Patrick Mahomes is the new torchbearer of the NFL. He solidified his status with an exclamation mark in the AFC Championship Game. The explosive, Super Bowl-advancing win follows a historic comeback against the Texans and adds another chapter to his prolific two-year start. Mahomes' success and numbers so far co-sign with the eye test. He's quickly become the most impactful, uncontainable player in sports. Thus the conversation is no longer is someone better than Mahomes, but can anyone challenge him moving forward?
Clay Travis initiated the topic by agreeing with most people that Mahomes is the new Tom Brady. Travis added the difference is, right now, there isn't a viable option to be his Peyton Manning.
The upper echelon of greats were significantly better than the pack and slightly ahead of the clear number two. Brady had Manning, it was Phil Mickelson for Tiger Woods, Floyd Mayweather Jr. or Manny Pacquiao was the debate, LeBron James was challenged by Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry, Roger Federer vs. Rafael Nadal, and most notably, the rivalry between Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. The one time there wasn't a challenger was when Michael Jordan pulled away from history and re-wrote it. Mahomes' pace is following Jordan's.
In fact, Mahomes' era is more competitive than Jordan's was. Looking ahead, Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson, Carson Wentz, and Russell Wilson project to be amongst the best in the league. And if everything goes right with those four, which isn't all that plausible, they will be Clyde Drexler in an era Mahomes exists in. Wilson, who is far more accomplished than the others, is seven years older than Mahomes and is at least several notches below him. The Jackson bandwagon was full this season, yet at his best, 32 of 32 general managers would've taken Mahomes over him. As they would've the night Mahomes dislocated his kneecap.
The successor to the Brady vs. Manning debate is who's second to Mahomes. Another candidate to watch will be Trevor Lawrence, who is the most pro-ready quarterback since Andrew Luck. With that said, if his ceiling is reached, he can be a better version of Luck, which is 60 percent of what Mahomes has been in his first two seasons.
Brady become the consensus G.O.A.T. after his fifth Super Bowl. Though, a portion of experts still pointed to Aaron Rodgers as the better player. The case for Rodgers stems from freaky talent that includes a bionic-like arm, with unfathomable accuracy, elite mobility, and the ability to score from any yard line. Mahomes has all of that and then quite a bit more.
Sports talk is rightfully accused of containing too many prisoner-of-the-moment reactions. However, statements don't always require years of evidence to be said. The NFL is a game away from wrapping up its 100th year of existence. And over that century, less than a handful of players have mastered the craft like Mahomes already has.
Mahomes is already one of only three quarterbacks -- Brady and Peyton Manning were the other two -- to throw 50 touchdowns in a season. This season, following up his MVP year, Mahomes became a cerebral passer of the football. Talent-wise no quarterback can equal Mahomes, and this year, few read defenses, made adjustments, tricked defenders, and outsmarted coordinators the way he did. Mahomes isn't a stat-sheet stuffer, either. He's a mindless Dee Ford offsides penalty away from back-to-back Super Bowl trips in his first two years leading a team.
As history has shown, transcendent talents don't peak in their third years. Dan Marino, Rodgers, Brady, Manning, and Elway continued to grow as players beyond five years in. And if Mahomes follow that path, he's yet to enter his prime.
The good news for the NFL, it's found its next face of the league. The bad news, barring a doppelgänger of Mahomes emerging, it's years away from its next great quarterback rivalry.