Patrick Mahomes got a quick lesson in 2019 about success and fame.
“Fame if you win it; comes and goes in a minute,” sang Bobby Darin in “Make Someone Happy.”
It’s fleeting. And nobody knows that better than Mahomes.
This past season we forgot about the young, quarterbacking prodigy, literally, less than a year following one of the greatest seasons ever by an NFL quarterback. Especially for one that young and inexperienced.
He led the Kansas City Chiefs to a 12-4 mark, and was an incredible fourth quarter and overtime by Tom Brady away from probably winning a Super Bowl.
A few things, really two, occurred:
He hurt his knee, missing about a month, losing a little luster he started with the year before.
And then, in the meantime, Lamar Jackson happened.
Jackson, who like Mahomes, is a highly-regarded teammate – trust me, this is rarer than you think – and nobody, starting in October, could figure this guy out.
He turned a mediocre team into a Super Bowl champion. Yes, Super Bowl champion. It’s a new thing now. We crown champions before they are champions.
Jackson, who absolutely deserves the regular season award for Most Valuable Player in 2019, was exposed in early 2020.
His team did something they hadn’t done the previous three months. They fell behind by more than a touchdown.
When that happens, the key figure in making up for the deficit usually falls on the quarterback.
Last Saturday night, the Tennessee Titans went ahead 14-0 in the first half. It happens. That’s where the quarterback comes in.
Jackson had an opportunity to quell the “haters,” who said he had never led his team on a come-from-behind victory. The point being his greatest quality, running – really zig-zagging for his life – wouldn’t be enough.
Jackson would have to throw the ball to win.
He couldn’t do it. In fact, it was ugly. You know the quarterbacking term for “wounded duck,” referring to wobbly passes? Jackson hurled a lot of them in the attempted comeback.
In the end, the Titans played better. Derrick Henry ran the ball like a wrecking ball, and the Ravens could do nothing about it. A lot like the Patriots tried a week earlier.
But the bigger story was Jackson. He fought hard. He showed the grit everybody said he had. But in the end, he stunk.
A day later, Mahomes and the Chiefs played. And like clockwork, the Chiefs fell behind 24-0 to the Houston Texans.
What did Mahomes do? He played the best football of his career. And, amazingly, the Chiefs took the lead, 28-24, within 12 minutes.
The Chiefs got some help from the Texans, including a botched fake punt and then a fumbled kickoff return, but it was Mahomes who got the four touchdowns on the board.
It was special.
There are no guarantees in January, not even for Mahomes. The Titans are scary and they are tough. Those kinds of teams, with nothing to lose, are to be respected.
But the best quarterback in the world, today, is still playing. And the odds are that quarterback’s team is the favorite to win the Super Bowl.
It won’t be easy. This weekend or the next one in early February. But if anyone is worthy of it and, well, deserving, Mahomes is it.
You can email Bill Burt at email@example.com.