MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — That might as well have been a torch that Roger Goodell passed to the Kansas City Chiefs.
The last part of the NFL’s first century was defined by Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. The first part of the second century will belong to Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs.
“Obviously I’ve had a good start to my career,” said Mahomes, who now has a Super Bowl MVP to go with his regular-season honor from last year, all before he celebrates his 25th birthday. “I know it’s going to take a long time of consistency if I’m going to be where I want to be at the end.
“I think we just take it one year at a time, one day at a time, and try to put together great years. And then, at the end of it all, we’ll have no regrets on where we are at.”
Plenty of teams win Super Bowls. Almost two-thirds of the league since the game was first played in 1967, in fact. But to win multiple titles is a different feat altogether. And to do it in a relatively short span of time, well, there is a word for special teams that can do that.
It might not be fair to place the burden of that expectation on the Chiefs now, when they are still picking the confetti off their jerseys from their 31-20 victory over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday night and letting the magnitude of their first Super Bowl title in 50 years sink in.
The vagaries of free agency and injuries are such that no team remains the same from year to year, maybe not even from the start of a year to its end. There are no gimmes and there are certainly no guarantees.
But this is a special team, and Mahomes is a special player.
You do not erase a 24-point deficit in a playoff game in less than a quarter, as Mahomes did in the divisional round against the Houston Texans, if you are not. You do not score 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter of a Super Bowl, when you had shown all the life of road kill the previous quarter, if you are not.
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And if you can do these things, and have a solid core around you, you have the chance to do it again. And again. And again.
“This team has everything we need,” said Sammy Watkins, whose 38-yard reception set up Kansas City’s second touchdown in the fourth quarter.
“We didn’t say one championship,” he added. “The sky’s the limit. Why not do it again?”
Why not indeed?
Brady has said he intends to keep playing, and the warm-and-fuzzy photo he posted of “Pats Nation” – him, coach Bill Belichick, Rob Gronkowski, Randy Moss and Adam Vinatieri during the NFL 100 celebration – might have given a hint of where it will be next year. There’s nothing to indicate Drew Brees won’t be back, too.
Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson – both still have several good years left in them.
But they are all the NFL’s past. Mahomes is its future, and it is a very bright one indeed.
“It’s not all Pat, he’ll be the first to tell you that,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “But he’s a good place to start.”
What separates the good teams from the great is a shared vision, a similar mindset that refuses to allow anyone to rest on their accomplishments or settle for second-best. It is hard to maintain that year in and year out, especially once a team has had success.
More importantly, it’s a relentless desire to win, unable to be satisfied regardless of how many titles have been won.
The Patriots have been an outlier, as committed to winning now as they were when Brady and Belichick were just getting started. But the Chiefs of showing that same kind of intensity.
“Two, three, four – we’re going to build a dynasty here,” defensive tackle Chris Jones said. “To see that confetti fall – but this ain’t the only time. Kansas City, we’re fixing to build something special here.”
It starts with Mahomes, of course.
Kansas City knew it was getting something special in Mahomes, his skills unlike anything really ever seen before. There are the no-look passes, and arm angles that would make his father, a former Major League Baseball pitcher, proud. There is his catlike ability to escape trouble, and his ability to see a play develop before it happens.
And there is his attitude, one that has rubbed off on his teammates, whether they play alongside him on the offense or on the other side of the ball.
The Chiefs are so much more than Mahomes, however. Reid praised general manager Brett Veach for the roster he built, and the stability that gives Kansas City going forward. Jones and cornerback Bashaud Breeland are free agents, and Kansas City will have a decision to make on Watkins and his monster contract.
But the core – Travis Kelce, Damien Williams, Tyreek Hill, Tyrann Mathieu and Frank Clark – will be with Kansas City for the foreseeable future.
“The dynasty is just starting,” Kelce said. “We’re motivated to do it again. For sure.”
It might not be next year. Even the Patriots haven’t made the Super Bowl every year. But rest assured that if the Chiefs are not in Tampa Bay, they will be in Los Angeles. Or Phoenix. Or New Orleans. More likely, they’ll be in several of those places.
Because as much as Mahomes and the Chiefs were built for this moment, they’re built for more.
They’re built to be a dynasty.
Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.