TAMPA, Fla. — Peter King, now of NBC Sports, has been covering the NFL for more than 30 years.
41 Action News Morning Anchor Taylor Hemness caught up with King this week in Tampa, Florida, site of Super Bowl LV between the Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, for a candid conversation about the short- and long-term effects of COVID-19 on the league.
"A couple of weeks ago, ESPN had a story that basically said it had cost the NFL and it's teams about $100 million this year to do all of the COVID protocols, and all of the testing," King said. "But I only think they got very close one time, to having to basically have an extra week of the season."
"The Chiefs are a great example, with what happened with the barber. They had 20-30 players, ready to get their haircut," King said. "Can you imagine, just for the sake of argument, if Patrick Mahomes had been in that chair?"
How confident was King, that the league would make it to Super Bowl LV?
"I wasn't confident at all," King said. "Richard Sherman, the San Francisco 49ers cornerback, told me in August when I asked him if the season would get played, he said, 'I do, because whatever the NFL, and it's money, sets its mind to, it usually is able to accomplish that.'"
What if a situation happens before Sunday, like what happened to the Cleveland Browns, who had to play a playoff game without Head Coach Kevin Stefanski? Or worse, what if one of the star quarterbacks of Super Bowl LV tests positive?
"I think the game goes on," King said. "The NFL would look like the phoniest organization on the planet if they didn't just keep going. I've had people telling me for the last two months that if Mahomes tests positive on Friday, the league would postpone the game. It would be the ultimate hypocritical thing for the NFL to say that Patrick Mahomes is totally different than anyone else."
"You know what, he is," King said of Mahomes. "But you can't run your business that way, that if one guy, no matter who it is tests positive, you can't postpone the game."
King was effusive in his praise of Patrick Mahomes, and the way he fits into the record-breaking Chiefs offense.
"You're seeing the perfect quarterback for this era of football," King said. "You sort of put that all together, with Andy Reid, and what I would call this Democratic way of offensive football. I'm not saying it's unlike anything I've seen, but for a quarterback to be that young and have that much power, I think is really, really impressive."
Since the Super Bowl LV match-up was set, the comparisons between Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady have been the top talking point. King sees that too, but says Mahomes has a long way to go.
"What is so hard to think about honestly is that Tom Brady has played in 14 conference championship games, and I say nobody will ever do that," King said. "And everybody says, 'Whoa, whoa, whoa, Patrick Mahomes is 25 and this is his third one,' and I said, 'I get it, but it's his third one."
"That would mean that in his last 15 years that he plays, let's just say that he plays until he's 40, like a normal human being, instead of like Brady," King said. "That would mean that he'd have to get to the AFC Championship game 11 times in his next 15 years. He might! He might get there 15 times! But I think that would Brady has done is incredibly spectacular. Mahomes may match it, and if he does, he deserves everything that is said about him, and he may even deserve to go above Brady on the list."
41 Action News anchor Taylor Hemness set Mahomes' projected Super Bowl victories over/under at 4.5, and offered King a chance to choose.
"I'd probably take the under,” King said. "It's such a violent game that I don't know where the future is. But if you gave me 4.5, I would take the under, and not be surprised at the over."
King also discussed the affect that Brady's prolific career is having on the goals people are setting for Mahomes already.
"Everybody looks at Brady, he's not nearly the athlete that Mahomes is," King said. "Look, Andy Reid mentioned this to me recently. He so appreciates Tom Brady for how good he's been to Patrick. I think that what's so great about that is that Brady has passed along to Mahomes that this is how you treat the next generation."
"There's some kid who's eight years old in Shawnee Mission, Kansas right now, who's going to be the next Mahomes, or whatever he is," King said. "And at some point when Mahomes is 38 years old, he's going to come up to that kid, and he's gonna say, 'You're the future. Just do everything right, and pass it on when you're late in your career. Because that's in essence what Brady has done to Mahomes.'"
"I'm 63 years old, and I wouldn't mind for the rest of my life, whenever I stop doing this, just watching Mahomes every Sunday, and just appreciating it."
As for King's prediction for Super Bowl LV?
"I picked the Bucs, because I picked the Bucs in my preseason pick, I picked them to beat Baltimore 30-25, because I'm an idiot," King said. "I'm just not big on picking teams to repeat."
"But between me, you, and the wall, if I had to go to Vegas and put $5 down on a winner, I might not be picking the Bucs."