Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady: The GOAT debate

Oct 2, 2022; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) greets Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) after a game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 2, 2022; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) greets Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) after a game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports /

With the end of the 2022 NFL season being marked by Mahomes’ second Super Bowl win and Brady’s second retirement, the GOAT debate has reached new heights.

Filled with physics-defying catches, explosive comebacks, and heart-wrenching defeats, the 2022 NFL season captivated fans throughout the year in a season that ended with fireworks and confetti for the Kansas City Chiefs. The season’s end was also marked by the departure of the most accomplished quarterback ever as Tom Brady announced his retirement for the second time in as many years, though this time seemingly for good.

With Patrick Mahomes hoisting up his second Lombardi and Brady simultaneously hanging up his cleats, the comparison between the two has naturally reached a new perspective. With Brady out of the picture, Mahomes officially has a stationary target to reach as media figures and fans alike will surely keep tabs on how close Mahomes can bridge the gap throughout the remainder of his career.

Though many view Mahomes as the most talented quarterback to ever put on a helmet, and rightfully so, Tom Brady’s status as the GOAT is well-deserved. The ability to endure and succeed in the NFL throughout 23 seasons is perhaps the second-most impressive stat Brady has in his arsenal. The first, of course, is the 7 Super Bowl rings he wears. Tom Brady’s durability has allowed him to rack up such impressive stats over his long career, though many have speculated that if anyone has a shot at stealing the GOAT title, it’s Patrick Mahomes.

Comparing the first five seasons for Mahomes & Brady

Both Mahomes and Brady only saw action in a single game during their rookie seasons, allowing them time to learn from behind their starting quarterbacks before they were handed the reigns in their sophomore seasons. What story do the numbers tell throughout their first 5 regular seasons starting?

Out of respect for our elders, let’s look at Brady’s numbers first. From 2001-2005, Tom Brady held a record of 58-21 and racked up 18,029 passing yards and 123 touchdowns with 66 interceptions. He had a completion percentage of 61.9%, earned 7.08 yards per attempt, and finished this span with an average QBR of 88.5.

Not too shabby, but Mahomes numbers from 2018 to 2022 are even better. Mahomes had a record of 63-16 while recording 23,957 yards and 192 touchdowns with 48 interceptions. He also boasted a higher completion percentage with 66.4%, an 8.1 yards per attempt, and an average QBR of 106.

The numbers speak for themselves. Through his first five seasons as a starter, Patrick Mahomes put up better numbers than the quarterback known simply as the GOAT. As many are quick to mention, however, the real test of a player comes in the postseason when the fatigue of the season and the pressure from lofty expectations are at their highest.

Comparing the first five postseason appearances for Mahomes & Brady

Playoff Tom Brady has tormented the NFL for over two decades, so let’s dive into his first 5 playoff seasons to see how his reign of terror began. In the 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006 postseasons, Brady possessed a 12-2 record. He threw for 20 touchdowns, 3,217 yards, and 9 interceptions. His completion percentage was 60.7%, he accounted for 6.62 yards per attempt, scored 2 rushing touchdowns, and finished this postseason era with an 86.25 QBR. Ultimately, Brady made 4 AFC Championships and appeared in the Super Bowl 3 times winning all of them.

Comparatively, from 2018-2022 Mahomes holds a postseason record of 11-3. He’s thrown for 35 touchdowns, 4,084 yards, and 7 interceptions. His completion percentage checks in at 67.3%, with an average yards per attempt at 7.81, 5 rushing touchdowns, and a QBR of 107.4. In this span Mahomes never missed the playoffs, making 5 straight AFC Championships, appearing in 3 Super Bowls, and winning two of them.

Comparing awards and honors

While stats are fun, let’s shift our attention to these players’ trophy cases. As mentioned, Brady’s 3 Super Bowl rings edge out Mahomes’ pair. As far as Super Bowl MVPs go, they cancel each other out as each earned 2 over this aforementioned span. However, Mahomes’ regular season accolades outright beat Brady’s. Mahomes has 5 Pro Bowls and a pair of 1st Team All-Pro selections, while Brady only has 2 Pro Bowls and not a single 1st Team All-Pro selection to speak of.

