Patrick Mahomes was a central fixture in the football constellation last season, the type of quarterback every NFL team should covet.
He wasn’t just the playmaking leader of the Kansas City Chiefs, he was treated like a fifth Beatle and an undeniable Starr — part Bart, part Ringo.
Not much has changed about Mahomes. He’s still a terrific player, still the unquestioned leader of the AFC West champion Chiefs. But if he were to throw a no-look pass, would it lead “SportsCenter? “Probably not. People have grown accustomed to seeing him complete those.
Been there, gunned that.
The juggernaut du jour resides in Baltimore, where Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson has reinvented the game, or so it seems. A sports-talk host asked this week, “Will Baltimore ever lose another game?” and, in light of all the hype, some might consider that a legitimate question.
Jackson is locked in as the next most valuable player, and for good reason. The Baltimore Sun made a compelling statistical case this week that his season could be the greatest of any NFL quarterback.
There was no calling an audible and giving somebody a Jackson jersey for Christmas. In the days leading up to that holiday, all of those were sold out on the team’s website, as was every item advertised on Jackson’s personal website, era8apparel.com.
Without question, the spotlight has swung from Kansas City to Baltimore, and there’s a new flavor of the month. That’s not discounting what Jackson has done, only an acknowledgment that the next big trend is always just around the corner.
Consider all the players and events in recent years that were predicted to fundamentally change football.
There was Robert Griffin III as a Washington Redskins rookie — he’s now backing up Jackson in Baltimore — Colin Kaepernick during the height of the Jim Harbaugh era in San Francisco, the “Legion of Boom” secondary in Seattle, Sean McVay’s offense with the Rams and his oversized impact on the coaching world … each one was the talk of the league at one point or another.
Each was going to “change the game.”
If the game changed at all after those, it was a subtle tweak as opposed to a seismic shift.
So all the talk about this being the golden age of dual-threat quarterbacks — Jackson, Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, Josh Allen, Russell Wilson, Kyler Murray — doesn’t mean every team is going to move in that direction. What’s more, it doesn’t mean that clubs suddenly are going to view it as a negative if a quarterback has a prototypical 6-foot-5 build.
Jackson is phenomenal, and he could lead Baltimore to their third Super Bowl title. The Ravens are 19-3 with him as their starter, and his 19 victories since Week 11 of last season ranks as the most among all starting quarterbacks.
Jackson is the only NFL quarterback to produce at least 3,000 yards passing and 1,000 rushing in a season, and he’s at 1,206 on the ground.
That said, it often takes defenses a while to catch up with offenses, and yet they eventually do.
Some teams will play Jackson differently next season than they played him this year, and that will bump up the degree of difficulty for him. The pieces around him will change, and injuries can take a greater toll at times. Look at the way the Rams changed, for instance, when they no longer had a healthy offensive line.
This is Jackson’s time in the spotlight. That stay could be long or brief. But if history is a guide, Jackson probably won’t have as profound an effect on offenses as some might predict. He’s an ultra-rare talent, so a lot of this stuff won’t be repeatable with another player plugged in.
The spotlight will swing somewhere else, maybe next season.
It’s a truism in a league where the shiny new object that matters most isn’t an individual player or a scheme, but a glistening trophy.