Later today, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes will attempt to join one of the most elite fraternities in all of professional sports by winning his second Super Bowl title. Mahomes is already set to become the 22nd ever QB to make it to two Super Bowls, and if he can lead his Chiefs to victory on Sunday, he will be just the 13th to ever win the Big Game twice.
If Mahomes can etch his name into the history books with back-to-back Super Bowl wins, we have no choice but to start talking about Mahomes as being one of the all-time greats in NFL history. I know it seems a bit premature to start in with all of the GOAT talk, as Mahomes is in just his 3rd full season as a starter in the NFL, but what he has been able to do in such a short period of time has been remarkable.
— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) February 7, 2021
In this article, we are going to take a look at just how good Patrick Mahomes is and if he deserves to have his name brought up in conversations with legends like Montana, Brady, Elway, and Manning. Let’s get started by taking a look at the numbers that Mahomes has racked up in his short career.
Inside The Numbers
The sheer statistics that Patrick Mahomes has been able to rack up in his career have been staggering. In his first year as a starter, his second year in the league, Mahomes had one of the greatest individual seasons of all time. Mahomes passed for 5,097 and 50 TDs. The yardage was the 9th most ever in a season, and the 50 TDs were tied for second-ever behind Peyton Manning’s 55 in 2013. In the two years since that record-breaking debut, Mahomes has been amongst the top passers in the leagues, but hasn’t come close to matching those gaudy stats again.
This season, in 15 games, Mahomes passed for 4,470 yards and 38 TDs. The yardage was 2nd in the NFL behind the Houston Texans Deshaun Watson, and the TD passes were 4th in the NFL, trailing Tom Brady and Russell Wilson, who both had 40 and NFL leader, and newly-minted league MVP, Aaron Rodgers, who had 48. It was certainly a successful year for Mahomes, but his numbers don’t stick out as being head and shoulders above the rest of the league at this point. Don’t get me wrong, this guy is elite, but I am not so sure he deserves all of the hype he has been getting, a least on a statistical basis.
This Good, This Early
One reason why Mahomes is getting so much praise is how early in his career he is having this level of success. We talked about Mahomes rookie season being the 9th best in terms of passing yardage, when you look at the guys ahead of him on that list, you start to realize that throwing the football is a bit of an old man’s game. When Manning set the record in 2013, he was 37 years old. Interestingly enough, each of the top-7 single seasons for passing yards came from guys that were at least 32 years old. Mahomes did it at 22.
He was a full decade younger than any of those guys ahead of him, and people are starting to wonder what this kid is going to be able to do once he actually grows up. By the time Mahomes is 32 years old, he just might hold every NFL passing record in the book. NFL fans are ready to anoint Mahomes as the GOAT in his early twenties. But what if I told you that we have seen this type of performance early in guy’s careers before?
— NFL (@NFL) February 2, 2019
When you look at how well guys have played through their first 3 seasons in the NFL, Mahomes is near the top of the list, but he isn’t at the top. In terms of passing TDs through 3 seasons in the league, Mahomes is actually 7th best ever. He is behind some guys that probably aren’t going to take your breath away either, like Andy Dalton, Derek Carr, and Carson Palmer.
Now, to be fair to Mahomes, he didn’t get to play much as a rookie and didn’t even have a TD pass in his first season in the league, so his numbers really came in 2 years, not 3, but that year of watching and learning in the NFL played into that early success, so it’s still a fair comparison. But what about that rookie year, though? Nobody has ever been that good, at this young of an age, have they? Well, why don’t you take a look at this chart below and tell me what you think.
Here are five seasons from guys that were all 24 years old or younger or in their first year in the NFL. I’ll tell you who each guy is here in a second, but as you can see, none of these really stick out from each other as being a whole lot better than the rest. That tells us that as amazing as Mahomes has been in the NFL, we have seen similar levels of production out of young guys in the past. For those of you that are wondering, those season next to Mahomes came from Dan Marino, Matthew Stafford, Andrew Luck, and Kurt Warner.
Now, that is one heck of a talented group of football players to be included with, but these days we always love to jump right into greatest of all-time talk, whenever anybody does anything great. But that type of talk tends to be disrespectful to the history of the league and some of the players that have come before. When you compare Mahomes first year as a starter to Dan Marino’s first full year at the helm for Miami in 1984, they are shockingly similar. Both seasons came at age 22, and both came after they didn’t start the full season as rookie. Take a look at these stats side by side.
