Kansas Metropolis Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is cementing his legacy with the second Tremendous Bowl
GLENDALE, Ariz. — There is a YouTube video that Kansas City Chiefs coaches show their players from time to time. It’s about how Allen Iverson, arriving in Georgetown to great fanfare, was intrigued by an easygoing teammate named Dean Berry who knew how to pull off a crossover move.
As the story goes, Iverson, now a Basketball Hall of Famer, knew he needed to develop some moves to improve his game now that he was no longer able to dominate high schoolers based on talent alone. But as a star recruit, he was initially too proud to ask Berry how to do it. Eventually he gave in and asked Berry to tutor him, and you basically know the rest.
The Lesson: Anyone can teach you anything if you’re not afraid to ask.
This was a particularly important lesson for the 2022-23 Chiefs, who began this past offseason by trading their top wide receiver, Tyreek Hill, and bringing in an all-new group for quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Knowing this would take some work, Mahomes lined up his new receivers in Texas for some get-acquainted pitching sessions ahead of the Chiefs’ offseason program. What he found was a group of players who could teach him a few things.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling had just played four years with Aaron Rodgers. JuJu Smith-Schuster was a former teammate of Ben Roethlisberger. Justin Watson had played with Tom Brady in Tampa Bay. These guys had previously played with elite Hall of Famer-caliber quarterbacks, and as a result, Mahomes found it fairly easy to discuss concepts with them at a high level.
But there was something else Mahomes needed to learn.
Patrick Mahomes could be on a Tom Brady-like path with two Super Bowl titles at the age of 27. AP Photo/Brynn Anderson
“I had to learn to be a better leader,” Mahomes said Sunday night after winning his second Super Bowl title and Super Bowl MVP three nights after his second MVP award at the age of 27. “I had to learn to stay on boys, how not to let the little things slide. I had to teach guys the culture that we have here, which I learned from Alex Smith and Derrick Johnson.
Mahomes’ decision to take that mandate to heart in the offseason was one of the main reasons he and the Chiefs are Super Bowl champions for the second time in four years, beating the Philadelphia Eagles 38-35 on Sunday. It wasn’t always pretty or easy, and that extended into the very last game where they were 10 down at halftime and six down in the fourth quarter. But whenever the going got tough, Mahomes bowed his head, relying on the work he’d done months earlier on a sweltering practice field in St. Joseph, Missouri, to see him and his team through.
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“He wants to be the greatest player of all time,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said of Mahomes Sunday night. “And he does it humbly. He does the work. And then when it’s time for the players around him to improve their game, he helps them do it.”
Super Bowl LVII was a legacy for Mahomes. The stunning Chiefs superstar quarterback is at a circuit in Mount Rushmore and what he did on Sunday night should be enough to send us in search of the chisels.
The details are magical. The Chiefs were being pushed around by the Eagles — an NFC champion keen to prove they were always the best team in the league. Deep, explosive, dominant on both lines and led by their own rising star quarterback in Jalen Hurts, the Eagles appeared to be in control for most of the game. Mahome’s last game of the first half ended with his months-old ankle injury worsening, limping off the field and slamming his helmet onto the ground in frustration. Things were looking bleak. At least from the outside.
“When you have 15 at quarterback,” Chiefs left tackle Orlando Brown said of when it was all over, “really anything is possible.”
Kadarius Toney played a key role with a touchdown and the longest punt return in Super Bowl history. Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Mahomes emerged from the dressing room in that No. 15 jersey with a badly taped right ankle and led a touchdown drive to reduce the lead to three. He kept going and threw a couple of short touchdown passes to cool Andy Reid/Eric Bieniemy play designs to take the lead by 9:22. And after the Eagles scored their own touchdown and a 2-point conversion to equalize, Mahomes led the game-winning field goal drive.
History always remembers the exploits of the Super Bowl. But when you think about this season, what it was destined to be for the Chiefs, and Mahomes’ role in making it so much more, you realize that win was painstaking months in the making.
Flash back with me to early August. I stood on one of those drill fields in St. Joseph and spoke to Mahomes about what the offensive would look like without Hill in it. He was excited in part, he said, because the new arrangement offered him an opportunity to become a better player.
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“It helps me grow as a quarterback,” Mahomes told me that day. “If the first big shot we design isn’t there, I have to take the ball out of my hands and move the chains. So be more positive – still have the big game, take what’s there and move the chains. Just getting through my readings, as they say, and finding the right man, not necessarily just looking for a matchup every game.
This is where the real things happen – where good becomes great. Not around a Rihanna concert with the whole world watching in mid-February, but on those sweaty August practice fields where the cheering isn’t nearly as important as the work.
“It’s great for him as a pro in his future career,” Reid told me that day. “He has the attitude that he wants to rip your heart out. So if teams give you the opportunity, he’ll take advantage of it like Tyreek did. So it’s great that he can now go back and see and study all the shell coverage he has and how to go about it. It will be great for his pack and learning.
I stood there thinking, “How many people out there even think Mahomes needs to improve?” But the fact of the matter is that it doesn’t matter because Mahomes always wants to improve and that’s why he’s not just on a Mount Rushmore track, he’s on a Tom Brady track.
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Yes, I realize he’s five Super Bowl titles behind Brady, and that’s a sea of Super Bowl titles he may not even come close to crossing. The point now is not to compare these two players. It’s about looking at what made Brady great and thinking Mahomes has some of the same stuff in him.
The group he won Super Bowl LVII with is very different from the group he won Super Bowl LIV with — a new offensive line, all-new wide receivers, a seventh-round rookie running back, and youth in the entire defense. Brady used to do that — break up in a new group every few years, find a way to win with it, use his own influence to infuse each season with the culture he demanded. Mahomes, who rallied his new boys in Texas last offseason, felt at least a little like Brady was training his boys on a high school practice field when he arrived in Tampa, and COVID protocols kept them from the device away. Whatever it takes, in any season.
Remember how Brady always made team-friendly contracts so the Patriots could keep the flexibility to build around him and add parts as needed? Check out Mahomes’ deal. He’s got nine years left, and while the pay numbers are huge, the structure gives the Chiefs all kinds of flexibility. His current projected cap for 2023 is $49.3 million, which would be the second-highest in the league if the team didn’t make contract changes. But the length and structure of the contract makes it easy to convert roster bonus funds into signing bonus funds, lowering that cap by as much as $31 million. Going forward, we should expect the Chiefs to change the deal with Mahomes to align with the league’s top quarterbacks. But don’t be at all surprised if he continues to help them with structure like Brady always did with the Patriots.
Add in the fact of all the rookies and young players who contributed to this latest Chiefs run – Trent McDuffie, Isiah Pacheco, guys like Kadarius Toney and Skyy Moore who haven’t played much in the NFL but have star potential – and Kansas City is poised to keep it that way for the long haul. The main reason is Mahomes, who just won three postseason games with a sore ankle and a battered set of receivers. He’s a magician – a wondrous talent with the arm, legs and wits to dominate the league for years to come. And while Sunday affects how history will view him, it’s the things we learned about him last summer that make it obvious why the Chiefs were in this game in the first place — and why they probably weren’t will disappear so soon.
The Chiefs have won two of the last four Super Bowls and played in another. This is dynasty stuff, folks. But what this year has taught us is this: once the confetti is swept away, the parade is over and the trophy box is rearranged to make room for the new ones, you can bet the first question Patrick Mahomes will ask is is what he has to do Come back for the Super Bowl next year.
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