Patrick Mahomes’ first six years are nearly unparalleled. How great could he be?

Patrick Mahomes’ first six years are nearly unparalleled. How great could he be?

Patrick Mahomes is already on his way to greatness, just six years into his NFL career. And, of course, he has only been a starter for five of those years.

Are you ready for some statistics to contextualize his early success? Here we go.

Regarding Super Bowl appearances, Mahomes and Tom Brady are the only quarterbacks to reach three Super Bowls in the first six years of their career. Mahomes is also the only quarterback since the merger to make five championship game appearances in his first six years, ahead of Donovan McNabb (four), Brady (three), Joe Montana (three) and Roger Staubach (three).

Even with his first season spent as a backup, Mahomes has the second-most passing yards (24,241) in his first six seasons by a quarterback in NFL history. He’s behind Peyton Manning (24,885) and ahead of Dan Marino (23,856). Mahomes ranks second in passing touchdowns after six seasons, behind Marino (196) and ahead of Manning (167).

For quarterbacks who have at least 15,000 passing yards in their first six seasons, Mahomes is also third in completion percentage (66.3) behind Deshaun Watson (67%) and Dak Prescott (66.%), which is mostly a testament to the changing landscape of the NFL. But it’s also important considering Mahomes is considered a gunslinger and an innovator — and yet he’s accurate to an unprecedented degree.

When it comes to statistics and milestones, Mahomes keeps good company: Brady, Manning, Marino, McNabb and Montana.

“What he’s done so far, a lot of guys can do that. He’s done it in five years, and some guys can’t do it in 20,” Chiefs receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling told FOX Sports on Monday night.

The statistics also fail to capture one part of Mahomes’ game that I’d be remiss not to mention: his jazz-musician knack for improvisation.

“I like to think of myself as a creative mind,” Mahomes said Monday. “So I like to just be creative out there on the football field.”

He has the propensity to make throws that had been coached out of the NFL for decades. Take the across-your-body throw, for example. Mahomes made that throw OK for quarterbacks such as Josh Allen — and, for better and for worse, Zach Wilson.

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And then there were the throws that only Brett Favre used: the push pass, the underhanded pass and the left-handed pass. Finally, there have been passes that Mahomes pioneered: the no-look pass and, maybe someday, the behind-the-back pass (which Mahomes has drilled at practice).

Mahomes’ numbers make him tangibly great, and he’s on track for an all-time career. But the way he plays the game — it might prove revolutionary. He is already paving the way for a new style of quarterback play that pushes the boundaries of how we thought the game should be played. Unless, of course, no one can do what Mahomes can do. And that’s distinctly possible.

I asked Eagles coach Nick Sirianni if, in the course of film study for the Super Bowl (Sunday, 6:30 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports App) he has seen Mahomes make plays that makes Sirianni think: My goodness, this QB is different.

“Yeah, about every play he makes. He’s obviously very special — special football player, special playmaker,” Sirianni said Monday. “He does things that you watch, and you just kind of shake your head because, because of how special he is. And so we’re gonna have to be on it [and] have everything we got to contain him because we know how good a football player he is.”

Sirianni added: “He’s the best player on the planet.”

But that’s intangible — even if it’s a widely-held opinion. So let’s return to the tangible statistical comparisons. There’s plenty to explore there when it comes to these first six years of Mahomes in the NFL.

Mahomes is not in a league of his own in every category. Brady, of course, won all of his first three Super Bowl appearances. Mahomes has one win with the opportunity to win a second in Super Bowl LVII — he’s behind Brady’s pace there. But in almost every other category, Mahomes is absolutely elite, thanks to his tremendous talent, the addition of a 17th game and help from the recent alterations to the NFL rules to cater toward the offensive passing game.

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At the very least, he is on his way to a career like Manning or Drew Brees.

But there’s also reason to believe Mahomes could get into the conversation with quarterbacks such as Brady and Montana.

“I think any athlete wants to be the best at their position ever. And I want to be, but I understand how hard it’s gonna be,” Mahomes told Nick Wright during an appearance on FS1’s “First Things First” on Thursday. “I know that Tom being in 10 Super Bowls and winning seven of them is something that seems impossible.”

If Mahomes wins Sunday, it remains possible for him to contend at the very least for Montana’s four Super Bowl wins — even if Brady’s seven appear unreachable. But there was a time when four seemed unreachable. That’s the nature of milestones. Give it enough time and someone pushes the record further. The question is whether Mahomes will be the one to do it.

What is crystal clear: Mahomes’ first six years are, in many measurements, among the best we’ve ever seen by a quarterback. Because while Brady’s early Super Bowl wins were partially a testament to his clutch performances, the New England Patriots were not running high-flying offenses. In 2001, the year the Patriots won their first Super Bowl with Brady, New England had the 11th-worst passing offense in terms of passing yards. By 2004, Brady led the Patriots to the 11th-best passing offense in the NFL during the regular season.

But that pales in comparison to Mahomes, whose offense ranked third in the NFL in passing yards in his first season as a starter and fifth in his second season. He also won the Super Bowl in that second season. You could argue Brady succeeded in his early-career because of Bill Belichick and the Patriots defense. And Mahomes excelled at a different level, even if he couldn’t win as many Super Bowls.

But that gets us back to the original point: winning the Super Bowl. That’s what Mahomes needs to do — and keep doing — if he wants to remain near the top of the list as one of the greatest ever to play the game. It’s not enough to have an outstanding start to a career — he has to maintain this level of excellence.

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“[Pat’s] still got some years in him to achieve a lot of different things in order to be to GOAT,” Chiefs defensive lineman Chris Jones told reporters Monday night. “What Tom Brady is doing — he set the standard for a lot of young, younger quarterbacks.”

To rank Mahomes in the top three would be to project him to succeed statistically for the next six seasons or more. He’s 11th in playoff passing yards (3,902) and eighth in playoff passing touchdowns (32). It’s a matter of tenure — Mahomes is still young.

Already, he’s up there with the greats. The next decade will determine just how great Mahomes can be.

Prior to joining FOX Sports as the AFC East reporter, Henry McKenna spent seven years covering the Patriots for USA TODAY Sports Media Group and Boston Globe Media. Follow him on Twitter at @McKennAnalysis.

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