Super Bowl LV could determine whether Patrick Mahomes will ever surpass Tom Brady as football’s GOAT

Terez Paylor
·Senior NFL writer
·5-min read

When it’s all said and done, Patrick Mahomes may go down as the greatest football player of all time.

Yes, the shadow of Tom Brady and his six rings still looms large, especially since the two will meet in the Super Bowl in two weeks. But Mahomes may one day get there, and that isn’t a reckless or controversial statement. Not after he won his first Super Bowl last February at the ripe old age of 24 — the same age Brady won his first — and especially not after Mahomes’ latest legendary performance.

On Sunday, seven days after suffering a painful toe injury and a concussion in the divisional round, Mahomes went out and dominated the AFC championship game to such a stunning degree that even his 62-year-old future Hall of Fame head coach was left in awe following the Chiefs’ 38-24 win over the Buffalo Bills.

“I’m an old guy that’s seen a couple of pretty good quarterbacks, and I’m sitting there going, ‘This guy seems to amaze me a little bit more every game,’” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said after the game.

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - JANUARY 24: Patrick Mahomes #15 of the Kansas City Chiefs reacts after defeating the Buffalo Bills 38-24 in the AFC Championship game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 24, 2021 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Patrick Mahomes is having arguably the greatest start to an NFL career of any QB in league history. He has been to the AFC title game in three straight seasons, winning the crown twice, the latest Sunday against Buffalo. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Reid, who once coached Brett Favre in his prime, was one voice in a chorus of praise.

“He’s a gamer, so it doesn’t necessarily matter the situation or the circumstances — he tends to rise above all of that,” safety Tyrann Mathieu said.

“We just had the quarterback that could make all the right plays and all the right throws,” tight end Travis Kelce said. “Today he was just flawless.”

Mahomes’ final stat line was just that. He outclassed the extremely hungry Josh Allen — another worthy MVP candidate this season — by completing 29 of 38 passes for 325 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions, and his passer rating of 127.6 was his highest since Nov. 1.

Buffalo believed it was a team of destiny, but many teams have felt that way, only to have their hopes dashed by alpha quarterbacks at the peak of their powers. That’s what Mahomes is, the Bills learned, and that’s what Brady is. And that’s why their upcoming showdown in Super Bowl LV will be so special.

Sure, it’s a battle between old GOAT vs. young GOAT, with Mahomes’ new school, improvising QB play vs. Brady’s old-school pocket prototype figuring to be an easy storyline, not to mention a ratings bonanza for the league.

For those who love the history of the game, those who appreciate legacies, it promises to be so much more. In a league where simply getting to the Super Bowl is difficult, a Brady win would make it even harder for Mahomes to surpass him in terms of rings. A 7-1 advantage is tough to overcome, though it’s a testament to Mahomes’ prodigious skill that it wouldn’t be out of the question.

But with a Mahomes win, he’d need *only* four more to match Brady, with perhaps 10 to 15 or more seasons to play. Not horrible odds, considering Mahomes’ considerable gifts and Kansas City’s superb infrastructure.

What’s more, there’s a chance this might be the last time we ever see these two face off, since Brady is 43 and the Chiefs and Bucs aren’t scheduled to play each other in the 2021 regular season. This one might be the tiebreaker, as the two are 2-2 against each other with Brady winning the first two matchups and Mahomes winning the last two, including a 27-24 ballgame earlier this season.

So yeah, just call this “Brady-Mahomes V: Winner Takes All.” Not just for the 2020 season’s crown, but for legacy, too.

Brady could see this day, this potential passing of the torch, coming. That’s why he sought out Mahomes in the Chiefs’ locker room following their second showdown, a Patriots win over the Chiefs in the 2018 season’s AFC championship game.

“He kind of re-emphasized that I was doing things the right way, that I was putting in the right work and that I’d be having more opportunities to be in these games,” Mahomes recalled Sunday.

Brady was right, as Mahomes has gone 2-for-2 in conference title games since.

And now, in two weeks, Brady will find himself squaring off against a more agile and stronger-armed version of himself on football’s biggest stage, with GOAT status potentially hanging in the balance one day. If Mahomes wins Sunday and finishes his career with six titles, we’ll look at this as a tiebreaker, sort of like when Michael Jordan’s Bulls beat Magic Johnson’s Lakers in the 1991 NBA Finals.

There’s a good chance both quarterbacks know it, too. While Brady’s decision to flee New England last offseason — and prove Bill Belichick wrong — revealed another instance of his Jordan-like competitiveness, don’t think for a second that his young challenger, the man who has gone 25-1 in his past 26 starts, doesn’t have that trait as well.

Mahomes’ smackdown of Buffalo on Sunday against a talented young rival in Allen offered more proof of his internal competitor. He took notice of some who thought he was the lesser of the two AFC championship game QBs.

His postgame comments about Brady and the Bucs were a sign that he is also fully aware of the historical implications of his next game.

“Being able to go up against one of the greatest, if not the greatest quarterback of all time in his 150th Super Bowl, I mean, it’s gonna be a great experience for me,” Mahomes joked, before turning serious.

“To go out there and have a chance to repeat and get to do it against the best, it’s something special. And I’m excited for the opportunity.”

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