Senior quarterback Patrick Mahomes has suffered from commentators judging his fuller frame in the run-up to Sunday’s loss in Las Vegas.Photo: Matt Slocum/AP
Two weeks ago, after dispatching the Baltimore Ravens on the road in the AFC Championship, the Kansas City Chiefs packed into the visitors’ locker room at M&T Bank Stadium to celebrate a return trip to the Super Bowl. In the middle of the meal, Patrick Mahomes was shirtless, still looking forward. “Like I was saying, we’re not done yet,” he said.
But when footage of a rallying cry he did it for social media, the focus quickly shifted away from his encouraging words to his much less defined torso. Before long his #dadbod had made its way onto the NFL’s X (formerly Twitter) feed and commenters judged his fuller frame, some calling him “bloated,” “fat”, and accused of having a “beer belly”. .
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This despite the fact that the Chiefs passer appeared in the Netflix docuseries Back quarter, which focuses heavily on Mahomes’ fruitless training regime. Mahomes took the critical blitz in stride. “Yooo why do they make me like that!?!?!?” he tweeted in response. “Like, I got kids!!!”
In Mahomes’ defense, Incredible Hulks rarely make for quality passing material. Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady were also shamed for their modest physiques. What’s most impressive about Mahomes is how his early body of work has matched those legends.
Since taking over as the Chiefs’ starter in his second NFL season, Mahomes has led them to the Super Bowl in four of the last five years. At worst, he’s only twice in the conference title game. Through 17 career playoff games, Mahomes has already amassed so many passing yards (5,260) and total touchdowns (44), that if they had been compiled over 17 regular season games, his stats would have topped all QB but Brees, Manning and Brady. No wonder Mahomes was voted league MVP twice.
On Sunday the Chiefs will have a chance to become the first team in 20 years to win back-to-back Super Bowls. And Mahomes is the reason Chiefs fans are very excited about their chances of sealing the deal despite their team starting as slight underdogs to the San Francisco 49ers. “I don’t think I could have ever predicted what was going to happen at the beginning of my career,” Mahomes said in Las Vegas on Monday, calling his Super Bowl streak surreal. “I try to understand every single time. You don’t even know if this is going to be your last.”
Mahomes tempts us to make comparisons to Michael Jordan, though the metaphor is destined to fall short. When the NBA star endured years of words before his dynamic head, the golden arm of the Chiefs was little known for success under coach Andy Reid.
Mahomes’ knack for defying the applied logic of the game with his physical gifts, his improvisational hustle and his knack for delivering in the rush made him the one-in-a-generation phenomenon that transcends his sport. The only doubt on his CV is Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Super Bowl on home soil, and even that loss had more to do with the inability of the Taoiseach Mahomes to defend or catch his passes than his undying effort.
Additionally, this year has seen Mahomes do more with fewer reliable offensive weapons besides tight end Travis Kelce while relying on a Chiefs defense that has set a new franchise standard under wily coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. Still, Mahomes and his team are in for a rough evening against the 49ers, the opponents he managed to reach for his first championship ring four years ago.
As always, the 49ers will try to block Mahomes with a formidable defense anchored by quarterback Fred Warner and defensive end Nick Bosa. On the flip side, San Francisco’s offense is much better than the one that put the Chiefs down in 2020. Not only do the Niners carry over many of the key players that made that first game included, but they added Christian McCaffrey, the best in the sport. -across running back. Ultimately, how far they go will depend on whether Niners quarterback Brock Purdy can keep his own hot hand going.
Like Mahomes, Purdy doesn’t pass the eye test, so much so that he was the last pick in the 2022 draft. And yet he played so well in place of the injured Jimmy Garoppolo that Niners coach Kyle Shanahan throwing him the keys to the franchise. While Purdy has yet to disappoint in big moments while playing at an MVP level this year, his critics are still trying to pick his game apart because of how low Purdy was drafted. If San Francisco were to exact revenge, Purdy would likely be the last 49er to receive due credit.
If Mahomes were to lead the Chiefs to another Super Bowl victory, three championships, the last two in a row, would move them into a rare class alongside Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana and Troy Aikman. And even if Mahomes only had three rings, the Jordan comparisons won’t end there. Mahomes could easily be rated as the NFL’s best player and Brady, a seven-time champion, could be reclassified as the ultimate winner, American football’s Bill Russell, the Boston Celtics legend who claimed 11 NBA championships. At 28 years old, Mahomes could just as easily catch up with Brady or even overtake him all the time.
In the host city of Las Vegas earlier this week, Mahomes reiterated what matters most. One reporter asked: Would he rather have six-pack abs or another ring? “Naw, another Super Bowl for sure,” he said. “I’ve got a six pack, it’s just under my dad bod. If you feel, there may be some skin, but then under that, the six pack is there. All you have to do is get close and reed a little. I think you will see it.”