The new-look Kansas City Chiefs are currently under construction at One Arrowhead Drive. The foreman of this project, Chairman Clark Hunt, began the year by acquiring a respectable construction crew (R&D Restoration). Over the past 60 days, that crew has stockpiled quality building materials. With the groundbreaking underway in Kansas City, one thing is clear: This franchise must play a better brand of football at home.
During Kansas City’s last administration, the Chiefs lost 20 of 32 games at Arrowhead Stadium. They twice lost 7 games in a single season on their home field (in 2009 and 2012). Not surprisingly, the lone winning season under Scott Pioli and company came in 2010 when the team won 7 of 8 in Kansas City. If this franchise has any hope of restoring respectability to a proud NFL town, it will start and end with finding the Arrowhead “magic” that’s been missing in action since 2006.
Arrowhead was once a nightmarish place for opposing teams to come into. In the 1990′s, Kansas City struck fear in the heart of visiting teams. The Chiefs’ home field was the worst kept secret in the NFL. Everyone knew they could expect an aggressive, inexorable defense and a rabid, noisy group of fans in a college football atmosphere. Those were always miserable conditions for Chiefs opponents, but that mystique has worn off. It used to be a place where seemingly every bounce went KC’s way. After seeing his organization fall apart, I’m sure Hunt is wondering where that luck has gone.
I spent the better part of my childhood watching Kansas City impose its will on other teams at Arrowhead. Remember Tamarick Vanover’s 86-yard punt return that sealed an overtime win against the San Diego Chargers on Monday Night Football in 1995? How about the game about six weeks later where a Todd McNair fumble led to Mark Collins’ 34-yard touchdown recovery and subsequent victory over the Houston Oilers? Derrick Thomas had his 7 sack day at Arrowhead. Priest Holmes broke the then-NFL record for touchdowns in a single season at Arrowhead (28).
The magic that formerly existed at Arrowhead can also be credited to one of the best twelfth men in the league. The Sea of Red used to be regarded as the “toughest place to play in the NFL” largely due to the debilitating noise levels fans created. The stadium, when raucous, had decibel levels that hovered in the 105-115 range. That’s comparable to the noise generated by a 747 aircraft’s engine. An impossibly loud stadium disrupts offensive communication and rhythm. That created a decisive advantage for defenses of the past. Where has the noise gone?
The confines of Arrowhead Stadium aren’t quite as cozy as they used to be. Fans are quieter these days and it’s because they haven’t had much reason to cheer. Losing records season after season will do that to your fan base. Toward the end of Pioli’s administration, a sizable portion of Chiefs Kingdom was disaffected. It’s tough to recreate the stifling environment of yesteryear with so many empty seats.
The 2013 season is a chance for the Chiefs to start the process of reviving the magic at Arrowhead Stadium, but it won’t be easy. Kansas City has home games with three teams that qualified for the postseason last year (the Colts, Broncos, and Texans). Two of those matchups take place in the month of December when the AFC should be in the thick of its playoffs race.
Kansas City will need to win two of those three games. Holding the tiebreaker over Indianapolis is a feather the Chiefs will want in their headdress. The Colts were the AFC’s fifth seed in the 2012 postseason. Wouldn’t hurt to beat Houston either (they finished just one game ahead of Indianapolis in the AFC South last year). All three teams could be vying for the lowest two seeds in the conference in 2013. The importance of beating your division winning rival on your home field goes without saying.
Andy Reid, John Dorsey, and Alex Smith all come from organizations that have recently played better football in their respective stadiums than the Chiefs. Lambeau Field and Candlestick Park are consistently among the toughest places in the NFL to play. I’m hoping Reid stresses the importance of “protecting the house” with his new squad. A return to greatness at Arrowhead probably means a return to respectability overall.
Until next time, Addicts!