The Chiefs: Changing Fortunes

For Andy Reid, the 2012 season may have ended before it began.

They say that no parent should ever have to bury their own child but, literally days before the Philadelphia Eagles season started, Andy Reid was mourning the loss of his son and attending to his funeral.

For the Kansas City Chiefs, the 2012 season ended the way their new head coaches’ season began: with tragedy and loss, mourning and a funeral.

Then it’s also not surprising that both teams finished with some of the worst records in the league. In the Eagles case, it is somewhat understandable, especially if Reid’s heart wasn’t in the games. For the Chiefs, it was the worst blow… at the worst of all possible moments… at the end of a franchise history worst season.

So how can an organization and a coach… who have gone through such great personal and professional defeat… pull themselves together and change their fortunes?

Well, first of all, they understand each other: the players and their new coach. After that, the evidence that the Kansas City Chiefs fortunes may be changing, leads directly to owner Clark Hunt.

~ ~ ~

It’s been 19 years since the Chiefs have been to a conference championship game. In the AFC, only Miami and Cincinnati have had longer continuous droughts (Cleveland didn’t have a team for three of those years and would be included otherwise).

The Chiefs playoff victory drought has also reached 19 years. If you include the whole league, only two other teams have gone longer: Detroit (21 years) and Cincinnati (22 years).

While “the record” is “the what,” it is, as of yet, unclear as to “the why.”

If you want to go all the way back to the 1970’s when head coach Hank Stram left and Paul Wiggin took over, the Chiefs haven’t carried the championship mantle ever since then. I’m not just talking about a trophy, it’s about the way winners and champions carry themselves.

From 1960-1974 Hank Stram led the Chiefs to a 131-97-10 record, winning championships in 1962, 1966 and 1969 (Super Bowl). In 15 seasons Stram only had three losing records.

From the time Hank Stram left in 1974, until Marty Schottenheimer took over in 1989, the Chiefs had a 81-128-1 record and only two winning seasons in that span.

From 1989 to 1998, in the reign of Marty… Schottenheimer only had one non-winning season, his last. Since Schott stopped winning as the Chiefs head coach in 1997 — over the past fifteen seasons — no other Chiefs head coach has had consecutive winning seasons. In fact, in that same fifteen year span, the Chiefs have had but five total winning campaigns.

Since 1997, only five winning seasons? That’s right.

Coach Marty Schottenheimer had nine straight winning seasons as the Kansas City Chiefs head coach but the organization hasn’t been able to create more than five winning seasons since that time.

So what was it that, changed the fortunes, of the Kansas City Chiefs during the 1990s?

It’s an important question… because ever since Hank Stram stopped coaching the Chiefs in 1974, the nine years of winning with Schottenheimer is what’s keeps the Chiefs franchise from falling into the abyss of complete historical mediocrity.

From the Hank Stram era until now… minus the Schottenheimer era… the Chiefs have had a total of 7 winning seasons.

So, once again, what was it that changed the fortunes of the Kansas City Chiefs during the 1990s?

Might the answer to that question lead us to understand whether or not Clark Hunt’s 2013 Chiefs are on the right path?

In 1989, Lamar Hunt was there and was the same wonderful, visionary, energy filled owner who helped create the American Football League 29 years earlier. So, was it just that Lamar hired the right GM, Carl Peterson, who then hired the right coach, Marty Schottenheimer?

If you think it was Carl who made the difference, wasn’t he the same GM who navigated the Chiefs from 1997 to 2008? A span with only 4 winning seasons.

If you think it was Lamar who made the difference, wasn’t he the same owner who was there when the organization had only two winning seasons from 1974 to 1989?

You could argue that what changed the Chiefs fortunes for nine years straight was… the “working” relationship of Carl Peterson and Marty Schottenheimer. We know it wasn’t always smooth sailing for those two but, that may be precisely what made it work. Or at least, it worked as long as they accepted each others role.

What may be the deciding factor in whether or not our current Chiefs fortunes are about to change or not… is that Chiefs owner Clark Hunt hired the coach first and the GM second. In this arrangement, both men will report directly to owner Clark Hunt. Each has their own personal and professional relationship with the chairman of the board.

Some GM-HC battles in the NFL are legendary. What’s important here is that there will be a… balance of power. Clark Hunt has made sure that will happen within a structure he has set up and manages himself.

Of all the moves the Kansas City Chiefs have made this off season, Clark Hunts’ move to arrest control over the General Manager-Head Coach relationship… may be the biggest move of all.

