NFL Analysis


6 min read

Patrick Mahomes Is Defining the NFL As Its Champion And Trailblazer

Patrick Mahomes celebrates with Travis Kelce following AFC Championship win.
Jan 28, 2024; Baltimore, Maryland, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) and Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (R) celebrate on the stage prior to the trophy presentation after their' game against the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship football game at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

There’s never been anything like Patrick Mahomes and there might never be again. 

We’re six years into the Mahomes experience. He's been to the AFC Championship games all six years and hosted it five times. He's advanced four times and won the Super Bowl twice already, with a third ring on the table two weeks from now. The level of unwavering consistency is baffling. It’s exhausting. It almost seems unfair, but you can’t help but marvel at it.

No matter how dominant or uneven things are in the regular season, Mahomes is a guarantee to be at the doorstep of the Super Bowl at a minimum. 

Six straight conference championship appearances is already the second-most all-time among any quarterback. The record is held by, of course, Tom Brady during the New England Patriots' eight-year run from 2011-2018, a stretch that featured five Super Bowl appearances and three titles. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) greets Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) after a game at Raymond James Stadium. (Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports)

Brady vs. Mahomes

When Brady did it, he was a seasoned veteran. The Patriots had their first dynasty era earlier in Brady's career, but that later eight-year run of unwavering consistency started when Brady was 34 years old. He already understood what it took to win at that level and had a decade's worth of information and experiences to pull from in order to power him to the top time and time again. 

Mahomes didn't need any of that. No prior experiences, no building up a Rolodex of the other teams and coaches in the conference — Mahomes blazed his own path from the get-go, a path every other AFC quarterback must traverse just to see him at the end of the road. 

The only reason Mahomes is two years short of Brady's streak right now is he literally has not played enough seasons to get there. None of us can peek into a crystal ball and guarantee Mahomes will do this at least two more times to tie Brady's record, but what reason is there to believe he wouldn't? 

This run is in rare territory as it is, never mind that Mahomes is only 28 and getting better every year. 

While Mahomes won't get a chance to match Brady's streak for another two seasons, he can stack up to his early career Super Bowl record. Brady and Joe Montana are the only two quarterbacks to win the Super Bowl three times before 30. Four other quarterbacks have won it twice, Mahomes included. 

But again, even that feels different from Brady if Mahomes does it. The quarterback did not define the early aughts Patriots dynasty. Brady was great — duh — but he wasn't the singular force that he later became from the Randy Moss trade and on. 

Mahomes, by contrast, has come to define a generation. He is overwhelming. Undeniable, even. Mahomes has already won two MVPs before Brady ever won his first and ranks second in touchdown passes before age 29 (219) behind only Dan Marino (222). He has the accomplishments, the production and most importantly, influence over the sport. 

Marino Is Better Comparison

Marino actually serves as a good predecessor for the influence aspect of Mahomes' young career. When Marino exploded onto the scene in 1984, there wasn't anyone like him. 

Nobody was throwing the ball more, nobody else had his quick release, and nobody else was immune to being sacked like he was. Marino threw 42 more touchdowns than anyone else between 1984 and 1986. 

And in 1985, Marino was the only quarterback to beat the vaunted Chicago Bears because he was the only one who could gash them down the field time and time again. 

Throwing the ball all the time and all over the yard wasn't something many teams did at the time. Everyone does now, but Marino's 1980s Miami Dolphins teams were kind of at the forefront of the NFL becoming a passing league, along with a few others.

Mahomes is that but with a different spin. He walked into a league ready to throw the ball at any opportunity. There wasn't any headway left to be made in that regard. What Mahomes did change, however, is the necessity for scrambling to throw. 

Mahomes isn’t the first quarterback to scramble. Every era before Mahomes had its own premier scrambler, whether it was Fran Tarkenton, Steve Young or even Russell Wilson a half-decade before Mahomes burst onto the scene. 

None of those guys made scrambling the way to play, though. They were all aberrations; exceptions to the rule because they were just so dang good at what they did, but not so much so the sport bent towards them. 

Mahomes The Trailblazer

The rise of Mahomes perfectly coincides with quarterbacks getting quicker, faster and more creative to begin with because of the way the high school and college game has evolved. Mahomes’ dominance in that world gave credence to the play style not only as an option but as the desired way to play, if not a necessity to join the league’s elite. 

General managers have chased their own version of Mahomes since the day he took over. It’s part of what elevated Kyler Murray to the first overall pick in 2019, Zach Wilson to the second overall pick in 2021 and soon Caleb Williams to the first overall pick in 2024. 

That’s not to say none of them deserved that on their own merit. Still, it’s hard to divorce their athletic profiles and loose, live arms becoming vogue from what Mahomes has done in the early part of his career. Everyone wants what Kansas City has. 

Mahomes isn’t unique in what he’s accomplished. Brady, as well as Montana, racked up conference championships and three Super Bowls apiece by 30. Mahomes isn’t unique in putting up gaudy numbers and changing the sport either, as evidenced by Marino. 

Mahomes is unique in walking both paths. Brady wasn’t shattering production records in his early days the way Marino was, and Marino wasn’t nearly as accomplished as Brady ever was. Mahomes has done both. 

He’s defined the sport not only as its champion but as its trailblazer, a leader for how the modern game is played. 

If you’re already experiencing Mahomes fatigue — I have bad news: This is just the beginning. Mahomes is 28 and entering what is typically the prime for a quarterback. The late 20s to mid-30s is the happy medium between a quarterback’s athletic peak and having the mental Rolodex to undress any defensive scheme. This is when Brady, Peyton Manning and plenty of others really kicked into high gear. 

Soon, it will be Mahomes’ second act. Maybe his third, if you want to count pre- and post-Tyreek Hill as separate eras. Either way, this ride is far from over. Mahomes has so much left to accomplish and all the time in the world to do it.