Are Kansas City Chiefs newest NFL dynasty?
Ben Morse, CNN | 2/8/2024, 7:16 a.m.
The NFL is no stranger to a dynasty. And there is no better example than the New England Patriots.
Led by head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady, the Patriots sustained a period of success, the likes of which had never previously been seen before.
From 2001 to 2018, New England featured in nine Super Bowls, winning six titles and ensuring that the center of the NFL universe ran through Foxborough, Massachusetts.
Dynasties are built on strong foundations and are not something completed over night. The Patriots’ potential successors could be well on their way to establishing their own solid roots and taking on the mantle as the league’s next great juggernaut.
The Kansas City Chiefs will appear in their fourth Super Bowl in five seasons when they take to the field in Las Vegas on February 11 against the San Francisco 49ers.
Between their iconic quarterbacks, their era-defining head coaches and talismanic tight ends, the comparisons between Kansas City and New England are obvious.
And, like the early era of the Patriots, the Chiefs don’t look like they’re stopping any time soon.
When Bill Belichick joined the Patriots in 2000, the team was in much a similar position as the Chiefs were when Andy Reid took over in 2013; an under-performing franchise lost in the wilderness and looking for leadership.
And they found it in buckets.
Both made key personnel decisions from the outset which revamped their respective teams; Belichick drafted Brady in his first draft while Reid acquired Alex Smith and drafted Travis Kelce in his maiden offseason in Missouri.
Both combined their shrewdness on the margins with their motivational skills and innovative play-calling – Reid on offense and Belichick on defense – which steered their respective teams’ fortunes almost immediately.
The Patriots had won three Super Bowl rings in Belichick’s first five seasons in New England, while Reid had the Chiefs atop the AFC West division within a few years, completely revamping Smith’s career as a quarterback.
Reid’s success comes from getting “his players to buy in,” says Gregg Rosenthal – an NFL analyst and co-host of the award-winning ‘Around the NFL’ podcast – as well as developing a fruitful fraternity of coaches to assist him.
“He develops relationships with his players and he develops coaches. Few coaches have had more assistants succeed over the last 25 years than Andy Reid,” Rosenthal told CNN Sport. “Defensive coaches, offensive coaches, he knows how to develop them.
“And then on top of that, he’s a brilliant play caller. Alex Smith had some success with San Francisco before that, but they were sustained in winning the division year after year and making the playoffs with Andy Reid and having a really excellent offense with Alex Smith.”
But Reid, during those first few years with the Chiefs – and previously during his time as the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles – found that taking the final step and winning a Super Bowl ring was one hurdle too far, despite the winning environment he had fostered.
That all changed on April 27, 2017.
It’s a day that Chicago Bears fans have come to rue and one which altered the fabric of the NFL.
The 2017 NFL Draft was held in Philadelphia. Like many years, teams entered with differing needs, and quarterback was the absolute requirement for many.
The first quarterback-needy team on the board was the Bears, who traded up to the No. 2 overall spot where they picked North Carolina QB Mitchell Trubisky as their selection.
Eight picks later, it was the Chiefs’ turn. To the surprise of many, given Smith’s improvement under Reid, Kansas City selected Patrick Mahomes out of Texas Tech.
Coming out of college, Mahomes was a player whose draft stock varied widely, with the NFL’s Lance Zierlein comparing him to former Bears quarterback Jay Cutler and saying he “will be a work in progress, but he’s a high ceiling, low floor prospect.”
After not featuring for the majority of his rookie season, Mahomes made his long-awaited first career start in the Chiefs’ season-ending game with a playoff spot already secured, leading Kansas City to a 27-24 win.
From that start alone, Rosenthal says he saw things from Mahomes that he’d never seen before in the NFL. “Even off that start, you could tell he was different,” Rosenthal said.
In the offseason, Mahomes was named the team’s starter with Smith traded to Washington. From there, he blossomed into one of the best quarterbacks in the league in just his second year in the NFL.
Although his first year as starter ended in defeat to the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game, Mahomes took center stage, going toe-to-toe with Brady and Belichick before finally being defeated in overtime.
He finished the year with over 5,000 passing yards, going on to be named NFL MVP – the first winner for the Chiefs in franchise history. From that season alone, Rosenthal thought Mahomes was the best player he’d ever seen.
“That first season as a starter, I had been covering the league around 16-17 years at that point, and I just had never seen a quarterback come in his first year as a starter and do that many things well,” he said.
