Jan 2, 2011; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs players join hands in a huddle before the game against the Oakland Raiders at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-USA TODAY Sports

The KC Chiefs: Tragedy, Understanding, and True Mental Toughness

I wasn’t sure what to write about today. It’s hard to celebrate a win when such a dark cloud still hangs over the Kansas City Chiefs. I don’t know if more needs to be said about the tragedy itself. Like countless other Chiefs fans, my heart breaks for the families and loved ones of this tragedy. None more so than the innocent 3 month old whose life will be forever shaped by this senseless act of violence.

I also can’t imagine how difficult it will be for Scott Pioli, Romeo Crennel, and Gary Gibbs to continue to go to work day after day at the same place where they watched this horrific story come to its grisly conclusion. I have screamed from the rooftops that Pioli and Crennel should be fired for weeks, but now all I can do is pray that they are able to close their eyes at night without reliving the tragic events that they witnessed Saturday morning.

I’ve heard a lot of angry fans scolding Chiefs fans and players for mourning the loss of Jovan Belcher. The reasoning being that they should only mourn the innocent victims, not the man that caused this pain. To those people, all I can say is that the Chiefs coaches and players didn’t know a killer. By all accounts Belcher was a great teammate and friend. They are mourning the loss of that teammate and friend, not condoning the unforeseen violence that will now forever define him. It is possible to love a man and hate his actions. It is possible to be sickened by what he did and miss his companionship.

My advice to all at this time is to try to be understanding that people deal with tragedy and grieve loss in different ways. There is little to be gained by attacking one another for how we attempt to transcend this horrible situation. Sports websites, networks, and blogs are going to focus on Belcher, not because his life is the one that is most important, but because his involvement in this story is what makes it a sports story. Of course Kasandra Perkins is the true victim. Of course Belcher’s 3-month-old daughter Zoey is the one most in need of our prayers as she must now go forward in life without both of her parents. That doesn’t mean that Derrick Johnson can’t miss his teammate that he lined up beside for years. It also doesn’t mean that a person that was a big fan of Belcher can’t be sad that he is now gone.

It seems that the PC stance is that only Belcher’s actual family can mourn his loss and everyone else must hate him. I hate the fact that he murdered someone and took his own life. I hate the fact that his little girl must grow up without her parents because he chose violence instead of any other possible solution. I’m just not willing to judge others who are sad about the hole that Belcher’s loss has created in their life.

So is there anything positive that we can all come together over and focus on as we move forward?

Well, yesterday’s game was a start. Not that football is really important compared to these life altering events, but since this is a football blog and we are all fans of the Kansas City Chiefs football team it makes the most sense that we focus on that.

Let me start by saying that for the first time this season Romeo Crennel’s “grandpa-esque” demeanor and relationship with his players was an essential element of the team’s success. All season we’ve screamed at him to be more intense, get after players, etc. This time, that loving and calm demeanor allowed him to care for and lead his players through their darkest hour. I didn’t ever doubt that Crennel would emotionally be there for his team, that’s one of his strengths. What I didn’t see coming was that by caring for, loving on, and being the “emotional rock” at the center of the Chiefs family he would finally bring out something in this team that they had been lacking all season long.

True Mental Toughness.

All season long the Chiefs have been an absolute joke when it came to focus and execution. They hadn’t scored an opening drive TD since 1982 (or at least that’s what it felt like). So when faced with the most emotional, most distracting start to a game any of those players have ever played, what did they do? They drove right down the field and punched it in.

All season long the Chiefs have destroyed their chances at being competitive by carelessly turning the ball over again and again. So surely on a day when their hearts might not fully be in the game and that their minds might be distracted by what has transpired this trend would continue, right? Wrong, they didn’t turn the ball over once.

All season long the Chiefs have shot themselves in the foot by negating big plays with penalties. Often their focus was so poor that they would be penalized multiple times in the same game for the same stupid mistake. Sunday the Chiefs only committed one penalty all game long and that was at the very end as they were trying to run out the clock.

If I had been asked to give the Chiefs a grade for mental toughness through their first 11 games this season it would have been a big, fat, “F”.

If I had to give the Chiefs a grade for mental toughness for their game against the Panthers it would unquestionably be an “A+”.

That is simply shocking. The fact that a team that had been so unfocused, so unorganized, so “checked out” all season long, was able to fix every last one of those issues in the one game that they had a very legitimate reason to fall apart mentally is a statement to the character of those men. I just wish I knew why they couldn’t have done it sooner, but that is a discussion to be had after the wounds caused by this tragedy have had more time to heal.

