Patrick Mahomes Through 100 Starts: The Best Quarterback Ever?

Patrick Mahomes Through 100 Starts: The Best Quarterback Ever?

By Scott Kacsmar

Patrick Mahomes started his 100th NFL game (including playoffs) for the Kansas City Chiefs last week against the Denver Broncos. Many considered the 19-8 win a ho-hum night for the reigning MVP, who completed 30-of-40 passes for 306 yards. It was the 12th time in Mahomes’ career that he won a game while throwing for 300 yards and completing 75% of his passes. Only four quarterbacks in NFL history have more such games, and they all started at least 245 games in their careers.

This is what happens when you set the standard so high as Mahomes has.

Mahomes is already the fourth quarterback in NFL history to win multiple Super Bowls and multiple MVP awards, and he only needed 6 seasons to do it, and that includes a rookie season in 2017 where he only started the last game. Joe Montana (12 seasons), Tom Brady (11 seasons), and Peyton Manning (18 seasons) all needed a lot more time to achieve all those accolades in bulk like Mahomes already has.

Guess who is currently favored to return to the Super Bowl for the AFC this year? The Chiefs are +220 at FanDuel. Mahomes (+340) is also right on the heels of Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (+330 at FanDuel) as the favorite to win his third MVP award this season.

There is no doubt Mahomes has the best 100-game start to a career by a quarterback, but did he just complete the best 100-game stretch of quarterback play in NFL history?

We look at Mahomes’ unique place in history after 100 games, and if he can add to his trophy case this season.

Note: Unless specified, the following statistics will include playoff games for all quarterbacks. AAFC is not officially recognized by NFL statistics, so there will be no Otto Graham mentions here.

Mahomes: Elite Winner

There are a lot of great stats to show how dominant Mahomes has been, but yes, let’s start by showing that his play wins games at an incredibly high rate. It is rare for the NFL’s best statistical quarterback to also be the game’s biggest winner at the same time, but Mahomes has pulled that off.

Mahomes is 80-20 (.800) in his first 100 starts, giving him the highest winning percentage by a quarterback in NFL history (min. 100 starts). The only other quarterbacks to win 70% of their career starts (min. 100 starts) are Tom Brady (286-95, .751), Roger Staubach (96-35, .733), and Joe Montana (133-54, .711).

But has anyone else ever won 80 out of 100 starts? As it turns out, only Brady (82-18) and Manning (80-20) have pulled this off before in the 2000s. Here is how Mahomes stacks up statistically to those runs:

  • Patrick Mahomes, 2017-2023 Chiefs (80-20 record): 66.6% complete, 29,918 yards, 8.0 YPA, 238 TD, 61 INT, 105.3 PR, 7.93 ANY/A, 53.2% passing success rate
  • Tom Brady, 2003-2009 Patriots (82-18 record): 63.5% complete, 25,197 yards, 7.5 YPA, 190 TD, 70 INT, 96.4 PR, 7.07 ANY/A, 50.4% passing success rate
  • Peyton Manning, 2004-2009 Colts (80-20 record): 66.8% complete, 26,904 yards, 8.0 YPA, 201 TD, 76 INT, 101.6 PR, 7.75 ANY/A, 54.8% passing success rate

Manning actually had 5 losses where he came out of the game early for playoff rest, so he could have easily had the best record without that, but he also has one Super Bowl win compared to two each for Brady and Mahomes in these stretches. Brady had the best record with the worst stats but also the most help on defense. In fact, even when accounting for the era, Mahomes more than holds his own here:

  • The Patriots averaged 27.0 points per game and allowed 16.8 points per game.
  • The Colts averaged 27.4 points per game and allowed 18.7 points per game.
  • The Chiefs averaged 30.1 points per game and allowed 22.0 points per game.

Winning 80% of your games while allowing 22 points per game is crazy stuff. But Mahomes brings a lot to the table.

