Big 12 style back in fa­vor with Ma­homes

The Kansas City Star - - Sports - BY BLAIR KERKHOFF [email protected]­star.com

Could this be right?

With the Chiefs’ 31-13 vic­tory over the In­di­anapo­lis Colts on Satur­day, Patrick Ma­homes, the sec­ond-year pro from Texas Tech, be­came the first quar­ter­back from the Big 12 to start and win a NFL play­off game.

This from the con­fer­ence launched in 1996 that has earned its rep­u­ta­tion as a league built on pass­ing and dy­namic of­fense.

The Big 12 has pro­duced six Heis­man Tro­phy-win­ning quar­ter­backs, in­clud­ing the two most re­cent in Ok­la­homa’s Baker May­field and Kyler Mur­ray.

The top two quar­ter­backs in NCAA ca­reer pass­ing ef­fi­ciency en­ter­ing this sea­son were Ok­la­homa’s Sam Brad­ford and May­field. Oth­ers like Bay­lor’s Robert Grif­fin III, Texas Tech’s Gra­ham Har­rell, Ok­la­homa State’s Ma­son Ru­dolph, Texas’ Colt McCoy, OU’s Landry Jones, rank high on other col­lege ca­reer pass­ing lists.

But Big 12 quar­ter­backs had con­stantly heard this knock when it came to op­por­tu­nity at the next level: They were prod­ucts of the sys­tem.

Of­fenses flour­ished, score­boards posted huge num­bers and quar­ter­backs amassed crazy sta­tis­tics. But they played gim­micky fast-break foot­ball with no hud­dles, which did not trans­late well to the NFL.

The quar­ter­backs didn’t have the size or the arm strength, and those that did couldn’t or didn’t get the chance to adapt to more tra­di­tional drop-back styles in the pros.

A few from the Big 12 made it as starters, but three who opened a play­off game be­fore Ma­homes on Satur­day in the Di­vi­sional round lost in their only op­por­tu­nity.

The list: Chris Simms (Texas) for Tampa Bay in 2005, Vince Young (Texas) for Ten­nessee in 2007) and Grif­fin for Wash­ing­ton in 2012.

There is an ex­cep­tion. A player who started in the Big 12 at quar­ter­back, started a NFL play­off game at an­other po­si­tion, and his team won. Seneca Wal­lace, who played quar­ter­back at Iowa State, started a play­off game for the Sea­hawks in 2006 as a wide re­ceiver.

Colorado’s Koy Det­mer, the first All-Big 12 quar­ter­back in 1996, ap­peared in play­off games for Andy Reid’s Philadel­phia Ea­gles but didn’t start. His pre­de­ces­sor at Colorado, Kordell Ste­wart, won play­off games as a starter for Pitts­burgh, but his col­lege ca­reer oc­curred when the Buf­faloes were in the Big Eight.

The NFL’s sen­ti­ment is clearly shift­ing on quar­ter­backs from spread of­fenses. Ma­homes threw for a Big 12-like 50 touch­downs and 5,097 pass­ing yards in his first year as a starter with the Chiefs. He helped them be­come the first team in NFL his­tory to score at least 26 points in ev­ery game.

He is the first for­mer Big 12 QB to break through in a big way.

May­field, the over­all top draft pick of the Cleve­land Browns, was ter­rific as a starter, fin­ish­ing with 27 touch­down passes and a 6-7 record for a team that went win­less last sea­son.

The per­son who drafted May­field knew some­thing about this type of quar­ter­backs. John Dorsey, the Browns’ GM and for­mer Chiefs GM, se­lected May­field a year after he drafted Ma­homes.

The next draft could pro­duce an­other spread of­fense star. Mur­ray, de­spite his 5-9, 180-pound frame, now has a choice. Se­lected by the Oak­land A’s in the first round last sum­mer, Mur­ray is con­tem­plat­ing an NFL fu­ture and could be a first-round pick in that sport as well after a sea­son in which he threw 42 touch­down passes and seven in­ter­cep­tions for the Soon­ers.

How quickly has the NFL em­braced what’s been en­ter­tain­ing Big 12 fans for years? Kliff Kings­bury, the orig­i­nal spread quar­ter­back for Leach’s Red Raiders, was fired as Texas Tech’s head coach six weeks ago. He quickly took a job as South­ern Cal­i­for­nia’s of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor, but the of­fers didn’t stop.

Kings­bury started talk­ing to NFL teams, and is now head coach of the Ari­zona Car­di­nals.

An­other for­mer Big 12 quar­ter­back, Zac Tay­lor, is a lead­ing can­di­date to be­come the Cincin­nati Ben­gals’ coach. Tay­lor, the Los An­ge­les’ Rams’ quar­ter­backs coach, set pass­ing records at Ne­braska and was the Big 12’s of­fen­sive player of the year in 2006.

For years, the spread phi­los­o­phy and quar­ter­backs who made it work were dis­missed by the NFL. Pro­duc­tion and play­off suc­cess have a way of chang­ing minds. Blair Kerkhoff: 816-234-4730, @BlairKerkhoff

JILL TOYOSHIBA

Chiefs quar­ter­back Patrick Ma­homes makes a dive for the end zone to score a touch­down late in the sec­ond quar­ter against the Colts dur­ing Satur­day’s game in Kansas City, Mo. His style of play, honed in the Big 12, is re­gain­ing fa­vor.

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