For now we as Chiefs fans should simply give our support and deserved praise to the players and the coaches of the team we love. Especially to Romeo Crennel and Gary Gibbs who witnessed such horror, but then were able to lead their emotionally wounded team into a game and not just survive it but thrive in it.

I also think Brady Quinn deserves a special kudos above all the other individual players. He seemed to be a mirrored image of Coach Crennel out there on the field. Calmly leading his team, not ignoring the pain they were all feeling, but helping them stay on track and overcome it. If he hadn’t handled himself so well and hadn’t played his best game of the year (possibly his career) the Chiefs wouldn’t have had a chance.

Brady Quinn, simply put, was perfect on Sunday and he deserves a lot of credit for that. That doesn’t mean you have to change your feelings about his long-term future with the Chiefs — same with Crennel — but these men have earned every bit of praise and credit they are receiving today. Their futures in KC are a topic for another day.

Today I would just like to tell them and the entire Chiefs organization “thank you.” Their efforts yesterday made me proud to be a Chiefs fan. I pray that each and every person touched by this tragedy finds a way to grieve and come to grips with this ordeal in a way that is best for them. Yesterday was a first step, but the closer a person was to this tragedy the longer the road ahead of them is. May God bless their lives as they heal, especially the families of Kasandra Perkins and Jovan Belcher, and most of all little Zoey, who won’t even realize the impact Saturday had on her life until most of us have long forgotten the name Jovan Belcher.

Thanks for reading … now go hug someone you love.

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Tags: Jovan Belcher Kansas City Chiefs Romeo Crennel

  • Soda pop

    Great post!!! Question I have on my mind if Quinn plays like this for the rest of the season do we all feel different come draft day?? I think we grab a qb anyways maybe not in the first round though. This is the first game since the falcons game that I didn’t think dabol called a horrible game!!

    • http://twitter.com/biglump007 Leon Ritz

      I think if Quinn continues to play well we have to give him a shot, that and there is no sure fire QB this year in the draft. I think with the pick we will have picking a QB would be a mistake. In another year then I would say go QB first overall but they just aren’t that talented this year, and the gap between Smith or Barkely at 1 and 2 to Wilson at 3 isn’t big at all.

    • Ribs61

      If he continues to play well I would like to see his contract extended. I stlll want a QB drafted in april though. I’ve seen mock drafts where only the Chiefs take a QB in the first round because we are the only team desperate enough (according to the mock drafters) to take one of this years crop that high. The new GM and coaching staff will have to decide to take a QB in the first or roll the dice and wait for a second round chance.

  • http://powellbailbonds.weebly.com/ big chief

    Great stuff Lyle, by far your best. As for mourning Belcher unless someone has known someone to be a good person their whole life just to have the last 30 minutes of their life end in something so terrible and unpredictable they have no right to judge. As for the game I agree it was brilliant and very impressive considering the situation. It was the first time all year I have seen them play as a team. Hopefully they can build on it and get some momentum going into next year.

  • Doc

    Great post Lyle. From everything I have read so far about JB, something must have gone terribly wrong in his mind to perform these tragic acts. Could it be possible that he suffered from traumatic brain I jury and just snapped? It is a tragedy and will be forever linked to the Chiefs and will take many years to over come.

    I thought Brady Quinn played his best game ever. Could it be possible that he is finally shaking off the rust from sitting for so many seasons? Time will tell. I liked the reads he performed and the way he spread the ball around. I do not think he is a long term solution, but IF we take a QB with the first pick, he may be able to carry is for a year or two until the QB develops. It may be possible that the tragedy helped him to overcome a mental block of looking over his shoulder and being pulled where he could actually focus on playing the position. I can see a glimmer of up side here, but more games are needed for fair evaluation. Unfortunately, the whole team has a mountain of healing to climb first. Can the mental toughness be carried forward?

    Lost also in the shuffle is the continual improvement of Poe. He is now pushing 3 linemen backwards off the line. This should have worked to free up Hali and Houston to wreak havoc on the QB.


    It is now coming to light that Belcher has had some history with the abuse of women in his college days. He once almost severed a finger, having smashed a glass window when showing his anger with a woman. Another time he ran his fist through a wall under similar circumstances. At that time he was said to have issues with drinking. As he moved to the NFL, it appears that he may have had some head trauma, and as a result, had a problem with the use of prescription drugs. As to what happened at the training facility on that very sad morning, that could have been a tragedy of epic proportions. Had Belcher wanted to express some deep seeded emotions in a violent way to Pioli, Crennel and Gibbs, he certainly had the means (a loaded gun) and mind-set to do so. Thank God they were able to walk away from what could have been a multiple murder/suicide.