As I get older, I sometimes find myself looking back at Weymouth South High School Jerry and wonder how he'd perceive the world that Old Balls Jerry finds himself living in. I'm sure he'd appreciate that the clothes and hair are much, much better than what he and his clueless buddies sported on Prom Night. The music isn't nearly as good but TV is a thousand times better. Gaming systems have infinitely higher quality but still somehow aren't as much fun as the games he played at the arcade every Saturday. And he'd appreciate every team in Boston is capable of a winning championship and not just the Celtics.
But one thing Wildcat Jerry would not be able to wrap his massively-haired brain around is that the whole culture would be taken over by those two pages in his yearbook, The Superlatives. Back then, being the "Best" or "Most Likely To," actually meant something. Superlatives were just that; they meant you were elite. Rose you above the maddening crowd. Made you stand out and celebrated your superiority over everyone else.
We don't live in that world any more. It's a world of clickbait headlines where everything has to be the Best There Ever Was, the phrase "of all time" simply means "in recent memory" and everything is either "great" or "terrible," with all the gradations in the vast difference between them now eliminated.
Which brings me to this Bill Barnwell piece on ESPN, listing which players on which NFL team are future Hall of Famers. And make no mistake, by "future," he means "once they're eligible," not that they project as Canton material if they keep on their current career trajectory a while longer. In Barnwell's words:
[I]nstead of trying to project their chances by guessing what they'll do in the future, I'm looking at what they've done so far, comparing them to players at similar points in their careers, and seeing how often players with those sorts of careers made it into the Hall of Fame. ...
Most importantly: This is my opinion of who is likely to get in given current résumés, not who belongs in. ...
Kansas City Chiefs
Lock (100%): QB Patrick Mahomes. I addressed this in my MVP column in July. Mahomes' résumé -- a league MVP and Super Bowl MVP -- is usually enough to get a player into the Hall of Fame, let alone doing it over two seasons as a starter.
From the column he refers to:
Let me be clear: I'm not saying Mahomes is on track to become a Hall of Famer. I'm saying Mahomes already has the résumé he needs to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame right now. Despite the fact that he's 24 and everyone else in this group is 36 or older, he fits alongside this group of legends. Why?
The list of players who have won the AP MVP award and a Super Bowl MVP isn't long: Brady, Rodgers, Mahomes, Peyton Manning, Joe Montana, Bart Starr, Terry Bradshaw, Marcus Allen, John Elway, Steve Young, Emmitt Smith, Terrell Davis and Kurt Warner are the only ones in that club. All nine of the eligible players on this list are in the Hall of Fame, and Brady, Rodgers and Manning are obvious locks. The only other player on the list is Mahomes, who has one of the greatest passing seasons in league history (2018) on his résumé. If Mahomes decided tomorrow to forgo his contract and retire to become a professional beer pong hustler, he has already done enough to make it into the Hall of Fame.
And there is the Superlative World of the 2020s in microcosm. Patrick Mahomes can't just be considered the best player in the game right now - which, just so we're clear, I do - he has to be a Hall of Famer. Right now. Today. Without taking another snap. The Patrick Mahomes who has 31 career starts and fewer passing yards than Brian Hoyer, can announce his retirement today and head straight to the sculptor's studio to pose for his bronze bust.
The Patrick Mahomes with these all time rankings:
- Completions - 207th
- Passing Yards - 202nd
- Passing TDs - 167th (tied with Vince Ferragamo and Marcus Mariota)
Again, to be clear, Mahomes is a legitimately great quarterback, in the true sense of the word. There's not a man, woman or child among us who doesn't look forward to watching him. But to steal one of Bill Parcell's go-to lines, "Let's not put him in Canton just yet." I mean, you'd have to be certifiable to bet against him. But it's even more insane to suggest he's done all he needs to do to get in after 24 career wins.
By this logic, everyone who puts together two very good seasons gets into their Hall. Like Roger Maris, who won back-to-back MVPs and hit 61 homers in the second (before the world hated him for not being Babe Ruth or Mickey Mantle and it destroyed him.) And hell, he went to seven All Star games and won three titles. I'm not claiming baseball always gets it right. I'd much rather a HoF be about who impacted the game over who just stuck around forever and hit certain milestones. But if you start making the case that two full seasons or a league MVP and a finals MVP gets a guy in, every Hall of Fame is going to have to start adding a dozen extra floors.
And not to make it about the Patriots, but just to make it about the Patriots, Canton had better start breaking ground on the Tom Brady Wing, since he's already had at least six of Mahomes' careers. And just to bring it back to how Superlative World has come along in just the past decade or so, there were people arguing he wasn't Hall of Fame material as late as 2006. Despite the fact he'd already won three rings, two Super Bowl MVPs, was NFL MVP runner up twice, and over his career was second in touchdown passes and third in yards and completions. Yet no one was saying young Brady could astral project back to his homeworld and still be an automatic first ballot electee into the Hall. Because way back in the annals of that time in history, we expected you to have an actual career before we decided to put you among the immortals.
Still, that's what you've got to do now, I guess. It's all about superlatives, but it's more about clickbait, even through irrational arguments. And in that respect, I hope I helped. ESPN needs all the boost it can get.