National Football League

The GOAT Path

January 27

This year's quarterback clash in the Super Bowl is being billed as "the GOAT" vs. "the Baby GOAT."

Tom Brady ⁠— the 43-year-old Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB who's styled as the greatest of all time ⁠— is set to square off against the 25-year-old phenom in Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

Brady's credentials as the game's greatest are near-impossible to argue against.

A quick run through his résumé shows that he's the all-time leader in Super Bowl appearances (10), Super Bowl wins (6), Super Bowl MVPs (4), playoff wins (33), playoff passing yards (12,248), regular-season passing touchdowns (581), division titles (17), career wins (230) ... you get the idea.

There isn't a player who can hold a candle to Brady's inventory of accomplishments ⁠— yet.

Enter: Mahomes.

The Kansas City quarterback has a whole heck of a long way to go, but he's off to about as good of a start as anybody could hope for when it comes to chasing greatness.

Mahomes' first three years as a starter stack up nicely against Brady's, as both got their first shot at extended playing time during their sophomore campaigns.

In Year 1 as a starter in 2018, Mahomes posted a 12-4 regular-season record and won the league MVP award before bowing out to – who else? – Brady and the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game.

The Brady Era in New England began in earnest in 2001, when Brady posted an 11-3 record in 14 regular-season starts before hoisting the first of his many Super Bowl trophies.

For the two QBs, Year 2 was undoubtedly kinder to Mahomes, who won the Super Bowl and Super Bowl MVP award last season after posting an 11-3 record in his 14 regular-season starts.

Back in 2002, Brady trudged through his worst full season as a starter with a 9-7 record, missing the playoffs for the only time as a starting QB. 

TB12 bounced back in his third year as a full-time starter, though, leading New England to a 14-2 record and a Super Bowl victory ⁠— his second in three seasons.

The final chapter of Year 3 for Mahomes will be decided on Super Bowl Sunday, but he has kept an amazing run going following a 14-1 record as starter for the Chiefs in the regular season.

If he gets past the GOAT on Feb. 7, Mahomes would supplant Brady, who accomplished the feat at age 26, as the youngest quarterback to win two rings.

What about beyond that? Could Mahomes unseat Brady at the top of the NFL's pyramid?

It's a deep rabbit hole to dive down into, filled with a multitude of variables, but Shannon Sharpe laid out on Undisputed what he thinks Mahomes could do to get into the mix.

"In order to have a realistic chance, he's going to need ... I'm saying last year, this year and three more years ⁠— he's going to have to have three titles. ... He has the best chance of anybody that can say, 'I can catch Brady' as far as accolades."

Remaining on the field is part and parcel when it comes to reaching those kinds of heights, as Sharpe was quick to note.

"His trajectory is saying yes, he has an opportunity to be the best of all time. ... Health is the main thing. That's what Tom has been able to do. He's been able to stay healthy. If you can stay healthy, you can accumulate numbers."

Save for a dislocated kneecap in 2019 and a concussion in the divisional round against the Cleveland Browns this season, Mahomes has so far managed to stave off the injury bug. Even his quick recovery from the knee injury showcased an unseen-until-that-point ability that served to enhance his growing status.

In 2008, Brady's lone lost season came after he tore his ACL and MCL in the first week of the season. He followed that injury with a run to the playoffs and a Comeback Player of the Year award in 2009.

But even if Mahomes stays healthy, he'll have a hard time catching not only the best quarterback of all time but also the second-best quarterback of all time ⁠— both of whom are Tom Brady.

Allow Colin Cowherd to explain:

The Super Bowl is never short on storylines, but getting a glimpse at the past, present and future of the game's most important position in one setting is tantalizing.

The GOAT vs. the Baby GOAT. The king vs. the heir apparent. Brady vs. Mahomes.

Whatever you want to call it, it's appointment television.

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