Interestingly enough, when Marty Schottenheimer met with Clark Hunt before last season ended, many speculated that Hunt might be interested in bringing Marty back. Since then we’ve found out that Schottenheimer told Hunt at that time that he had no desire to coach again but, did offer advise.

On January 4th, the very day that Andy Reid was hired by Clark Hunt, Marty Schottenheimer spoke with USA Today and said,

I think it’s a spectacular choice,  I honestly think it’s important to get a guy who’s done it, who’s been there. He’s got the DNA for putting together successful teams, and he was able to sustain success over a long period of time.

Who would disagree that good coaching is critical to what can change the fortunes of a team? However, who would disagree that it’s critically important for a GM to give a coach the right talent to work with?

Clark Hunt seems to have figured it out.

In an article written by Floyd Reece for ESPN called, “Five Essentials to Head Coach-GM Success” he says that,

The essentials that keep this relationship working:

  1. Specific and detailed outline of responsibilities- Lines must be drawn and responsibilities must be determined in all areas.
  2. Communication- Even though responsibilities have been determined, neither should make even a minor decision without consulting the other.
  3. Trust- A single person in charge of it all cannot keep up. Trust is the glue that adheres to coach and general manager.
  4. Relationship with the owner- Both the general manager and coach should have a separate personal relationship with the owner….
  5. Expertise- If the objective of having a football franchise is to win championships, the best chance to do that is to have the most qualified people.

With everything we know about Andy Reid and John Dorsey’s relationship and backgrounds… it looks like Clark Hunt  may have been fortunate enough to hit a hole in one. I’m increasingly doubting the dumb luck theory.

Now, the Chiefs just need to go out and win some games to see if their fortunes really have changed.

What do you think Addicts? Are the Chiefs fortunes about to change? Or have they changed already?

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  • Stacy D. Smith

    The start of Peterson’s regime began with a #1 pick who would gone on to make the Hall of Fame. Here’s looking at you Eric Fisher. No pressure.

    • ladner morse

      From Derrick to Eric… :) I like it.

      Although, I think Derrick was the 4th pick in the draft.

      • Stacy D. Smith

        Right you are.

      • berttheclock

        That ’89 draft is the NFL’s version of the famous accolade given to the Class of 1915 at West Point. That class became known as “the class the stars fell upon” because so many graduates went on to become Generals during WWII. The NFL draft of ’89 had 4 out of the first five making the Hall of Fame, Aikman, Barry Sanders, Deion Sanders and Derrick Thomas. Only the 2nd pick, Manderich by GB, was a bust.

        • elly violette

          That sounds like it was an amazing draft. It makes me wonder if there were any drafts better than that … as far as the top five go?

          • Joe Myers

            Don’t asume I’m throwing them under the bus that’s your opinion. I just realized andy realize that this team is on the verge of SB contention . I just didn’t want to see us pass him up . Buying we are so I want something out of it a playoff win maybe

          • elly violette

            I agree that this team is on the verge of SB contention too…… that’s why I said that.

          • ladner morse

            That may be jumping the gun. I think the Chiefs need to start winning some regular season games and then a playoff game before you can say they are on the verge of Super Bowl contention. Remember the “Dream Team” of the 2011 Eagles?

  • berttheclock

    Although, as mentioned in this article, the GM is usually hired first, such as the promotion of Trent Baalke coming before Baalke was involved in hiring Harbaugh, look at the success in Seattle, where Paul Allen hired Pete Carroll as his HC, one week before hiring John Schneider as the new GM. Those two work hand in glove to bring about needed changes. Their roster has been a perpetual revolving door of ye olde “Rent, don’t buy in the Emerald City”. With that team, there is no such thing as resting upon one’s so-called laurels, no matter pro or college or even who may have coached you before.
    However, one point about the success of Marty. He developed excellent assistants, such as Bill Cowher and Dungy. Plus, he gave a big break to Mike McCarthy. Marty hired the best he could find and delegated authority to them.

    • ladner morse

      I miss Marty. I like that he always made bold statements. However, his bold statements on the football field became his vulnerability… because it was also his predictability.

      • elly violette

        i dont know what you mean Ladner.

        • ladner morse

          Schottenheimer was never very coy or stealth about the kinds of plays he would call. They called his style of play “Marty-ball” for a reason. He was a great coach but often times attempted to ram the ball down the mouth of the defense… even when they knew is was coming. I used to think he’d be a perfect coach if he could figure out how to be tricky at times. Never happened. But, you can’t argue with his regular season success.

