Super Bowl LV was anticipated to be one of the most exciting championships in recent sports history. The greatest quarterback of all time versus the greatest quarterback of this generation squaring off on the biggest sports stage in the world. A battle of eras. The game did not exactly live up to expectations, resulting in a 31-9 Tampa Bay rout, securing Tom Brady his seventh championship victory. For most, this closed the door on the G.O.A.T. debate. Respectfully, I disagree.
First off, let’s be frank, the game fell flat. This was the first time EVER that a Patrick Mahomes-led offense failed to score a touchdown in a game. That includes his Whitehouse High School and Texas Tech career.
The game fell apart for Kansas City very early, and not having both starting tackles Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz was the kiss of death for the Chiefs. Dropped passes and defensive penalties also led to the Chiefs’ demise. But before everyone rushes to the conclusion that Mahomes will never be able to surpass Brady in terms of greatness, let’s analyze what he endured during this game, as well as what he’s already accomplished.
Patrick Mahomes is only 25 years old. His resume speaks for itself, but here’s a short recap: he’s the youngest quarterback to start in two Super Bowls — winning one, he’s already an NFL and Super Bowl MVP and is 25-2 in his last 27 starts. What he has already accomplished in his short tenure in the NFL has been nothing short of spectacular.
This year’s Super Bowl showed Mahomes in his most human form. Aspects of the game beyond his control sealed his team’s fate, despite his desperate efforts to keep them alive. Hitting receivers in the facemask while running for your life 20 yards behind the line of scrimmage is something I am not sure any other quarterback in the NFL is capable of, except maybe Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson.
Mahomes was pressured on 29/56 dropbacks, a 52% pressure rate, the most ever for a quarterback in a Super Bowl. What makes this even more staggering is the fact that his opponent, Tom Brady, was pressured on just 13% of his dropbacks — the lowest ever recorded for a quarterback in a Super Bowl. Mahomes has always been a magician under pressure, but everyone is human — and this game exposed the Chiefs’ vulnerability, while simultaneously neutralizing their superstar.
The Chiefs were outplayed in almost every facet of the game. Defense, offense, coaching, scheming — you name it, the advantage was with Tampa Bay. The least of Kansas City’s problems was the play of Patrick Mahomes.
It’s frustrating to listen to people analyze this game and conclude it as an indictment of Mahomes. If this game showed anything, it’s that football is the ultimate team sport, and no one man can dominate without the help of his teammates.
Super Bowl LV was cursed with the “passing of the torch” narrative. The transitional competition between two of the most talented players to ever touch a football. A Mahomes victory would usher in a new era and solidify him as the Alpha quarterback, but a Brady victory put that on hold, at least until he finally retires.
When you’re considered the “next big thing” or “next man up,” you bear the burden of being compared to those who were given that title before you. Take the LeBron – Jordan debate for example. They never faced each other in the NBA Finals, they never even played against each other in a regular season game. Yet, LeBron still can’t escape the Jordan comparisons. Both transcendent talents, both garnering many accolades and most importantly, a legitimate argument can be made for either to be considered the greatest basketball player of all time.
The only thing stemming from this loss for Mahomes, is that he is now going to face the same pressure LeBron has carried his entire career. Elite athletes generally don’t succumb to pressure, but only time will tell.
The greatest quarterback of all time before Brady was considered by many to be Joe Montana, who was a perfect four for four in the Super Bowl, until Brady passed him with ease, almost doubling his amount of rings. Same thing with LeBron and Jordan. Jordan went a perfect six for six in the NBA Finals, and LeBron so far has made it to ten, but only won four.
Point is, there will always be a next great player. Brady can hold that title for a little while longer, but whether he, or anyone else, likes it or not, Mahomes, barring health, will continue to do extraordinary things in the NFL. He is perhaps the most naturally talented quarterback we have ever seen, and it can be argued that he hasn’t even entered his prime yet.
The greatest athletes always overcome challenges and adversity. LeBron James led the Cavaliers to victory over the 73-9 Golden State Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals after going down 3-1 in the series. Tiger Woods was away from the sport of Golf for 14 years and came back to win the Masters Tournament in 2019 after years of off the course headlines. Tom Brady was down 28-3 to the Atlanta Falcons in the 2016 Super Bowl, and emerged victorious in what is considered by many to be the single greatest comeback in the history of sports.
Mahomes will overcome this through sheer determination. If anything, this will only fuel his motivation to become even greater than he already is. It will be a tough road, and he will have to do things that have never been done before in the sport of football, but let’s not completely shut the door on the possibility of Mahomes becoming the greatest to ever do it just yet.
Failure is the best teacher, and Mahomes has plenty of time to learn.