The second and third place MVP candidates in 2020 run the AFC
By: Caleb Holfoth (@cmhfilm)
Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen are two of the NFL’s best quarterbacks. Both had fantastic seasons in 2020 and met in the AFC Championship where Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs were able to beat Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills. Mahomes is entering his 5th season in the NFL and fourth season as the starting quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs. Meanwhile, Josh Allen is entering his fourth season in the NFL but similar to Mahomes it will be his 4th season as the Bills starting quarterback.
Allen and Mahomes are very similar in terms of their playstyle and their strengths as quarterbacks. Regardless of their similarities now they have had two extremely different NFL careers. Mahomes was drafted with the 10th pick in the 2017 NFL Draft by the Chiefs who acquired that pick from the Buffalo Bills in the draft. Allen was taken just a year later the Bills traded up from the 12th spot in the draft to the 7th pick to select Josh Allen. Although Allen did not start week one in 2017, he has started every week since when healthy.
The difference between Mahomes and Allen comes in how their careers fared early in their careers. Patrick Mahomes sat his whole first season in the NFL as the backup to Alex Smith. Mahomes took over the season later when Smith was traded. In that season Mahomes was incredible winning the MVP award and making it to the AFC Championship. A year later, Mahomes took Kansas City to the Super Bowl and was named Super Bowl MVP in a 31-20 victory over the San Francisco 49ers. Mahomes then followed up that season with a third-place finish in MVP voting and a Super Bowl loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Mahomes is the heart of the most potent offense in the NFL and has been one of the best if not the best quarterback in the league since he took over the starting job in Kansas City.
Josh Allen has had a career that started with tons of uncertainty and question marks. Allen was drafted in 2017 and was unable to secure the starting job in training camp in a competition against AJ McCarron and Nathan Peterman who won the job. Peterman’s 12-3 INT-TD ratio tells you all you need to know about how long that lasted. Allen took over for Peterman in Week 2 and went on to start eleven games in his first season. Allen struggled to throw the ball but showed flashes of big-play ability as well as an ability to run the ball well. A year later, Allen was penciled in as Buffalo’s starter and played in all 16 regular season games guiding them to a wild card spot. Allen showed significant improvement doubling his touchdown passes and throwing fewer interceptions than the previous season. However, Allen still struggled some with a completion percentage of only 58.8% and had 14 fumbles. Nevertheless, there was a significant improvement in Allen. That year Buffalo’s playoff run ended in their first game as they lost in overtime to the Houston Texans after several missed opportunities. In 2020, Josh Allen improved immensely and much more than anyone could have imagined. Allen jumped from a QB with potential to second in MVP voting and one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in the league. Allen finished 5th in passing yards, 4th in Completion % (min. 150 Pass Attempts), 5th in Touchdown passes and added 8 touchdowns and 400 yards rushing. Allen led the Buffalo Bills to the AFC Championship where they stalled and fell to the Chiefs and Mahomes.
So, who has more potential?
This question is truly complex to answer. The first question that needs to be asked is what Allen and Mahomes’ ceiling is and how far away are they from it. Mahomes seems to be closer to his ceiling than Allen. Considering Mahomes already has an MVP and Super Bowl to his name it would seem that Mahomes is close to his ceiling. Meanwhile, Allen only has one year of elite production and even left a lot to be desired in the 2020 season.
Mahomes is close to his ceiling but can still certainly improve. Mahomes has an extremely improv style of play and while he is the best at it in the NFL, he certainly could improve his decision-making. In addition to that, Mahomes tends to make some of the simple plays harder for himself which is something that if he can fix would make the Chiefs offense even better. While these are very nitpicky things Mahomes is still not perfect. What this shows is that Mahomes is very close to his ceiling. There are not many areas where Mahomes can get better, and it is not a knock on his potential but more of a testament to how good Mahomes is.
