The Kansas City Chiefs And The Elites


For a long time now most of us have bought into the perception that the NFL could be viewed through the lens of parity: every teams having an equal opportunity to beat any other team on any given Sunday. At least this is the idea that’s echoed everywhere.

The league may be better understood as a caste system than as an equal opportunity employer, when it comes to defining a winning organization, or one that’s not.

Some use the parity method as a microscope to focus on the chance of winning a specific game. But, does that really mean every team in the NFL is equal? Not really. There could be some advantages to using a wider overall picture of each team, like a Hubble telescope, to gain a more accurate picture of the NFL as it spans the decades.

Use the Hubble approach, and you may be able to see the issues more clearly. Including the Chiefs.

As in any social structure, such as a caste system, it includes upper, middle and lower-classes. There, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.  It’s not all that different than in the NFL. But, how are these “classes” defined in the NFL? By their dominance. And, their attitude is born of that dominance over an extended period of time.

Perhaps this is just another way to say, I personally don’t believe we have parity. However, I just don’t think the concept of parity works.

The perception of parity is more of a media trend than sound reasoning. However, if enough people go around saying, “all teams are equal, all teams are equal”, then eventually people are going to believe it.

Even if it’s not true.

Roger Goodell wants fans to believe that their team can win. But, just saying it doesn’t make it true.

So, they peddle parity.

Plus, the NFL has made many alterations to the way they do business over the years to give the fans the idea that each team has a fair chance to make it to the playoffs and win a Super Bowl each year. Now ask yourself if you really think that one is true, and if you do, then you may have been paying more attention to the beer commercial than the game itself.

If you’ve ever been to a sports bar in one of our countries fair cities, you will find a preponderance of Steelers fans, Cowboys fans and Packers fans there a-hoopin’ and a-hollerin’. Except for the cheesy cheese heads, the Steelers and the Cowboys fans are by far the most obnoxious. I’m not even going to address the Raider’s fans, because it’s been too long since they were winners for me to take them seriously. But, that’s essentially the point. If you have winning on your side then you have the clout to back up your words, and there is no shutting you up. The Cowboys and the Steelers have been to enough Super Bowls for me to be envious.

As a Chiefs fan, knowing that we have won the sum total of 3 playoff games in the past 41 years gets me very little leverage at the upper-class feast of the league’s elitists.

In the Super Bowl era, the following shows the total number of teams that have played in a playoff game:

1967 to 1969 =  3 games x 3 years = 9 total games
1970 to 1978 = 7 games x 8 years = 56 total games
1979 to 1990 =  9 games x 11 years = 88 total games
1990 to 2010 =11 games x 20 years = 220 total games

That’s 364 playoff winners since 1970.

It gives the Chiefs total number of playoff  wins since 1970, perspective. A less than 1% playoff victory rate.

This is not to speculate on how the Kansas City Chiefs became one of he leagues lower-class teams, it’s just to say that they often have been.

Have been. Past tense.

Teams don’t necessarily stay in one class, or the other, from decade to decade.

The Pittsburgh Steelers were the dominant team of the 1970s and still good into the early 80s. However, from 1984 to 1991 they were 53-58. Hardly even middle-class numbers.

Those embarrassing numbers pretty much parallel the Dallas Cowboys during that time period (from 1984-1990 they were 44-67). Yes, the Cowboys were the dominant team of the early nineties but, they’ve only had 1 playoff victory now in the past 15 seasons.

The New England Patriots have had “down” and “up” decades too and pretty much in that order. From 1967 to 1995 they had only 3 playoff wins. In the past 15 years they have become the AFC standard and model citizen. Upper-class and elite.

Of course, there are teams who have lived in the ghetto’s of the league for a long time too. Essentially, when one team dominates, another team is displaced. It’s a reality that competition dictates.

Currently, there are a handful of teams who are dominating Super Bowl berths. Look at the teams who have been to the big game and the total number of times they’ve been there:

1.     Steelers- 8
2.     Cowboys- 8
3.     Patriots- 6
4.     Packers- 5
5.     Raiders- 5
6.     Broncos- 5
7.     Redskins- 5
8.     49ers- 5
9.     Dolphins- 5
10.   Colts- 4
11.   Giants- 4
12.   Bills- 4
13.   Vikings- 4
14.   Rams- 3

There have been 45 Super Bowls, totaling 90 Super Bowl teams involved. Mathematically, each of the league’s 32 teams could, perhaps, if not irrationally, expect to reach the Super Bowl 3 times by now. Only 40% of the teams in the NFL have done that.

The top nine teams on this list have taken 52 out of 90 total Super Bowl berths.  Those nine teams, approximately 30% of the teams in the league, have tied up 60% of all Super Bowl berths.

In other words, for those on the outside of this select group, which is 70% of the league, there is only a 40% chance that any of the 70%, are going to make it to the big game.

Would you call that parity? It’s more like preferred company, or elitism.

To be elite, may be getting a negative response from some who read this but, that is not the intended meaning here.

“…an elite is distinguished by the mastery of a particular skill, such as skateboarding or mathematics, and sometimes by past accomplishments; but, the much more common sense of the term today is to refer to a group of people who have power.” ~ Kragen Sitaker

Sitaker goes on to explain that the elite are those who have reached their position by some intrinsic merit, also known as meritocracy.

Now, this is exciting for me because I’m observing upward trends in all aspects of the Chiefs organization and that leads me to believe they are in the burgeoning stages of moving to the upper-echelon of the NFL, because they merit it.

Like the old Merrill Lynch commercial used to say, “We make money the old fashioned way, we earn it.”

Four Chiefs players have been noticed as elite by their peers during this off season. We see a rise in the number of Chiefs players performing at a high level, pushing the team and raising expectations exponentially.

Just as the Steelers, Cowboys and Pats have all experienced their lean years, so have the Chiefs. It’s not by the Chiefs having suffered through decades of playoff famine that makes them ready to sit at the President’s table. But, it’s the dues they are paying that signal the beginning of a new era at Arrowhead.

Some may be thinking… yeah, the era of Thomas Jones breaking the thumb of our first round choice. Exactly. That’s really a good example of the increased pressure that the team is experiencing. These teammates have been “burned by fire, and all our pleasant places have become ruins.” This is not like Percy Snow going down on a moped.

This is not about a sense of entitlement either but, it is about a sense of earning. The organizational structure is now set up that way.

Coach Haley is not allowing a stone to go unturned when it comes to training, preparation or motivation of the factions. If it disturbs you that differing members of the Chiefs may not be cuddly and cozy with each other, don’t let it bother you. It is a sign, and a good one. Some of you may not be old enough to recall but, Terry Bradshaw didn’t have an easy path to becoming a starter. In fact, neither did Roger Staubach nor Len Dawson (drafted by the Steelers traded to Cleveland and released by the Browns). Burned by fire….

What does this have to do with becoming elite? That’s exactly how those great teams became elite. By fire! Through hard work and though conflict. No, it is not controversy alone that makes a team great, however…

“Poverty is a veil that obscures the face of greatness.”

~Khalil Gibran

The Chiefs have been poor and the Chiefs are poor no more. I am so, so enjoying watching them slowly pull the mask away.

I see where the Chiefs are going. I see that the Chiefs are on the verge. I can see that they’re on the verge of becoming… elite.

And, I’m sure that this is their goal. To become elite.

Parity is about winning one solitary game. Being elite is about an encompassing vision for the entire Chief’s Nation that will last for years upon butt kicking years.

Let the elite butt kickings commence.