Sports media has always been prone to hyperbolic discussions. There is always an athlete deemed to be the next Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, or Willie Mays. Once athletes have prolonged periods of excellence it is fair for those debates to take place. However, too many people are ready to label somebody as the GOAT before they have accomplished a small fraction of the athlete they are chasing. Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is the NFL player currently being unnecessarily crowned as the greatest of all time.
There is a GOAT of the National Football League and that man’s name is Tom Brady. It is not up for debate. So why do so many people want to discuss it? Just yesterday the NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah posted such a claim on X. Jeremiah stated:
“When you get into the GOAT discussions in sports, it often comes down to a debate on ability vs accomplishments. Mahomes is already a slam dunk on ability and he’s got a chance to add to the accomplishments on Sunday. This might not even be a debate 5 years from now.”
When you get into the GOAT discussions in sports, it often comes down to a debate on ability vs accomplishments. Mahomes is already a slam dunk on ability and he's got a chance to add to the accomplishments on Sunday. This might not even be a debate 5 years from now.
— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) February 9, 2024
Daniel Jeremiah’s Argument
It is unclear what Jeremiah means when he argues Mahomes is “already a slam dunk on ability.” Which ability is he referring to? The only ability that matters in this discussion is the ability to play quarterback in the National Football League.
If it is a combination of size and speed and arm strength, there are plenty of candidates. Some like John Elway ended up in the Hall of Fame. Others like JaMarcus Russell fizzled out in the NFL. Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton, Josh Allen, and others have all looked like the complete package at various points in their NFL careers. Dan Marino, Peyton Manning were among those considered ideal quarterbacks, prior to mobility being as much of a desired trait.
As for accomplishments, Terry Bradshaw and Troy Aikman were the most accomplished of their generations in terms of championship success. Neither has ever entered a GOAT conversation to the best of my knowledge.
Stating that this might not be a debate five years from now? Five years from today, if Patrick Mahomes win the next five Super Bowls, he would be tied with Tom Brady. If that happens, Mahomes would certainly have the advantage for winning five straight, but is that going to happen? And if not, how has a quarterback with seven championships somehow exited this hypothetic GOAT discussion? If Joe Burrow, Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, C.J. Stroud, Brock Purdy or anyone else wins five straight Super Bowls I’m happy to have a discussion about that player being the GOAT as well. But shouldn’t that actually happen first? Or at least come close to happening?
Patrick Mahomes is Awesome
None of this should come across as a slight against Patrick Mahomes. He is a phenomenal player. If there was any NFL player that I’d want on my team in 2024, it would be Mahomes by a mile. The same has been true for the past several seasons. It is likely to remain true for the next several seasons as well. It is far from a guarantee though. Aaron Rodgers was just entering his prime when the 2010 Green Bay Packers won the Super Bowl. He has not added a second ring to date.
There is also the question of a supporting cast. Travis Kelce is still incredible, though he will turn 35 during the 2024 season. Defensive star Chris Jones is set to hit free agency this offseason. Teammates get older and more expensive to retain. Tyreek Hill has already departed Kansas City in such a move, but impressively the Chiefs have continued to win thus far. Even the actual GOAT went a full ten seasons between Super Bowl victories. If Mahomes goes through a decade without a ring he will be 38.
This is not to suggest that Patrick Mahomes catching Tom Brady is beyond the realm of possibility. It is only to state what should be obvious: it is too early to make such comparisons.
Rob Gronkowski, who helped Tom Brady win four of his seven rings, perhaps said it best.
“I think Patrick Mahomes is the only quarterback that has the potential to catch Brady,” said Gronkowski. “There’s going to be so many variables and factors that play into it over the next 15 (not five) years.
“Does he want to play until he’s 45? You don’t know that. That’s only up to him. How long is Andy Reid going to be the head coach for? How long is Travis Kelce going to play with him as his number one weapon throughout his whole tenure as a quarterback?”
All good questions, but nobody knows the answers yet.
If people want to continuously bring up discussions of who is the GOAT, guessing future accomplishments is no way to go about it. As stated above, any argument can be made for any present or future player is we are simply going to guess what the future holds. So let’s have an actual comparison of the current accomplishments of Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes:
Pro Bowl seasons: Brady leads 15-6.
First-Team All-Pro Selections: Brady leads 3-2.
NFL Most Valuable Player Awards: Brady leads 3-2.
Super Bowl Championships: Brady leads 7-2.
Super Bowl MVP Award: Brady leads 5-2.
Conference Championships: Brady leads 10-4.
Regular Season Wins: Brady leads 251-74.
NFL Playoff Wins: Brady leads 35-14.
Career Passing Yards: Brady leads 89,214-28,424
Career Passing Touchdowns: Brady leads 649-219
What are we even doing here?
Let’s Reevaluate This in a Decade
As Rob Gronkowski indicates, if any player could eventually catch Brady as the GOAT it would be Patrick Mahomes. But that will not be decided over the next five seasons. It is certainly not going to be decided in Super Bowl 58, even if Mahomes does win a third Lombardi Trophy.
Patrick Mahomes is a special player with a great resume and unlimited potential. But the people putting him in the same discussions as Tom Brady at this point in his career are doing him a great disservice. He will need to continue have great coaching, teammates, and health. If that all continues to work in his favor, a debate down the road is understandable. But Tom Brady has only been retired for one season. There is no need to kick the GOAT off the top of the mountain quite yet.