History will be made Sunday when Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts become the first Black quarterbacks to face each other in the Super Bowl.
Those two are among the 13 minority signal-callers, including Kyler Murray of the Cardinals, who opened the season as starters. During the week, Mahomes and Hurts addressed the significance of what will transpire in Super Bowl LVII.
“To be on the world stage and have two Black quarterbacks start in the Super Bowl – I think it’s special and I’ve learned more and more about the history of the Black quarterback since I’ve been in this league,” Mahomes said. “And the guys that came before me and Jalen set the stage for this and now I’m just glad we can kind of set the stage for the kids that are coming up now. It’ll be a great game against two great teams and against another great quarterback.”
Q: What do you think the future has in store for Black quarterbacks because of this?
Said Hurts, “I think it’s history. I think it’s something that’s worthy of being noted and it is history. I think it’s come a long way. I think there’s only been seven African American quarterbacks to play in the Super Bowl. To be the first for something is pretty cool.”
Mahomes concluded, “I think you’ve seen over time whenever a guy like Doug Williams or Michael Vick or Donovan McNabb go out and plays great football against other guys, it gives other guys like me and Jalen chances to have this platform and have this spot on an NFL team. If we can continue to show that we can consistently be great, I think it’ll just continue to open doors for other kids growing up to follow their dreams and be a quarterback of an NFL team and it’s good that we have guys like Jalen on the other side because he’s a great person and obviously a great quarterback.”
Of course, there’s more to both Mahomes and Hurts than their race. So we have a tale of two quarterbacks.
Building a legacy
It seems almost sacrilege to mention Patrick Mahomes in the same breath as Tom Brady, but with the latter apparently retiring for good 11 days prior to Super Bowl LVII, much of the conversation centered around the question of whether there ever will be another TB12. Could it be PM15?
It’s fair to consider that Mahomes is on a path to someday be talked about in the same GOAT sentence.
Surely, it would be shocking if Mahomes plays 23 seasons and until the age of 45 as Brady did. However, would it be a surprise if Mahomes maintains the pace he has established in his first five seasons as a starter?
The Chiefs have been in the AFC Championship the last five seasons with three appearances in the Super Bowl. The pervious two ended with a win and a loss. The defeat was to Brady’s Buccaneers three years ago when Kansas City was playing without its two starting tackles and Mahomes was under siege the entire game.
Brady, of course, has played in 10 Super Bowls, won seven, along with being in the conference championship game 14 times. Sounds daunting, but Mahomes’ five is already 35.7 percent of Brady’s total.
In a question to Mahomes, it was noted that with Brady’s departure, many now see him as the face of the league. Asked if he feels any extra responsibility because of that, Mahomes said, “It’s not any extra responsibility. I’m just trying to go out there and win football games and win championships and this is the biggest game of them all. It’s not about being the face of the league or anything like that, it’s about being the best team that you can possibly be and doing whatever you can to win football games.
“The other stuff kind of handles itself and it’s obviously a good part of it. If you’re winning Super Bowls, usually you get a little more media and a few more commercials, I guess you would say, but at the end of the day, I just want to get in this building, be with my teammates and go out there and win football games.”
He obviously does that a lot.
In a conversation with The Ringer, Chiefs general manager Brett Veach talked about the championship game loss to the Bengals last season when Kansas City led 21-10 at halftime but lost 27-24 and how Mahomes reacted to it.
He said, “Maybe we had gotten spoiled thinking we would never go through a road bump like that. Reality kicked in from our standpoint and I don’t think it was anything that we learned, because the one thing (Mahomes has) always shown is he’s the ultimate competitor and he’s extremely resilient.”
And tough. That was evident during this year’s conference championship win over the Bengals when Mahomes played after suffering a high-ankle sprain the previous week against the Jaguars with the game-time temperature 22 degrees. He completed 29 of 43 passes for 326 yards with two touchdowns and a 105.4 passer rating.
Chiefs head trainer Rick Burkholder said, “I used to think (former Eagles tackle) Jon Runyan was the toughest guy I’ve worked with and he was tremendous. But now it’s Patrick. He’s incredible. It’s like there was never any question he’d play, and his injury was significant. The amazing thing to me: He did not miss one snap of practice all week.”
“Not one,” head coach Andy Reid said. “He had a little tweak here or there and kept pounding through. ‘I’m fine, I’m fine.’ That’s the crazy thing; for him to push through every play in practice, it’s just nuts.”
Yes it was, just as we saw him deal with the departure of wide receiver Tyreek Hill this past season.
Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon told Andscape, “This year, he has really shown how versatile he is. He has made the transition from not relying on just one or two guys like in the past. Now, he’s really spreading the ball around to a lot of different people. He got so many people involved this year, which really makes it hard on a defense. He has just had a great year.”
That was recognized by being named the league’s Most Valuable Player.
