The next big thing?

Since I went off to college and developed a habit of obsessively watching the NFL while gorging myself with half-priced buffalo wings at DC’s Bar in Iowa City eight or nine years ago, I’ve been told that at least one quarterback every year would “revolutionize the position” and/or “go down as an all-time great.” Today, most of those guys are either struggling to stay on a roster or starring in Nike commercials. So, now that the next big thing is on my team, am I finally allowed to believe the hype?


At 22 years old, Patrick Mahomes II has, by statistical measures, played better than anyone else in league history in his first two starts, and that’s nothing short of incredible. His offense is stacked, and Andy Reid’s creative play calling is a perfect fit for the athletic gunslinger out of Texas Tech. Ten touchdowns already? Some quarterbacks barely throw that many in a season.


Mahomes stays in the pocket when he needs to, he runs when he needs to and he’s got an absolute cannon for an arm. Where’s the downside? I haven’t found it yet, but then again, I’m a Chiefs fan. I just can’t trust this yet.


As I mentioned before, think of all the guys over the last decade who were supposed to change the game forever. Cam Newton, save for his MVP season in 2015, has been slightly above average but still probably the best of the batch along with Russell Wilson. Robert Griffin III, perhaps the most stark example, is a third-stringer in Baltimore better known for his cheesy Instagram quotes than anything he’s done on the field lately. Johnny Manziel barely warrants mention because his pro tenure was so short and ill-fated, but I convinced myself that he could be a star at one time.


And speaking of QBs who haven’t done anything on the field lately, remember Colin Kaepernick? He was a star five years ago, which is easy to forget with all of the other attention he’s gotten. Dak Prescott already appears to be sliding into consistent mediocrity after an electric 2016 season, and Andrew Luck is struggling to return to anything resembling his old form. Oakland’s Derek Carr, another next big thing candidate, just doesn’t seem to have it right now—same for Deshaun Watson in Houston, who was derailed by an ACL tear in 2017.


Perhaps the most ascendant signal caller in the NFL at the moment is Blake Bortles, an afterthought from Central Florida who was laughed off when one of the league’s most incompetent franchises drafted him high in the first round. Is anything about his game new, revolutionary or flashy? No, but he just made the Patriots look like fools on Sunday. Same for Jared Goff in Los Angeles, who had bust written all over him a few years back but now leads a legitimate Super Bowl contender with what could be the next legendary defensive unit a la the ’85 Bears, the early aughts Ravens and the Seahawks and Broncos of 2012-2016.


The true test of a quarterback in today’s NFL is how well he plays after teams have a season of film on him. Mahomes looks unstoppable, but then again, so did all of the guys I’ve already mentioned in the spaces above. Luck was anointed the heir apparent to Dan Marino and John Elway, and now he can barely stay on the field. Sam Darnold came out hot for the Jets in week one but had returned to typical Jets quarterback form by Sunday.


Predictions, particularly those made in sports, are notorious for being wrong, so I’m resisting making any sweeping proclamations despite the excitement of watching an electric playmaker who’s on my team along with other equally electric guys like Travis Kelce, Sammy Watkins, Tyreek Hill and Kareem Hunt. But are the Chiefs 100 percent legitimate Super Bowl contenders now that they finally have someone who can make things happen at the helm? Book it. Put all of the money I don’t have on it.


Before long the next Next Big Thing will be suiting for some team I can’t stand—the Broncos, the Raiders or, more than likely, the Patriots—so all I can really do is enjoy it while it lasts.