I’ll start by clearing up what I’m NOT saying:
- That Patrick Mahomes is as good an athlete as Bo Jackson
- That Joe Montana, Marcus Allen, Derrick Thomas, Tony Gonzalez, Priest Holmes, Larry Johnson, Derrick Johnson, Carlos Beltran, Eric Hosmer and any number of other Kansas City athletes are not better than Mahomes, who has not even played in a real NFL game yet
- That Patrick Mahomes has proved a darn thing
I mean, look at it.
I was born in Kansas City in 1983, and since then the only other Kansas City athlete whose physical ability made me gasp like that was Bo Jackson, the greatest pure athlete who ever lived. Joe Montana was my hero even before he got to Kansas City. Derrick Thomas was one of the best pass rushers I’ve ever seen. Priest Holmes was borderline unstoppable for a couple years there. Tony Gonzalez is on the Mt. Rushmore of tight ends. Carlos Beltran was a rare phenom. And of course Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas and Salvador Perez led the Royals to a World Series championship. Great players, all of them.
But what I’m describing is not greatness, although greatness is often involved. I’m talking about that buzzy feeling you get when you see an athlete do something freaky, something even other great athletes can’t do, and you start imagining the freaky possibilities.
Because every so often, those freaky imaginations become freaky realities.
Mahomes’ arm is one of those freaky tools you see in sports from time to time. It seems limitless. It makes it seem like all the Chiefs need is for all their receivers to be a tiny bit faster than the cornerbacks guarding them, and that’s all she wrote. It makes it seem like a touchdown pass could happen at any moment, from anywhere.
Because it can. Throws like these are a regular part of Mahomes’ game, and while there’s a lot more to playing quarterback than throwing long bombs, the possibility is always there, hanging over the game, hanging over the defense, that this might be the moment a ball flies 70 yards through the air, into the hands of a receiver who happens to run a 4.2.
We’ll find out soon if Mahomes is any good or not. I imagine he is, and I imagine his debut season will contain its share of Tecmo Bowl bombs and unwise throws lasered into the chests of safeties.
The list of failed quarterbacks with incredible arms is long and distinguished, but contains approximately zero Kansas City Chiefs. Until Mahomes came along last year, the Chiefs hadn’t drafted a quarterback in the first round since 1983. For most of my lifetime they’ve relied on ex-49ers (Montana, Steve Bono, Elvis Grbac, Alex Smith), mixing in a few castoffs (Rich Gannon, Trent Green) and low-talent projects (Brodie Croyle, Matt Cassel).
So the mere fact that Mahomes was a first-round pick actually counts for more excitement in Kansas City than it would in most other NFL cities. Since Kansas City doesn’t have an NBA team — it had the Kings until 1985 — it has never experienced the buzz that comes along with getting, say, Chris Webber.
The Chiefs, finally, have built around a quarterback, and an arm that makes you dream heroic dreams.