With the Seattle Seahawks season officially laid to rest, my attention shifted towards the remaining teams slugging it out in the NFL playoffs. Among them, the four teams that made the conference championships—the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills in the AFC and then the Green Bay Packers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC—all seemed to be the equally well worthy of playing in the Super Bowl.
And as you likely know, the reigning champion Chiefs cut through the Bills like a warm knife through butter, sending them to the Super Bowl for a rare shot at a repeat. The Packers however, lost at home, sending the Buccs back to the Super Bowl for the first time since the 2002 season.
On Sunday, February 7th, 2021, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will play the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV (or 55!) at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.
The Buccaneers and the Chiefs are rightfully known as excellent teams. Each one is fortunate to have elite playmakers up and down their rosters. From Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce on the Chiefs to Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, and Antonio Brown on the Buccs, each team is a strong contender because they can put up points.
But the reason each team ultimately made it to the Super Bowl is the same—the quarterback. Patrick Mahomes II for the Kansas City Chiefs and Tom Brady for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It’s a fascinating comparison.
On paper, Mahomes is four things.
He’s 25 years old.
He’s the highest paid quarterback in NFL history (10Y/503M).
He’s the reigning Super Bowl Champion and MVP.
He’s generally considered to be the best quarterback on earth.
In only four years, Mahomes has redefined the apex of what a quarterback can do. It’s not only him, of course. His head coach, Andy Reid and the supporting cast of talented players around him are what allow his abilities to be fully unleashed. I get that. But its him too.
His floor games, the ones where he’s just off all day, are still pretty good. And they’re uncommon. And when he’s on, the things this kid can do with a football will take your breath away.
Mahomes has so many excellent qualities; mobility, accuracy, vision, arm, smarts, name it, he’s got it. But he does them all so often, that they all Voltron together into a new caliber of quarterback that you didn’t know was possible.
And what’s truly scary is how natural it looks. It’s not effortless, but he looks like he’s in control of his abilities in a way that is rare. Every time he does a no-look pass, it’s as impressive as it was the first time, and I’m reminded of how great it is to observe excellence.
For example, two weeks ago in the AFC Championship game against the Bills, Mahomes lobbed a little underhand shuffle pass to Kelce. It resembled a bowling strike more than a pass from a quarterback. It was crazy. Mahomes pitched the ball into a crowd of colliding linemen, Kelce somehow caught it, pushed himself forward, and carried two would-be tacklers with him into the endzone.
One play. 10 seconds, tops. Perfection.
As a special note to the Chiefs fans… Take as much pride and joy as you can from having Mahomes as your quarterback, it’s a spectacular feeling. But try to also be grateful to the football gods for your good fortune to have him at all. I take great joy in watching Russell Wilson lead my Seahawks, but I’m also mindful of how lucky I am to have him in the first (or 75th) place. Enjoy being on top, because one day you won’t be.
On paper, Tom brady is four things.
He’s 43 years old.
He played 20 seasons with the New England Patriots before this year.
He’s won 6 Super Bowl titles (most ever)
He’s generally considered to be the greatest quarterback of all time.
I became aware of Tom Brady somewhere back in the mid-2000s. I wasn’t watching football then, not really. But in the wake of his Super Bowl winning ascent and the household name status that followed, everyone was aware of how great he was.
A few years later, when I was following the Hawks more closely, Brady was the reigning top dog in the NFL. He was the real-life embodiment of those upper-crust elitist jock villain characters from 80s movies. That was Brady. And his Patriots were personified as the villain’s henchmen.
They were good, they knew they were good, and they liked showing how good they were.
Then in 2014, I became very familiar with Tom Brady when his Patriots defeated the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII. Wilson’s infamous goal-line interception still hurts. And ever since, I’ve held the loss against Brady. It’s not fair, he wasn’t even on the field, but I’ve laid the responsibility upon both him and the Patriots rather than on Wilson and the Hawks. It’s evidence of how far my fandom can warp my sense of reality.
But then, after 20 utterly dominant seasons with the New England Patriots, Brady left for Florida.
And it’s strange, but for some reason once Brady wasn’t on the Patriots anymore, I started to like him more. I suppose it’s because the Buccaneers didn’t mean much to me and his choice to play for that team felt neutral, at worst.
Then, when the #LetItCook Hawks beat the Cam Newton-powered Pats in September, I finally felt the closure I needed to heal any remaining SB sting. I was free to watch Brady without the pains of the past.
I’ve heard it said about Buccaneers’ head coach, Bruce Arians, that it usually takes a new quarterback a full year to comprehend his offense. And over the course of the 2020 season, it’s been fascinating to watch Tom Brady put that curve to the test. And just like the G.O.A.T. that he is, he crushed it.
After week nine against the Saints, when the Buccaneers only managed to put up 3 points, something changed. Over the next seven weeks, they scored no less than 24 points per game and they won all but two. Many of them quite handedly.
To my eyes, this team came together ahead of schedule.
But to Brady’s, it was probably right on schedule.
There’s a saying in sports that father time is undefeated. And that at some point Brady will have to concede the game to younger bodies that aren’t in their mid-40s. But he has quite famously dedicated his lifestyle, diet, etc. to perfecting his ability to keep playing for as long as he can, so who knows.
After all, Brady is 43 years old, on a brand-new team, and he’s playing in the Super Bowl. If the Buccaneers decide he’s too old to play and cut him next year, I promise other teams will fight each other to sign him.
So, who will win the day? The Chiefs vs the Buccaneers? Patrick Mahomes II vs Tom Brady? The talent of youth vs the power of experience?
While I don’t know that, but I do know this…
If the Chiefs win, it will be considered the ultimate passing of the torch from the previous living legend to the next. There aren’t many things left for Mahomes to do to be officially crowned, but defeating the sitting king is one of them. The talk following a Chiefs win would be about how you define a ‘dynasty’ and people saying that if Mahomes stays healthy, he’s the only one who could ever match, or maybe even exceed Brady’s career accolades.
However, if the Buccaneers win, it will be considered the greatest walk-off career move in sports history. Brady was the beating heart of the most successful NFL franchise ever. He spent two decades winning more than anyone ever thought was possible. And then when everyone thought he was too old, he went to the Buccs, spent the season getting his team up to speed, and took his wildcard playoff berth to the Super Bowl. It’s the best possible ending to his already astonishing story.
The smart money is on the Chiefs, but the old man in me says otherwise.
Should be a great game on Sunday.