Now comes the hard part for Mahomes, Chiefs: Conquering history
The NFL is part of an NBC Sports promo that previews what’s ahead this month for viewers. And what’s ahead, if videotape from last season serves as a barometer, is more acts of legerdemain from Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
“Only Mahomes,” broadcaster Al Michaels gushes as the tape rolls.
Maybe then. But not now. Because now it’s only Brady.
When Mahomes and the Chiefs launch the NFL season tonight vs. Houston they line up as favorites to defend their Super Bowl LIV title. Understandable. First of all, they’re the defending champions. Second, they have Mahomes and Andy Reid. Third, 18 of 22 starters return. And, fourth, their offense scores points the way McDonald’s makes hamburgers.
With billions and billions of them.
Nevertheless, the odds of a Super Bowl repeat are against Mahomes and the Chiefs, and here’s why: Because there’s nobody named Tom Brady in their lineup.
Only one quarterback the past two decades won back-to-back Super Bowls, and he just moved from New England to Tampa Bay. In fact, Brady is the only quarterback since John Elway in 1998 to win consecutive Lombardi Trophies, a span of 21 years. Plus, he’s one of only three starting quarterbacks … period … to go to three straight Super Bowls (2016-18) in the 54 years of the game.
Yeah, I know, Mahomes is preternatural, and the Chiefs have little competition in the AFC West. Still, it’s so difficult to reach the Super Bowl in consecutive seasons that only two teams – the Patriots and Seahawks – have done it the past 20 years … and only one won both games.
So it’s not so much Baltimore … or Tennessee … Houston … or Buffalo (yes, Buffalo) … that poses the greatest threat to Mahomes and the Chiefs in the AFC. It’s history.
Hall-of-Fame coach Jimmy Johnson once said winning a Super Bowl isn’t the toughest part of pro football; defending a Super Bowl title is. He should know. He won back-to-back titles in 1992 and ’93 and never went back.
Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers were supposed to be mortal locks to make it in 2011 after running the table the previous year. They were young, they could play both sides of the ball, they returned most of their starters and they had Aaron Rodgers. They were, we were told, a dynasty waiting to happen.
So they won 15 of 16 games the following season, were the NFC’s top playoff seed and seemed a cinch to reach a second straight Super Bowl. Except they didn’t. They lost to the New York Giants in the divisional round of the playoffs and haven’t been back to the Super Bowl since.
Rewind the videotape to 1984 when Dan Marino – then in his second year as a pro -- threw a then-league record 48 touchdown passes to put Miami in the Super Bowl. It was supposed to be the beginning of a long and uninterrupted AFC reign for Marino and the Miami Dolphins. Except it wasn’t. Neither returned to another Super Bowl.
OK, so that was then and this is now, and these are different times and Mahomes is a different quarterback. He can run. He can pass. He can pass without looking. He can pass with both hands. He probably can pass with both feet. The guy’s exceptional … which means he’s the exception to a Super Bowl hangover, right? I mean, he’s only in his third season as a starter, and talking heads already have him fitted for a Gold Jacket.
And maybe they’re right. All I know is that he’s not chasing the AFC field this season. He’s chasing Tom Brady and history. Because Brady’s done what others have not and could not. He’s been to more Super Bowls (9) than any NFL quarterback and won more than (6) than any, too. In fact, he’s won as many Super Bowls as all of this weekend’s starting quarterbacks combined.
Now, at 43, he’s done for Tampa Bay what nobody since John Lynch, Warren Sapp, Ronde Barber and Derrick Brooks could: He’s made the Bucs a Super Bowl contender.
Nevertheless, the Chiefs are undaunted at what they’re up against. In fact, defensive lineman Chris Jones earlier this summer predicted five Super Bowl rings for Mahomes & Co., while wide receiver Tyreek Hill said that wasn’t enough.
“Why say, ‘Five?’“ Hill asked on ESPN’s “First Take.” “Why say, “Five?” Why not go seven rings? Right now, we’re just chasing (Michael) Jordan. So that’s what we do. So I’m going over five. I’m saying, ‘Seven.’ “
I’m not. I’m saying two. Because they’re not chasing Michael Jordan. They’re chasing Tom Brady. It took the Chiefs five decades to win a second Super Bowl. It took Tom Brady four years to win three. Where most quarterbacks hope to reach one in their careers, Brady expects to win one every year. And why not? He’s been to one nearly half of his 19 seasons as a starter. That doesn’t happen to others, and cue Al Michaels.