Patrick Mahomes' gutsy performance in a thrilling AFC title game win against the Bengals has him on the cusp of a second NFL championship. It will by no means come easy. Most thought he'd beat the Buccaneers in Super Bowl LV; instead it was arguably the worst game of his career. Now he faces a complete Eagles team with one of the most productive pass rushes of all time. Plus, Mahomes will likely not be 100 percent healthy as he recovers from a high-ankle sprain.
Still, it's hard to not dream about where his legacy would stand with a second Super Bowl. We have to assume he will win a second MVP when the award is handed out next Thursday (Feb. 9) at the NFL Honors ceremony. He got 49 of 50 votes for an AP first-team All-Pro selection, which is a strong indicator of who will win MVP. With a second MVP and second ring within his grasp, he's looking at one of the best five-season stretches by any quarterback in NFL history.
Since becoming the Chiefs' full-time starter in 2018, he's made the AFC Championship Game each season, and advanced to the Super Bowl three times. The two times he didn't, he lost in overtime. He joined Tom Brady and Ken Stabler as the only quarterbacks ever to start five straight conference title games.
Mahomes already has the best numbers of any quarterback in a five-year span, ever.
He has the most touchdown passes in a five-season span ever, including playoffs.
- (2018-22) Patrick Mahomes: 224
- (2009-13) Drew Brees: 214
He has the most passing yards in a five-season span ever, including playoffs.
- (2018-22) Patrick Mahomes: 27,859
- (2009-13) Drew Brees: 27,446
Only Tom Brady has had more wins by a quarterback in a five-season span, including playoffs.
- (2003-07) Tom Brady: 77
- (2018-22) Patrick Mahomes: 73
Of course, it's a little easier for Mahomes to top these lists with longer seasons, more playoff games and playing in the most passer-friendly era of all time. Still, he's led the league in touchdown passes twice during this season (2018 and 2022).
Other quarterbacks have won more MVPs or more championships in a five-season span, but winning multiple of each in the same span would be nearly unprecedented. Joe Montana is the only player in NFL history with multiple MVPs and championships won in a five-season span (1986-90). No player has ever won multiple league MVPs and Super Bowl MVPs in a five-season span, like Mahomes can accomplish with a great game in Super Bowl LVII.
Add up his gaudy numbers, the possibility for more individual and team hardware and we are talking about arguably the best five-season span by a quarterback ever. Here are the others in the conversation in my opinion.
Best five-season stretches by a quarterback
(1951-55) Otto Graham
Made five title games, won two titles; led NFL in passer rating twice, pass yards twice, pass TD once
(1957-61) Johnny Unitas
Won one MVP, two titles; led NFL in pass TD four times, pass yards three times, passer rating two times
(1964-68) Bart Starr
Won one MVP, three titles, two SB MVPs; led NFL in passer rating three times
(1974-78) Terry Bradshaw
Won one MVP, three titles, two SB MVPs; led NFL in pass TD once
(1986-90) Joe Montana
Won two MVPs, two Super Bowls, one SB MVP; led NFL in passer rating twice and pass TD once
(2002-06) Peyton Manning
Won two MVPs, one Super Bowl, one SB MVP; led NFL in passer rating three times, pass yards and pass TD once
(2003-07) Tom Brady
Won one MVP, two Super Bowls, two SB MVPs; set NFL record for pass TD in a season
(2014-18) Tom Brady
Won one MVP, three Super Bowls, two SB MVPs; led NFL in pass TD and pass yards once
(2018-22) Patrick Mahomes
Can win two MVPs, two Super Bowls, two SB MVPs; led NFL in pass TD twice and pass yards once
My initial thought was that Bart Starr's run from 1964 to 1968 was actually near the top of the conversation here. He won an MVP, three titles, two Super Bowl MVPs and led the NFL in passer rating three times. However, there were only 16 teams in the league at that point.
Montana won two MVPs and two Super Bowls in a three-year period from 1988 to 1990. I'd lean Tom Brady from 2014 to 2018, though, with Mahomes a close second if he captures a second league MVP and second Super Bowl MVP. Brady won three titles, two Super Bowl MVPs, one league MVP along with two runner-up MVP finishes in that span.
The possibility of a Super Bowl win also begs the question: Would Mahomes be a top-10 QB of all time, even if he retired after the game, or somehow became an average quarterback the rest of his career? I think the answer is yes.
As referenced above, Mahomes would be guaranteed one of the greatest peaks in league history. He's one of the most talented quarterbacks in league history. He would also be in all-time great company with a win. He would become the fifth starting quarterback in NFL history with two league MVPs and two titles, along with Johnny Unitas, Joe Montana, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. Some consider that Mount Rushmore the greatest four quarterbacks in league history. Only Brady and Montana -- two of the greatest quarterbacks of all time -- have ever won two league MVPs and two Super Bowl MVPs. If Mahomes is able to join this type of company, I don't see how he wouldn't be a lock for top-10 quarterback of all-time status even if he didn't play another down.
Here's my top-10 greatest QBs of all-time list heading into Super Bowl LVII:
1. Tom Brady
2. Joe Montana
3. Peyton Manning
4. Johnny Unitas
6. Brett Favre
7. Drew Brees
8. Dan Marino
9. John Elway
10. Bart Starr
With a win next Sunday, I'd slot Mahomes at six behind Aaron Rodgers, who like Mahomes, may possess the best arm talent on the planet, but won four MVPs along with a Super Bowl MVP, and has put up some of the most efficient seasons ever into his late 30s. I also like Unitas at four. Even though he played over a half century ago, he retired as the NFL's all-time leader in touchdown passes and passing yards, won three championships, three MVPs and had four straight seasons leading the NFL in touchdown passes. He also led clutch drive after drive in the "Greatest Game Ever Played" -- the 1958 NFL Championship Game.
Mahomes' current trajectory has him becoming the second-greatest quarterback ever behind Tom Brady, and just this weekend alone he can vault into the top 10 and cement one of the best peaks ever. Not bad for a 27-year-old.