  • Mahomes is 31-10 (.756) when the Chiefs do not score first in a game. The rest of the NFL since 2018 is 532-855-7 (.384) when not scoring first.
  • Mahomes is 13-13 (.500) when the Chiefs allow more than 28 points. The rest of the NFL since 2018 is 131-662-2 (.166) when allowing more than 28 points.
  • Mahomes is 15-10 (.600) when the Chiefs trail at halftime. The rest of the NFL since 2018 is 283-1038-5 (.215) when trailing at halftime.
  • Mahomes is 19-16 (.543) at game-winning drive opportunities in the fourth quarter and overtime. Only Tom Brady (73-55, .570) is known to have a higher winning percentage in NFL history.

Mahomes is also 11-3 in the postseason where he has already made his mark with historic wins:

  • In 2019, Mahomes became the first quarterback to lead 3 consecutive double-digit rallies to still win each playoff game by 10-plus points, including a 24-point comeback against Houston where the Chiefs won by 20 points. It was the first time in NFL history a team trailed by 20 points in the first half and led at halftime. It was the first time in NFL playoff history that a team trailed by 20 and won by 20 points.
  • Against Pittsburgh in the 2021 wild card game, Mahomes threw 5 touchdown passes in a span of 11 minutes and 31 seconds, the fastest in playoff history.
  • Against Buffalo in the 2021 divisional round, Mahomes led the NFL’s only clutch field goal drive of 40-plus yards that started in the final 15 seconds in any game since 1981.
  • Mahomes is the only quarterback to win a Super Bowl after his team allowed 25 points per game in the postseason, and he’s already done it twice. The 2019 Chiefs and 2022 Chiefs both allowed 75 points in the playoffs on their way to winning both Super Bowls. The 35 points scored by the Eagles in last February’s Super Bowl were the most ever by a losing team in the Super Bowl.
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Mahomes: A Competitive Edge Like No Other

Perhaps more than winning, the hallmark of these Chiefs are that they are never out of games with Mahomes at quarterback.

In 100 starts, Mahomes has only lost by more than 8 points in 3-of-100 games: Super Bowl 55 in Tampa Bay (31-9), 2021 Bills (38-20), and at 2021 Titans (27-3). Those are the only games where Mahomes was unable to get the Chiefs within one possession in the fourth quarter. He made 53 starts before suffering his first loss by more than 8 points, which is also easily a record for any quarterback’s stretch of games in NFL history.

The Chiefs are currently on an active streak of 39 straight games without losing by more than 4 points, which is another NFL record. The previous longest streak was 34 games by the 1940-42 Bears and 1965-67 Packers.

The 2022 Chiefs are the 9th team since 1978 to have a lead in the fourth quarter or overtime in every game in the regular season, and thanks to the 17-game season, they are the first team ever to have 20 fourth-quarter leads in one season.

To beat Mahomes, you basically have to stop him on the last drive of the game, or even better, deny him getting the ball one last time. The Chiefs have led in the fourth quarter in 13 of their 20 losses with Mahomes, which is a high rate.

In fact, comparing Mahomes to the top 5 quarterbacks from the 21st century’s golden era of passers, he comes out looking like the toughest player to beat:

Note: The number of games for Mahomes is 98 and the other quarterbacks also have numbers differing from their career totals as this excludes games where the quarterback left early for injury or resting for playoffs. It also excludes games if the quarterback came off the bench in the fourth quarter as a reserve. For Mahomes, the excluded games are 2019 Denver (dislocated kneecap in the second quarter) and 2020 divisional round playoffs vs. Browns (left early third quarter with injury and Chad Henne finished game).

Mahomes has the best winning percentage, the highest rate of games won or his team led in the fourth quarter/overtime (92.9%), the highest rate of games that were wins or close in the fourth quarter/overtime (96.9%), the highest rate of games where his team blew a late lead (13.3%), and by far the lowest rate of big losses where he was never within one score with the ball in the fourth quarter (3.1%).

Mahomes’ ratio of blown 4Q/OT leads to big losses is an absurd 4.3, meaning for every game he loses big, he has 4.3 games where his team blew a late lead. Brady has the worst ratio (0.62) and the other quarterbacks are also under 1.0 with Aaron Rodgers (0.93) edging out Ben Roethlisberger (0.90), Manning (0.87), and Drew Brees (0.85).

What Mahomes has achieved with defenses that ranked 28th, 12th, 13th, 19th, and 21st in points per drive allowed is nothing short of remarkable. Now that the Chiefs are playing great defense in 2023, he has a chance to continue these competitive streaks while the young wide receivers develop with him.

