Last week I co-wrote SI’s cover story on the Chiefs’ 31-20 win against San Francisco in Super Bowl LIV. Before we move toward the 2020 league year, here are a few leftovers in my notebook from following Kansas City’s playoff run.
1. All eyes now turn to a contract extension for Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes, who is still on his rookie contract but at the end of the 2019 regular season became eligible to negotiate a new deal. Before the Super Bowl, I asked Chiefs GM Brett Veach how Mahomes winning the Chiefs’ first championship in 50 years might affect those talks. “It wouldn’t,” Veach said. “He’s got a resume that speaks for itself already.” As for when they might start those talks? “Haven’t discussed timing,” he said. “We have a lot of time to deal with that in the offseason.”
2. In the Chiefs locker room after the Super Bowl, safeties coach David Merritt showed me one of the sheets he uses to chart formations and keep notes during the game. In the top quadrant at the left side, he’d written, “Breathe.” That was one of the reminders he’d given his players in the days leading up to the game; he’d even had them do a mindfulness session in which they counted their breaths to relax. You may remember the TV shot of Tyrann Mathieu fired up on the sideline after the 49ers scored on their second straight drive in the second half to take a 20-10 lead. Mathieu then put on a headset to communicate with Merritt, who was up in the coaches’ box, and the coach reminded the heart and soul of the Chiefs defense to breathe. That was, of course, the last time the 49ers scored. Also on Merritt’s sheet: At the 6:13 mark of the fourth quarter, when the Chiefs scored to pull within 20-17 of the 49ers, he wrote down that the final score would be KC 24, SF 20 (he didn’t count on the Chiefs scoring two more times). In the bottom left-hand corner, one more note, something echoed by the entire team in Miami: “For Andy Reid!!!”
3. Lamar Hunt, founder of the Chiefs, was known by his fellow team owners as being something of an outside-the-box thinker, making rule change proposals that were often deemed radical. At one point, he wanted to outlaw the ability to kneel down at the end of games, requiring teams to run a play instead. “He proposed it for several years in a row—he would not give up,” remembered Giants co-owner John Mara. “I recall my father getting up to speak against that. But no matter how they disagreed, when the meeting was over, they would shake hands and continued to have a great relationship.” One of the points Hunt pushed was opening up the game—he knew that fans want offense—in part due to his start in the nontraditional AFL, which had rules such as the two-point conversion before the NFL did. “And now today they have a QB that takes advantage of all the rules in favor of the offense probably as well as anybody around,” said Steelers owner Art Rooney II. “It’s interesting to see that come around.”
4. Mahomes became the third African-American QB to win a Super Bowl, following Doug Williams and Russell Wilson. Leading up to the game, I asked Williams, the first, what Mahomes becoming the third would mean. “The third one only means that if you give people an opportunity to play, it can be more,” Williams said. He recalled when he was drafted by Tampa Bay in 1978, being referred to in articles to as “the black QB of Tampa Bay” or “Tampa Bay’s black quarterback.”
“We passed that stage,” Williams said. Throughout the 2019 season, there were 11 starting QBs who are black, including four in the playoffs. “I want the day to come that we don't even have to talk about it,” Williams said, “and what might help that a little bit more, is when we’ve got more people of color in top positions like coaches, and general managers, and other places.”
5. A final note that, looking back, shows the Chiefs’ confidence entering this past season. Eric Stonestreet, the actor and Kansas City native, told SI’s Charlotte Wilder that before this season started, Veach made a promise to him: You and I will take a picture in the locker room with the Lamar Hunt Trophy. So Stonestreet was at Arrowhead for the AFC Championship, decked out in a red Chiefs Kingdom sweatshirt and insulated boots for the sub-freezing temperatures. He was in the press room after the game, waiting for Reid to take the podium, when he got a text from Veach: “Where are you, bro? Get in here. We gotta take a picture with the Lamar.” Stonestreet headed into the locker room and found the GM for their long-awaited photo, each with one hand on the base of the trophy and Stonestreet’s left arm draped over Veach’s shoulder. “This will be good for 10,000 likes,” Veach said, grinning.
More SI Super Bowl LIV Coverage
* Michael Rosenberg: Patrick Mahomes Is Here To Stay
* Conor Orr: Shanahan Absorbs Gut-Punch Super Bowl Loss
* Kalyn Kahler: Reaction From the Niners' Stunned Locker Room
* Charlotte Wilder: Super Bowl LIV Was One Giant Spectacle