On Sunday afternoon, the Kansas City Chiefs will face the San Francisco 49ers for the first time since Super Bowl LIV. For many, this game will conjure memories of the greatest night in franchise history. For Patrick Mahomes, it reminds him of his continued evolution as a professional.
Mahomes is, by all accounts, not an arrogant man. Though, you could hardly blame him if he were. No quarterback experienced so much success with such little resistance upon entering the NFL. Heck, if he were to simply read his Wikipedia page aloud, you might think he was bragging.
Over on the right side of that page, in the section titled, "Career highlights and awards," the first line reads, "Super Bowl champion." He added that one all the way back in his second year as a starter. Now, he's in his fifth. His team's hosted four straight AFC Championship games. He's broken a hundred different passing records. He's 27.
What more could you ask for?
But with immediate success comes increased expectations. Conference and division titles don't taste quite as sweet when you're after Lombardi's. Now, after going two whole seasons without one, Mahomes reflected on what it would feel like to secure a second.
"I think I would appreciate it more now than I did back when I was young," he told reporters on Wednesday. "That and winning the MVP early in my career. I think I just kind of thought that's just what you did, you went out there and played football for coach (Andy) Reid and you win the MVP, and you win Super Bowls."
The room full of media members laughed before Mahomes continued.
"Now, I see what the grind and being in there every single day and not succeeding and not winning the Super Bowl."
Ah, to be young again. Though Mahomes may have made it look easy, nothing in the NFL lasts forever. Defenses adjust. Offenses adapt. Punch. Counterpunch.
As this Chiefs offense continues to advance, it's had to say goodbye to a few things. Take, for instance, "Jet Chip Wasp," a play forever etched in the minds of both Chiefs and 49ers fans. When asked about the famous play dialed up midway through the fourth quarter of their Super Bowl win, Andy Reid hinted to reporters that we probably won't see this Sunday or anytime soon.
"Yeah, that play got a lot of publicity," Reid joked. "I'm sure they've worked on it, but we don't run it anymore."
Gone, but not forgotten. While that play can now rest peacefully in Chiefs' lore, Reid and Mahomes continue to try and add to that history. Mahomes knows that if they're going to do that, they have to continue growing as an offense.
"Yeah, when you have a top offense in the league, I mean teams are going to study you in the offseason," Mahomes explained. "They're going to see what you do because it goes around the league too. I mean offenses steal from each other and run some of the same plays and so you see that defenses have accounted for that, accounted for some of the stuff that we've done, so how are we going to combat that? How are we going to go out there and make plays that go off of it to get other guys open?
"That's something that we – that's a challenge every day – and we try to continue to do every week. We know that we're going to have to continue to evolve if we want to be a top offense in this league."
And evolved they have.
Despite the personnel and schematic changes both around the league and in Kansas City, the Chiefs still possess one of the league's best offenses this season. The Chiefs currently leading the NFL in scoring through six weeks, and Mahomes is at or near the top of every major passing category.
Mahomes may not be uncorking as many deep shots, such as the one he threw on "Wasp." Still, he's on pace to throw for over 4,900 yards, 48 touchdowns and 11 interceptions this season. It remains to be seen if he and his teammates can add any hardware to their collection this postseason.
If they do, it won't be easy. But as Mahomes continues his transition from a bright-eyed, youthful 24-year-old to a grizzled, experienced 27-year-old — discarding old features and adding new ones — it's fun to remember that his evolution as a quarterback is just beginning.