What’s In Store For Mahomes’ Encore?
By Martin Rogers
When you’re a big deal on the kind of level that Patrick Mahomes is, big enough to be the biggest name and the biggest star in the biggest sport in the country, people expect everything you do and every piece of news about you to be, well … big.
Compared to the huge linemen who protect him in the pocket and the equally-sized marauding tacklers who would gladly flatten him if they can get close enough, Mahomes is not a particularly large individual.
The things he does, the effect he has and the moves he makes, though? Definitely oversized. And the year 2020 so far for Mahomes, the Kansas City Chiefs quarterback who we barely knew three years ago? As big as it gets.
First, he took his cannon of an arm, as big and accurate and capable of orbital launch as any we’ve seen, combined it with his smarts, and lifted an organization with total belief in him to success in the grandest game of them all - a comeback triumph over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LIV.
That achievement morphed into a contract of such monumentally mind-blowing scale that it doesn’t deserve to be described as big, but instead should have a whole new word invented for it. The second biggest contract extension in NFL history was given to Deshaun Watson this week, the Houston Texans QB and Mahomes’ friend, who will square off against him in the season opener on Thursday night. Yet while Watson’s four-year, $160 million deal is not so far behind in annual salary, it is dwarfed by Mahomes’ total sum of $503 million.
When a collective of NFL players decided this summer was their time to make a stand and to urge the league to speak up for social justice, Mahomes was at the forefront, one of more than a dozen players issuing a message to commissioner Roger Goodell.
"I understand my platform," Mahomes told GQ back in mid-July. "I understand that my part in the video is a big part of it."
Want more? He dipped into sports ownership, at the age of 24 no less, becoming a part-owner of the Kansas City Royals, and iced the summer with a ‘W’ in the personal column, as he asked for and was granted his long-time girlfriend Brittany Matthews’ hand in marriage.
Oh, and then on Thursday night, in the NFL's season opener, he looked as if he were leading his team through a scrimmage, rather than against a foe the Chiefs previously vanquished in the AFC playoffs. Advantage, once more: Mahomes.
So, as the sports sphere finally finds itself back in football season, after the most tumultuous few months imaginable, the question is this: how can Mahomes possibly live up to the hype?
"You have to expect the unexpected," he said this week. Spoiler alert: when he talks about "unexpected," he’s not talking about a sudden, shocking dip in his own achievements.
Matching the hoopla is going to be the toughest part of all. Rarely has so much been predicted of one player going into an NFL season. If Mahomes can lead the Chiefs to another Super Bowl, it would rightly be celebrated as a seismic achievement – no one has gone back-to-back since the New England Patriots in 2003-04 - but for many it would simply be a case of keeping the status quo.
Consider this though. Every time a champion is crowned, every other team starts trying to figure out how to either copy, or stop them, or both. Football minds always believe there is a solution, even if to the untrained eye Mahomes look like a personal cheat code with no antidote.
The crazy part is that to many, something like a 13-3 campaign, another MVP award followed by an upset defeat in the AFC championship game would be seen as a Chiefs failure.
"I think Patrick is going to end up with a nice, round, four Super Bowl championships," FS1’s Nick Wright told First Things First. "But if you’re telling me it is going to be (either) he matches (Tom) Brady’s six (titles) or that he never wins another Super Bowl, the only other plausible choice is door number one.
"It would be an all-time sports upset if Patrick Mahomes never wins another Super Bowl. Everything is set up as perfectly as it can be for this Chiefs team and for Patrick to be the face of the next dynasty in the NFL."
Mahomes and the Chiefs are currently listed as 6-to-1 favorites to hoist the Lombardi Trophy this season, per FOX Bet. They are followed by the Baltimore Ravens at 6.5-to-1 and the San Fransisco 49ers at 9-to-1 odds.
As the 2020 NFL season commences, it seems likely that it will be the last one for Drew Brees, who is the owner of all those passing records. Tom Brady is providing a fascinating saga with his move from New England to Tampa Bay. Back on the outskirts of Boston, the Cam Newton/Bill Belichick marriage is worth our fullest attention.
But when it comes to seeking pure football excellence, Mahomes is the top story in town, simply because if he is able to play at a similar level and the Chiefs are able to keep supporting him, the destiny of the season may already be written.
With Mahomes, it is all a little more low key. It’s not like Brady, where every snippet and comment is parsed, or like some of the league’s more outspoken and outrageous characters where the news cycle and the gossip columns sometimes meld into one.
Given Mahomes’ status in the league, you don’t actually hear much news about him outside the lines. When you do, it’s big news, because that’s how Mahomes operates.
As for those expectations, they’re here to stay. But if you’re surrounded by big things all the time, maybe they just seem normal. That, right there, making the unfathomable seem routine, is what has carried Mahomes this far.