Among active NFL quarterbacks, Patrick Mahomes is the best of the best. The outcome of Super Bowl LVII won’t change that.
But if the Kansas City Chiefs superstar hopes to one day challenge Tom Brady for the title of “greatest of all time” — and he’s the only current QB who has even a remote chance of doing so — getting a win Sunday over the Philadelphia Eagles is vitally important.
It’s simple math: If the Chiefs lose to the Eagles, Mahomes would have one championship through his first six NFL seasons and a 1-2 record in Super Bowl appearances. At the same point in Brady’s career, he had three titles and was 3-0 in Super Bowls.
By almost every other metric, Mahomes has early-career Brady beat thus far, from Pro Bowls (five to one) and first-team All-Pros (two to zero) to winning percentage (80.0% to 74.4%) and AFC Championship Game appearances (five to three). Mahomes has been significantly better in every statistical category than Brady was in Years 1-6 and is favored to take home his second NFL Most Valuable Player Award this weekend. Brady didn’t win his first until 2007, his eighth year in the league.
But when comparing historically great quarterbacks, Super Bowl titles trump all. Fair or not, that’s just the way it is. Mahomes could go on to win six MVPs and shatter passing records, but if he doesn’t match or at the very least approach Brady’s unprecedented haul of seven Lombardi Trophies, he’ll forever remain beneath the recently retired legend in the GOAT power rankings.
That’s what makes this week’s game crucial for Mahomes’ legacy, even at the young age of 27.
“It’s gonna be tough,” Mahomes told reporters Monday on Super Bowl Opening Night. “I mean, seven Super Bowl victories, 10 Super Bowls. There’s a reason why he’s so far ahead of everybody else. It’s hard to do, but I’ll do my best to chase it. But I’ve got to start off with trying to win this one this week.”
Sunday’s result also will shape the narrative around Mahomes’ championship bona fides.
Win, and he’s hot on Brady’s heels, though he’ll still need to prove he can match the latter’s unprecedented longevity and durability. Lose, and he’s a one-time Super Bowl winner who’s now faltered in three consecutive postseasons after being blown out by Brady’s Buccaneers in Super Bowl LIV and squandering an 18-point lead against Cincinnati in last year’s AFC title game. Even if Mahomes deserved minimal blame for his first Super Bowl defeat, those are starkly different pictures.
Brady, of course, lost three Super Bowls during his career. But those all came after he’d already stacked up three Super Bowl wins.
Falling to the Eagles wouldn’t make Mahomes’ Brady pursuit a lost cause. He should have a long, successful career ahead of him for one of the NFL’s most stable franchises. But a two-title hole would be hard to climb out of, especially as key collaborators Andy Reid (64) and Travis Kelce (33) inch toward retirement age and the hits that already have left Mahomes with a handful of injuries continue to pile up. Mahomes also is not a traditional, pocket-locked passer like Brady, so there are valid questions about how his play style will age as his body wears down.
As Mahomes himself said this week, he’s still years away from legitimately contending for Brady’s crown. He seems to believe he can do it. But a loss on Sunday would be a significant setback.
“Catching Tom’s a long ways away,” Mahomes told reporters Thursday. “Talk to me when I’m about 38 years old and I have five or six (Super Bowl rings), then I’ll start talking about trying to catch Tom.”