- Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes comparison ahead of playoff matchup
- Allen vs Mahomes by the numbers, offensive weapons and scheme
- Which young quarterback will enjoy the better career?
After leaving Miami with the Lombardi trophy and the Super Bowl MVP award in hand, Patrick Mahomes signed a lucrative $500 million contract with the Chiefs. The stage was set – Mahomes is going to outright dominate not only the NFL but the quarterback conversation for the next fifteen years.
While all of that might still be true, we are on the eve of an AFC Championship game that, of course, includes Mahomes but also the young prince who is Mahomes’ biggest rival for the NFL quarterback throne, Josh Allen.
The result on Sunday aside, Allen has already achieved everything we expected and more this season. Despite his clear and obvious physical gifts, there were some doubts hanging over Allen prior to the 2020 season getting underway. Allen struggled with accuracy, staying composed in the pocket and turning the ball over too much, three key traits that all great quarterbacks must possess in order to make the leap into superstardom.
However, after embarking on an MVP type of season, Allen has catapulted himself into the upper-echelons of quarterback tiers. Now, in this fast-paced, ‘what have you done for me lately?’ world we live in, Allen has a chance on Sunday to supplant Mahomes and officially declare that he is here for real.
So, which young gunslinger is better? Patrick Mahomes or Josh Allen?
Allen vs Mahomes: The numbers
Both these quarterbacks are capable of putting up ‘video-game type’ box scores on any given Sunday. When comparing the two quarterback’s end of season totals, it is remarkable how similar they are.
Allen finished the 2020 regular season with 4,544 yards passing, 37 touchdowns to only 10 interceptions and a completion percentage of 69.23% – a highly efficient number for a quarterback that likes to throw the ball down the field. Moreover, Allen finished 2020 with an average throw depth of 8.1 and 8 rushing touchdowns to go along with his 37 through the air.
Compare this to Mahomes and you can see how close the two players are to one another statistically – a feat that is all the more impressive when evaluating Allen when you consider the level of quarterbacking Mahomes operates at consistently.
It is important to note that Mahomes only played fifteen games this season, missing Week Seventeen due to Kansas City already having secured the top seed in the AFC.
With that in mind, Mahomes finished the 2020 regular season with 4,740 yards passing, 38 touchdowns to 6 interceptions and a completion percentage of 66.33%. Mahomes had an average throw depth of 8.0 and 2 rushing touchdowns to add to his total of 38 passing touchdowns.
Accompanied by the caveat that Mahomes only played fifteen games compared to Allen’s sixteen, it is uncanny how close the two players are to each other when you look at their raw numbers. However, football isn’t played on a spreadsheet, it’s played on the field.
Let’s take a look at how the two compare in terms of playstyle and raw talent.
Perhaps the best two examples of talent over scheme in the NFL are Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes. The two players are the first pioneers of a dramatic shift in the way football analysts, coaches, scouts and fans evaluate quarterbacks.
The reason being is that due to the ability of each of these quarterbacks to use their legs, their arm and their god-given talent to make something out of nothing, it is incredibly challenging, almost impossible at times, to scheme for them. On a recent episode of the Athletic Football Show, analysts Robert Mays and Nate Tice hypothesised that we could be seeing the death of the archetypal pocket quarterback and the emergence of a new hybrid quarterback. Allen and Mahomes are perhaps the best examples of this.
Both quarterbacks can throw the football thirty yards down the field with the flick of their wrist, both can drop dimes on the run, rolling out to their weaker side, both can cut through the elements and throw the ball on a rope sixty yards down the field. Once the play breaks down and Mahome and Allen have a chance to work outside of the structure, as opposed to inside of it, they thrive.
Allen put on a clinic in Week Thirteen against the San Francisco 49ers, demonstrating just how effective this modern style of quarterbacking can be. The Bills quarterback was constantly moving inside and outside the pocket, making the 49ers defensive line tackle air all game while dropping dimes on the run.
The one area where Mahomes would beat Allen convincingly last season is accuracy. However, this year, partly due to the addition of Stefon Diggs and Allen’s own development as a player, Allen has been as accurate as any quarterback in the league.
From the same game, take a look at this 2nd&12 throw from the young quarterback. Allen hits his drop, gets his head up and drops the ball in a bucket for the receiver. Allen’s accuracy here is tremendous as he fits the ball in the tiniest of windows, just evading the outstretched arms of Fred Warner – one of the best coverage linebackers in the NFL.
Watching Mahomes, particularly in this Kansas City offence, is a feast for the eyes for any fan of the NFL. The highlight reel that will play as Mahomes is inducted into the Hall of Fame will be about five hours long.
But this short clip epitomises everything great about Mahomes. Rolling to his right, a defender in his face, his feet not set, the quarterback just winds up and unleashes a 54-yard touchdown pass on the run to Tyreek Hill.
You just can’t defend that. With Mahomes and Allen, it’s a case of anything you can do, I can do better.