Which brings us back to Brady. As Veach also noted, “The great ones work through it. No one is immune from having some obstacles, and he went through that. And listen, there’s going to be more obstacles because defenses will always come up with ways to slow him down or stop them, but I think it’s going to get harder and harder as the years go on. Because the one matchup we’ll take every day is Pat’s mind and Coach Reid’s mind versus other teams. And that’s only going to get better and better as the years go on.”
That’s a scary thought. Mahomes (80.0) currently has a higher percentage of winning games he’s started than Brady (75.4). In the postseason, it’s 78.6 for Mahomes, 72.9 for Brady.
Here’s how the career numbers match up now with Mahomes leading in every category:
Completion percentage, 66.3 to 64.3; touchdown percentage 6.4 to 5.4; interception percentage 1.6 to 1.8; average per attempt 8.1 to 7.4; passing yards per game 303.0 to 266.3. Mahomes already has more rushing yards, 1,547 to 1,123.
Yes, Mahomes has a long way to go. But don’t bet against him.
Starting a legacy
It’s been only five years, but it probably feels like a lifetime to Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts.
That’s how long it’s been since Hurts was benched at halftime of the College Playoff Championship Game with his Alabama team trailing Georgia 13-0.
Now, he’s in the Super Bowl.
Since that famous moment, Hurts has refused to be bitter about what happened or criticize Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban.
Asked about it after the Eagles defeated the 49ers to advance to the Super Bowl, he would only say, “We have new moments. New moments and new times. I’ve been raised to be who I am. As the times change, the character doesn’t. I always try to never get too high, never get too low, and always give my best.”
He did that during his first season at Alabama in 2016 when he was the SEC Offensive Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year while the team lost the national championship to Clemson.
He did in that telltale 2017 season when Alabama beat Clemson in the semifinals, but was replaced by Tua Tagovailoa, who led the Crimson Tide to an overtime win.
He did the following season when he started one early-season game, but Tagovailoa played the others. He did when he replaced an injured Tagovailoa in the SEC Championship Game and led Alabama to the playoff with a win over Georgia. He then watched as Tagovailoa returned and was the starter in the playoff games.
He did in 2019 after heading to Oklahoma as a graduate transfer and led the Sooners to the playoffs before losing to LSU and quarterback Joe Burrow. He finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting behind Burrow.
And then he did after the Eagles, who already had Carson Wentz, selected him in the second round of the 2020 draft (53rd overall).
The hard to please Philadelphia fans weren’t happy.
After the conference championship game win over San Francisco, Hurts said, “My first year here people probably didn’t even want me here. It was probably one of those things. But it always handles itself.”
Asked later to explain the comment, he said, “It was a big surprise to many. My favorite [Bible] verse — I went through a lot of stuff in college and it kind of stuck with me — John 13:7: ‘You may not know now but later you’ll understand.’ Hopefully, people understand.”
Surely they do now.
Perhaps it’s only coincidence that the Eagles’ Super Bowl win over the Patriots with the now-retired Tom Brady at quarterback, came in that same season that Hurst was benched.
Or perhaps it’s simply karma.
Aside from the players he shares the field with on offense, those on the other side of the ball respect how the crazy-young, 24-year-old quarterback handles himself.
Asked what stands out, Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said, “No. 1; the way he approaches things, the way he approaches the team when he’s speaking. He’s always the same Jalen every time you see him. He doesn’t get too high; doesn’t get too low. And you can’t help but respect a guy like that.
“Even when times, things aren’t going our way or his way, you never see him really frustrated. You never see him screaming at a teammate for maybe messing something up or it didn’t go the way that he wanted it to go. When your quarterback is like that, you definitely want to go out and play harder for him.”
Hurts took a large jump in 2022 after becoming the unquestioned starter last season and leading the team to a 9-8 record and playoff spot after the Eagles lost five of their first six games.
His personal coach Quincy Avery told Andscape, “You started to see him making more and more plays throughout the season, and with that he just continued to grow and grow and gain a higher level of confidence. All of that allowed him to do more things on the football field.
“You look at him this year, and he’s making more throws into tighter windows. He’s throwing with more anticipation. He’s just doing all those things that you have to do at a very high level at the position. It’s been amazing to see – but not surprising to me.”
Hurts usually doesn’t choose to talk in depth about his personal journey, not wanting to divert attention to everyone else deserving.
“I know I’ve been through a lot personally,” he said after the spot in the Super Bowl was assured. “But I don’t want to steer away from the direction of how good this team has been at playing together, being together, and challenging one another.”
As for looking back and talking about dreams he had while growing up, Hurts added, “I said early in the week that this is not a time for reflection. It’s really hard for me to do that. I try to enjoy the moment, but my joy comes in winning. I know the job isn’t done.”
Don’t hesitate to comment or ask questions on Twitter @hbalzer721 or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org