When Tom Brady left the Patriots in 2020, we assumed there would be a hole in the league. There would no longer be a big, bad, Death-Star-like entity looming over the rest of the league collecting wins and Super Bowls like they’re NFTs.
But maybe we were wrong. Maybe the next great NFL dynasty was already underway when the Patriots’ dynasty fell like the Berlin Wall.
I say that, of course, because the Kansas City Chiefs had already drafted Patrick Mahomes at that point and had even won the Super Bowl in the 2019 season, Brady’s last with New England.
Now, I don’t think the Chiefs are quite to dynasty status just yet (they likely will be if they win the Super Bowl this year, though). But it’s important to take note of what they’ve done in that span.
After their 27-20 win over the Jaguars on Saturday, the Chiefs have now reached five straight AFC Championship Games, also known as every single year of Mahomes’s career as a starter.
Only two other teams have done that. The aforementioned Patriots made eight in a row from 2011 to 2018 and the Oakland Raiders made five in a row from 1973 to 1977.
Yes, you read that correctly. Now even some of the breasted dynasties of all time have pulled off what the Chiefs accomplished this year. Not the Cowboys, not the Steelers, not the 49ers. That puts Kansas City in rarified air.
As I said before, the Chiefs haven’t reached dynasty status yet, though. Those other teams are considered dynasties because they won several Super Bowls during their runs at the top, even if they never matched the Chiefs’ conference championship game streak. Even the Raiders aren’t necessarily considered a dynasty despite their five straight conference title game berths, mainly because they won just a single Super Bowl over that time.
The Chiefs also have just one Lombardi Trophy to show for their dominance so far. They made just add one this year since they are the betting favorites to win it all.
But even if the Chiefs don’t finish this season on top, it won’t end their dynastic potential. They will need to win some Super Bowls if they want to be considered a dynasty, but there is no team better positioned to do so in the future than them.
The biggest reason for that is Mahomes because the quarterback position is the most important factor in becoming a dynasty. The Patriots had Brady, the Steelers had Bradshaw, the Cowboys had Aikman, the 49ers had Montana/Young, and the Chiefs have Mahomes.
He has earned the right to be mentioned amongst those hall-of-famers. He’s the best player in the sport right now and has already claimed one MVP award, with a second very likely to come this year, one Lombardi Trophy, and one Super Bowl MVP.
Oh yeah, he’s also just 27 years old and under contract for the next nine years. He’s already given the Chiefs five great years of play and there’s no reason to expect that to stop anytime soon.
There’s a reasonable possibility that Mahomes remains at the top of the league for the next decade. Aaron Rodgers just won an MVP award last year while playing a majority of the season at 37 years old, why can’t Mahomes be as good when he’s that age?
It’s crazy to think about what Mahomes may be able to accomplish over that time if he keeps it up. He’s got the most passing yards and touchdowns ever over a player’s first 80 games, so he’s on a pretty good pace to shatter even more records.
He also has stayed incredibly healthy over his career, which is very important if he wants to continue to have success. He’s missed just three games since becoming the starter and one of those games was due to him sitting out for an inconsequential game in the final week of the season. He may not be able to keep up that clean bill of health forever (we did see him seemingly sprain his ankle in the game against the Jaguars), but his durability so far is a good sign.
It’s not all on Mahomes, it does take more than just a quarterback to succeed as a franchise. The Chiefs aren’t lacking at other positions, though. Even though Travis Kelce isn’t going to be around to catch passes from Mahomes forever, they’re still set up well to succeed. Kansas City did exactly what they needed to do after drafting a franchise quarterback: invest in the offensive line, especially with young players.
Center Creed Humphrey is already one of the best at his position in the league despite being in just his second season. Tackle Orlando Brown is also a great player at age 26 and guard Trey Smith is a promising young 23-year-old. And they added veteran guard Joe Thuney, one of the best in the league, in the 2021 offseason.
That group is going to be integral to the success of the Chiefs over their potential run as a dynasty. Protecting Mahomes and keeping him healthy will be crucial for not only the game-to-game success, but also for the long-term hopes of the franchise.
And, despite what the recent trends may suggest, offense isn’t the only thing that matters. The Chiefs have done their best to demonstrate how an elite offense may be all you need to win it all, but they still need to have at least an average defense.
They’ve done a good job during their current run at developing solid defensive starters such as Chris Jones (who is one of the best defensive players in the entire league), Nick Bolton, Juan Thornhill, and L’Jarious Sneed. And then supplement those players with acquisitions such as Tyrann Mathieu, Frank Clark, and Justin Reid.
There is no guaranteed formula to win in the NFL. But if any team has come close to finally discovering one, it’s the Chiefs. They’ve surrounded Mahomes with enough talent on each side of the ball to remain at the top of the league even when they lose elite players such as Tyreek Hill.
If the Chiefs manage to get past the Bengals in the AFC Championship Game and then whoever makes it out of the NFC in the Super Bowl, then the debate will be over, they will be a dynasty. But, if they don’t, I wouldn’t write them off just yet because this team is set to be good for a long, long time.