“Justin Herbert and the Chargers visit Arrowhead Stadium looking to spearhead a changing of the guard in the AFC West.”
This early in the season it’s going to be difficult for the national media to hitch too quickly onto the Chargers wagon. But there will undoubtedly be hype surrounding the matchup between the hot new commodity—the Chargers—and the old faithful, the consistently dominant Kansas City Chiefs.
The takeaway from this projected headline is in both what it says and who it mentions. Justin Herbert and the Chargers leading the headline. No mention of Mahomes, no mention of the Chiefs necessarily. The spotlight is on the newest member of the “contender’s club” and a young exciting QB who everyone appears to be projecting as the next generational talent.
But why is it that people seem to have just simply forgotten about Mahomes and the Chiefs? Why is it so boring to pull for the Chiefs at this point, especially as an outsider? Why does the casual NFL fan or NFL coverage outlet now gravitate towards romanticizing the Chiefs opponents more so than actually favoring the small market team with a family-oriented quarterback who has invested heavily in his community and committed to bringing a long-forgotten city multiple championships?
It’s the Greatness Fatigue I mentioned up top, along with the constant desire for something new. As a society we’re always looking for the next big thing, whether it be in sports, automobiles, music – you name it, we’re in a perpetual “out with the old, in with the new” cycle in just about everything in our day-to-day lives. Football is no different. It’s staggering to think that a player of Mahomes skill level, a guy who isn’t even 27 years old yet, can be written off as old news. But that’s what happening here. Even if Mahomes finds ways to reinvent himself, much like he did in the back half of 2021, as a country we’ve already read this story and are ready for a new one.
Justin Herbert, like Josh Allen and Joe Burrow, represents the possibility of being that new story—that new “guy” that each analyst claims is the best. Everyone wants to be the first to take, the first to scoop, the first to put their flag on the moon of ever-shifting change in sports. For many, that change is represented by Herbert and the immediate threat that he and the Chargers pose to Kansas City’s budding dynasty.
But who’s to say that the Chargers are primed to take anything from the Chiefs, let alone the AFC West or overarching conference-wide supremacy that the Chiefs have wielded over the course of the past 4 seasons? Sure Herbert is supremely talented, and the Chargers loaded up on defensive pieces in the off-season to combat the albatross that the Chiefs have become to them in the recent past, but do we know what that’s going to look like on the field? Specifically under the light at Arrowhead Stadium on the league’s first Amazon Prime Thursday Night Football matchup?
They may. But the last time the Chargers took the field in a meaningful game on primetime they couldn’t even put the Raiders away to clinch a playoff berth. They couldn’t even tie them. So to say the Chargers are ready to come in and take the first meaningful game of the season away from a team and a quarterback conditioned for big moments—whether it’s the first Prime game on the league schedule or the last game on the league schedule entirely (that’s the Super Bowl—is a projection at best.