DAN BICKLEY

Patrick Mahomes moves closer to GOAT status with each playoff win

Feb 5, 2024, 2:30 PM | Updated: 3:39 pm

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) holds up the Lamar Hunt Trophy after the AFC Ch...

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) holds up the Lamar Hunt Trophy after the AFC Championship NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, Jan. 28, 2024, in Baltimore. The Chiefs won 17-10. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Nick Wass)

The HOV lane has a different name in professional sports. It’s called the GOAT lane. It offers speedy and exclusive access for the select few seeking athletic immortality.

That’s where you’ll find Patrick Mahomes, a quarterback speeding into Super Bowl LVIII.

If Mahomes prevails Sunday against the 49ers at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, he will have three Super Bowl rings in his first six years as NFL starter. He will have six consecutive AFC Championship game appearances. He will be hailed as the only truly great quarterback in the current NFL, affirmed by the home-field playoff failures of Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson and Buffalo’s Josh Allen.

He will be on pace to surpass Tom Brady as the greatest of all-time.

There are no givens or guarantees in life. Tiger Woods was blistering hot in the first quarter of his career, once considered a shoo-in to pass Jack Nicklaus for GOAT status. It never happened, and it never will.

Yet Mahomes is already more dynamic, more athletic, and physically tougher than Brady. He has the moxie and the running ability to become a dual-threat quarterback in the postseason. He has learned the maturity to manage games and the patience to take and make the easy completions. Chiefs head coach Andy Reid deserves great credit for buffing out the rough spots, for the shiny coat of polish Mahomes is now wearing.

The Chiefs’ quarterback is also making a powerful declaration: that nobody can beat him come playoff time, no matter where the game is staged, no matter how ragged or disorienting the Chiefs might appear during the regular season.

For years, critics pinned Brady’s greatness with an asterisk. Yes, he was clearly the best quarterback of all-time. There was nobody smarter, nobody better in the clutch, nobody with a bigger chip on his shoulder, nobody with more jewelry. But Brady never once felt like the greatest football player. Not in the bone-crunching sense of the word. Not like Walter Payton or Lawrence Taylor.

But Mahomes could finally unify the title, becoming both the NFL’s GOAT and the greatest quarterback in history.

When Brady won his last ring in New England, he held a 6-1 lead over Mahomes with no other contender in sight. It was 7-2 after Brady’s final championship in Tampa. Yet if the Chiefs win on Sunday, Brady’s lead will narrow to four, and more poignantly, it will mark two consecutive rings for Mahomes in the two years since Brady has retired.

For Brady, it will be even more frightening to reconcile how ruthlessly Mahomes found and flicked the switch, shrugging off humiliating losses to the Broncos and Raiders; a lack of weapons on offense, particularly at wide receiver; and home-field advantage in the playoffs.

Granted, legacy discussions can be frivolous, tiresome, and premature. In tennis, Roger Federer was practically taking GOAT victory laps on tour near the end of his career, only to be passed in real time by two other rivals – Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. Oops.

But this feels different. If Mahomes beats the 49ers, he will become the first quarterback since Brady to repeat as Super Bowl champion. We will be watching history repeat itself.

Only better.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@arizonasports.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 6–10 a.m. on Arizona Sports.

Dan Bickley

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