By Amy Tennery
MIAMI (Reuters) – With one day to go until Super Bowl LIV, it is safe to say quarterbacks Jimmy Garoppolo and Patrick Mahomes have had very different weeks.
For the Kansas City Chiefs’ 24-year-old phenom Mahomes, the media-saturated days in Miami ahead of Sunday’s big game were a virtual coronation, with NFL insiders pawing over his 2019 stats as they speculated about whether he could become the league’s next superstar.
Those in Garoppolo’s camp, meanwhile, worked to quiet doubts over his ability, even after he led his team to the Super Bowl, with critics pointing to his relative lack of throwing yards, especially in the postseason.
The 28-year-old completed six of just eight attempts for 77 yards in the Niners NFC Championship game against the Packers, marking the fewest number of pass attempts in conference championship history. It was his team’s widely lauded run game that did the talking.
Asked if he spent time reassuring Garoppolo, particularly during the postseason, head coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters, “not at all.”
“It’s really funny that people say that – does anyone notice how good we were running the ball? We weren’t just running it to punt and try to win three-to-zero,” said Shanahan. “Jimmy should never apologize for us running the ball too well.”
As teammate and cornerback Richard Sherman put it: “Every day they find something new to criticize Jimmy about.”
A year after falling short in the AFC title game, Mahomes rolled into South Beach this year as the league’s highest-rated passer, with a more-than 65-percent completion percentage for the year and few doubts to dispel.
“Patrick Mahomes anywhere in the NFL is good for me,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told reporters this week. “I’m proud to have him as a Kansas City Chief. I would guess there are 31 other teams that wouldn’t mind having him either.
“The reality is he’s just made us better.”
The pair are part of a younger crop of quarterbacks who have slowly and steadily asserted themselves this season as some from the old guard, including recent retiree Eli Manning of the New York Giants, saw their share of the spotlight erode.
“Eighty percent of the games in 2019 featured at least one starting quarterback under the age of 27, the most in our history,” Goodell told reporters.
Sure, 28-year-old Garoppolo is one year removed from that statistic, but the sight of Tom Brady’s one-time backup in Miami while the six-time Super Bowl champion sits at home is enough to make any long-time NFL fan wonder if change is afoot.
“It’s just great to see the competition of quarterbacks,” former New England tight end Rob Gronkowski told Reuters. “Not just have passes anymore but having these dual-threat quarterbacks that are young come in and be able to run and pass, you know, it’s amazing to see and it’s great for the NFL.”
The Chiefs and the 49ers face off in Super Bowl 54 on Sunday.
(Reporting By Amy Tennery; Editing by Daniel Wallis)