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Year of the Black QB

We’re one step closer to the dawn of the Patrick Mahomes era

Headed to his first Super Bowl, the Chiefs star is set to be the standard for all QBs

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – As Arrowhead Stadium workers hurried early Sunday evening to erect a makeshift stage for the Kansas City Chiefs to accept the AFC title trophy, the founder of an exclusive club watched on television far away, eager to initiate a new member.

The Chiefs’ 35-24 dismantling of the Tennessee Titans was largely due to superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who’s headed to the Super Bowl just one season after falling just short in the conference championship game. Now Mahomes’ name has been added to a very short list that began with this one: Doug Williams.

The first black quarterback to both start in a Super Bowl and win the game’s MVP award, Williams took a sledgehammer to the racist myth that African American passers lacked the smarts, heart and talent to thrive on the game’s biggest stage. Now, in the Year of the Black Quarterback, Mahomes becomes the seventh black signal-caller to guide a team to this point. Not surprisingly, Williams couldn’t be happier.

“This adds on to what African American quarterbacks have done all year,” Williams, who resides in Northern Virginia, said on the phone. “This is another example to show the other [black quarterbacks] playing in the game right now, and the guys coming up behind them [in college], that we can get there and we can do this. When you look at this year, how far we’ve come, and now Mahomes is going to the Super Bowl, you see what we can accomplish.”

There’s no doubt about what Mahomes is capable of doing.

The late Steve McNair, Donovan McNabb, Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson (twice) and Cam Newton are the other black quarterbacks to reach the Super Bowl. At only 24, however, Mahomes has accomplished the feat at the youngest age of anyone in the group. Moreover, if Mahomes leads the Chiefs to a victory over the NFC champion San Francisco 49ers at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens on Feb. 2, he would become the first black quarterback in league history to win both the Super Bowl and the league MVP award, having been selected the 2018 Associated Press MVP.

Baltimore Ravens second-year quarterback Lamar Jackson had a sensational breakout season and will, rightfully so, be this season’s AP MVP. Heck, Wilson, the Seattle Seahawks’ future Hall of Famer, and Houston Texans wizard Deshaun Watson are quarterbacks who could also finish ahead of Mahomes in the MVP balloting. This season, black franchise quarterbacks were just that good.

But don’t get it twisted. For possibly the next decade or more, Mahomes figures to be the standard by which all quarterbacks are measured. He’s that good.

“I’ve been blessed to be in a great situation with a lot of great football players and coaches around me,” said Mahomes, who’s completing nearly 66 percent of his passes in the playoffs with eight touchdown passes and zero interceptions.

“From day one [on being drafted by the Chiefs], I’ve been accepted to go out there and be who I am. And my teammates … they’ve responded. I’ve been put in a great situation. I just try to maximize it every single day.”

While players, coaches and team officials bustled about in the Chiefs’ locker room after the game, celebrating the franchise’s first Super Bowl appearance in 50 seasons, there was no confusion about the leading role Mahomes played in making the party happen.

“Who he is right now, and how he’s been able to take the scrutiny and take the hype, and just be himself and ball … that’s a special trait that he has in life,” All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce said. “I’m just happy I get to play with him.”

Never in league history has a classic dropback African American passer been the consensus No. 1 player at his position in any era, let alone for a long stretch. Mahomes appears poised to be the first to take up the mantle. Eligible for a contract extension this offseason, Mahomes is expected to redefine the quarterback salary structure while becoming the highest-paid player in league history. With good reason, the man who would have to approve a record-setting deal for Mahomes appears to be all in.

“You have to talk about the year that Patrick Mahomes had, and statistically it was not like last year,” Chiefs chairman and CEO Clark Hunt said. “A lot of people would say he had an even better season, despite being hurt for part of it. A big part of him being better this year was his leadership qualities. For a 23-year-old kid last year, he was amazing as a leader.

“But you really saw him mature this year as a leader. You could see the entire team looking at him when times were darkest. I will go back to last week at the beginning of the second quarter. Patrick was the one on the sideline, encouraging his teammates, rallying them and getting them to go out there and turn the game around.”

During the divisional round, the Chiefs trailed 24-0 on their home field to the Texans. Behind Mahomes’ sensational play, Kansas City won in a rout 51-31. Mahomes had another opportunity to test his motivational skills after the Titans pulled ahead in the first quarter Sunday, 10-0.

“Even when they [the Chiefs] got down, 10-0, I knew it wouldn’t be a problem for him,” said Williams, senior vice president of development for Washington’s NFL franchise. “This kid has ice water in his veins. And as talented as he is, the biggest thing about him is his leadership and the trust that [head coach] Andy Reid and his teammates have in him. You can see it.”

Williams also said Mahomes’ peers are surely watching him, too. Mahomes and Watson were in the same draft class. Jackson was in the class behind them. With Mahomes the first of the three to reach the Super Bowl, he is setting the course for the next wave of quarterbacks.

“Mahomes is a great player and he’s setting a great example,” Williams said. “Look at the playoffs this year: Half of the final eight quarterbacks are black. All those guys watched Mahomes. They also want to be in the Super Bowl. And they know they can get there.”

We’re at the doorstep of a new era, with Patrick Lavon Mahomes II ready to bust down the door. And assuming he does, his reign could last for a long, long time.

Jason Reid is the senior NFL writer at The Undefeated. He enjoys watching sports, especially any games involving his son and daughter.