The Chiefs’ Marathon

Earlier this week, I arrived in Boston for business, on the day of the Boston Marathon. For you runners out there, you may have heard that this classic race was run under extreme conditions, with temperatures near the 90’s.

The taxi from the airport dropped me about two blocks from my hotel, because the marathon was still going on around 5pm and my hotel was about a mile from the finish line.The last wave of amateur runners started at 10:40am, so when I saw runners still going by, they were going on their seventh hour of running. Just as I walked up to the police barrier, I saw three runners who had to be close to 80 years old. I saw family members and friends jumping into the race for the last mile to urge on their loved ones, who were walking, limping and some even running strong to the finish line. I saw about 8 soldiers in full packs, fatigues and combat boots, who had been walking with these last runners in the sweltering heat until everyone completed their full 26.2 miles.

I’ve been lucky enough to run two marathons. Running is more than a hobby for me. It’s a way to stay healthy and it’s absolutely the best method I know for thinking and clearing my head. But like many of you, I know what those runners were feeling that last mile. You should have heard the cheers and clapping and shout-outs by all the fans lining the last mile, even seven hours in. It reminded me of last year’s New York City Marathon, where for 26.2 miles, people you never met and will never meet again were yelling encouragement at you. My all time favorite sign from that marathon was by this lovely woman, who held a hand-drawn poster board saying simply, “Dear Perfect Stranger, I’m so proud of you!” (Of course, the warm and fuzzies from all of the adoring New York fans was tempered by a report I got of the Chiefs game being played that day, around mile 20: Dolphins 31, Chiefs 3).

The marathon is a great analogy to the Chiefs. The very best franchises are, as the saying goes, built for marathons, not for sprints. Look at the Steelers and the Patriots. Those are marathon teams. The sprinters? How about Daniel Snyder’s Redskins, or Al Davis’ old Raiders? The sprinter mentality is built around the quick fix (see JaMarcus Russell and the entire Redskins defense) , which more often than not, results in long-term inconsistency and abject failure.

With the draft coming up next Thursday, the Chiefs have an opportunity to continue building a team for the marathon – a decade-long team of destiny. I would define marathon picks as players who have:

  • The potential to dominate their position to such an extent that opposing teams must revise game plans because of them
  • The personality and discipline to continuously be coached and to learn
  • The leadership qualities to pull the very best performances at the most critical times out of themselves and their teammates

We’ve got a lot of players that fit the marathon mentality already. Eric Berry was clearly a marathon pick. He’s a former college team captain who filled a great hole for the Chiefs. Berry is likely to be a Chiefs leader and Pro Bowler for the next decade, like Ed Reed or Troy Palamalu. Brandon Albert, Tamba Hali, Brandon Flowers, Dwayne Bowe and Derrick Johnson were each marathon first rounders for the Chiefs. Jamaal Charles was a third-round sprinter’s pick who turned into a great marathoner. Jonathan Baldwin may have been a sprinter’s pick last year, to bring some fast relief for Matt Cassel, but let’s see how he does this year – can he turn into a dominant force as well as a strong team leader?

This year’s draft offers some potentially great marathon picks for us. Many of you have argued that offensive guard David Decastro is such a player. I think you’re right. I’d also throw into the mix my favorite for our first round pick, linebacker Luke Keuchly, as a marathoner. But I have to say, all the talk about a franchise quarterback – perhaps the ultimate marathon pick – falls flat for me this year. I think trading up for Tannehill would be a classic sprinter’s mistake – short sighted and at a high cost of at least two draft picks. Next year’s draft will be much richer in potential franchise quarterbacks.

What do you think, Addicts? We’ve got one week left! Who is your marathon pick in the first round? Who would be a sprinter’s choice this year?

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