Much ink has already been spilled and metric tons will follow exploring the greatness of Patrick Mahomes. Any time a transcendent player takes public imagination by sheer force, our greatest and most creative sports minds scramble to the fighter jets with one mission: contextualizing what makes this superstar different. What about their play is so captivating? It's a tall and innately subjective task, a test where the answer key changes over time as the athlete continues to grow while appearing to be further along in the evolution of the sport than anyone to date.
Anyone not blinded by their own bias would admit that Mahomes has the opportunity to be the best quarterback to ever play. By skill, if not winning, since Tom Brady has collected Super Bowls like a hoarder would worthless newspapers and old cereal boxes. He plays the position in a new way, using his baseball background to contort his body and adjust his arm angle to maximize inflicted pain. An unprecedented muse is the dream of all those who dream yet it also presents a unique and untrodden challenge.
But a thought occurred to me as Mahomes destroyed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last night and made Brady look like a store-brand variety. It's not the most empirical picture. It's more art than science. And it may be the highest compliment I could ever give.
Patrick Mahomes is the most exciting football player since Barry Sanders.
Witness, if you haven't dozens of times already, another masterpiece painted by rolling right, juking would-be tacklers and flipping a basketball-themed touchdown pass. No one else could do this. No one else does this.
Readers of this blog understand being a lifelong Detroit Lions fan has prevented me from having any type of meaningful investment in the NFL. But it did afford countless childhood memories of watching the most elusive and imaginative running back on Earth ply his talents and boggle the mind. It remains, perhaps, the greatest gift to unwrap week to week. There have been a laundry list of electric, spell-binding skill position players to delight and dazzle since, yet none have tapped into that free-flowing jazz and played every single note like Mahomes. More accurately, no one has been able to play every note on the page and imagine new ones like Mahomes, who conducts a symphony in real time, almost always leading to triumphant crescendo.
Thankfully, he plays for the Kansas City Chiefs, an organization not completely rotted to the core. Thankfully, he plays a position with far greater autonomy and impact on the outcome of the game. Sanders was tragically relegated to the worst place imaginable and force to create his own magic despite a very limited offensive line. We are not missing out and won't be left to wonder what could have been. We are seeing Mahomes for all that he is and know that what he can be, with more seasoning and improvisation ahead.
The possibilities are endless. There is no ceiling, only the limitations of a mind and body with fewer of those than should be possible.