Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs could become a dynasty that leads the NFL to new heights… or they could become a one-hit wonder, like so many before them.
Basketball is the offensive game; football the defensive one. Michael, Kobe and LeBron walked with ring-filled fingers. The pass rushers, linebackers and secondaries of the Packers, Steelers, Niners and Patriots have done the same.
The 49ers dynasty is a prime example of offensive perception trumping reality. Montana, Rice and Craig fill our memories. Their first three Super Bowl victims — the ’81 Bengals, ’84 Dolphins, ’88 Bengals — are the ones who entered the big game with a seemingly unstoppable offense.
The Bay Area’s other two red & gold Super Bowl victories? One-hit wonders. The ’89 Niners ran circles around defenses, until the Parcells/Belichick Giants stifled them (and the offensive juggernaut Bills) in 1990. The ’94 Niners quickly ceded control of the NFC to the Cowboys and Packers.
As a native Wisconsinite, the Worldwide Reader has vivid memories of the hype following the lone Packers Super Bowl victory of the Aaron Rodgers era. (Full disclosure: the Reader has long been more of a Brewers & Bucks fan.) The idea that the Green & Gold could go nine seasons without another Lombardi trophy was dismissed. “How could that happen? Top QB, prime weapons, great coach, young defense.” It happened.
Sports business is a supply-side game. “A rising tide lifts all boats,” is one cliché that applies. Rank & file UFC pay-per-views do better when Conor McGregor is around, Sixers vs. Celtics drew better TV ratings when the Warriors had Kevin Durant, and so on.
(The Reader must digress on how perpetually amusing it is to see sports journalists have no understanding of sports business. “The most exciting season in years,” NBA media folk surmised. Instead, TV ratings are crashing, merchandise sales are down, and ticket resale prices are soft for everyone but the Lakers.)
If — and this is a big “If” — the Chiefs become the dynasty that some envision them becoming, it will lift the NFL to new business heights. A legacy team… a charismatic quarterback… annual rivalry games against Los Angeles, the Raiders, Denver… The Mahomes Era could be the NFL’s biggest yet.
When an entity is so dominant — as the NFL is today within the world of American sports and television — some will anticipate a decline. What makes pro football better than basketball or baseball or any other team sport? Or individual sport? Someday, football has to return to their level.
Or does it? Amazon was the dominant force in online retail and cloud storage three years ago. Has Amazon declined since 2017? Has Marvel Studios? Has Netflix?
The future is never assured, of course. Narcissism can bring any person or organization down.
On February 3, 2020, the future of the NFL looks brighter than ever. In the parlance of pro wrestling, a new Monster Heel has gotten over. If Mahomes and the Chiefs keep winning, people will offer their money and attention en masse to see if anyone can bring them down.