But even in defeat, Mahomes shines in a way other quarterbacks do not. In 20 career losses, Mahomes still led the Chiefs to 25.5 points per game. His 93.6 passer rating and 7.6 yards per attempt in losses are the second-highest in NFL history behind only Deshaun Watson. Mahomes’ 48.7% passing success rate is the highest in losses since 1994 according to Pro Football Reference.

Mahomes is the first quarterback in NFL history to score 50 points and lose a game in that epic 54-51 game against the 2018 Rams. Mahomes is 60-4 when the Chiefs allow fewer than 27 points. If you are going to beat him, you better come prepared to score a lot of points.

Mahomes: Conventionally Great

You do not need intimate knowledge of these 100 games to know that Mahomes is crushing the leaderboards in passing efficiency for his career as well as winning at a high rate.

  • Mahomes’ 105.3 passer rating in the regular season is the highest in NFL history (min. 1,500 attempts).
  • Mahomes’ 107.4 passer rating in the postseason is the highest in NFL history (min. 150 attempts).
  • In 2022, Mahomes became the first quarterback in NFL history to lead the league in passing yards (5,250) and win the Super Bowl in the same season.
  • Mahomes (300.4) is the only quarterback to average over 300 yards passing per game for his career.
  • Mahomes has the highest adjusted net yards per pass attempt (7.96), which takes interceptions and sacks into account, in NFL history.
  • Mahomes has the highest touchdown pass rate (6.3%) of any quarterback to start his career in the Super Bowl era.
  • Mahomes is the only quarterback to rank in the top 5 in both lowest sack rate (3.8%) and lowest interception rate (1.7%).
  • Mahomes (8.03) is the only quarterback to average over 8.0 yards per attempt on at least 3,000 career pass attempts.
  • Mahomes has the highest passing success rate (53.2%) since 1994, including playoff games. The success rate is for passes that gain at least 40% of needed yards on first down, 60% on second down, and 100% on third or fourth down (source: Pro Football Reference).

Mahomes: The Best QB in His Twenties in NFL History

Mahomes turned 28 last month, so he still has this season and 2024 to finish out his 20s. But if you look at stats for quarterbacks before they turn 30, he is showing why he is on pace to shatter records across the board. Remember, he should add to these numbers:

  • Most games with 3 touchdown passes before turning 30: Dan Marino (46), Patrick Mahomes (45), and Peyton Manning (40).
  • Most games with 4 touchdown passes before turning 30: Patrick Mahomes (18), Dan Marino (17), and Peyton Manning (15).
  • Most 300-yard passing games before turning 30: Patrick Mahomes (48), Dan Marino (41), and Matthew Stafford (41).
  • Most 400-yard passing games before turning 30: Dan Marino (11), Patrick Mahomes (10), and Dak Prescott (9).
  • Most games with a 100+ passer rating before turning 30 (min. 20 attempts): Patrick Mahomes (58), Aaron Rodgers (56), and Russell Wilson (54).
  • Most games with a 50% passing success rate before turning 30 (min. 20 attempts): Patrick Mahomes (66), Peyton Manning (56), and Dak Prescott (55).

This season, Mahomes became the fastest player to 25,000 passing yards, doing it in his 83rd regular season game. Mahomes has the most passing yards ever through 92 games (25,834) and he has only played in 86 games.

Also, this season Mahomes became the fastest player to 200 touchdown passes, doing it in his 84th regular season game. Mahomes is tied with Marino for the most passing touchdowns ever through 91 games. Again, he has only played in 86 games, so he is on pace to wipe Marino and the other legends off these game-by-game leaderboards.

We haven’t even mentioned that Mahomes is an efficient runner who has ranked in the top 5 in rushing EPA at ESPN in each season since 2019. Mahomes has 2,115 rushing yards and 17 rushing touchdowns (5 in the playoffs) in his 100 games, giving him more value there than what the likes of Montana, Manning, Brees, and Brady did rushing in their whole careers. It was Mahomes’ legs, even with a high-ankle sprain, that provided the crucial scrambles on his game-winning drives against the Bengals and Eagles in last year’s championship games.