Allen on the other hand showed a massive jump in 2020 but still had plenty of mistakes and left a lot to be desired in the AFC Championship and weeks 5-8, 10,12, and 14 where he did not have a passer rating higher than 90 whereas, in his other 9 games, he had a passer rating of over 100, and 8 of those games over 114. While passer rating is just one stat Allen was still up and down all season.
While he never played at a bad level, he had several games where he was more reminisce of his 2019 self than some of the elite play, we saw in the rest of 2020. Allen is still inconsistent, and this shows that he is further from his ceiling than Mahomes is and still has a ton of room to grown. Allen’s inconsistencies could be in part that he is still developing his accuracy and decision making but also that he is adjusting mentally to being much more capable as a quarterback than he has ever been. Regardless, Allen is inconsistent if he does not fix that will struggle to reach his potential.
Who is better? Patrick Mahomes
Just based on previous accolades, playoff success, and head-to-head play. Patrick Mahomes is a better quarterback than Josh Allen. Mahomes is a quarterback with essentially no major weakness and is one of the best quarterbacks when he has to improvise. Mahomes is the best quarterback in the AFC, and you could argue in the NFL alongside last season’s MVP Aaron Rodgers. While Mahomes does have an elite supporting cast and offensive guru Andy Reid as a head coach he is an incredible player who makes plays that only a couple of other players in the league would even try to attempt. It is clear, Mahomes is better and has been better his whole career than Josh Allen.
Who has more potential? Josh Allen
Although Patrick Mahomes may be better than Allen, Allen has a higher ceiling and potential than the 2019 NFL MVP. What makes Allen have more potential is the fact that he was able to finish second in 2020 MVP voting, two votes ahead of Mahomes, while still showing some major weaknesses to his game. Allen had several down weeks throughout the season and still threw 10 interceptions to go along with 9 fumbles. In addition to Allen’s turnover woes, he also does miss throws and makes some poor decisions. Under pressure, Allen is so much better than in previous years making plays. However, there are still times where Allen does too much, and it ultimately ends up hurting the Bills. Allen tends to take some pretty big sacks which not only pushes Buffalo backward but also is when he tends to potentially lose the ball. With all of these problems, Allen was able to lead the Bills to the AFC Championship and a 13-3 regular-season record. What makes Allen special is his physical traits. Since he was drafted Allen was a known project, but he has been able to put it all together. Allen has been able to develop great accuracy and tame his massive arm becoming one of the best throwers in the NFL.
Allen has made leaps and bounds since he was drafted in 2018. What gives him more potential than Mahomes is the fact that he still has several areas where he can improve while Mahomes does not have much more work to do. Allen was able to have one of the greatest seasons as a quarterback that Buffalo has even witness as Allen broke several records. However, Allen still has some flaws in his game that can take him to an even higher level. Allen may never reach this potential and likely will take several seasons to get there if he does but it is hard to deny that his ceiling is not higher than Mahomes. Allen has better physical traits than Mahomes, equal if not better arm strength, and a stronger ability as a runner. If you combine that with the fact that Allen still misses throws because of lapses in his accuracy, has a lot of room to improve in his decision making, can learn to play less wild under pressure, and has yet to show elite play and a very consistent manner it is hard to deny that he can one day be greater than Mahomes.
Will it happen? Only time will tell. It is hard to tell actually how good Josh Allen will get. Josh Allen haters will tell you that last season was a fluke year. Josh Allen truthers will tell you he is just as good as Mahomes and Rodgers. While Allen may fall somewhere in the middle, he has the coaching staff and continuity around him to continue to improve every season. We saw the jump he made from year two to year three. If Allen can make that same jump into year four it would be hard to see him not winning the MVP award and supplanting himself as a top quarterback in the NFL and potentially the best quarterback in the league. As of now, Mahomes is the better quarterback. In five years, the Josh Allen Patrick Mahomes conversation could end very differently.
*All Stats from https://www.pro-football-reference.com/