As the clock struck zero and confetti rained down from above, it was official: the Kansas City Chiefs were once again Super Bowl Champions. The game itself was a classic, a down-to-the-wire thriller between the two best teams in the league. There were so many storylines and implications riding on the individual contest it would be natural for everything else to take a backseat.
But when Patrick Mahomes clutched the Lombardi trophy for the second time in four years, it signified much more than just another championship. It was a reminder that both Mahomes and the Chiefs, much to the chagrin of the rest of the league, aren’t going anywhere. And as Mahomes held the most prized object in all of football, it became hard for fans to elude the supposition that he had established himself as a true candidate for the greatest quarterback of all time.
Whenever fans encounter greatness, it isn’t enough to simply acknowledge it and move on. Sports have programmed us to view everything as a competition. In a literal sense, these players face an opponent on a weekly basis, but figuratively, they’re engaged in a never-ending battle with every player, past, present, and future, to determine their all-time status. Many fans have grown to detest legacy talk, as it often leads to tearing down great players in an attempt to elevate others. However, one of the best ways to appreciate greatness is to put it into perspective.
Through five seasons as a starter, Mahomes accolades and statistical output are second to none. He’s compiled a record of 74-19, won two MVP awards, has made three all-pro teams, won two Super Bowls, and two Super Bowl MVPs. These accomplishments alone put Mahomes in an exclusive group. Only six quarterbacks in league history have won multiple Super Bowl MVPs. Of those six, only three have won multiple regular season MVPs, those three being Mahomes, Tom Brady, and Joe Montana. When you factor in age, Mahomes becomes a true anomaly. Brady and Montana were both well north of 30 by the time they accomplished this feat. Mahomes, on the other hand, is still only 27.
As far as the numbers go, there’s really no comparison. While the quarterback position has changed dramatically in recent years and new rules have been implemented to favor offenses, there’s no per-game equivalent to Mahomes. His 2.4 touchdowns per game are easily tops all time. This figure becomes even more staggering when you realize only two others in league history, Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning, have an average over two. Passing yards tell a similar story. Mahomes’ 303 yards per game dwarfs the competition.
Some might argue these numbers have been inflated by the pass-heavy nature of the NFL, and to a degree, they would be right. But Mahomes’ high-end volume stats don’t come at the expense of efficiency. His touchdown percentage is the highest of any quarterback to play this century and second in the Super Bowl era. His yards per attempt are the third highest. More sophisticated efficiency stats such as QBR and passer rating once again crown Mahomes as king. His career 105.7 passer rating is the highest ever, and he already has four of the top 25 seasons in QBR.
The scariest part is that Mahomes is just getting started. Generally, quarterbacks improve into their early to mid-30s. If Mahomes, at age 27, is by all metrics the best quarterback the league has ever seen, there’s no telling what his ceiling is.
The greatest of all time will always be an arbitrary title. To some, Mahomes will have to match Brady’s seven rings to be the greatest, while others need him to match Manning’s five league MVPs. Since our perception of greatness is so heavily dictated by accomplishments, it might be a tad premature to claim Mahomes is already the greatest. But the fact is he’s a trailblazer, a talent unlike anything we’ve ever seen before, and the level of success he’s sustained in the early stages of his career is unparalleled.
Even the staunchest Brady and Manning defenders have been forced to read the writing on the wall. Patrick Mahomes is coming, and no record or status is safe.