"Reputation" is a trending topic this week, but it's not just because it was the purported title of Taylor Swift's next album. Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is thinking about his own reputation in the NFL — specifically, about becoming the league's latest villain.
In 2008's "The Dark Knight", Aaron Eckhart's Harvey Dent famously said, "You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain." That rule often seems to apply to NFL quarterbacks. Sustained success breeds resentment among opposing fanbases, especially those who have watched their teams suffer heartbreaking defeats.
Now, the Chiefs are heading to their fourth Super Bowl in the last five seasons, nearly matching the early postseason successes of New England Patriots dynasty.
Patrick Mahomes and Chiefs take over villain role from Patriots
Earlier this season in "The Fifth Down" column, FanSided highlighted how the Chiefs were set up to succeed the New England Patriots as the next NFL dynasty. Heading into Super Bowl LVIII against San Francisco, the Chiefs are embracing that dynastic burden of becoming the NFL's next villain.
"I can definitely sense it," Mahomes told Darlington. "I never felt like that because I've never been like that in my entire life. But it's become a little bit funny. I don't want to say you enjoy it. I know the Patriots had that for a while. I'm hoping we do it in a different way with a little bit more fun and personality with it. But as long as you keep winning, teams start to not like you, and I want to keep winning. So if that means some of the other teams and other fan bases aren't going to like me, I'll try to still have a smile on my face and not be a bad example, but I can be that villain for them if they need me to be."
Mahomes likely understands what it's like to see another team as the villain. After all, his first postseason loss came at the hands of the New England Patriots dynasty in 2018. Kansas City may want to be seen as a fun and entertaining dynasty, but continued success likely won't make him be considered "fun" by anyone.
With the amount of success New England had, onlookers criticized the franchise's methodology and culture. Yet, no one can argue against the results of the austere culture — and, surely, the Patriots players had plenty of fun winning in their six Super Bowl championship seasons.
Mahomes will spend the rest of his career chasing the records set by Brady and the Patriots. To break many of them, Mahomes will have to maintain his success for much longer than six years. He'll have to adapt to the ebbs and flows that come with a long career. There will be roster turnover, coaching changes, personnel adjustments, new schematic trends, injuries and — the most inevitable of obstacle of all — Father Time.