The NFL looks like it is going to be in good hands to finish this new decade with the same degree of popularity as it begins.
Although safety concerns will remain an obstacle, shoddy quarterback play doesn’t appear to be something we’ll have to worry about.
The Manning brothers are both retired, joined prematurely by Andrew Luck, who could’ve been an all-time great. Tom Brady and Drew Brees are in their 40’s and even Aaron Rodgers has regressed some.
There are a number of would-be backups still starting, but that number is smaller than it was about five years ago. A new crop of signal-callers has infused the game with an ability to keep plays alive. Improvisation has always been essential to great offensive football, and we’ve had a number of players who are truly gifted at doing that over the past few years.
Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes is the best of the bunch.
Super Bowl LIV may come down to him ascending to the throne as the face of the league. In a matchup still being looked as close to pick’em with Kansas City favored slightly as of Tuesday, it’s fair to expect Mahomes to make the difference. He’s proved to be brilliant enough to be crowned as the face of the league as a 24-year-old with just two years as a starter under his belt.
There have been players who have thrown the ball from odd arm angles and consistently pose a threat anytime they touch the ball, but the Chiefs’ star is consistently putting things on film we haven’t seen before.
We’re about to see if this is his time. Mahomes will be tested by a defense led by the NFL’s top rookie pass rusher in Nick Bosa and a secondary led by Richard Sherman. No team in the NFL surrendered fewer yards than the 49ers, so there will be no glossing over the competition.
Mahomes would become a champion and an MVP in a two-year span while putting up over 9,000 regular-season passing yards and 80 touchdowns. He has thrown for eight scores with no interceptions and added a highlight-reel 27-yard touchdown run that changed the AFC Championship game over his past two outings.
San Francisco starter Jimmy Garoppolo has a pair of rings he earned as Tom Brady’s backup in New England, but this matchup serves as a huge opportunity for him as well. He’s been looked at as the potential weak link for the 49ers, but showing up and preventing Mahomes from joining the club of Super Bowl winners would open up a world of opportunities for him as well, given his looks and the fact he’s just entering his prime and completing his first full season as a starter.
He threw just eight passes in the NFC Championship because the run game was so dominant, but Garoppolo is capable of doing damage in his own right.
Lamar Jackson, Houston’s Deshaun Watson, 2019 top pick Kyler Murray and Garoppolo along with other recent top picks like the Rams’ Jared Goff, the Jets’ Sam Darnold, the Giants’ Daniel Jones and Browns’ Baker Mayfield have commanded their share of the spotlight.
Mahomes is poised to stand above them all. Just about all football games played on any level are decided up front, but when you get a Super Bowl like this one where both teams look formidable and evenly matched, trusting the quarterback to be great ranks second on the list. Garoppolo has been inconsistent in his first year returning from an ACL injury, while Mahomes has been the highest-rated QB according to Pro Football Focus (91.7) since returning from a horrific dislocated kneecap injury in Week 10.
Those who weren’t tuned in at the beginning of the season might have missed the fact Mahomes had to play through ankle trouble for over a month and then nearly saw his season end when his right knee buckled Oct. 17.
He missed two weeks. He’s looked stronger and stronger and has had even more time to reach 100 percent after a dominant AFC Championship game in which he showed off the wheels.
Expect Mahomes to be named Super Bowl MVP after making the difference in a narrow win over the 49ers. His time has arrived. CHIEFS