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Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
Rick Telander

Super Bowl quarterbacks different, but they’re spectacular in their own ways

Quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs will be looking for their second Super Bowl victory in the last four seasons Feb. 12 in Glendale, Arizona. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

The list of quarterbacks who have won the Super Bowl is a stellar one. The number of future Hall of Famers is long and appropriate.

You can start with the first 10 quarterbacks to win the big game — Bart Starr, Joe Namath, Len Dawson, Johnny Unitas, Roger Staubach, Bob Griese, Terry Bradshaw, Ken Stabler, Jim Plunkett and Joe Montana, all Hall of Famers, except for Plunkett — and see that the feather in the cap was winning it all once upon a time.

There are great quarterbacks who never won a Super Bowl, and you almost have to feel sorry for them, no matter what rewards they received or how much money they made. Dan Marino, Jim Kelly, Warren Moon and Philip Rivers come quickly to mind. You can bet the topic isn’t a pleasant one for any of them.

And the toughest part might be that quarterbacks such as Trent Dilfer, Brad Johnson and Nick Foles all did win Super Bowls. Nothing against those players, but nobody ever has suggested they are Hall of Famers.

Now we have two quarterbacks preparing to play in Super Bowl LVII on Feb. 12 in Glendale, Arizona. One — the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes — already should be posing for his bust in Canton, Ohio. The other — the Eagles’ Jalen Hurts — is on the cusp of a potential superstar career.

Nobody can argue these two players aren’t worthy of top billing, each leading the best team in his conference into the matchup.

‘‘To me, the job’s not finished,’’ Mahomes said after the Chiefs beat the Bengals 23-20 for the AFC championship Sunday. ‘‘This isn’t our standard. We want to win the Super Bowl.’’

Of course. They won it three years ago and have won the AFC title in three of the last four seasons. A second Super Bowl victory pretty much would cement the Chiefs as a mini-dynasty. And, of course, it would guarantee Mahomes’ status as one of the top quarterbacks of all time.

For Hurts, who is only in his third season, the path is different. He is on the ascent and has been since he transferred from Alabama to Oklahoma in 2019 and then blossomed — but only enough to be a second-round pick. First-round picks are the guys the scouts say are studs-in-the-making. Hurts was more of a watch-and-see guy.

And for true competitors, that dubiousness is where the chip gets placed securely on the shoulder. Then the dissed athlete either ratchets things up a notch or slips into blah.

Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert were taken before Hurts in the NFL Draft in 2020. All are very good quarterbacks. But the Packers also picked Jordan Love ahead of Hurts to replace Aaron Rodgers someday.

Don’t think Hurts has forgotten any of this.

‘‘There was a point in time where people said I couldn’t throw the deep ball, that I could only throw it five yards,’’ Hurts said awhile back. ‘‘I carry my scars with me everywhere I go. I don’t forget.’’

Critics might remember that he threw for 285 yards with four touchdowns and a 140.6 passer rating in a 35-13 victory against the Steelers in October and for 380 yards with three touchdowns and a 130.3 rating in a 35-10 victory against the Titans in December. All with no interceptions.

It’s for sure Hurts hasn’t forgotten any of that.

Mahomes, meanwhile, is so good that sometimes it isn’t even clear what he sees on the field or how he adjusts to it, as though he’s making up reality on an artificial-intelligence platform inside his head. His left-handed tosses, basketball throws, laterals, shovels and squirming bull’s-eye passes as he’s in the process of being sacked aren’t things any coach teaches.

Mahomes had a ridiculous 5,250 yards passing this season with 41 touchdowns. It all started when he threw for 360 yards and five touchdowns in a 44-21 victory against the Cardinals in the season opener. And so on.

He has a kind of genius that likely can’t be explained, an ability to see things unfolding in the midst of action that the rest of us would register only as chaos. Hurts is the better runner. He has 1,544 yards and 23 touchdowns rushing in the last two seasons.

Each quarterback presents unique problems for any defense. But for those of us just watching this Super Bowl, they present nothing but good times.

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