It is time to wonder, with the New England Patriots’ reign atop the NFL perhaps expiring, if the Chiefs can turn Mahomes’s quarterbacking excellence into a sustained run of AFC dominance and additional Super Bowl victories.
“It’s pretty amazing the dynasty, or whatever you want to call it, the Patriots have had these last 15 to 20 years,” Mahomes said following the 31-20 win over the 49ers. “And so for me, it’s about taking it one year at a time. We came up short last year. We understood how hard the challenge was to get into this position again, and we found a way to do it.”
Achieving NFL supremacy is one thing; maintaining it is another. Mahomes said he and the Chiefs accept that.
“We understand next year when we come back … it’s going to [take] the same heart, the same amount of tenacity and dedication every single day if we want to be here,” he said. “And so I think we take it one year at a time, one day at a time, and try to put together great years.”
Mahomes is 24 and the Chiefs already have begun to contemplate a contract extension, which will undoubtedly be record-setting. He has one year left on his four-year rookie deal, which also has a fifth-year option, but whether it’s this offseason or later, the Chiefs will be locking up Mahomes for the long term. As long as Mahomes is on their roster, the Chiefs seem likely to be contenders.
“It’s not all Patrick,” Coach Andy Reid said. “He’ll be the first to tell you that. But it’s a good place to start.”
It will only get tougher for the Chiefs once they no longer have Mahomes on a cheap rookie deal that leaves plenty of salary cap space to devote to constructing the team around him.
Among issues that must be addressed in the coming weeks, defensive lineman Chris Jones, one of the team’s best players, is eligible for unrestricted free agency, and wide receiver Sammy Watkins has been mentioned as a possible salary cap casualty because of the size of his contract.
“As long as we keep the people that we have in this organization, on this team, with the coaches that we have, I think that we have a chance to be good year in and year out,” Mahomes said. “But it’s not going to be easy. We’re sitting here right now. I know that going back next year, we’re going to have to play a lot of great football teams.”
It remains to be seen if the run is over for the Patriots, who have six Super Bowl titles with Brady as their quarterback and Bill Belichick as their coach. They lost in the first round of the AFC playoffs this season, and Brady is eligible for free agency in March. But even if Brady remains in New England, it will be the Chiefs, not the Patriots, who open next season as the AFC favorites.
Mahomes will have to contend with other superb young AFC quarterbacks, such as Lamar Jackson in Baltimore and Deshaun Watson in Houston. Jackson is only 23 and was named the league’s MVP on Saturday night by a unanimous vote. He emerged as a star in his second season and led the Ravens to a league-best record of 14-2 during the regular season before they lost a divisional-round game at home to the Tennessee Titans.
“There’s several guys that can be the face of the NFL,” Mahomes said when the issue was raised to him late Sunday night. “With the NFL and how good the play is, the quarterback play, guys come in year in and year out and go out there and play great football. Lamar was a unanimous MVP [Saturday] night. He had one of the best seasons of all time at the quarterback position. There’s guys like that, it seems like, every single year — a lot of young quarterbacks, still a lot of veteran guys that are playing at a very high level. And so I try to be the best Patrick Mahomes I can be and try to win football games with the guys I have around me.”
Reid turns 62 in March. His coaching legacy is now secured, with his first Super Bowl triumph in a distinguished head coaching career with Philadelphia and Kansas City that had included so many contending teams but, until Sunday, no championship celebrations.
“He’s one of the best coaches of all time,” Mahomes said. “And he already was before this game. But we wanted to get that trophy just because he deserves it. The work he puts in, day in and day out — I mean, he’s there at like 3 in the morning and leaves at 11 [at night]. I don’t think he sleeps. I try to beat him in, and I never can. He’s someone that works harder than anyone I’ve ever known, and he deserved it. So I’m glad that we were able to go out there and get that trophy for him.”
Mahomes seems unlikely to become overly satisfied with the success he has had so far.
“Obviously I’ve had a good start to my career,” he said. “I’ve been blessed being in a great organization with a lot of great players around me. That makes my job a lot easier. I know it’s going to take a long time of consistency if I’m going to be where I want to be at the end.”
Reid said he told his players Saturday night that return trips to the Super Bowl are far from guaranteed.
“Unfortunately things change in this league,” Reid said Sunday night. “I told the guys that [Saturday] night. They know that. But I reminded them that it’ll never be the same as it is tonight. That’s the sick part about this job. This is such a unique group.”
Even so, the goal now is to continue adding to the collection of Lombardi trophies.
“You get one,” Reid said, “you want to go get another one.”