I don’t know how to describe Patrick Mahomes II anymore, and my job is to describe things that happen in football. But please don’t blame me, because Mahomes is making things tough—there is simply no frame of reference for what he is doing. Through three games, Mahomes has 62 completions on 93 attempts (66.6 percent) for 896 yards, 13 touchdowns, and zero interceptions, a run that has annihilated opposing defenses and the vocabulary we use to describe short-term greatness.
Mahomes was off to the best start to a career in NFL history by far through his first three games—including his Week 17 start last year in which he had zero touchdowns. His passing numbers and win totals dwarf the mythical starts of other young QBs like Andrew Luck, Carson Wentz, and Deshaun Watson. Even Robert Griffin III, another Roman-numeral-suffixed Big 12 quarterback treated as a messiah at the beginning of his career, doesn’t come close. Griffin had roughly half the touchdowns as Mahomes does and two losses to start his famous 2012 season.
Not only can Mahomes not be compared to other quarterbacks at the beginning of their careers, but he can barely be compared to other quarterbacks at any stage of their careers. In this week’s edition of “What record did Patrick Mahomes break on Sunday?” he set a new record of 13 touchdown passes through three games, breaking Peyton Manning’s 2013 record of 12, and Mahomes did it by halftime. That comes after he set the record for passing touchdowns through two weeks against the Steelers with six touchdown passes against just five incompletions (only Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Nick Foles have had at least six touchdown passes and fewer incompletions than TDs in a game before) while also saving the art of the deep ball. He’s breaking records every week, and there is no end in sight.
Mahomes is on pace for 4,778 passing yards, zero interceptions, and 69 passing touchdowns. Even if the interception mark doesn’t hold, those figures would shatter the single-season record for touchdowns (55) set by Peyton Manning with the Broncos in 2013 when Manning was 37 years old. Even if Mahomes’s pace comes down by a full touchdown per game, he’ll set the NFL record for passing touchdowns. He is 23.
We’re left turning to other sports to put this in context. Kansas City’s offensive approach is reminiscent of the Seven Seconds or Less Phoenix Suns under Mike D’Antoni and executed by Steve Nash, whose spacing, scoring, and blatant disregard for defense ushered in a new offensive era in the NBA. For another basketball comparison, Mahomes’s air attack is similar to Steph Curry’s emergence in 2015-16 as the best shooter of all time.
As for how Mahomes is doing this, much of the answer may lie in baseball. Mahomes was drafted as a pitcher by the Detroit Tigers, is the son of an MLB pitcher, and has credited his time at shortstop for his ability to throw darts off-balance. You can certainly see his shortstop roots on this touchdown pass against San Francisco on Sunday.
Perhaps Mahomes’s success may inspire football coaches to scout baseball players the same way teams targeted basketball players at tight end to find Antonio Gates and Jimmy Graham.
Mahomes’s numbers are almost like he never left the Big 12, and they may foreshadow an Air Raid, spread coast revolution. Head coach Andy Reid deserves a mountain of credit for the Chiefs’ 3-0 start for his openness to embrace these new concepts, his ability to scheme receivers open for Mahomes to hit, and for turning Alex Smith into the best deep-ball passer in 2017. If other offenses follow Kansas City’s lead, Mahomes may one day be seen as the forerunner of a new era of football in which receivers are always open with the right read and a rocket arm.
If we must look to the NFL for a comparison, it’s somewhere between the Greatest Show on Turf and the 2007 New England Patriots. It’s always dangerous to compare a team to the best in the history of the sport (and it’s still too early for that), but that is just how uncharted this territory is. Kansas City’s next three games come in Denver, against the Jaguars, and against New England in Foxborough. If Mahomes emerges from that stretch with these numbers still intact, we’ll have to invent a new language to talk about this team—because I’m already running out of ideas and there are 13 games left.
An earlier version of this piece miscalculated Mahomes’s completion percentage through three games and incorrectly stated the mark would break the record for completion percentage. It also misstated that Brady, Manning, and Foles had all had six-TD games with fewer than five incompletions; they had fewer incompletions than TDs.