Drew Brees is the biggest NFL story today, and he should be. He just picked up another lifetime achievement award — this time passing Brett Favre and Peyton Manning for most yards passing in a career.
But Drew Brees is not the biggest story this season. Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes is.
The second-year quarterback threw 10 touchdown passes in his first two starts this season, including six in Week Two, hasn’t lost a game and has been such a revelation that during last week’s come-from-behind defeat of Denver he was labeled a “legend” and “superstar” by the Monday Night Football crew.
And that was during his fifth career start.
“Somehow,” said Leigh Steinberg, Mahomes’ agent, on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast, “the secret’s out.”
Maybe that’s because, somehow, Patrick Mahomes leads the league in touchdowns passes with 14 … or because his passer rating is 112.7, better than Tom Brady, better than Ben Roethlisberger, better than Aaron Rodgers and better than Matt Ryan … or because he’s completed a left-handed pass and thrown a no-look TD pass mixed in with two rushing TDs.
Or maybe it’s because a virtual rookie (he had one start last season) is not supposed to be this complete this soon. There is nothing, it seems, the guy can’t do … except lose.
Only there is. He can’t do national endorsements, and that’s where Steinberg comes in.
“We did a whole series of endorsements,” he said. “He’s actually made over $3 million. But none of them were with firms that were national where there would be billboards all across Kansas City (or) where his face would be on the air waves because that would raise the level of expectations and pressure on him. And then the first time he throws an interception, it’s like: Who is this guy?”
Except he did throw an interception. In fact, he threw two of them last week. But that didn’t deter TV analysts from showering him with more praise for his poise, ability to read the field and knack for making crucial plays. Nevertheless, Steinberg — who has represented over 130 quarterbacks in his career, including Hall-of-Famers Steve Young, Troy Aikman and Warren Moon — is taking it slowly when it comes to going national with endorsements.
“I’m doing the same thing that we did with Troy Aikman and Steve Young and Warren Moon and a lot of other quarterbacks,” he said, “which is to try to hold that off until he has a chance to establish himself on the field, (and) prove to his coaches and his teammates that he’s serious about football and not the rest of it. He signed a big contract, so he started with a large signing bonus.”
Steinberg has every reason to proceed cautiously. He’s seen young quarterbacks disappear after flashing early (see RG3), and he’s not interested in overdoing off-the-field commitments for a young quarterback who has what he called “freakish ability to throw the football.” Not yet he’s not. And so he won’t.
“(The biggest danger),” Steinberg said, “is that the expectations get so high that, with these young quarterbacks, they’re judged to be busts somehow because they’re going through the learning process. We’ve seen this happen over and over and over again.
“I go back to 1999, and the first pick in that draft was Tim Couch … he should be, at the end of his career, a big star … and he never really made it. Akili Smith was the third pick. He never really made it, either. Neither did Cade McNown. They can’t all have been bad draft picks. So the biggest danger is always that the hype gets too high, and it becomes absolutely unsustainable.
“But he’s in a zone where he actually tunes all of that out. He expects to be here. He chose football over baseball. And each week’s been a different challenge. You’re not supposed to be able to go into (L.A.) and beat the Chargers. You’re not supposed be able to go into Pittsburgh with their defense and beat them. Can you sustain it against San Francisco? And then last (week in Denver).”
And then last weekend against the league’s top-ranked defense, Jacksonville. He wasn’t supposed to survive that, either. But he did. Again. In fact, the guy’s been so remarkable that if you were to poll voters today on the league MVP through five games, Mahomes would win a heartbeat.
Still, there are some things beyond his reach.
“Well, we did get a call the other day from a cereal company that wanted to do a Patrick Flakes,” said Steinberg, “and I told them, ‘Hold that thought.’ “