On February 7, Patrick Mahomes will try to become the second starting quarterback ever to win two Super Bowls in his first four seasons in the NFL. To do so, he'll have to go through the only quarterback who already has that accomplishment on his résumé.
Tom Brady and the New England Patriots won Super Bowl XXXVI at the end of the 2001 season, his second in the league and his first as a starter. Brady got his second ring in Super Bowl XXXVIII at the end of the 2003 campaign, his fourth year in the NFL (and another one the next year in Super Bowl XXXIX for good measure).
Since then, two other quarterbacks have won a Super Bowl as a starter and then had a chance to win another one during his first four years in the league: the Rams' Kurt Warner and the Seahawks' Russell Wilson. Unfortunately for both, Brady was waiting for them in that second title game and his Patriots won both times.
Now it's Mahomes' turn, as he tries to lead the Kansas City Chiefs to a second straight Super Bowl championship, which would also make him the first quarterback to repeat as a Super Bowl winner since, yep, Tom Brady in 2003-04. To catch Brady, Mahomes will have to beat Brady…and maybe that's the broader theme here, too. Brady's NFL accomplishments, including six Super Bowl victories and soon-to-be 10 appearances, seem unlikely to be matched, except possibly by the Chiefs' precocious 25-year-old. That's what makes this year's Super Bowl perhaps the greatest quarterback matchup in NFL history.
"There's 21 other [starters] on your team," said Buccaneers Head Coach Bruce Arians. "If it was a throwing contest, hell yeah, [Mahomes] is going to get it. But there are a lot of things that happen in different seasons, and what Tom has done is historic. There's no doubt – if there was a player who could do it, it would be Patrick."
The quarterback pairing in Super Bowl LV between Brady's Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Mahomes' Kansas City Chiefs is not only one for the ages, but one about the ages. Brady could become the first player in any of the major North American sports to win titles with multiple teams after turning 40. Meanwhile, Mahomes will try to become the first quarterback to win two Super Bowls by the age of 25.
Brady would have been a first-ballot Hall-of-Fame selection if he had retired at the age of 39, but the 40-plus chapter of his career has been incredible, including his third league MVP award and appearances in three of the last four Super Bowls. Mahomes is still writing his opening chapter, but it's already an unparalleled first four years. After spending his 2017 rookie season as a reserve, Mahomes threw for 50 touchdown passes and won the league MVP award in 2018. He then took the Chiefs to the Super Bowl title in 2019, winning the game's MVP award to become the youngest player ever to collect both types of MVP trophies.
Brady is the only opposing quarterback who has beaten Mahomes in the playoffs; the Patriots won the 2018 AFC Championship Game in Kansas City, delaying the young quarterback's shot at the game's biggest stage by one year. The two passers have now met four times overall and split them, 2-2, including the Chiefs regular-season win in Tampa in Week 12. Brady is well aware of how talented his Super Bowl LV opponent is.
"He's a terrific player, obviously, being league MVP a few years ago," said Brady before the last meeting. "Fifty touchdowns is pretty hard to do – there's not many guys who have done that. To continue that last year with the Super Bowl championship, and [he is] playing at an extremely high level this year. He's just getting more and more comfortable and so much about playing quarterback is having experience, learning from year-to-year [and] improving your routine. He's just doing a tremendous job. … You give him a chance to win and he takes advantage of it and leads the team down there. He does a tremendous job."
Brady's right – Mahomes joined an exclusive club with his 50 touchdown passes in 2018. The only other members are Peyton Manning (55 with Denver in 2013) and, well, you know. Brady threw 50 touchdown passes during a 2007 season in which his Patriots were undefeated during the regular season before eventually losing to the Giants in Super Bowl XLII.
That was the first Super Bowl Brady loss but he has since won three more and is about to go for a seventh ring in his 10th appearances. That's twice Super Bowls as any other quarterback has ever played in but, again, Mahomes is off to such a fast start in his career that it makes it seem at least plausible that he might get to 10.
The Buccaneers had to overcome quite a bit to make it to their first Super Bowl in 18 years, in Brady's first season with the team, but they came out of their Week 13 bye hot and have won seven straight since. The Chiefs lost their regular-season finale but rested their starters in that game; Mahomes has won 12 straight starts. At this point, it almost seems like this Super Bowl quarterback matchup was destined to happen.
Consider this: Super Bowl LV will mark the first one ever to pit the winning quarterbacks from the previous two Super Bowls. Before the Chiefs and Mahomes beat San Francisco in Super Bowl LIV last January, Brady and the Patriots prevailed against the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII. It will also mark the first time that two quarterbacks will meet in a Super Bowl who have already won both a league MVP and a Super Bowl MVP award.
Brady owns virtually every NFL career passing record in the counting stats, regular season, postseason and combined. Mahomes is the current leader in career passer rating and passing yards per game (postseason included). Brady is the only player with 12,000-plus passing yards in the postseason; Mahomes is the first quarterback to get to 2,000-plus passing yards by the age of 25.
Tom Brady won't be "passing the torch" in Super Bowl LV. He'll be sharing the stage with a fellow transcendent talent. Brady is already the "greatest of all time." Mahomes, some day, may be the greatest challenge to that title.