Patrick Mahomes 2018 Age 22
- 5,097 Yards
- 50 TD
- 66% Completion %
- 113.8 QBR
Dan Marino 1984 Age 22
- 5,084 Yards
- 48 TD
- 64.2% Completion %
- 108.8 QBR
For those of you that can’t believe how similar these guys line up at the same age, you need to open up a history book, or at least jump on NFL network and watch some old NFL films movies. Marino is a Hall of Famer and an all-time great, so drawing comparisons to him is a big deal, but we have seen passers this good, this young, before.
Throw in the fact that the NFL has completely changed since Marino lit of opposing defenses a generation ago, and it’s an easy argument to make that Marino was more impressive at a younger age than Mahomes. In Mahome’s breakout season, he didn’t lead in the NFL in passing yards as he trailed Pittsburgh Steelers signal-caller Ben Roethlisberger. He didn’t lead the NFL in QBR either, as Drew Brees was better. His 50 TDs were tops in the NFL, though, as his 50 scores were a whopping 11 more than 2nd place Andrew Luck.
Dan Marino is one of 10 QBs selected to the #NFL100 All-Time Team!
🐬 1984 NFL MVP
🐬 3x First-Team All-Pro
🐬 5th all-time pass yards and TDs
🐬 First player with 5,000+ pass yards in a single season (1984) pic.twitter.com/6TUPXIhszm
— NFL (@NFL) December 28, 2019
When you look at what Marino did in an NFL that was at that time dominated by running backs, it was staggering. Marino led the NFL in passing yards and was an absurd 1,000 yards better than the 3rd best QB that year, the New York Giants Phil Simms. His 48 TDs were far more than 2nd place Dave Krieg who had 32, and he had 20 more than Joe Montana, who finished 3rd. His QBR was the best as well, with Montana a distant 2nd, and 3rd place finisher Tony Eason was a full 15 points behind.
Marino changed the NFL in 1984 and did something we had never seen, at an age that we all thought was impossible. Mahomes is great, but he didn’t do any of that. Mahomes slots in near the top of the current group of QBs that is the best group we have ever seen playing at the same time, at least statistically, but he isn’t head and shoulder above them like Marino was at the same age.
Mahomes Is A Winner
We have seen that while Patrick Mahomes has been statistically very good in his career, he hasn’t done anything just yet that sits as an all-time benchmark. So, at least in terms of the raw numbers, I am not ready to call Mahomes as an all-time great as of yet. He has a lot of time left in his career to rack up stats that could eventually make this conversation laughable, but with what he has done through his first 4 seasons, he isn’t posting numbers we haven’t ever seen before.
But one thing that has been even more impressive than his eye-popping stats, is his ability to win games. Mahomes has started for 3 seasons and has made it to 3 AFC Championship games and 2 Super Bowls. His regular-season record is 38-10. It’s hard to get much better than that! While Mahomes hasn’t had the 20-year careers that guys like Brady, Manning, and Brees have had to stack up wins and Super Bowl trophies, his time in the NFL has featured a lot of winning.
Have we ever seen a guy this early in his career have this much success winning football games as Mahomes has had? Well, let’s take a look back at some other players started out their careers by winning everything in sight.
Big Ben had a monster rookie year in 2004 that saw his Steelers go 15-1 and make it all of the way to the AFC Championship game before losing to the New England Patriots. In year 2, Ben followed up that sensational rookie camping by going 11-5 and taking home a Super Bowl title. In 2008, Big Ben again took home a Super Bowl title after a 12-4 regular season. When the Steelers again went to the Super Bowl in 2010, this time coming up just short to the Green Bay Packers, it was the 3rd Super Bowl trip for Roethlisberger in 7 years in the league. 7 seasons, 5 trips to the postseason, 4 AFC title games, and 3 Super Bowls, it was quite a red-hot start to Big Ben’s career in Pittsburgh.
Russell Wilson wasn’t supposed to be the savior of football in Seattle, but as soon as he arrived in the Jet City, the Seahawks started winning games. Wilson led the Hawks to 11 wins in his first season and won his 1st career playoff game as a rookie, before seeing his season end in the divisional round to the Atlanta Falcons. In his 2nd year in Seattle, Wilson took the Seahawks all of the way to the promised land, delivering the Seahawks their first-ever Super Bowl title after destroying the favored Broncos 43-8 in one of the most lopsided Super Bowls ever. What did Wilson do for an encore in year 3? All he did was get back to the Super Bowl again, this time losing a heartbreaker in the final seconds to the New England Patriots. All told, Wilson has taken his team to the playoffs in 8 out of his 9 seasons, including his first 5 straight.
