Patrick Mahomes made history in Super Bowl 54, becoming the youngest player to win both an NFL and Super Bowl MVP award. At just 24 years old and in his second season starting in the league, he led the Kansas City Chiefs to their first Super Bowl victory in 50 years.
Mahomes also represents a changing of the guard, especially in the AFC. In the previous 15 years, the only AFC quarterbacks to win a Lombardi Trophy were Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, and Joe Flacco. All but Flacco repeated as champions. Perhaps Mahomes will be the next quarterback to repeat, or maybe another young guy will get a chance to win his first Super Bowl.
If so, which starting quarterback would be most likely to do just that? Let’s talk through a few candidates who could be the next first-time Super Bowl-winning QB.
I don’t think I was alone in thinking Jackson and the Ravens were primed to go to the Super Bowl this past season. Then the Tennessee Titans played spoiler in the Divisional Round, and ended Baltimore’s season early in the playoffs. The good news for Jackson and the Ravens is he gets pretty much all of his supporting cast back in 2020, including running back Mark Ingram, receiver Marquise Brown, and tight end Mark Andrews, who was Jackson’s favorite target last season.
It might be easy to think opposing defenses now have enough tape on Jackson to slow him down next season. But even when teams like the Cleveland Browns seemed to figure Jackson out, the Ravens made the right adjustments that allowed Jackson to flourish. It’s hard for me to believe that more film on Jackson will help teams all that much, simply because you can’t really consistently gameplan against a talent like Jackson.
And if you’re a fan of coincidences, consider this: During Mahomes’ second season in the NFL and his first as a full-time starter in 2018, he won both the NFL and Pro Bowl Offensive MVP awards. He followed that up with a Super Bowl win the next year. In Jackson’s second season in the NFL but first as a full-time starter in 2019, he won the NFL and Pro Bowl Offensive MVP awards. Jackson could do the same as Mahomes in 2020. — Morgan Moriarty
Garoppolo was drafted all the way back in 2014, so it’s easy to forget 2019 was the first season in which he made more than five starts at quarterback. The former Patriots quarterback may be a 28 years old, but he’s still learning and making adjustments in the face of game-speed NFL defenses. He’s not a finished product yet.
This provides some hope he can overcome the brain farts that led to some baffling interceptions throughout the year and the missed opportunities that prevented the Niners from holding off the Chiefs in the Super Bowl.
Garoppolo had a good, if overlooked, 2019. While the 49ers’ potent running game took some of the pressure from his shoulders, he still managed to post a 102.0 passer rating (eighth best in the NFL). A little extra receiving help could help him capitalize on what’s been a solid deep-ball passing game as well.
There are plenty of reasons to believe the Niners can make it back to the Super Bowl in 2021, even if history suggests it’ll be a tall task. San Francisco slid through the NFC with little resistance before finally meeting a worthy challenger at the Super Bowl, and many of the biggest names from that team — George Kittle, Nick Bosa, Richard Sherman — will return hungrier than ever before.
More importantly, Garoppolo has the kind of defense behind him that can prop him up when he’s imperfect. Even if he’s done growing, he proved he’s only one or two good decisions away from quarterbacking a Super Bowl champion.
*Yes, I know he has two Super Bowl rings as Tom Brady’s backup. But in Handsome James’ case, this would be his first as a starter. — Christian D’Andrea
The biggest thing working against Watson right now is his own team. One of these years, the Texans might just have a rock-solid offensive line and a great defense to support one of the best playmakers at quarterback we’ve ever seen. Probably.
Watson isn’t blameless when it comes to the sheer volume of sacks he takes, but better blocking would help Houston reach the next level. Then again, Houston’s offense is kind of already at that level, thanks to having weapons like DeAndre Hopkins, Duke Johnson, and Will Fuller (when healthy). This past season, the Texans made it all the way to the Divisional Round, where they fell to the eventual Super Bowl champs. They put up 31 points in that game, too.
Where they really struggled was on defense, allowing Mahomes and the Chiefs to hang 51 points on them. But with a new defensive coordinator, a hopefully healthy J.J. Watt, and an entire offseason to fix the pass defense, that side of the ball can improve next year.
And there’s still Watson, who is so good in the clutch. He’s the only quarterback to have double-digit game-winning drives the past two seasons. His particular brand of heroics are made for the big stage, and barring Bill O’Brien screwing everything up, I expect Watson will be the next “first” to hoist a Lombardi Trophy. — James Brady
It’s pretty easy to write off Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns right now.
After a superb rookie season, Mayfield regressed in year two. He threw fewer touchdowns, more interceptions, and his passer rating dropped from 93.7 to 78.8 as the Browns finished the year 6-10.
The offense was supposed to be unstoppable with receiver Odell Beckham Jr. added to the fold. And a defense that acquired defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson and defensive end Olivier Vernon should’ve been damn good too. Instead, the 2019 Browns were defined by drama and dysfunction.
So why pick Mayfield now? Because just about everything that made the Browns a trendy Super Bowl pick last year is still true of the team now (except a different head coach to mold the former No. 1 pick). Mayfield is a young quarterback with time to come into his own, and the Browns still have loads of talent on the roster.
What we haven’t yet seen is who Mayfield is when it’s NFL playoff time. Eventually, the Browns will get back there again and Mayfield will help them do it. When he does, I’m inclined to believe his sometimes-bordering-on-obnoxious moxie would serve him well in January and February games. — Adam Stites
Do you agree with one of our choices, or do you have another quarterback in mind? Let us know in the comments who you think could be the next quarterback to win his first Super Bowl.
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