There will never be another Tom Brady. At least, that’s what we thought. It came after believing there would never be another Joe Montana, who came following the assertion there would never be another Johnny Unitas — all the way back through football’s history.
It was always fated that someone would eventually challenge Brady’s mantle, but the fact it’s coming this quickly is a massive surprise. Now, on the precipice of Super Bowl LVIII we’re staring down the fast-approaching reality that Patrick Mahomes might be on the verge of solidifying himself in the conversation already.
Mahomes would earn his third Super Bowl ring with a win over the 49ers. It would take his record to 3-1 in Super Bowl games, with his only loss coming at the hands of Brady and the Buccaneers in 2021. While he still might have less than half the number of rings the GOAT does, there’s a very definite case to be made that he’s on his way to legend status.
Mahomes vs. Brady, by the numbers
When we begin this comparison we can’t look solely at career stats, but instead try to project out when Mahomes will pass some critical Tom Brady milestones. It’s impossible to see into the future, but at age 28 we can safely assume that Mahomes will play for another decade, barring major injury. He could decide to retire earlier than that, he could play longer — but a decade is a solid place to be.
It’s not a fair metric, but Super Bowl rings are ultimately how a quarterback’s legacy is evaluated when it’s all said and done. Tom Brady had 22 years as a full-time starter, Mahomes has had 6. With three rings in six years, Mahomes would be on pace to have eight Super Bowl rings, if we assume he’s able to keep up his same rate of championships.
When Tom Brady has finished his sixth season as starter for the Patriots the team he had three rings to his name. He then had to wait a decade before he’d win No. 4, at the age of 37.
The idea Mahomes would be able to keep winning as he has is very difficult to project. Unlike Brady, who got to grow alongside Bill Belichick for the majority of his career, Mahomes will assuredly have to adapt to Andy Reid retiring before his playing days are over. This could greatly disrupt his chance for winning, unless Kansas City has an incredible succession plan.
It’s here where Mahomes blows Brady out of the water. I know it’s a bit of an unfair comparison considering how much the league has emphazied passing in recent years, but it’s a bit of a problem of Brady’s own making, since many of the quarterback-friendly rules today were a direct effect of Brady’s play.
If we extrapolate out Mahomes to Brady’s career length, here’s what we get
Total win record
These play an important role in evaluating a player against the players of the era. When it comes to Tom Brady he was the single most dominant force in football for almost 30 years. There are a few key markers we can use outside of Super Bowl rings to look at where a quarterback ranked inside his era.
Once again, we’ll be extrapolating out Mahomes’ pace to Brady’s career length to get an idea of where they stand.
Pro Bowl berths
Offensive Player of the Year
Super Bowl MVP
This might seem clear, but there’s a big “but” here
Extrapolating out performance is a very flawed process, because it assumes that a metric is attainable in the first place. What Tom Brady did over the course of his career, for as long as he did it, is impossible to comprehend.
The man played elite NFL football at the sport’s most difficult position every season for 23 YEARS. Brady was still throwing for over 4,500 yards at age 45 — and that’s something nobody has ever done before. That makes it very disingenuous to simply map out their career and say they’re on par.
There’s also a matter of play style. Mahomes’ approach to the quarterback position naturally requires a bigger arm, which will decay over time. It remains to be seen whether he’ll able to adapt to having a reduction in arm strength in his 30s the way Brady did. It’s possible, but also not a given.
That said, Mahomes is definitely on track to take over as GOAT
The next few years are critical, but if Mahomes wins three Super Bowl rings in six years then he’s easily on pace to keep dominating. For much of Brady’s career he was in a one-two battle for the title of “best QB” with Peyton Manning, which he eventually won.
When it comes to Patrick Mahomes there’s no comparison. He’s the No. 1 every year, he sits alone in the “S tier.” Until someone shows they’re even close to his ability it’s a conversation without a starter.
While it might be a little early to crown Mahomes as the new GOAT, he’s on pace to solidify this if he can keep up his production for the next 5-7 years, winning more rings in the process.