Super Bowl 54: Quarterback Matchup
Fans watching Super Bowl 54 are going to be getting a slightly different look this year, with no Tom Brady, Peyton Manning or Ben Roethlisberger representing the AFC at the quarterback position.
It’s almost a relief. That’s not because fans don’t like to see greats players compete on the biggest stage in football, but rather it allows the opportunity for some new, different storylines to develop and be talked about.
One of the biggest storylines in the NFL this season has been the emergence of a new era of quarterbacks. Fittingly, in this year’s Super Bowl, we’ll get to see two of those quarterbacks facing off starting in their very first time starting in the big game. For the San Francisco 49ers, it’ll be 28-year-old Jimmy Garoppolo, and for the Kansas City Chiefs, it’ll be 24-year-old Patrick Mahomes. Garoppolo and Mahomes are the third youngest duo to ever face off against each other in the Super Bowl. Additionally, with only 57 regular season starts between the two, that number is tied for the fewest ever.
Both Mahomes and Garoppolo have had good seasons. However, there shouldn’t be much of a debate in regard to who’s the better quarterback in this game. Spoiler alert—it’s Patrick Mahomes. That’s no disrespect to Garoppolo either. It’s more of an acknowledgement of how great Mahomes is.
Mahomes has taken the league by storm from the moment he entered. He threw an absurd 50 touchdown passes and won the MVP award in his first year as a full-time NFL starter. It’s also worth noting that he’s basically an offside penalty away from potential back-to-back Super Bowl appearances.
Mahomes missed two games with a dislocated kneecap early in the season, but he came back as if he hadn’t even missed a step. Mahomes concluded the season with 4,031 yards, 26 touchdowns, only five interceptions and a 105.3 passer rating. He’s coming off a 10-point comeback win in the AFC championship game, and before that, a 24-point comeback in the divisional round.
If Mahomes can conquer arguably the league’s best defense on the biggest stage, he’ll certainly be recognized as the best young quarterback, and maybe even the best young overall player in the league. But it’s easier said than done when going against the 49ers pass rush. Mahomes isn’t going to be able to extend plays easily, which is something he does better than just about anyone else. Nick Bosa and crew are going to be tough to handle, but if anyone can do it, it’s Mahomes.
On the other hand, the identity of the 49ers is their defense and their rushing attack. For the majority of the season, Garoppolo has been more of a game manager than a game changer, though at times he has come through in the clutch when it’s mattered most. Garoppolo has led the 49ers to some of their biggest wins against the NFC’s toughest competition.
In the NFC championship game, he only attempted eight passes, completing six for 77 yards while the 49ers pounded the Green Bay Packers 37-20. In the 49ers’ divisional round win versus the Minnesota Vikings, he completed 11 of 19 passes for 133 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Those numbers certainly don’t pop off the stat sheet.
However, Garoppolo did post some solid stats in the regular season that are similar to Mahomes’ in some of the more important categories. He threw for nearly 4,000 yards, tossed 27 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, and posted a passer rating of 102.
One can’t forget that Garoppolo’s been here before, too. He already has two rings as Tom Brady’s backup.
If there’s one thing that these two quarterbacks undoubtedly have in common over the course of their short NFL careers, it’s winning. Including the playoffs, Garoppolo has a 23-5 (82%) record as a starting quarterback, and Mahomes isn’t far behind percentage wise with a record of 27-8 (77%).
One of either Mahomes or Garoppolo is going to add another win to that record following this Sunday, hoisting the Lombardi Trophy along with it.
Zach Donaldson is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.