Comparing the greats

There are countless factors to consider when engaging in the debate of the greatest quarterback to ever play the game. Though stats offer little wiggle room to argue, the macroscopic view must also be analyzed. Competitive drive, leadership, injury history, the ability to raise one’s teammates’ level of play, and performing in the clutch are just several avenues that need to be explored before a crown can be properly bestowed.

Brady’s illustrious career redefined the blueprint of what it takes to be considered the greatest of all time. Following the 2019 AFC Championship game where Brady defeated Mahomes in their first postseason matchup, Brady took a moment to step away from his celebration to find Mahomes and share some words of encouragement. In a later interview, Mahomes recalled what Brady told him, “Hey, just keep doing it how you’re doing it. You’re doing it the right way.”. When the most accomplished quarterback in history tells you you’re doing it the right way, it means something.

Another aspect to look to in a salary-cap league is how an elite player goes about their contract negotiations. Brady has been lauded over the years for taking multiple team-friendly contracts to afford his team the ability to put forth the best roster possible. In 2020 many thought Mahomes’ massive 10-year extension worth around 450 million dollars would hamper the Chiefs’ ability to sign and extend other talented players. However, the past few years have proven that despite the massive dollar amount, the deal is in fact a team-friendly one.

Despite being appreciated as the best player in football today, Mahomes is only the fifth highest-paid player when considering his average earnings per year. Currently, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Kyler Murray, and Deshaun Watson are all paid more per year than Mahomes. Considering other young talented quarterbacks such as Justin Herbert, Jalen Hurts, Trevor Lawrence, Lamar Jackson, and Joe Burrow are yet to be paid, Mahomes’ contract appears to look better for the Chiefs with each passing year.

It’s clear to see how  Brady’s mindset regarding discounted contracts has impacted Mahomes’ during an interview the latter had while appearing on Peter King’s Football Morning in America. Mahomes was quoted as saying, “If you watch some of the great quarterbacks, man, it’s not always about getting the most money. It’s about going out there and winning and having a legacy that you can kind of live with forever. For me, that’s what I want.”

Mahomes didn’t mince his words. He reiterated that his main goal while playing the game wasn’t to make money, saying, “The reason I started playing football was to win Super Bowls, to enjoy these relationships that I’m building on this field with all my friends who are my teammates. I think at the end of the day if I do that, I’ll be a happy guy in the end”. Considering the multitude of endorsement deals Mahomes has in place, it’s safe to say he’s in a stable financial position, perhaps to the point where he can feel content with his finances despite not being the league’s highest-paid player.

Mahomes vs Brad: Who will wear the crown?

Brady retired with the most impressive resume of any NFL quarterback to date, holding a 74.9% career winning percentage with a 72.9% playoff winning percentage. His long career saw 3 MVP awards, 5 Super Bowl MVPs, 15 Pro Bowls, and 3 1st Team All-Pro selections. Making 9 Super Bowls while winning 7 of them can only be accomplished through mental and physical endurance, without which playing in 23 seasons would be impossible. As of this point in time, Brady certainly deserves the GOAT title.

Brady’s career stats only solidify his current claim to the throne. Upon retiring, Tom Brady in the regular season has 89,214 passing yards and 649 touchdowns, both of which are NFL records. On his current trajectory, it would take Mahomes 13-14 seasons to surpass Brady’s passing yards and 11-12 seasons to overtake him in touchdowns. Brady’s postseason totals tell a similar tale as he leads the NFL in total postseason yards with 13,400, as well as postseason touchdowns with 88. Once again, based on Mahomes’ current average in the playoffs, it would take him 11-12 seasons to earn the new postseason passing yards title and 7-8 seasons to lead the league in total postseason NFL touchdowns.

While Brady has finally left the game for good, Mahomes is only getting started. He currently holds an insane career winning percentage of 80% and a 78.6% winning percentage in the playoffs. Though the argument can be made that he is the most talented quarterback to ever play the game, he still has a long way to go in his career before he can be heralded as the greatest of all time. Though many will say it’s impossible, Mahomes is the only quarterback to have a real opportunity to catch up to Brady. The debate for GOAT status will live on as long as Mahomes continues to play.

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