NFL

Super Bowl LV: Patrick Mahomes' continued tales of the unexpected and the numbers behind them

By Sports Desk February 03, 2021

Do you believe in unlikelihoods?  

It's unclear how familiar Patrick Mahomes is with the underdog story of 'Average Joes' in the movie 'Dodgeball', but reflecting on his first three seasons as a starter in the NFL, it's fair to assume his answer to the question posed by fictitious ESPN anchor Cotton McKnight would be an emphatic yes. 

Since the Kansas City Chiefs installed Mahomes as the starter in 2018, he has turned achieving the unlikely into an art form. 

From a league MVP award in his first season, three double-digit playoff comebacks and a Super Bowl MVP in his second, Mahomes has defined himself as a quarterback for whom the seemingly impossible always appears well within his grasp.

On Sunday, he will attempt to become the first quarterback to win back-to-back Super Bowls since his Tampa Bay Buccaneers counterpart Tom Brady achieved the feat at the end of the 2004 season. 

It would be a fitting way to cap arguably the most remarkable three-season spell by any quarterback in NFL history, and here we examine the numbers behind his stratospheric rise.

Pre-draft concerns prove inaccurate

When Mahomes entered the NFL Draft, he was viewed as a prospect with phenomenal upside but one whose unorthodox, gunslinging style risked inefficiency and turnovers at the highest level. 

The Chiefs were undeterred by such concerns, however, taking a significant gamble in trading up from 27th in the first round to select the former Texas Tech standout with the 10th overall pick.

It is a move that has been overwhelmingly justified, with any doubts over his accuracy completely quashed.

Mahomes ranks first in completions all-time among quarterbacks in their first three full seasons (which is defined as a campaign where a quarterback attempts at least 100 passes). He has connected on 1,092 of his passes, doing so at a completion percentage of 66.1 that, using the same criteria, puts him sixth all-time. 

Only five quarterbacks have hit their team-mates more consistently in their first three full seasons, but there are none that have done a better job of avoiding turnovers and putting the ball in the end zone.

Prolific and protective of the ball

First in passing yards among quarterbacks in their first three full seasons with 13,868, Mahomes also leads the way in touchdown passes. 

He has 114 TD throws through the air while being intercepted on just 23 occasions during that same span. That disparity gives him the all-time lead with a touchdown to interception ratio of 4.96.

What is even more impressive is that Mahomes has largely succeeded in taking care of the ball despite being very aggressive in pushing it downfield. 

His yards per attempt average of 8.39 is fifth all-time among signal-callers in their first three full seasons, while for his career he is the all-time leader in adjusted net yards per attempt (8.49). 

The combination of Mahomes' high yards per attempt, impressive completion percentage and unmatched TD-INT ratio has left him without an equal in the most widely used measure of quarterback performance.

Unprecedented early success

Passer rating is viewed by many as an imperfect metric when it comes to analysing quarterbacks, but the fact Mahomes is the all-time leader with a rating of 109.3 across his first three full seasons is illustrative of the utter dominance he has enjoyed to this point. 

Mahomes also boasts the highest career passer rating in the regular season (108.7) and the postseason (109.8) and it is his incredible level of performance in the playoffs that has ensured he will be the first quarterback in the NFL to start multiple Super Bowls aged 25 or younger. 

Should the Chiefs prevail, the 25-year-old will break Brady's record and become the youngest starting quarterback to win multiple Super Bowls, Brady having claimed his second at the age of 26. 

It was a scenario few envisaged when he left Texas Tech, but the Chiefs had the foresight to understand he was a talent that could elevate them to the league's elite.

The devastating impact and speed with which he did so was what took the league by surprise, yet few are now shocked by the exploits of a player who makes the amazing look startlingly routine. 

There is perhaps no greater sign of the aura Mahomes has quickly established than the fact he and the Chiefs are favoured to deny the man regarded as the greatest quarterback ever a seventh Lombardi Trophy. 

Super Bowl LV will not be an underdog story for Mahomes and there are unlikely to be many rubbing their eyes in disbelief on Sunday if, as he has done so often, he delivers yet another tale of the unexpected.

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