On the weekend ESPN reported the end of Tom Brady’s football career, Patrick Mahomes reminded us why he’ll never rival Brady: too much talent.
An overabundance of talent undermines accomplishment. Talent is what separated Bill Russell from Wilt Chamberlain. It’s what has foiled LeBron James’ attempt to catch Michael Jordan. Like Wilt and LeBron, Mahomes is the featured attraction at the circus. He’s the bearded lady, a once-in-a-lifetime talent you must see to believe. He is the most supremely talented quarterback we’ve ever seen. He can make every throw from any position.
But the ultimate winner and champion? That will never be Patrick Mahomes. The game is too easy for him. He will always battle bouts of boredom. He will lose focus. He will eschew the routine for the spectacular and lose games he otherwise shouldn’t.
It happened yesterday in the AFC Championship. Right before halftime, Mahomes and the Chiefs were at the threshold of salting away the Bengals. Leading 21-10, the Chiefs had second and goal at the one with five seconds to play. Mahomes inexplicably threw the ball to Tyreek Hill at the 5. The Bengals tackled Hill short of the goal line. The clock expired.
The Chiefs were outscored 17-3 the rest of the game. Kansas City lost at home to an inferior team that played an average game. You will hear some NFL experts argue that Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow won the game. He did not. He took what Patrick Mahomes gave him. Mahomes turned the game with a gift-wrapped, third-quarter interception to a Cincy defensive lineman. In overtime, Mahomes tossed a second interception.
Patrick Mahomes melted down. It reminded me of LeBron James in the 2011 NBA Finals against the Dallas Mavericks. LeBron mentally collapsed. The Heat lost the series in six games.
Can you ever remember a moment when Brady or Jordan mentally folded? It did not happen. It did not happen because Brady’s and Jordan’s mental approach to competition was always every bit as important as their physical gifts.
There’s a seemingly endless list of quarterbacks more physically gifted than Brady: Mahomes, Dan Marino, John Elway, Roger Staubach, Steve Young, and Aaron Rodgers, just to name a few.
Brady won seven Super Bowls because of his superior mental outlook. Human beings do what they’re forced to do. If Brady had more physical gifts, he would have paid less attention to the mental aspect of the game. In order to consistently win at the highest level, Brady adopted a lifestyle and mental approach that allowed him to outperform peers with more talent.
Mahomes’ peers do not have more talent than him. Therefore his mental approach will never rival Brady’s. At least not for another five to 10 years.
There’s a better chance of Mahomes putting together a career that rivals Aaron Rodgers’ than one that challenges Brady or Joe Montana. OK, that’s not a very bold statement. Winning seven Super Bowls is virtually impossible. Only one QB has ever won more than four.
My real point is that Mahomes may not win another Super Bowl. When Rodgers won his first in 2011, we assumed he would have won one or two more by now. He hasn’t. Russell Wilson won a Super Bowl in 2014. He’s yet to win again.
Joe Burrow, Josh Allen, Justin Herbert, Derek Carr, and Lamar Jackson all play in the AFC. The conference is loaded with young, hungry, and talented quarterbacks. None of them are more talented than Mahomes. And that’s their advantage.
They will not make the kind of sloppy mistakes that haunted Mahomes yesterday and will haunt him over the next five to 10 years. Mahomes has too much talent to sweat all of the details. He’s going to make mistakes that cost his team.