Patrick Mahomes has exhausted the sports media hot take machine

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - SEPTEMBER 22: Quarterback Patrick Mahomes #15 of the Kansas City Chiefs runs onto the field during pre-game prior to the game against the Baltimore Ravens at Arrowhead Stadium on September 22, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - SEPTEMBER 22: Quarterback Patrick Mahomes #15 of the Kansas City Chiefs runs onto the field during pre-game prior to the game against the Baltimore Ravens at Arrowhead Stadium on September 22, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) /

National sports pundits are irresponsibly focused on Patrick Mahomes’ career with a focus on rings instead of enjoying the present of the NFL’s best quarterback.

National sports-focused morning shows are the fast food of sports media. We all know it’s bad for us, but the bright colors and neon signs and extremely high sodium content has us hooked. We know we’re going to hate ourselves for eating it as soon as the last bite is finished, but in the moment, it’s so, so good. I

f the morning shows are fast food, their hot take maestros are the gimmick menu items designed exclusively to drive social media traffic—their only goal to elicit intense reaction, whether positive or negative. That’s the overly-sweet spot I want to focus on.

So yeah, I’m totally aware this entire article is going to be more-or-less me eating a cheeseburger where the cheese is mac ‘n’ cheese and the buns are Froot Loop donuts. It’s going to take a year off my life and play a small role in perpetuating evil, corporate-manufactured gluttony, but the chemical high it releases will be astounding.

Let me start here: Patrick Mahomes is only 21 starts into his career.

Do I need to repeat that?

Patrick Mahomes is only 21 starts into his career.

This is normally where you’d see a list of all the impossible statistics he’s put up in only 21 starts, but at this point I think you know all of them. Mahomes is really, really, really, reaaaaaaally great. He’s in the midst of the single greatest statistical start for a quarterback we’ve ever seen. I think we can all agree there, yes?

That’s where the discussion of Mahomes’ career in its totality should end. Because, again, Patrick Mahomes is only 21 starts into his career. His career as it stands now isn’t a career. It’s a blip. It’s the beginning of something hopefully very long and prosperous, but it’s only just now crossed the line on its first lap. However, the narrative around Mahomes in the national media has pivoted from his games in the present to projecting his future. They speak of his past as if it’s far, far deeper than a season and five games.

The “Is Patrick Mahomes on a path to be the GOAT?” discussion is ridiculous on its face. As fans, we can have fun with it amongst ourselves; after decades of barely-above-average being the peak of QB play in Kansas City, having the otherworldly talent of Mahomes under center (mostly in shotgun, actually) feels like some kind of justice.

But whenever this discussion enters the national forum, it exposes the shallowness of these talk shows’ besuited hot takers. Their carefully curated formula for reacting to whatever happens in sports completely breaks down; it’s like watching an algorithm fail in real time. If you watch enough of any sports debate show, you realize they repackage the same five or six arguments over and over, reframed for whatever story they’re covering. They don’t know how to properly discuss Mahomes because he is an anomaly. He shatters all conventional wisdom of how a quarterback is supposed to play the game.

Mahomes’ greatness is objective and unavoidable. When you watch him play it repeatedly bashes you over the head, leaving you dizzy and unsure of what you just witnessed. So it’s not exactly feasible to debate “Is Mahomes great?” Denying that is denying one of the universe’s few objective truths.

In the endless journey to turn everything in to a 10-minute shouting match, the one thing that’s cited as the one chink in Mahomes’ armor is as nonsensical as it is cliche: rings. It’s always about rings, whether it’s Stephen A. Smith who wants to see Mahomes be a closer, or Skip Bayless who uses Mahomes the way he does every other quarterback—as an opportunity to talk about Tom Brady.

Ah, rings. The only true measure of a quarterback is how many gaudy, expensive pieces of finger jewelry they have collected. The best football men have many rings. You know how many Mahomes has? Zero. Zero rings. His fingers are completely naked. And because of that, his greatness really isn’t that great, is it?

Now, let’s just ignore that Mahomes would probably already have one ring if it wasn’t for that blasted Dee Ford and his neutral zoning. Let’s ignore that after a season in which Mahomes put up 50 touchdowns and over 5,000 yards, the fate of the Chiefs season was decided without the ball in his hands.

What are we even doing with this rings argument? Ok, fine. On behalf of Patrick Mahomes, I apologize that, unlike Tom Brady, he was unable to ride an all-world defense and game manage his way to a Super Bowl in his first season. That’s on him.

In a way, I get it. In a season and change, Mahomes legitimately has a full 15-year career’s worth of jaw-dropping moments that make you question everything you thought you knew about the full extent of the human arm’s capabilities. He has the sort of talent that is so all-consuming that it’s already difficult to recall how we enjoyed watching football without him in it. It’s important to remember it was legitimately only 642 days ago that the NFL was Mahomes-less.

I know it’s dumb to get frustrated with this stuff, but when it’s a growing thread in the way Mahomes is discussed, it becomes exhausting. It’s everything bad about the way sports are “debated” on a national stage, turned up to 11.

Athletes may be signing up to be scrutinized when they enter the top professional levels of their sport, but the way we compare them to each other, particularly in team sports, is entirely unfair. We treat these comparisons like we’re comparing produce, but it’s much closer to comparing artists. So much is subjective, and even what is presented as objective (stats, rings, etc.) is so heavily influenced by sources mostly outside of the individual athlete’s control.

Is there a level of raw talent that sets some athletes apart from others? Of course. But saddling players with responsibility that isn’t theirs, both good and bad, is unfair to their individual legacies.

Patrick Mahomes is only 21 starts into his career.

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