Super Bowl LIV: With Patriots reeling, will Sunday produce the NFL’s next dynasty?
As with any monster movie villain, it’s foolish to bury the Patriots before the doctor declares them dead. But their dynasty is on life support. The Bears, and 30 other teams, can see in the distance a long-awaited opening.
MIAMI — Roger Goodell spoke more than 5,500 words during his annual Super Bowl week address Wednesday and never said the name once. But it was clear the NFL commissioner was accounting for someone who was not in the room: Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
Brady played in nine Super Bowls over an 18-year span before his team was stunned in the first round of the AFC playoffs this year.
The 42-year-old will be a free agent this offseason. Two of his three offseason options — to retire, remain or go to a new team — would kill the Patriots dynasty. The Super Bowl would become, for the first time in almost 20 years, a wide-open race.
Perhaps that’s why Goodell pushed the league’s youth movement in the first minute of his speech, trumpeting the fact that 80 percent of the games played this season featured at least one quarterback under 27.
Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs star who will become perhaps the face of the NFL with a Super Bowl win against the 49ers on Sunday, is only 24. His counterpart, Jimmy Garoppolo, is 28 but just finished his first healthy full season as a starter.
Either could start the league’s new dynasty Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium.
The Chiefs and 49ers couldn’t be any different stylistically, with Mahomes slinging no-look passes and Garoppolo managing a run-first offense that pairs with their dominant defense like a Napa merlot. One team is now the tony Bay Area’s only franchise, while the other is based in a relative NFL backwater.
Goodell doesn’t mind.
”Patrick Mahomes anywhere in the NFL is good for me,” he said.
Mahomes and Garoppolo are two of the four quarterbacks in league history to win at least 70 percent of their games and have a passer rating over 90. The other two, per NFL Research: 49ers legend Joe Montana and Brady, who have 10 Super Bowl rings.
“When we think about the future of the NFL with people like Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson and some of these great young players — we like to tease around the office that Jimmy Garoppolo doesn’t fit into that 27 stat because he’s 28 — but this is the future of our league,” Goodell said. “Not just with quarterbacks, with great young players at every position.”
As with any monster movie villain, it’s foolish to bury the Patriots before the doctor declares them dead. But their dynasty is on life support.
The Bears, and 30 other teams, can see in the distance a long-awaited opening. Sunday’s game will mark the second time in 17 years the game has been played without quarterbacks Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger or Brady on the field.
The Bears thought they would be at the center of the NFL’s next wave when they traded up to draft Trubisky second overall in 2017. He’s now only 25 — but that’s still 13 months older than Mahomes and Watson, who were born three days apart in 1995. Both players have already passed him by, just as their teams have left the Bears in the dust.
They finished a distant third in their division this year, behind the NFC runner-up Packers and the Vikings, who, along with the Seahawks, finished in the NFC’s final four. The Saints had the second-best odds to win the NFC before losing in the playoffs. The Eagles are just two years removed from their Super Bowl win.
And then there’s the Rams, proof that predicted dynasties are no sure thing. Last year’s NFC champion went 9-7 this year, missed the playoffs and are salary cap hell.
The AFC features Watson’s Texans and a Titans squad that merely vanquished the Patriots as well as he top-seeded Ravens and the league’s most valuable player, Lamar Jackson.
They’ll all give chase to become the NFL’s next dynasty, but Sunday’s game will determine whom they’ll be after.
What once was the Pats, could become Pat’s.