clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Bill Barnwell calculates Patrick Mahomes’ chance to be the greatest of all time

The ESPN analyst chose two Kansas City players who have a chance to be the GOAT at their positions.

Super Bowl LV Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

On Tuesday, ESPN’s Bill Barnwell listed nine NFL players who have a chance to finish their careers as the greatest of all time (the GOAT) at their positions.

Barnwell believes that two players — defensive tackle Aaron Donald of the Los Angeles Rams and wide receiver Cordarelle Patterson of the Atlanta Falcons (as a kick returner) — have already earned that moniker.

You’ve probably already guessed that of the remaining seven players, Barnwell picked Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes as someone who could supplant the great Tom Brady — and tight end Travis Kelce a contender for the throne of former Chief Tony Gonzalez.

First, let’s consider Barnwell’s argument for Mahomes.

Active player who could become the GOAT: Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs

If there’s anybody out there who is off to a special start to his career, it has to be Mahomes, right? He already has two Super Bowl titles, three Super Bowl appearances and two regular-season MVP awards after just five seasons as a starter. Mahomes still hasn’t played a single road game in the postseason, having dominated the AFC into landing one of the top two seeds in each of his five seasons. He has thrown for 24,241 yards through six years, and that number would be even higher if he hadn’t sat behind Alex Smith during his 2017 rookie campaign.

Through six seasons, Mahomes is competitive with Brady, who sat out most of his rookie season in 2000 before famously being forced into the lineup by an injury to Drew Bledsoe. Brady had thrown for only 18,035 yards by the end of Year 6, but that was also in an era in which teams passed less often and with less efficiency than they do today. The difference is what Brady did in the postseason, as he started his career with three Super Bowl wins and finished this six-year stretch with a 9-0 postseason record.

Barnwell is hardly the first to compare Mahomes’ early seasons to Brady’s. It’s completely fair to say that in the seasons Mahomes has played so far, he compares very favorably to Brady’s early years. You can even argue that Mahomes’ first six seasons have been better than Brady’s.

But Barnwell (correctly) notes that after his sixth year, Brady “still had 16 seasons to go.”

Someone will eventually break Brady’s passing yardage record, with Mahomes as the favorite. I don’t think that will be enough to topple Brady as the ultimate quarterback. Mahomes will need to add more Super Bowls to the mix to catch up. Asking for him to top Brady and land eight might be unrealistic, but can he get into the ballpark? If Mahomes claims the passing record and wins, say, five Super Bowls, does that supplant Brady? Six titles? Mahomes is off to an incredible start, but there’s still so much work to do.

Chances Mahomes will end his career as the GOAT: 15%


You won’t find me arguing that Brady is more talented than Mahomes — or that Brady and New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick together are greater than the combination of Mahomes and Chiefs head coach Andy Reid; it’s reasonable to argue that so far, Reid and Mahomes have a better start on a potential GOAT career than Brady and Belichick did. It also seems reasonable to think Mahomes could play for as many seasons as Brady.

Kansas City Chiefs v Chicago Bears Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Here’s the problem: Belichick was 48 when Brady was drafted in 2000. He was 66 when they won their seventh Super Bowl following the 2018 season. Reid was 59 when Mahomes arrived in Kansas City. Is it possible that Reid could still be coaching Mahomes at 77?

If he does — and assuming that Belichick and Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll have stepped aside by then — he’ll be the oldest NFL head coach in history, easily surpassing the record of 73 that Romeo Crennel set when he was named interim head coach of the Houston Texans in 2020.

Let’s be realistic: Reid — now 65 — will probably retire within the next five to seven years. (Belichick and Carroll are both 71. George Halas retired after 40 seasons of coaching at 72).

It’s reasonable to think that as long as Reid is at the helm (and Mahomes is the quarterback) the Chiefs will continue to be contenders. Mahomes could win two or three more rings before Reid says farewell to the game.

So Barnwell (who hypothesized Mahomes could win five or six championships) appears to be thinking that Mahomes’ championship window will be limited to his years under Reid.

But it seems very likely that Reid’s successor will be one of his former assistant coaches — and that general manager Brett Veach (who was 40 when Mahomes was drafted) will remain with the team. (Remember: in New England, Belichick has always been head coach and general manager).

In those circumstances, could Mahomes win two or three more rings over the 10-12 years following Reid’s retirement? That certainly seems possible. If Mahomes were to win four or five rings with Reid — along with two or three more under other head coaches — he would have a very strong case to be considered the GOAT.

Barnwell is right about one thing: In order to surpass Brady, Mahomes has a lot to do. But from where I sit, it looks like Mahomes has a better chance than Barnwell imagines. I’d put it at 40%.

On Wednesday, we’ll consider Barnwell’s case for Kelce exceeding Gonzalez.

NEW: Join Arrowhead Pride Premier

If you love Arrowhead Pride, you won’t want to miss Pete Sweeney in your inbox each week as he delivers deep analysis and insights on the Chiefs' path to the Super Bowl.