Usage rates for quarterbacks have changed over time, but if either Josh Allen or Patrick Mahomes wins the Super Bowl this season, it’ll be historical greatness.
If the Buffalo Bills or Kansas City Chiefs win this season’s Super Bowl, it’ll be because of an all-time effort.
At least from the perspective of Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes.
If Buffalo and Kansas City continue asking their star quarterbacks to produce at their respective paces, they’ll need to have the most productive season for any title-winning quarterback in NFL history.
Through 10 weeks, Allen is carrying an absurd load for Buffalo’s offense. He’s provided 84.1 percent of the Bills’ total yards while leading the team with 476 rushing yards. As for Mahomes, he checks in at 82.7 percent with the Chiefs, throwing for a league-best 2,936 yards.
Eli Manning of the New York Giants is the only player in league history to register 80.3 percent of his team’s offensive yardage and win the Lombardi Trophy in the same year, doing so in 2011.
As the years have clicked by, quarterbacks are increasingly relied upon to be their team’s offensive engine. In fact, of the first 44 Super Bowl champions, only six saw their signal-caller account for more than 70 percent of their total yardage (Theismann, Young, Favre, Brady, P. Manning).
In the subsequent 12 years, we’ve seen seven, including each of the past three seasons (Rodgers, E. Manning, Wilson, Brady, Mahomes, Brady, Stafford).
Below, you can see how each Super Bowl-winning quarterback has fared in their championship seasons by way of offensive yardage share:
*Must have started at least 75 percent of the team’s games
*Must have started in and won the Super Bowl
Alas, Buffalo and Kansas City are trending the same way others have in recent years, but to an extreme extent.
This is especially true of the Bills, who have Allen running on designed carries to maximize his skill set. Allen is incredibly effective, but history says the singular nature of Buffalo’s offense will eventually be its downfall.
In the Super Bowl era, only eight teams have ever reached the postseason with their quarterback as their rushing leader. None have reached their conference championship games.
Bills offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey might consider easing off Allen and emphasizing a traditional rushing attack to a greater degree, spearheaded by Devin Singletary and rookie James Cook. The duo has rushed for 563 yards on 4.5 yards per carry, giving Buffalo a reasonable tandem to utilize while giving Allen less to accomplish.
And recent efforts suggest Allen could use a break. Over his last 10 quarters, the 2020 Second-Team All-Pro has thrown six interceptions accompanied by a lost fumble. Buffalo is on a two-game losing streak, falling from the AFC’s top seed to third place in the AFC East.
As for the Chiefs, Mahomes almost always runs via scrambles, totaling half of Allen’s rushing attempts (68-34). Kansas City’s biggest problem has been a lack of offensive balance.
The Chiefs have thrown the fifth-most passes this year (369) while ranking 27th in rushing attempts (213) despite leading for large chunks of their games. The obvious result has been Mahomes having to win despite longer downs and distances in games where the Chiefs either haven’t run well or haven’t tried to run for prolonged stretches.
Both from a health and execution standpoint, Kansas City’s offensive plan is likely more repeatable, but it bears monitoring as Mahomes’ yardage volume enters uncharted territory for a title team.
Still, in most Vegas sportsbooks, Buffalo and Kansas City are the leading favorites to win Super Bowl LVII. Rightfully so.
But to reach their potential, the Bills and Chiefs will either find more offensive balance or hope their quarterbacks can author a campaign the sport has never seen from its champion.