The relationship that should be driving everyone in the NFL to the point of maddening disgust isn’t the budding romance between Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift, which took its next logical step forward as they became Primetime Official at MetLife Stadium on Sunday night.
It’s the other one that keeps popping up in commercials and during big football games, has been for several years and counting, and again was front and center while rendering the home team as cameo actors on their home stage.
It’s the one the Jets and just about every other team in the league wishes they could duplicate, the one they all watch with jealousy.
It’s the one between Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid.
If the first two decades of this century dominated by Bill Belichick and Tom Brady did not convince us that the key to success is having a head coach and quarterback who can go through this life together wed with the kind of unity and devotion to each other typically saved only for storybooks and princess bedtime fables, Reid and Mahomes are continuing the argument in recent years.
Together they have made it to three of the past four Super Bowls, winning twice, and changing the narrative around a Kansas City franchise that had to wait 40 years for all of this to happen.
Until this duo arrived, KC’s flirtations with championships all came when Super Bowls were measured in single digits (if called Super Bowls at all). Now they are the duo most synonymous with them.
They are one of only two active coach-quarterback combos that have sealed their courtship with a ring, Sean McVay and Matthew Stafford being the other.
Even in games such as this 23-20 win when they are not quite themselves, with Mahomes uncorking a pair of interceptions and some ugly throws he normally connects on, they are still formidable.
“He’s meant the world to me,” Mahomes said of Reid in an offseason interview. “He’s just the best. He’s the best coach, obviously, one of the best coaches of all time, but he’s just one of the best people of all time. He’s learned how to get the most out of me every day. He doesn’t let me be satisfied with where I’m at. He teaches me a ton.”
Reid said of Mahomes in a separate offseason interview: “He allows you to have the freedom to call anything at any time on the game-plan sheet, and you feel confident about those plays. We’re not X’ing out this because he might not be able to spit them out when he’s in the huddle and you save them for the sideline when they come off . . . You don’t worry about that. He’s gonna make sure he’s got everything down. [HE’S]sharp enough to handle it all.”
Love, American football style.
That’s what the Jets want.
It’s what they have wanted for a very long time.
Hand it to Zach Wilson, though. From the depths of his awful outing against the Patriots a week ago he emerged to come about as close to playing at a Mahomes level as any Jets quarterback has for quite some time. He even looked like Mahomes — or maybe that was Aaron Rodgers rubbing off on him — on a few of his scrambles and deceptive play-action fakes. He had a career high number of completions.
He also had a costly fourth-quarter fumble.
It was a promising, positive step in his development. It will make the rest of the season tolerable to watch. It was not an indication that Wilson is the Jets’ Mahomes.
No matter whom they have picked, signed or otherwise brought in for either of those positions, though, it hasn’t been enough to push them to a trophy. Their quarterbacks and coaches have come and gone without making the kind of connection needed, without ever replicating what Joe and Weeb had.
They’ve tried and tried.
Testaverde and Parcells looked as if they had a good thing going, but the wanderlust in the heart of each of those nomadic figures could not sustain it. Eric Mangini gave his newborn son the middle name of his newly acquired quarterback, but both he and Brett Favre were gone after one season together. Rex Ryan took his bond with Mark Sanchez to the level of having his jersey inked onto his arm in a somewhat creepy tattoo of his wife. Boy, it’s amazing that one didn’t work out.
Geno Smith and Tim Tebow and Sam Darnold and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Herm Edwards and Todd Bowles and Adam Gase. None of them keepers. None of them in any combination who turned out to be The One for each other.
This year the Jets were so desperate, they decided to look into the potential of an arranged marriage. They thought, perhaps, they could simply manufacture the magic feelings.
So they traded for Rodgers in the offseason, the guy who used to appear in commercials with Mahomes, and added Nathaniel Hackett, the offensive coordinator of his dreams. They had coach Robert Saleh blend into the background as the voice of the team and general manager Joe Douglas take a back seat to the personnel decisions to stack the roster with familiar faces and make Rodgers feel more comfortable.
Four snaps later, that was over. At least for this season.
Maybe one day the Jets will have a power couple of their own in place. There are plenty of fish in the sports sea.
Until then, though, they’ll continue to be lonely wallflowers watching others swoon with the kind of joy and promise that only the most important relationship in football can provide.