New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft recently announced the team would honour franchise legend Tom Brady during their Week 1 home game against the Philadelphia Eagles in September.
The news emphasises that, for the first time since 1999, this upcoming NFL season will not feature Brady, a quarterback widely regarded as the greatest NFL player of all time, as he finally retired “for good” in February.
Brady was 45 when he began his final season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and, as the league’s current group of superstar quarterbacks are all under the age of 28, they have a shot at becoming this generation’s ‘GOAT’ – and maybe even match Brady’s seven Super Bowl wins, five Super Bowl MVP awards, three league MVP awards, and numerous other records and accolades.
But which quarterbacks are they?
Patrick Mahomes – Kansas City Chiefs
As one of the league’s four starting quarterbacks who have already won a Super Bowl, the Kansas City Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes has arguably the best chance at entering the GOAT debate.
Aged 28, and in just his fifth season as a starter, Mahomes is already a two-time Super Bowl champion, two-time Super Bowl MVP and two-time league MVP. Also, last season, he became the first player since Kurt Warner in 1999 to win league MVP and Super Bowl MVP in the same year.
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Even though Brady won three Super Bowls in his first five seasons as the Patriots’ starting quarterback, Mahomes has already equalled the number of Super Bowl MVPs and eclipsed the number of league MVPs, passing touchdowns, and passing yards Brady accumulated in that time period.
However, there are no guarantees Mahomes will become the GOAT. Brady lost the entire 2008 season due to injury, and future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers won Super Bowl XLV in his third season as Green Bay Packers starting quarterback but is yet to appear in another Super Bowl.
Barring injury, Mahomes has the potential to break all of Brady’s recently set records.
Joe Burrow – Cincinnati Bengals
Joe Burrow completely transformed the Cincinnati Bengals after the team drafted him first overall in the 2020 NFL Draft.
After missing the end of his rookie season with injury, Burrow returned in 2021 to lead Cincinnati to their first Super Bowl appearance since the 1988 season and won the franchise’s first playoff game since the 1990 season.
Burrow has also drawn comparisons to a player considered the greatest quarterback of all time before Brady began his assault on the league – former San Francisco 49ers star, Joe Montana. Both have been praised for their ability to stay calm under pressure, so much so they share the nickname ‘Joe Cool’. But Montana won four Super Bowls, three Super Bowl MVPs and was selected to eight Pro Bowls in his career, whereas Burrow was selected to just his first Pro Bowl last season.
However, at just 26, Burrow has time on his side.
Jalen Hurts – Philadelphia Eagles
Just like Burrow, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts led his team to a Super Bowl appearance after being selected in the 2020 NFL Draft.
The 24-year-old also finished second in league MVP voting for the 2022 season (behind the aforementioned Patrick Mahomes) while earning the first Pro Bowl selection of his career. This culminated in, for a short time at least, Hurts becoming the highest-paid player in NFL history, demonstrating the Eagles’ faith in the quarterback and his ability to win – something substantiated by looking at Philadelphia’s NFC playoff run last year, when they outscored the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers 69-14.
There are still awards Hurts needs to win, but again, as he’s about to enter his third season as a starting quarterback, he has plenty of football ahead of him.
Other players like the Buffalo Bills’ Josh Allen, the Baltimore Ravens’ Lamar Jackson, and the Los Angeles Chargers’ Justin Herbert, also have the potential to become this generation’s NFL icon.
In 2020, Allen led the Bills to their first AFC Championship Game since the 1993 season, Jackson was named league MVP in 2019, and Herbert has shattered records with his incredibly talented throwing arm.
But for current players attempting to become the GOAT, it’s hard to look past Mahomes. But generally, it’s also hard to look past Brady.
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