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Patrick Mahomes shrugs off ‘beer gut’ barbs in quest for third Super Bowl

Two weeks ago, after dispatching the Baltimore Ravens on the road in the AFC Championship, the Kansas City Chiefs packed into the visitors’ locker room at M&T Bank Stadium to celebrate a return trip to the Super Bowl. In the middle of the din, was a shirtless Patrick Mahomes, still looking forward. “Like I been saying, we ain’t done yet,” he roared.

But when footage of his rallying cry made it to social media, the focus quickly shifted away from his encouraging words to his much less defined torso. Before long his #dadbod had made its way on to the NFL’s X (formerly Twitter) feed and had commenters passing judgment on his fuller frame, some calling him “bloated,” “fat”, and accusing him of having “a beer gut”.

This despite the Chiefs passer appearing in the Netflix docuseries Quarterback, which devotes considerable focus to Mahomes’s unyielding training regimen. Mahomes coolly absorbed the critical blitz. “Yooo why they have to do me like that!?!?!?” he tweeted in response. “Like, i got kids!!!”

In Mahomes’s defense, Incredible Hulks rarely make for quality passing material. Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady were also shamed for their modest physiques. The impressive thing about Mahomes is how his early body of work stacks up with those legends.

Since taking over as the Chiefs starter in his second NFL season, Mahomes has led them to the Super Bowl in four of the past five years. At worst, he has come up short in the conference title game only twice. Through 17 career playoff games, Mahomes has already amassed so many passing yards (5,260) and total touchdowns (44) that, were they compiled over 17 regular-season games, his stats would top every QB but Brees, Manning and Brady. No wonder that Mahomes has been voted league MVP twice.

On Sunday the Chiefs have a chance to become the first team in 20 years to win back-to-back Super Bowls. And Mahomes is why Chiefs fans are bullish about their chances of sealing the deal despite their team starting as slight underdogs to the San Francisco 49ers. “I don’t think I could have ever foreseen what was going to happen at the start of my career,” Mahomes said in Las Vegas on Monday, calling his Super Bowl streak surreal. “I just try to appreciate it every single time. You don’t even know if this will be your last.”

Mahomes makes it tempting to force comparisons with Michael Jordan, even though the metaphor is destined to fall short. Where the NBA star endured years of setbacks before his dynastic breakthroughs, the Chiefs’ golden arm has known virtually nothing but success under coach Andy Reid.

Mahomes’s knack for transcending the applied logic of the game with his physical gifts, improvisational flair and knack for delivering in the clutch that has marked him as the potential one-in-a-generation marvel who transcends his sport. The only blemish on his CV is falling to Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a home soil Super Bowl, and even that loss had more to do with the Chiefs’ inability to protect Mahomes or catch his passes than his undying effort.

What’s more, this is a year that saw Mahomes do more with fewer reliable offensive weapons besides the tight end Travis Kelce while relying on a Chiefs defense that has set a new franchise standard under wily coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. Still, Mahomes and his team figure to be in for a rough evening against the 49ers, the opponents he rallied to beat for his first championship ring four years ago.

As ever, the 49ers will attempt to frustrate Mahomes with a formidable defense anchored by the linebacker Fred Warner and defensive end Nick Bosa. On the flip side, the San Francisco offense is much better than the one the Chiefs stymied in 2020. Not only do the Niners carry over many of the key players who factored in that first matchup, they have added Christian McCaffrey, the sport’s best all-around running back. Ultimately, how far they go will depend on whether the Niners quarterback Brock Purdy can keep his own hot hand going.

Like Mahomes, Purdy doesn’t pass the eyeball test, so much so that he was the very last pick in the 2022 draft. And yet he played so well in place of the injured Jimmy Garoppolo that the Niners coach, Kyle Shanahan, wound up tossing him the keys to the franchise. Even though Purdy has yet to disappoint in big moments and played at an MVP level this year, his critics still scramble to pick apart his game because of how low Purdy was drafted. If San Francisco did exact revenge, Purdy would probably be the last 49er to get due credit.

Should Mahomes lead the Chiefs to Super Bowl victory again, three championships, the last two consecutive, would move him into a rarefied class alongside Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana and Troy Aikman. And even if Mahomes wound up with only three rings, the Jordan comparisons won’t end there. Mahomes could easily be rated as the NFL’s greatest player and Brady, seven-times a champion, reclassified as the ultimate winner, American football’s Bill Russell, the Boston Celtics legend who claimed 11 NBA championships. At 28 years of age, Mahomes could just as easily catch up to Brady or even overtake given time.

In host city Las Vegas earlier this week, Mahomes made it clear yet again what matters most. One reporter asked: Would he rather have six-pack abs or another ring? “Naw, another Super Bowl for sure,” he said. “I have a six pack, it’s just under the dad bod. If you feel, there might be some skin there, but then underneath that, the six pack is there. You just gotta get real close and squint a little bit. I think you’ll see it.”

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