Is Mahomes the Best to Ever Do It?

Now 100 starts into his career, Mahomes obviously has a long way to go to sway more people into thinking he’s the best to ever play, but he’s certainly put up a better argument right out of the gate than any quarterback before him.

The problem with those quarterbacks who dominate right away is that they always seem to peak early.

It happened to Johnny Unitas with the Colts. After he won back-to-back titles in 1958-59 and usually led the league in touchdown passes and yards, he hit a 4-year speedbump when the Colts were only 29-25 in his starts.

Dan Marino had an excellent rookie season in 1983 and an all-time great season in 1984 when he threw for 5,084 yards and 48 touchdown passes in leading the Dolphins to his only Super Bowl. But by 1988, the success slowed down with winning games and throwing for a ton of yards and touchdowns.

Kurt Warner won his second MVP for the Rams in 2001 and things were never the same again after they lost a Super Bowl to the Patriots. By 2003, he lost his job in St. Louis to Marc Bulger, then lost his job in 2004 to Eli Manning with the Giants, then lost his job in Arizona to Matt Leinart before rallying again to reach a Super Bowl and secure his Hall of Fame bust.

There will come a time, perhaps sooner than later, when Mahomes will have to make do without Travis Kelce (34 years old) as his favorite receiver and without Andy Reid as his head coach. How Mahomes handles those changes will help define his legacy and place in history.

But after 100 starts, it is hard to say anyone has ever played the position better than this, especially when you give him more credit for it being the first 100 starts of his career. Quarterback is a position where one usually needs time to reach their peak, and everyone from Montana (1989) to Manning (2006) to Brady (2007) can say they didn’t really peak until a point later than where Mahomes is in his 7th season in the NFL.

But when you look at what Mahomes has done, it is hard to find anyone who had a better stretch of quarterback play without cheating by adding more years to their run that Mahomes has not had to match yet.

For someone like Montana, his statistical peak came in 1987-90, but that includes a terrible playoff loss to the 1987 Vikings, a 1988 season where he nearly lost his job to Steve Young, and major injuries to his back and elbow that bookended that 4-year run before he missed 1991 and 1992 save for one game.

Manning’s peak in Indianapolis (2003-09) may be the only one that can give Mahomes a good run from a standpoint of statistics and carrying a team, but Mahomes had more playoff success. The same can be said of Rodgers in Green Bay (2009-14), where the playoffs were a disappointment outside of 2010, and Rodgers also had that front-runner mentality and did not deliver all the clutch wins that you get with Mahomes.

For Brady, his statistical peak was 2007-12, but that includes a 2008 season where he tore his ACL in the first quarter of Week 1. He also went ringless and could not stack back-to-back quality playoff games during that entire run.

Mahomes could be a modern-day unicorn at quarterback who unites everyone from casual fans to film watchers to ring counters to stat nerds to fantasy geeks. If you want someone who is consistent and prolific in stats, highly efficient, a winner in the regular season and playoffs, a great highlight reel, fun to watch, and someone who can carry a team, then Mahomes is the only choice to satisfy all of those things.

He may be the only one who ever has done all of that, and he’s only 100 starts into his career. Here’s to a few hundred more if we’re lucky.

Is Mahomes Going to Earn More Hardware in 2023?

Love him or hate him, Mahomes is someone the NFL desperately needs right now to be great. In a sea of inexperienced quarterbacks, Mahomes needs to stand out in a 2023 season that is on pace to be the lowest scoring since 2009.

We might see Tyson Bagent start a game this week for the Bears with Justin Fields injured. We just watched P.J. Walker start for Cleveland in a win over the 49ers, the only team with higher Super Bowl odds than the Chiefs.

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But Week 6 was a great example of why you can’t discount the Chiefs repeating or Mahomes winning his third MVP. The league is just filled with mediocrity, injuries, and randomness right now.

