The rise of Patrick Mahomes is complete
The reigning Super Bowl MVP follows in the footsteps of other Black quarterbacks who have been the NFL’s highest-paid players
Kansas City Chiefs wunderkind quarterback Patrick Mahomes is the game’s best player, and his ascension to the top of the NFL after only three seasons is now complete. With his new, record-setting contract, Mahomes will be paid commensurate with his standing on the field.
Not only that, the deal comes after Mahomes showed he’s just as skilled off the field.
He recently played a prominent role among Black NFL stars who pushed the league to stand with them and truly engage in fighting systemic racism, prompting a remarkable video response during which, among other things, commissioner Roger Goodell said, “Black Lives Matter.” The NFL, as one league official recently explained in a text message to The Undefeated, now endeavors to become “a prominent voice in the fight to end racism.” That’s not entirely because the league’s best player took a stand while essentially challenging Goodell and the owners — but it’s a big part of it.
At only 24, Mahomes is the youngest player to have both a Super Bowl title and a league MVP award, having been selected the 2018 winner by the Associated Press in only his second season and first as a starter. And he’s the first classic dropback Black passer to be the consensus No. 1 player at his position in any era.
Warren Moon, the only Black passer enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, believes Mahomes is clearly the right person to be the face of the NFL.
“He’s definitely the face of the league, there’s no doubt about that, and that he is in this time … it’s very significant,” Moon said on the phone the other day.
“At his age, being so young, it’s incredible what he has done in such a short period of time. He has been the league MVP and the Super Bowl MVP. Also, with everything going on [during the ongoing national reckoning on race], he’s a leader. This contract isn’t only about what he’s already done. It’s also about what he’s going to do going forward.”
Not surprisingly, Mahomes would prefer to have many more Super Bowl titles be a big part of his future. Because of the structure of his new deal, Mahomes believes the Chiefs are well-positioned to achieve a long, successful run.
“We’ll have a lot of room to move money around and keep great teams around,” Mahomes said during a virtual news conference Tuesday to announce the contract. “You’ve seen a lot of great quarterbacks do that in recent years with [Aaron] Rodgers and [Matthew] Stafford and all these guys who do these different type of things.
“I wanted to have that flexibility to do that because, like I said, you want to have a great team. You want to be in the playoffs every year, you want to be competing for championships. That’s my goal. Having that flexibility will be key to having success year in and year out.”
Twice, with his first NFL contract in 1984 and the extension he signed before the 1989 season, Moon was the league’s highest-paid player. Michael Vick and Russell Wilson are the other Black quarterbacks who have occupied the top spot on the money list.
The NFL’s on-field workforce is more than 70% Black. Considering that African American signal-callers have traveled an incredibly hard road to prove their worth in a league that just commemorated its 100th season, it’s always significant when one is recognized with the biggest contract, Vick said.
“Well, first, it hasn’t happened often, so it’s something you definitely notice,” Vick told The Undefeated during a 2017 interview. “Everyone wants to be rewarded for their hard work, rewarded for what they do for their teams. You want to be [recognized as] being the best.”
There’s no question that on any list of the NFL’s top passers, Mahomes’ name should be listed first. In the Year of the Black Quarterback, Mahomes’ brilliance during the postseason left an enduring impression, punctuating a season in which Black quarterbacks shined brighter and accomplished more than at any time in league history.
As the NFL prepares to kick off its 101st season, one could make a strong argument that the top four quarterbacks are Black (Mahomes, Wilson, Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson), and perhaps six of the top 10. That’s something both new and wonderful, Moon said.
“This has been coming, has been building, so it’s not like it’s hitting anyone in the face unexpectedly,” he said. “And for anyone who still doesn’t believe it, well, you can’t deny it. This is just where we’re at in the game now.”
And standing alone at the top is Mahomes. He already had the hardware to prove it, and now he has the paycheck, too.