KANSAS CITY, Missouri – A few months before the 2017 draft, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney issued a warning for NFL teams in need of quarterback.
"If you pass Deshaun Watson on, you will pass on Michael Jordan. I'm just telling you," said Swinney.
Watson certainly looked Jordanian last week when he said goodbye to two defenders of Bills and made a pass to lead the Texans to victory.
However, the encounter between Watson and Patrick Mahomes of the Chiefs in the AFC division round on Sunday reminds one of another basketball comparison.
It feels like Magic Johnson versus Larry Bird.
A rivalry may begin that could dominate the AFC playoffs for the next decade. If you want to throw a Jordan into this mix, maybe Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson.
Like Johnson and Bird, Mahomes and Watson joined the league in the same year. The chiefs exchanged up to 10 for Mahomes and Houston up to 12 for Watson. Now we have a chance to get playoff matchups between these two that could remind us of the 1984, 1985, and 1987 NBA finals.
Mahomes is more like magic, right down to the no-look passes. His game is stunning and defies comparison with other NFL quarterbacks. He had an MVP season in his first year as a starter in 2018 and led the Chiefs to the AFC title game when he almost overtook Tom Brady.
Watson is tough as Bird and his team always seems ready to win. From his time at Clemson to his first three years at Houston, Watson finds a way to win.
"If you've seen Deshaun Watson since college and I'm sure you haven't been out of the game since high school," said Mahomes. "He's someone who can play great games no matter what the scenario. He'll fight to the end. You know that comes into play and you know that as an offensive, a defensive and a team you can do it you need to have the whole game ahead of you. It will take a 60 minute fight or longer, whatever it takes. You have to make sure that you come with this mentality that you get your best football with every shot are going to play. "
Mahomes and Watson met for the first time in a quarterback camp when they were in college. Then they went through the design process together. They watched the bears take Mitch Trubisky in second place and saw teams like the Jets, Browns and Bengals pass them on, although they could have used an upgrade at Quarterback.
The two started in October and delivered a very entertaining game. Mahomes led the Chiefs by 14 points in the first quarter, but flipped the ball twice and opened Watson. Watson took apart a battered Chiefs defense and led Houston to a 31-24 win at Arrowhead Stadium.
Now the two meet again and much more is at stake.
"It's cool," said Watson. "It's cool to see that a friend of mine and a guy who plays the same position as me have so much success and see it in live action. So it's definitely stupid. It's going to be a good experience. Like You said we played earlier this year. It was a good game, went back and forth. But yes, there are only two good teams competing against each other and we are only trying to do the best for our team and ours To help the team win. "
Both quarterbacks made the Pro Bowl a top AFC player this year, along with Jackson, for years to come.
It is the first time since 2002 that Brady, Peyton Manning or Ben Roethlisberger are missing from the AFC championship. These three have dominated the past decade.
The page is now upside down. It's time for Watson, Mahomes and Jackson to take over the AFC.
Sunday's matchup could be the first chapter in a rivalry that will dominate January for the next decade. If you're not a bear fan, this should put a smile on your face.