If new Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow wants to follow in Patrick Mahomes’ footsteps, he’ll need to reach incredible heights to nab a contract of that size.
It’s difficult to imagine a quarterback who has yet to take a single snap in his professional career, or even step inside the facility of the franchise he’ll be playing for, landing a contract in the same stratosphere as the one Patrick Mahomes just signed. Yet, after a historical season from Joe Burrow last year, the talent he put on display as he left fans with their jaws on the floor almost demands a discussion of the topic.
Now, nobody should expect Burrow to reach the same heights as Mahomes has. After all, the Chief’s superstar has set a pace that has never been seen before– SuperBowl MVP, league MVP, 50 touchdowns in a single season, and much more, all before his rookie contract was set to expire.
But once upon a time, Kansas City was being bashed for taking Mahomes in the first round of the draft. Labeled a “project quarterback” by some, you would have been hard-pressed to find any individual willing to predict he’d nab a contract worth over half a billion dollars.
Fast forward to today and you won’t find any talking head claiming Burrow will be the next to land a mammoth contract. It seems unfathomable for any young player to command such a payday–until they step on the field and do it.
What would Joe Burrow have to accomplish to follow in Mahomes’ footsteps?
Initially, it seems like Burrow would have to hit the ground running and set the league on fire from day one in order to ever keep pace with Mahomes. That couldn’t be further from the truth. For Mahomes, before the glory and no-look, physics-defying touchdown passes, he was on the sideline, watching Alex Smith.
That’s right, the legendary Patrick Mahomes racked up a grand total of 284 passing yards in his first year playing in the NFL and he didn’t even throw a touchdown pass. In fact, he threw an interception.
This bodes well for Burrow, who is facing incredibly unusual circumstances as he begins his foray into the league. He’s unable to build chemistry with his new receivers, being forced to learn the new system over a computer screen, and encountering a number of other obstacles. Thankfully, if these issues result in a slow start for the LSU product, it doesn’t disqualify him from following Mahomes’ path.
So, year one, all he technically has to do is weather the storm, learn the playbook, and build the foundation for the rest of his career.
Year two Burrow will need to pick up the pace
After Mahomes spent his rookie campaign on the bench, what did he do? Threw for over 5,000 yards on 66% completion for 50 touchdowns, nearly beating the single-season record.
Putting up similar numbers is a daunting task for a young signal-caller to face but Burrow is no stranger to stuffing the stat sheet. In his Heisman-winning season, he found the end zone 60 times through the air, breaking the college football record for most touchdowns passes in a single season.
Of course, accomplishing such a feat is an entirely different animal when it comes to the NFL but at the very least, we know Burrow has the talent to break records.
It’s not just in Burrow’s hands
To the casual bystander, it seems that Patrick Mahomes lifted the Kansas City Chiefs out of quarterback purgatory and carried them to a championship. However, the organization did a great job of surrounding him with talent to help him reach the level of success we’ve witnessed. Some of that is Mahomes raising the level of play of those around him, but a portion of it is just solid work from the front office.
Mahomes is accompanied by the likes of Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, and a solid offensive line, headlined by Mitchell Schwartz. Burrow, on the other hand, has pass catchers on the level that the Chiefs do, but Cincinnati doesn’t boast the strength in the trenches that Kansas City does.
A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, Joe Mixon, and others are all more than capable of supporting a quarterback to the point that he could become a top tier signal-caller. But, the Bengals will either need the current offensive lineman they have to take a big leap in development or to acquire additional talent in the upcoming offseasons.
They don’t need a top-five offensive line. If Burrow is to reach Mahomes level it will require him to work some magic and make plays in the face of extreme pressure, but Cincy does need to field a line that is capable of keeping Burrow healthy.
A championship seals it
Let’s say Burrow checks the boxes of the aforementioned to-do list. The final mountain he’ll need to climb is one whose summit has never been reached.
The 23-year-old gunslinger will need to bring the playoff rains to Cincinnati, ending the drought that has lasted for nearly three decades. While securing that ever-elusive postseason victory would be enough for the orange and black faithful to crown him as the savior of the franchise, he’ll need to take it a step further to demand a contract the size of Mahomes’.
He’ll need to carry the Bengals to a SuperBowl and win it.
Can Joe Burrow really do it?
After going down a trail of what-ifs and best-case scenarios, it’s time to come back to reality. The simple truth is, Burrow is in the basement of his childhood home and he’s yet to gain a single yard in the NFL.
It’s unfair and unrealistic to put such lofty expectations on the Bengals’ new face of the franchise. Cincinnati’s coaching staff, wisely, isn’t putting such heavy burdens on Burrow’s shoulders. While speaking with Bengals.com Senior Writer Geoff Hobson, offensive coordinator Brian Callahan had this to say,
“…if we can get the best version of him, that’s all that matters…. All these players are so different. It’s our job to find things he does well enough, showcase that and it’s the job of the guys around to help him by doing what they do best. I want Joe Burrow to be himself. Do what he does best and be himself authentically as a person and I think you’ll get all that from him.”
Does Joe Burrow have the talent and potential to be the next in line to get a contract worth hundreds of millions? Absolutely. But for now, fans can rest assured that isn’t where his, or the coaching staff’s, focus is. After a 2-14 season, they have a lot to prove. They don’t need Burrow to be the next Patrick Mahomes, they just need him to be himself and take the next step forward.