Allen does gain a tiny advantage over Mahomes for being the more physical athlete. Mahomes can scramble and be effective in the run game, however, he does not possess the same type of Cam Newton physicality that Josh Allen does – especially in the red zone.
This season Allen scored 8 rushing touchdowns compared to Mahomes’ 2, and as we saw in the Divisional Round, you feel far more confident with 6’5 Allen running the ball over Mahomes.
Both have demonstrated that they can efficiently run an offence like a traditional quarterback; both can make checks at the line of scrimmage, comfortably audible, recognise blitzes and attack mismatches in the passing game.
Allen vs Mahomes: The Personnel
This is conceivably where the two quarterbacks are separated somewhat.
Now, we have seen the importance of personnel in the passing game with the evolution of Josh Allen. Last season, without Stefon Diggs, the Bills offence looked muddled at times. Josh Brown was forced into the X role, while slot specialist Cole Beasley had to operate out of position as the Z. The pieces just didn’t quite fit.
Following the signing of Diggs, everything fell into place. Diggs assumed that X receiver role that he was born to play, which in turn allowed Brown to function as the number two (or the Z) and Beasley to return to the slot where he has excelled this season. Moreover, the addition of rookie wideout Gabriel Davies has been the icing on top of the cake that is the Bills passing personnel.
When it comes to Allen’s development, it may not be a case of him suddenly learning how to be accurate his third year in the league, but the result of an offence that is perfectly suited to its personnel. Without the addition of Stefon Diggs, Allen is throwing jump-balls to Josh Brown and adding more interceptions to his game with fewer touchdowns.
As talented as the Bills offensive personnel is, it still doesn’t compare to the offensive firepower that the Kansas City Chiefs possess and that Patrick Mahomes has at his disposal.
While the Chiefs boast a multitude of 4.3-time playmakers such as Mecole Hardman, Demarcus Robinson and Byron Pringle, it is Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce that headline this Chiefs skill position group.
First, let’s break down what makes tight end Travis Kelce so special. Kelce amassed 1,416 receiving yards in 2020, breaking the record for most receiving yards in a single season set by George Kittle last season. Furthermore, Kelce registered 105 receptions and 11 touchdowns in 2020.
Stats aside, what makes Kelce so special is that he possesses receiver speed at the tight end position. This allows the Chiefs to invert the traditional 3x1 receiver set and put Kelce at the X and Tyreek Hill at the traditional tight end spot. As a result, Hill can execute those long crossing routes Mahomes hits so well.
On Tyreek Hill, the guy is a literal game-breaker. One of the fastest players in the NFL, Hill’s skill set, coupled with Mahomes’ ability to hit the deep ball, makes him one of the most threatening players in the history of the league.
Both the Chiefs and the Bills offensive rosters’ contain extraordinary talent in the passing game. With that in mind, it’s important to note that there are plenty of extremely talented players dotted around the NFL. The difference is that both the Bills and Allen and the Chiefs and Mahomes have schemes that play to the strengths of their talent.
Bills vs Chiefs: The schemes
Both Brian Daboll in Buffalo and Andy Reid and Eric Bienemy in Kansas City run pass-heavy, pass-first offences. For example, this past season, the Bills rushing attack only amassed 1,168 total rushing yards and an averaged Y/A of 4.35 yards on a combined total of 278 carries split between Jach Moss and Devin Singletary.
The Chiefs rushing attack echoes the Bills’. Kansas City only accumulated 997 total rushing yards from their three primary running backs with a Y/A of 4.2 yards on a combined total of 283 rushing attempts.
Clearly, both coaching staffs believe that you throw first and pass second in the modern NFL. This just underlines how similar the two quarterbacks are and how if you scheme to your rosters’ strength, you are sure to get results.
From a strict coaching match-up, the Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes are at an advantage here with Andy Reid and Eric Bienemy calling the plays in Kansas City. However, Brian Daboll is a prolific play-caller in his own right and won’t be without a head coaching position somewhere in the NFL in the next season or two.
Josh Allen may fundamentally change how we evaluate the quarterback position. His meteoric rise to the upper-echelons of the quarterback rankings demonstrates just how circumstantial player success in the NFL. However, that’s not to say that Allen is purely a product of his environment. His talent is almost unmatched and has won the Bills games single-handedly.
However, despite the Chiefs seemingly being asleep at the wheel at times during the 2020 regular season, Patrick Mahomes has not regressed anywhere close to the point where we’d consider him to be any less than the best quarterback on the planet. This comes even with Allen breathing down his neck.
With that said, the AFC Championship game could become a pivotal moment in the young careers of these two gunslingers. Coming off of a foot injury and a nasty concussion, there’s a good chance that Mahomes won’t be at 100% on Sunday, leaving the door open for Allen and the Bills to seize the occasion and punch their ticket to the Super Bowl.
If that is the case, then the conversation surrounding these two quarterbacks will get a lot more intense and a lot more interesting.