“Make good decisions well, make absolutely insane throws well, be accurate; just the whole package where, right off the bat, he was the best player in the league.”
Like Brady, Mahomes’ game has developed as defenses have tried to limit his output. While the explosive offense may have slowed down, the wins have not.
When Mahomes and Brady’s careers by the age of 28 are stacked against one another, the numbers are similar, with Mahomes edging the future NFL Hall of Famer.
The Chiefs QB has 74 regular season wins and 14 playoff wins, while Brady had 58 regular season victories and 10 playoff wins.
Mahomes has two MVP awards, two Super Bowl wins and two Super Bowl MVPS, while Brady had three Super Bowl titles, two Super Bowl MVPs and no NFL MVP awards.
Despite similarities between the two, Mahomes himself admitted he’s still got a long way to go before he comes even close to matching the level of success Brady had.
“I’ve only won two Super Bowls, so there’s a couple other guys in front of me before I even get close to chasing Tom,” he said ahead of Super Bowl LVIII.
“All you can do is just try to be your best, every single game, every single day. That’s what I try to do is I try to go out there and play my best football and hopefully my best football is good enough to win this third Super Bowl.”
However, while Mahomes is still early on in his career, both have their own positive attributes and prioritize the biggest aspect of the game: winning.
The Belichick-Brady Patriots became renowned not for a particular style of play, but for their propensity for finding a way to win.
And that is a habit the Chiefs seem to have also picked up.
February’s Super Bowl appearance will be the team’s fourth since Mahomes became starter, with two rings already fitting comfortably on the squad’s fingers.
The level of success has brought about the comparisons between the Chiefs and the Patriots. The Patriots went on a run of eight straight AFC Championship Games. Last month’s AFC Championship was the Chiefs’ sixth in a row.
And Rosenthal thinks the comparisons are apt.
“They’re already in this six-year run, which in the NFL is a long time, doing things consistently in a way no other team has other than the Patriots,” he said. “That is what I think was so special about the Patriots.
“Just getting a chance even in your years where you’re maybe not at your best, to me, this year’s Chiefs team, in a lot of ways, reminded me more of the Patriots than ever before because they were resourceful and they won in different ways.
“They did it with defense and winning close games and playing their very best in the playoffs and an offensive line – and they struggled on offense. And it really reminded me of some of those Patriots teams that maybe didn’t even win the Super Bowl, but they got close with teams that really weren’t offensive juggernauts or weren’t at their best in the regular season.”
Like New England, the Chiefs under Reid and general manager Brett Veach have become elite at adapting to situations and fixing problems, all with the aim of winning. This is another echo of those early Patriots teams, according to Rosenthal.
“Early in their run, (the Patriots) were more of a defensive team. The 2004 team was maybe the only truly just dominant, dominant team they ever had,” he said. “But they always kept changing.
“During that whole eight straight AFC Championship run, sometimes, they didn’t have a great defense. Sometimes, they didn’t have a great running game – they won a Super Bowl without a great offense in the Super Bowl the last time – but they always had different parts of their team that they could develop.”
When the Chiefs beat the Ravens and made yet another Super Bowl in January, NFL sportscaster and host Rich Eisen crowned the moment for the franchise.
“We are witnessing the birth of a new NFL dynasty,” Eisen wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Veteran sports broadcaster Bob Costas went one step further, telling CNN’s Gayle King and Charles Barkley that Kansas City has now arguably taken the title of “America’s Team” away from the Dallas Cowboys.
“But now, the Chiefs have been to four of the last five Super Bowls. They have the best quarterback in the game even though there are others who are really good, but he’s exciting, he improvises, he’s charismatic,” Costas said.
“They’ve got him, Andy Reid’s been around a long time – [he] went to the Super Bowl with Philadelphia and now with the Chiefs – they’ve got Travis Kelce and his romance with Taylor Swift, he was a big deal to begin with and now it blows up bigger, plus the State Farm commercials. You don’t have to know a screen pass from a field goal to know something about the Kansas City Chiefs.”
What do the Chiefs themselves think? They say wait and see before anointing them a dynasty.
“I don’t think you can really say that you’re a dynasty until it’s over and people will look back at your career and how you did it,” Mahomes said. “And so for me, it’s just trying to be great every single year. When I look back at my career, I’ll know that I gave everything I had.”
The Chiefs still have a way to go to rival the Patriots’ success. But with Mahomes as quarterback – who Rosenthal still believes he is the best player he’s ever seen and doesn’t “think it’s controversial” – and Reid as head coach, this run might only be the beginning.