When Kurt Warner went from a grocery store clerk to an NFL starting quarterback, nobody could have possibly expected what he would do in his first 3 seasons leading a team that would later be dubbed the greatest show on turf. Warner’s first 3 seasons with the St. Louis Rams couldn’t have gone too much better, as he racked up a 37-11 regular-season record, took his team to the postseason in all 3 years, including 2 runs to the Super Bowl, winning the Big Game in 1999. Warner went on to have a Hall of Fame career and got back to the Super Bowl later in his career with the Arizona Cardinals, but what he did in his first 3 years in the league was unbelievable.
No list of Super Bowl winners can be complete without mentioning the greatest winner in the history of the NFL, Tom Brady. And after seeing Brady take 10 teams to the Super Bowl, some people tend to forget just how great Brady was early in his career. The crazy stats came later in his career, but Brady was a winner on day one in New England. In 2001, Brady took over early in the year for an injured Drew Bledsoe and led the Patriots to a Super Bowl title later that year. After his 4th season, Brady already had 3 Super Bowl rings on his fingers. Through his first 7 seasons in the league, Brady had 6 playoff appearances, including 5 AFC Championship games and 4 Super Bowls. His regular-season record during that span was 66-14, including a 16-0 regular season in 2007.
Cool Joe is on just about everybody’s shortlist for the greatest to ever play in the NFL. Montana took over for the San Francisco 49ers in 1980, and by 1981 he had already won his first world title. In his next 10 seasons as the Niners QB, he took San Francisco to the playoffs 9 times, 8 of those coming as division champs, including winning 4 Super Bowls and making it to 6 NFC Championship games. Montana’s stats look a bit pedestrian now with the explosion of passing games in the current day NFL, but make no mistake, Joe Montana was one of the best ever, and he was considered the greatest winner ever at the quarterback position until Tom Brady came along.
1990 was the first year that Troy Aikman took over for America’s team, the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys didn’t have a lot of success that year, but by 1991, they were one of the best teams in the league. It took Aikman to year 3 to start winning Super Bowls, but his run of 3 world titles in 4 years is one of the best we have ever seen. Aikman would eventually lead the Cowboys to 5 straight division titles, 4 NFC Championship games, and 3 Super Bowls in his first 7 seasons as a starter.
Mahomes Doesn’t Stand Out
There are other prolific winners that could be mentioned on the above list, but I think you get the point by now, we have seen lots of guys have early career success winning football games. Terry Bradshaw won 4 Super Bowl titles in his career, including a run where he took the Steelers to AFC Championship game in 4 out of his first 6 seasons. Eli Manning won two titles in his first 7 seasons with the New York Giants. John Elway went to 5 Super Bowls, and Peyton Manning, Roger Staubach, and Jim Kelly all went to the Big Game 4 times each. What Mahomes has been able to do has been very impressive, but not at all unprecedented.
So, How Good Is Patrick Mahomes?
Patrick Mahomes has had a great start to his NFL career, but all of this GOAT talk is absolutely premature. Had you looked at Kurt Warner after 3 seasons, Rams fans would have told you he was going to be the best QB ever. And while Warner had a great career, he was never able to reach the heights he did early in his career again.
The same could be said for other guys like Marino, who made the Super Bowl early in his career only to never make it back, or Ben Roethlisberger and Russell Wilson, who both had multiple titles on their resumes in their first 4 years in the league. Winning early in your career is great, and as a general rule, the guys that can win this early end up being really good, but we have seen these types of runs before out of several guys.
— NFL (@NFL) January 24, 2021
It is hard to say that a game in the career of a 25-year-old is one that he has to win for his legacy, but this game does mean a lot in how Mahomes will be remembered. Remember, Mahomes is matched up with the actual QB GOAT, Tom Brady, in this game. If Mahomes can’t beat Brady at 43 years old, he isn’t likely to get another shot at him. If Brady can ride into the sunset with his 7th ring and derail the hype train that is Patrick Mahomes in his prime, I am not sure that there is anything that Mahomes could do to ever catch Brady in the QB GOAT conversation.
Will Patrick Mahomes make history by winning his 2nd Super Bowl title tonight in Tampa Bay? Only time will tell if he is able to join Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Troy Aikman, John Elway, Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana, Roger Staubach, Bob Griese, Eli Manning, Bart Starr, Jim Plunket, and Ben Roethlisberger as QBs that have won it all twice in their careers.
If Mahomes does take home his 2nd ring, he will certainly move up in the conversation of greatest ever, but let’s give him another decade or so to see if he can sustain this success, before we start mentioning him alongside Brady, Manning, and Montana. Thanks for reading, and make sure to check out TheSportsGeek’s Super Bowl betting page to get exclusive deals at all of your favorite sportsbooks, so you can get in on all of the action on Super Bowl 55!