Why Patrick Mahomes is just getting started, even with Chiefs’ dynasty established

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As the preposterous present success increasingly feels like simply a prevailing truth for the Chiefs, the very notion of the long-suffering Kansas City fan becomes more and more like a figment of memory or some ancient myth.

Repudiating the previous 50 years of futility, aka the Before Times, this somehow now seems just the way it is for the Chiefs and their followers: appearing in four of the last five Super Bowls and winning three — including yet again on Sunday to become the first NFL team to repeat as champions in nearly two decades despite that pesky, at-times distressing regular season.

But past performance is no guarantee of future success, as they say in the financial world.

Alas, then, best be careful what you might take for granted even as Patrick Mahomes has become a colossus bestriding the NFL:

The more we realize we’ve never seen anything quite like him before, and by that we mean not merely the arm but the vast set of traits that make him appear a force of nature, the more it feels like we’ll ever see anything like him again.

So, yes, you should feel spoiled.

But here’s the good news.

Because you know who’s not spoiled, including, all the more reassuringly, as a person?

The indomitable, inimitable, unbreakable and unquenchable wonder of the world that is Mahomes.

If you understand his makeup, you know there’s no foreseeable expiration date for the 28-year-old to curdle.

Virtually every scenario you can imagine only seems to make him stronger and more voracious.

Beat him, rare as that might be, and he’ll boomerang on you with a vengeance. Doubt him, or even give him the slightest window to perceive that you did, and he’ll alchemize that into rocket fuel. Put him in a seemingly dire situation, and he’ll relish the dilemma.

And then there’s winning itself, which only makes him crave more.

“He has a love for the game, and so when you have that type of love, especially as young as he is, I don’t think that’s going anywhere,” coach Andy Reid said on Tuesday. “And he doesn’t let all the outside events affect his play. I mean, he’s one of those guys that’s known worldwide really, and that really doesn’t faze him.”

In that worldwide spotlight on Sunday evening after engineering the 25-22 overtime win over the 49ers in Super Bowl LVIII, Mahomes had not yet so much as removed his uniform as he gazed toward the next frontier on the horizon.

“I’m going to celebrate tonight; I’m going to celebrate at the parade,” he said. “And then I’m going to do whatever I can to be back in this game next year and try to go for that ‘three-peat.’”

As in become the first team to win three straight Super Bowls, a notion Mahomes reiterated at a news conference on Monday morning.

The unprecedented feat in the Super Bowl era also would lift Mahomes into a second-place tie with Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw for most Super Bowl victories started by a quarterback (four) and a step closer to Tom Brady’s record of seven — yet distant but steadily coming more into sight.

“I think Tom said it best: Once you win that championship and you have those parades and you get those rings, you’re not the champion anymore,” Mahomes said Sunday night. “You have to come back with that same mentality. And I learned from guys like that that have been the greatest of all time … and so that’s my mindset.”

Coming from someone else, those might seem like merely words.

But Mahomes is a dynamo who understands that his offseason is vital to the season ahead, particularly through his demanding workouts with longtime personal training guru Bobby Stroupe.

“I know he wants the best for me, so I do it. But there’s definitely some times where I’m like, ‘Man, we’re on two hours of working out. Let me go upstairs and just hang out,’” Mahomes said a few weeks ago, smiling. “He pushes me every single day.”

In more ways than one: After the AFC Championship Game in Baltimore, Mahomes spoke of how those routines averted a potentially calamitous injury when he twisted out of a low tackle with the help of a bend-over-backward movement conditioned by Stroupe.

“We try to prepare for everything, and he’s done a great job of adapting and learning from stuff that I’ve done in my career, and preparing me for those moments to try to keep myself as healthy as I possibly can,” he said. “They always say the best ability is availability, and you want to be out there.”

Out there, he looms larger than ever with the best postseason quarterback rating (105.8) in NFL history and a 15-3 playoff record that trails only Brady’s 35 postseason victories and Montana’s 16.

And while the matter of his supporting cast always will be in flux between the NFL’s salary cap and the contract Mahomes commands, the flip side is this:

The Chiefs have won two Super Bowls since losing Tyreek Hill and, this season, often were sabotaged by subpar receiver play.

And while the Chiefs often were carried by a defense that emerged as one of the best in the NFL, Mahomes demonstrated that he could contour his game to make complementary football the winning formula.

But when down to it on Sunday night, with the Chiefs trailing 19-16 in the last two minutes of the game and 22-19 in overtime, he reminded us of what ought now to be known as the Mahomes Doctrine — ever-heartening for Chiefs fans and ominous for their foes.

With a game on the line, in the white-hot cauldron of competition, never doubt what Mahomes is capable of.

This is where it’s about not just talent or finesse but will and resolve and imagination that is almost impossible to measure but shows up in such ways as his calm in the chaos and the cracked-helmet run that accents why he’s the Chiefs’ career leading postseason rusher (524 yards).

Or as Richard Keefe, the former director of sports psychology at Duke University, told me for a piece I wrote on Mahomes’ stress-management abilities a few years ago: “You know his psychology has to be, ‘I can do this. Where is it? Where’s the lock that fits this key? Because I have a key.’”

You saw that yet again on Sunday night when it mattered most:

On the decisive final two series, Mahomes completed 13 of 16 passes for 100 yards and ran for 33 yards.

That included the crucial 8-yard run on a fourth-and-1 in overtime and, a few plays later, his 19-yard burst on third-and-1 to change the equation from whether the Chiefs could be relegated to a game-tying field-goal attempt or have the opportunity to win it then and there.

Two plays later, Mahomes fired a 3-yard touchdown pass to Mecole Hardman for the final flourish in an already-epic run.

“Extreme joy,” Mahomes called it afterward.

The same thing he’s provided millions of Chiefs fans, most of whom lived what it was like before and appreciate the unfathomable contrast.

So Mahomes would be adored even if he weren’t a decent guy. But the fact that he’s also unspoiled as a person makes him all the more appealing and all the more a point of pride for Kansas City.

By all evidence, he’s still the same look-you-in-the-eye guy who as a child looked out for the last kids picked and reminded coaches of other players’ birthdays and smiled at everyone when he’d walk in his seventh-grade English class.

That’s why after the Ravens game he had the presence of mind on stage to acknowledge Norma Hunt, and why after the Super Bowl he thought to express his gratitude to Alex Smith, teammates and, of course, Reid.

“I think you guys can appreciate him,” Reid said after the game. “You get to see him and what he is. I mean, there’s no facade there. He comes to work every day, humble, wanting to be great. He challenges the guys around him to be great every play and never flinches.”

It’s all part of the same uncanny package: Too good to be true … and somehow entirely real and a long way from spoiling.