mike Leach also coached both Kingsbury and Harrell, and as of now it would appear Leach is a superior coach to Kingsbury. The Red Raiders of the late 2000s were some of the best teams in Tech history, but Harrell had a ton of great players surrounding him. Mahomes does not have this luxury, and Tech’s poor records in the previous six years have illustrated this. If you want to compare Texas Tech quarterbacks just by themselves, it’s hard not to call Mahomes the best.