To me, the closest historical comparison to Patrick Mahomes is John Elway. Both were blessed with absolute rocket arms. Relatedly, both were drafted by Major League Baseball teams, Elway by the New York Yankees and Mahomes by the Detroit Tigers. Both were raised in athletic households; Elway’s father, Jack, coached college football, and Patrick Mahomes the Elder played in the major leagues.
And both players starred on otherwise average college football teams.
Stanford went just 19-23-1 with Elway on the roster, including 5-6 in his senior season. The Cardinal never appeared in a bowl game with Elway on the roster.
Texas Tech went 16-21 with Mahomes on the roster. The Red Raiders did reach a bowl game, going 7-6 with a loss to LSU in the 2015 Texas Bowl, but followed that up with a 5-7 record in Mahomes’ junior year, his last in Lubbock.
In fact, Mahomes’ most memorable game as a collegian came in a loss, a game where he set FBS records for passing yards (734) and total offense (819) while accounting for seven touchdowns in a 66-59 loss to Baker Mayfield’s Oklahoma on Oct. 22, 2016.
Eight times over the 2015-16 seasons would Mahomes’ offense put up at least 35 points in a Texas Tech loss. Four of those losses — including the one mentioned above — saw Texas Tech hit the 50-point mark in a losing effort, and once more Texas Tech lost 45-44.
All of that losing was undoubtedly disappointing in the moment, but it’s served him well in the NFL. Mahomes piloted three double-digit comebacks in three playoff games this year, rallying the Chiefs from a 24-0 deficit to a 51-31 win over the Houston Texans, from 17-7 down to a 35-24 win over the Tennessee Titans in the AFC Championship and from 20-10 down in the fourth quarter to a 31-20 win over the San Francisco 49ers in Sunday night’s Super Bowl.
“I kind of joke around about it sometimes, but I was kind of blessed to be in the Big 12 where you had to go and score, and if you threw an interception, you got the ball back, you try to score again. I’ve kind of had that mindset where no matter what happens the last play, just focus on the next play,” Mahomes said Sunday.
Unlike in college where his defense put him in score-or-else territory, Mahomes became his own worst enemy on Sunday night by tossing interceptions on consecutive possessions:
KANSAS CITY SECOND HALF DRIVE CHART
— 7 plays, 30 yards, Interception
— 12 plays, 52 yards, Interception
— 10 plays, 83 yards, Touchdown
— 7 plays, 65 yards, Touchdown
— 2 plays, 42 yards, Touchdown
— 4 plays, minus-15 yards, Clock
The first overall pick of the 1983 NFL Draft, Elway’s fate in many ways followed him from Palo Alto to Denver, as he carried four so-so Broncos teams to Super Bowl losses before finally winning his first title at age 37 — along the way generating the nickname Captain Comeback, tying Johnny Unitas with 35 fourth quarter or overtime rallies. In 2004, he became a first ballot Hall of Famer after a 16-year career that saw him named MVP, Super Bowl MVP, one NFL passing title, two AFC Offensive Player of the Year awards, nine Pro Bowl appearances and earn a spot on the All-1990s Team.
Still only 24 years old, Mahomes has already matched Elway’s MVP, Super Bowl MVP and a First Team All-Pro season. He hasn’t quite amassed 35 comebacks yet, but give him time.