Super Bowl: Patrick Mahomes can only be viewed through the lens of history
With a second championship, the Chiefs star buried the myths about Black quarterbacks and ushered in his era of the NFL
GLENDALE, Ariz. – When his playing days are done, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes will finally rest and reflect on the breadth of his accomplishments.
That time, however, has not arrived.
“At some point, yeah, I’m sure I’ll look back at all of it and think about all of it. There’s definitely a time and place for that,” Mahomes said in an interview for the book Rise of the Black Quarterback: What It Means for America.
“But that’s more of a long-term thing than a short-term thing. When you’re out there competing with your guys, working each day to be the best you can be, you can’t think about that stuff. If you’re thinking about anything else [other] than being the best you can be, then you’re not thinking about the right things. All that matters is the moment.”
During the biggest moments in the NFL, no one is better than Patrick Lavon Mahomes II.
The Chiefs are led by the league’s best player, which was obvious again Sunday night during their 38-35 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LVII at State Farm Stadium. Mahomes outshone Jalen Hurts, his Eagles counterpart, in the first Super Bowl in which two starting Black quarterbacks faced off.
And for the second time in four seasons, Mahomes guided the AFC champion Chiefs to a Super Bowl title while earning his second Super Bowl MVP award in the process.
Three days after Mahomes won his second Associated Press MVP award for his performance during the regular season, he capped the postseason by making key plays down the stretch as the Chiefs held off the NFC champion Eagles. Mahomes went 21 of 27 for 182 yards and three touchdowns, and added 44 rushing yards on six carries – including a 26-yard scramble on the Chiefs’ game-winning drive.
At only 27, Mahomes already has two Super Bowl championships, two AP league MVP awards and two Super Bowl MVP awards. Then only 24 in 2020, Mahomes became the youngest quarterback in NFL history to have a Super Bowl title, a Super Bowl MVP award and a league MVP award.
This season, Mahomes led the NFL in passing yards, passing touchdowns and Total QBR. After suffering a high ankle sprain in the Chiefs’ AFC divisional round victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Mahomes played through pain to help the Chiefs defeat the Cincinnati Bengals during the AFC Championship Game and the Eagles in the Super Bowl.
Mahomes is the undisputed leader of the NFL’s cadre of young star Black signal-callers, a group that includes Hurts. In his first Super Bowl, Hurts, who finished second to Mahomes in the AP MVP voting, threw for 304 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 70 yards, including a Super Bowl record-tying three rushing touchdowns.
The long, hard road traveled by Black quarterbacks in the NFL makes what Mahomes is doing, and where he may eventually wind up, so special for the trailblazers who came before him. Doug Williams revels in every new step Mahomes takes.
The first Black quarterback to both start in a Super Bowl and also be selected a Super Bowl MVP, Williams took a sledgehammer to the racist myth that African American passers lacked the smarts, heart and talent to thrive in professional sports’ most successful league. Mahomes has taken the lead in helping to move a onetime marginalized group to the top of the NFL, Williams said.
“There’s no doubt he has done so much for African American quarterbacks,” Williams said. “We’ve got so many of them in the league now, and more coming in, and they’re all playing well. But with what he’s doing, and what he can do, he has the opportunity to put that myth way behind us. … We need to completely bury it so we never have to deal with it again. And another Super Bowl [victory] on his résumé does that for all of us.”
In every measure of sports’ most important position – statistical production, smarts, leadership, improvisational skills, toughness – Mahomes is second to none in today’s game. Mahomes is now so far ahead of the pack it’s downright unfair to judge him against his contemporaries. They just don’t measure up well.
It’s time to view Mahomes only through the lens of history, because that’s what he’ll be chasing for the remainder of his career.
Tom Brady, Joe Montana, Peyton Manning; Mahomes is officially of their ilk now. Those NFL luminaries finished their careers with a combination of multiple Super Bowl titles and multiple AP MVP awards. Among quarterbacks, there’s no better gauge of greatness.
