LAS VEGAS — The Chiefs locker room was enveloped with the spoils of victory — cigar smoke wafting, champagne dripping from the ceiling. Celebrity fans Paul Rudd and Eric Stonestreet posed for pictures and doled out hugs. Patrick Mahomes stood shirtless at his locker, draped in a WWE championship belt, as everyone from the team owner to the general manager to countless teammates came over to celebrate.
But within minutes, Mahomes was already thinking about 2024.
“I’m going to celebrate tonight,” he said after leading the Chiefs to their third Super Bowl title in five years, and second in a row. “I’m going to celebrate at the parade. And then I’m going to do whatever I can to be back in this game next year and try to go for that three-peat.
“I think Tom [Brady] said it best: Once you win that championship and you have those parades and you get those rings, you’re not the champion anymore. We’re going to work our way to get back to this game next year.”
The Chiefs’ victory in Super Bowl LVIII was a humbling night for the other 31 NFL teams and their fans. And for anyone sick of seeing Mahomes, Travis Kelce, and Andy Reid on the national stage.
If this Chiefs team could win a Super Bowl, then the rest of the league may feel like giving up.
The Chiefs weren’t great in 2023. They sulked after a Christmas Day loss at home to the Raiders dropped them to 9-6. Their offense finished No. 15 in points. And they finally had to go on the road in the playoffs, in hostile environments at Buffalo and Baltimore.
“I don’t think many people probably thought we’d be standing here right now talking about being Super Bowl champs on Christmas Day,” offensive coordinator Matt Nagy shouted over the locker room ruckus.
Nor did many last year. The Chiefs weren’t a dominant team in 2022, either. They were supposed to be rebuilding after trading Tyreek Hill. Two seasons later, they still haven’t quite found reliable weapons to replace him.
Yet the Chiefs are back-to-back champions anyway. They have a coach who always gets his team ready to play in the biggest moments. They have a tight end who is practically uncoverable, one who led the Super Bowl in catches (9) and yards (93) despite having just one catch for 1 yard at halftime.
And they have a 28-year-old quarterback with a warrior’s spirit, whose toughness and will to win somehow match his incredible arm strength and physical gifts.
“Our guys are so mentally strong,” Nagy said. “They’re resilient, no one complains, points fingers.
“We’ve been crushed all year long — ‘We’re not as good, can’t score 40 points’ — but they’re leaders and we stick together.”
As much as America may be tired of the Chiefs and ready for a new champion, it’s hard not to admire them. They play their best in the biggest games. They have overcome a 10-point deficit in all three of their Super Bowl victories.
“I hope people remember not only the greatness that we have in the field, but the way that we’ve done it,” Mahomes said. “We have fun. We play hard. And it’s not always pretty, but we just continue to fight to the very end.”
What’s scary, and perhaps depressing, for the rest of the NFL is that the Chiefs may have no end in sight.
Mahomes, who turns 29 in September, still has a long runway ahead. As long as the Chiefs have him behind center, they will be contenders.
“I guess at this point I take it for granted, but I know we’re in every single game I’ve ever played in with him,” Kelce said. “No matter what the score is, no matter how much time is left, that guy has magic in his right arm, and he found ways to propel us.”
Reid’s future is a bigger question mark. He’ll be 66 in March, the NFL’s oldest coach with Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll are out of the league. Reid sidestepped questions all week about whether he might retire on top with a Super Bowl win, but he seems ready to chase ring No. 4.
“I haven’t had time to think about it, but yeah,” he said. “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Sure.”
Another big question is Kelce, who turned 34 in October. He has a lot going on these days as the most famous boyfriend on the planet. Superstardom awaits Kelce in Hollywood when he’s done playing football.
When asked if he’s coming back, Kelce told ESPN, “Hell yeah, I want that three-peat.”
He was slightly less committed in his press conference, however.
“I’ll tell you what, I’m going to go ahead and enjoy this one, and everything that just happened,” Kelce said. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I’ve been able to go through three times now. It gets sweeter and sweeter every time, baby.”
Kelce’s lack of a firm commitment may just be contract-related. He was one of the best values in the NFL this season at $13.25 million, and is under contract for $13 million in 2024 and $17.25 million in 2025. A raise certainly is in order.
“He’ll play forever,” Chiefs general manager Brett Veach said. “He loves it.”
The Chiefs have a couple of tough decisions to make this offseason with star defensive tackle Chris Jones and cornerback L’Jarius Sneed, two impending free agents who are primed to cash in. But Mahomes, Kelce, and Reid likely aren’t going anywhere.
They have three Super Bowl rings already, and they’re going to be a problem for the rest of the NFL for a long time.
“I know what we’ve got is something more special than what you see in the NFL,” Kelce said. “To see guys rise to the occasion, to see guys put stats aside, to see guys just put their heart in every single day, that’s something special that I’ll take with me and will last forever.”
Ben Volin can be reached at email@example.com.