This past weekend — during the telecast of the Kansas City Chiefs’ game against the Tennessee Titans, — former Dallas Cowboys quarterback and current CBS analyst Tony Romo became the latest football influence to compare Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes to the likes of Michael Jordan, who is widely regarded as the greatest NBA player of all time.
Romo had just watched in awe as Mahomes stood up in the pocket, hopped on one leg and found rookie wide receiver Mecole Hardman for a 63-yard touchdown.
Jordan, through his unworldly play, led the Chicago Bulls to six championships throughout the 1990s, turning the organization into a national and international phenomenon. With that in mind, it was worth asking if Hunt felt Mahomes could do the same for the Chiefs.
“It’s certainly a goal for us to grow our fan base and when you have a successful team that helps and obviously, when you have a star player, that also helps,” said Hunt. “Our family was and still is with the Chicago Bulls, so we got to live through that experience with Michael Jordan and see it first hand.
“That was a special time for the Bulls organization, and Michael did a lot to grow their brand not only nationally but on an international basis, and I think certainly to some degree, Patrick gives us that same opportunity.”
In early January, reports surfaced that Mahomes — the reigning MVP — could land a $200 million this offseason, the first time he is able to renegotiate his NFL contract.
Though by now that is more expectation than uncertainty, the impression Hunt gave Wednesday is those talks would wait until this year’s conclusion.
“We’re certainly excited about the opportunity to extend Patrick’s stay with the Chiefs and hope that lasts his entire career,” said Hunt. “It’s probably a little bit premature to be talking about a new contract. Everyone knows the first opportunity we’ll have to re-sign him will come at the end of this season. That’s a decision we’ll have to make with his representatives whether this is the right time or perhaps, a year from now.”
Still, Hunt understands how critical it will be to lock the quarterback up long-term.
“I think it’s no secret that in the National Football League, to win championships, you need someone very special at the quarterback position,” said Hunt. “We’ve had some outstanding players here over the years, but I don’t think we’ve had one like Patrick Mahomes in a very long time and so having him as the Chiefs quarterback really gives us an opportunity every year to be competitive and hopefully compete for an AFC championship and ultimately a Super Bowl.”
Hunt’s words are telling and should be rightly appreciated by Chiefs fans, who can take comfort that he gets it. In Hunt’s eyes, the Chiefs ensuring Mahomes stays in Kansas City for his career’s duration remains of the utmost importance, as is putting the best possible players around him every year for years to come.
“I think it’s really an exercise in building the team around him. That’s sort of the mentality you have every year. He’s the centerpiece, and you build the team around him within the constraints of the salary cap.”
Hunt discussed the scare in Denver, when initially, it looked like Mahomes might have suffered a season-ending knee injury.
“I was in disbelief — very, very concerned,” said Hunt. “We were a long way away from the field and so I couldn’t really see, but once I saw some of the images on TV, you could tell something wasn’t right with his leg, but it wasn’t fully evident what it was, so very, very concerned — concerned that he was lost for the season and perhaps beyond that. And later on, when we learned it wasn’t as serious — although, we didn’t know all the answers at that point because without the MRIs and so forth, they didn’t know whether there was any additional damage — we did feel better about that. I guess the one encouraging thing was as he was walking off the field, as he got closer to the tunnel, he started walking on his own. And if it had been a significant injury, I don’t think he would have been able to do that.”
Hunt said that he and the Chiefs’ coaching and training staff discussed Mahomes’ return to the field “thoroughly” before ultimately leaving the decision up to the team doctors, who deemed him able to return against the Tennessee Titans.
“We’re lucky to have a great medical team, and we wanted them to be comfortable with when he came back on the field,” said Hunt. “I think you guys spoke to him and he mentioned that he wanted to get right back out there, including during the Denver game. He felt he could have played against Green Bay and certainly Minnesota the following week. But our medical staff wanted to be more cautious with him and at the end of the day, I think that was the right decision.”
Hunt said he had been pleased with how Mahomes looked in 2019 even before he got hurt.
“I thought he picked up right where he left off — not only in his play, but also in his leadership,” said Hunt. “He was probably in a position from a leadership standpoint, having had last year behind him and really the team galvanizing around him. I thought he did a great job during training camp, all the way to early in the season. Getting hurt is tough for any professional athlete. It’s hard to be on the sideline. It’s hard, particularly when you’re a leader and you’re not playing. I thought he handled that well. I think we all saw what he did on the sideline to encourage his teammates along, including going out and congratulating Harrison (Butker) after he made that kick to win the game against Minnesota. So he’s done a fantastic job. I hate to say that we expect it to this point, but we really do. He’s a fantastic young man and a really outstanding leader.”