On Sunday night, membership in the most exclusive quarterback club increased by one.
With Brady having retired – presumably for good this time – Mahomes is both the only active NFL signal-caller with multiple Super Bowl wins and the only Black passer with multiple victories. And Mahomes has reached this plateau in only five seasons as a starter. Williams and Russell Wilson of the Denver Broncos are the only Black quarterbacks to win a Super Bowl.
For all of Mahomes’ brilliance in the historic start to his career, perhaps nothing illustrates his greatness more than his contrasting styles of play en route to becoming a two-time AP MVP.
Mahomes was a big-play artist in winning the 2018-19 award. During his second season in the NFL and first as a starter, Mahomes often teamed with Chiefs receivers on long passing plays. Then NFL defensive coordinators got wise.
Teams began playing coverages designed to prevent Mahomes’ signature big plays. Before this season, All-Pro wide receiver Tyreek Hill wanted more money than Chiefs management was willing to pay him, so Hill was traded to the Miami Dolphins.
It was fair to wonder how the Chiefs would fare without arguably the NFL’s most dominant wideout. Some in the team’s locker room likely had questions as well, because Hill is a game changer.
Mahomes adjusted, utilizing his whole receiving corps like never before. Mahomes’ ability to drastically change his approach while still succeeding at the highest level is part of his greatness, said Warren Moon, the only Black passer enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“[Mahomes] is a much more patient quarterback,” said Moon, who attended the Super Bowl. “[Opponents] tried to slow them down last year by playing a lot more ‘umbrella’ coverage. Teams wanted to see if he would keep taking the underneath routes, not get impatient and try to force it downfield.
“In the beginning last year, he was impatient. He did force it, because he was used to having all those big plays with Tyreek and the other guys. He got used to it. But he finally settled in and figured out this was the best way to go about it. That quarterback. It all starts with him.”
Mahomes’ performance has prompted many NFL legends to reimagine what’s possible from the quarterback position. Former Washington Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs led the franchise to four Super Bowls, winning three with three different quarterbacks, including Williams. Gibbs marvels at Mahomes’ repertoire.
“Everyone has got a thought about Patrick Mahomes,” the Hall of Famer said. “This guy is so gifted and he can make so many plays for you in so many different ways. With Mahomes, what’s so unusual is that he … he can just do everything. He can get out of the pocket and make a play, and he’s shown he can throw on the run and make things happen. He also does it from the pocket. He’s just a gifted guy.”
With as fast as Mahomes is scaling the mountain, there’s just no telling how high he will climb. Mike Shanahan isn’t one to doubt Mahomes.
Considered among the greatest offensive playcallers in NFL history, Shanahan, while serving as the San Francisco 49ers’ offensive coordinator in the early 1990s, helped Steve Young develop into a Super Bowl-winning quarterback and a future Hall of Famer.
“We need to completely bury it [the myth of African American quarterbacks lacking qualities to play the position] so we never have to deal with it again. And another Super Bowl [victory] on his résumé does that for all of us.”— Doug Williams
Then as the Denver Broncos head coach in the mid- to late-1990s, Shanahan partnered with another future Hall of Famer at quarterback, teaming with John Elway to help the Broncos win back-to-back Super Bowl titles. When it comes to the art of playing quarterback, Shanahan’s bona fides are beyond reproach.
On the football field, Mahomes does things Shanahan never deemed possible.
“What separates him is his ability to extend plays. He extends plays better than any quarterback I’ve ever seen,” said Shanahan, who began coaching in the NFL in 1984. “And to have the accuracy that he has [on the move] is just … I’ve never seen anything like it. He’s also just got a great feel for the game. Not many people I’ve ever seen, especially this early in his career, can do the things he’s done. No way.”
Although it has been stated before, it bears repeating. His name is Patrick Lavon Mahomes II. They call him “Showtime.” He’s the best in the game. And after capping the 2022-23 season by leading the Chiefs to another Super Bowl title, he has kicked down the door to a new era: his.