  • Jalen Hurts, last year’s MVP runner-up to Mahomes, found a way to throw 3 interceptions and blow a game for the Eagles against the Jets.
  • Brock Purdy finally had his first legitimate loss in the NFL after his worst game yet in Cleveland.
  • Justin Herbert, Mahomes’ next opponent, just played one of the worst games of his career in prime time in a loss to Dallas on Monday night, and the Chargers are quickly becoming an afterthought at 2-3.
  • Has Lamar Jackson been back in 2019 MVP form in running Todd Monken’s new offense? Not quite.
  • Has Trevor Lawrence taken the next step in Jacksonville now that he has Calvin Ridley? Nope.
  • So much for Joe Burrow just needing Orlando Brown Jr. at left tackle to get better in Cincinnati.
  • Aaron Rodgers lasted 4 snaps for the Jets before he tore his Achilles, so that team is cursed from ever having a real quarterback to not waste that defense that made Josh Allen turn it over 4 times opening night and even gave Mahomes some trouble.

But while Jets coach Robert Saleh gloated this week about how bad his defense has made quarterbacks look, did he forget that Mahomes still won that game 23-20 on the road, and he even stopped himself short of the end zone at the end to run out the clock? That was an uneven game for Mahomes, but he still prevailed and was knocking on the doorstep of a 30-point night.

That’s why he is still right up there in the MVP odds even if he probably wouldn’t come close to winning it if they held the vote today. It comes down to trust, and who do you trust more to play at a high level for the course of a full season? Mahomes or Brock Purdy? Mahomes or Tua Tagovailoa?

Mahomes or anybody?

While the Chiefs are off to their lowest-scoring start in the Mahomes era (24.5 points per game), the team is 5-1 and Mahomes ranks No. 5 in QBR (72.3) thanks to the lowest sack rate (2.6%) in the league as no one does a better job of not turning pressures into sacks.

The Chiefs lost on opening night to Detroit, but anyone with eyes could have seen that Kadarius Toney cost his team more than anyone with Travis Kelce out. Toney turned a catch into a pick-six for Detroit, then he dropped a pass that would have set up the Chiefs in go-ahead field goal range in a 21-20 loss.

Since Kelce returned in Week 2, he has remained the best target by far for Mahomes, who is trying to make things work with Skyy Moore and Toney after the Chiefs did not retain wide receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman from last year. If Kelce gets injured, and there was a scare in Minnesota when he went down without contact, then this offense might be screwed.

But rookie Rashee Rice has shown promise. Mahomes is 19-of-25 for 225 yards and 2 touchdowns when targeting Rice this year. He may have to step up as the new No. 1 wide receiver here.

The Chiefs play the Chargers this week, and it is usually a grind against Herbert, but the Chiefs usually win those games in the fourth quarter (or overtime). After that, it’s an attempt to win a 17th game in a row against Denver, then Week 9 has the monster game in Germany against Miami.

That game with the Dolphins will be a huge litmus test for both teams. Can the Dolphins beat the champs, or are they a paper tiger with a bad defense? Can the Chiefs keep up with an elite offense, is their defense really this good, or does Tyreek Hill make his case for MVP as he pursues the first 2,000-yard receiving season?

We’ll let the hype build-up for that game, but it is a big one, and it can determine everything from the No. 1 seed to who wins MVP and the Super Bowl.

If the Dolphins and Tua win that game, then expect the Super Bowl and MVP odds to go in their favor over Mahomes and the Chiefs. But that’s fine. With big games left against the Eagles and Bills, there will still be opportunities for Mahomes and the Chiefs to shine and reclaim their place at the top.

Remember, this team lost last year to the Bills and Bengals in the regular season and still achieved everything it wanted to in the end. This year’s road looks a little tougher with the offense not firing on every cylinder, but if the defense is playing better, you have to expect Andy Reid and Mahomes will get this thing figured out in time.

After Week 6, no one in the NFL looks ready to run away with things this year. The season is a grind and a war of attrition. The Chiefs got through to the end last year with many rookies on defense and Mahomes on a high-ankle sprain. Every year presents its own little unique challenges, and this year will be no different.

But if you had to bet who will be left standing at the end, how do you go against Mahomes and the Chiefs? His floor has been 12 wins and hosted the AFC Championship Game every year since 2018.

By the way, Mahomes is 8-1-1 ATS and 7-3 SU as an underdog in his career. Bet against him at your own risk. If he hasn’t peaked early, he may just be the greatest to ever play the position.