Two quarterbacks that can tell us about Patrick Mahomes' trajectory

The beginning of Patrick Mahomes career looks very similar to two NFL legends that came before him, Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger. Those two quarterbacks had very different career outcomes, so what can that tell us about Mahomes' future?
Kansas City Chiefs Training Camp
Kansas City Chiefs Training Camp / Jamie Squire/GettyImages

We're just a few weeks away from Patrick Mahomes embarking on his seventh campaign as an NFL quarterback. The accolades by this point are well known: five AFC Championships, three Super Bowls, two Super Bowl MVPs, and two NFL MVPs. And that's just the hardware.

This puts Mahomes in some rarified air, especially when it comes to Super Bowls. A quick glance at history shows us only a few quarterbacks have won multiple Super Bowls in their first five years as starters. (I'm excluding Mahomes rookie year where he didn't play.) The shortlist includes Troy Aikman, Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, and Mahomes.

It's the two career outcomes of Brady and Big Ben that fascinate me most when analyzing possible career outcomes for Mahomes. And in particular, it showcases how fickle NFL careers can be. On the one hand, it should show us that Kansas City Chiefs fans should appreciate the success now because nothing more is promised or guaranteed—much like Big Ben encountered. On the other hand, this success does feel different and sustainable—much like the Tom Brady dynasties.

Ben Roethlisberger entered the league in 2004 as part of a quarterback class that is considered one of the greatest of all time. It had the trio of Ben, Eli Manning, and Philip Rivers. Two of those guys would win four rings between them and Rivers would have a near Hall of Fame career himself.

Big Ben got off to a hot start by winning the Super Bowl in just his second year (Eli would win in the next, his third year). Three years later Roethlisberger would win it again. Two Super Bowls. Five years. Just like Mahomes. And yet, over the course of the next 13 years of his career, Big Ben only went back to the big game one more time and lost.

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It was a sign of what so many teams and quarterbacks encounter. Success that must be taken advantage of and also not taken for granted. Aaron Rodgers, the quarterback who defeated Big Ben in that third Super Bowl, also learned this. Considered one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, Rodgers has never returned to the Super Bowl.

Then you have Tom Brady, who got off to an equally hot start to his career by winning three Super Bowls. But an odd thing happened. Brady didn't win another Super Bowl for ten years. That's right, the guy who went to ten Super Bowls and won seven of them once went a decade without winning a ring.

Despite that 10-year gap, Brady still went to two Super Bowls (losing both), and in hindsight, the success he experience early in his career previewed the ultimate success he would have throughout his entire career.

So what can these two potential outcomes tell us about the future of Mahomes? Eerily, Mahomes has been to three Super Bowls, losing one, just like Big Ben did, all within the first seven years of his career. It's kind of weird to think that Mahomes could never win another Super Bowl again, but that's what happened to the Steelers.

If it's weird to think about, that's probably because the outlook of Mahomes' career more closely resembles that of Brady, despite Brady having a one-ring advantage at this point in their careers (going into year six as a starter). Mahomes has statistically outgunned Brady in pretty much every category and added two league MVPs to his trophy case, something Brady couldn't point to at the age of 27.

That means that the Kansas City Chiefs fans can look brightly to the future and envision several more Super Bowls in their future. But, as I said above, they also shouldn't take the current success for granted. After ten years and two lost Super Bowls, I'm sure the Patriots were beginning to wonder if Brady would just be another Roethlisberger.

He obviously wasn't. And I don't think Mahomes will be either.