          • KCMikeG

            It worked for a while but I kept wondering if I knew 95% of the time what the play was going to be by the players and the formation then certainly our opponents did too. Marty gave us a great run of success. I just wish things hadn’t ended like they did. Ugly. MNF Meltdown, the criminal element he brought in and the off the field issues really tarnished the end of his time in KC.

          • ladner morse

            Yep… Martyball was predictable ball too much of the time. Now, it seems strange that I used to complain about a guy who had nine winning seasons in a row.

  • chiefridgy

    It sounds like we just need to clone Hank Stram.

    • berttheclock

      Plus, Don Klosterman to find and sign the talent.

      • ladner morse

        You know… Klosterman recruited Mike Garrett to the Chiefs. Garrett was the reason I became a Chiefs fan. Garrett was the first in a long line of excellent backs to come out of USC… which was located in Southern Cal… about 30 miles from where I grew up… dreaming of playing RB in the NFL as a kid. Garrett was the man.

        • berttheclock

          Speaking of Mike Garrett, Jerry Buss used to love to sit in the infield at Del Mar working on his DRF. He hated to wear a tie, so, he refused to go to the Turf Club, ala Gene Klein. As long as you only talked about the ponies, you could talk with him. One afternoon, I saw Garrett, wearing a suit walk up to him and try to talk about something concerning USC. Buss blew him off and went back to his Form.

    • ladner morse

      You know… NFL.com has Hank ranked as the #8 all-time motivational coach. He was a great guy. Period!

  • Joe Myers

    We better have we are missi g out on tahj boyd future HOF !!!

    • elly violette

      So…. we should lose out this year to make sure we get Tahj Boyd? It’s a little before early to be throwing this team under the bus isn’t it?

      • Joe Myers

        What wow quick to assume are we !!!

        • ladner morse

          You’re the one who said, “we are missi g out on tahj boyd future HOF !!!”
          That’s why people took what you said as a… “wow too early to be throwing this team under the bus.”

          • Joe Myers

            So people got me “throwing them under the bus” out of we are going to miss out on tahj boyd . I stated a possible fact . I threw no one under the bus I would think your readers where more understanding but I’m not so sure now . No I did not throw them under the bus just cuz someone thinks I did .

      • Joe Myers

        Also I never said we ahould lose out . If anything I was suggesting we do better then what espn predict 8-8 . I think we are going to only lose to denver and the chargers both on the road . And I also believe we will be playing the broncos at arrowhead for the afc champ game !!!! . Quick to assume ??? Yes I think you are . Good day sir .

        • Joe Myers

          Ok my phone is brand new 500 dollars and its too dame sensitive wow !!

    • KCMikeG

      I really like Boyd and was hopeful he was going to enter the draft this year. Hopefully we won’t need him next year unless of course we are looking to build for the future/replacing Daniels.

      • Joe Myers

        Right he won’t get over looked trust me. he’s the prototype qb we all know this but great arm strength and touch that is wow !! And hes clutch

        • KCMikeG

          So tough and inspirational to his teammates too. Boyd is currently ranked #3 QB but the top eight are all great prospects. Their play this year will determine their final ranking. Last year only a single QB was taken in each of the first three rounds and only 11 were drafted at all.

          • Joe Myers

            Right you are !! I cant wait if alex can bring the accuracy jc is going to shine . Let the passing game open up the running game .

  • kcpauly

    well the fortunes can only change one way, as it would be very tough to get less than 2 wins LOL…Go Chiefs!!!!!!

    • elly violette

      Don’t tempt the Football Gods… you could be responsible for the Chiefs going “perfect” this season. 0-16!

      • kcpauly

        No way, we got to at least beat Jax, and Clev. LOL, but I’m going 16-0 perfect as I always do this time of year, yet another delusional Chiefs Fan LMFAO….Go Chiefs!!!!!

  • Lyle Graversen

    Great read Ladner, I’m certainly the most optimistic that I’ve been in several years, but there’s still a little voice in the back of my head saying “They’ve let you down before!”. Here’s hoping the Reid/Dorsey combo can finally silence that voice.

    • ladner morse

      Thanks Lyle. I think many of us are on “wait-n-see” mode. Me included.

  • elly violette

    Sounds like Clark Hunt has made some good decisions and isn’t repeating his mistakes. I hope John Dorsey and Andy Reid work out as well as Carl Peterson and Marty Schottenheimer did. Only… please add a Super Bowl victory or two along the way.

    • ladner morse

      If Reid and Dorsey work out as well as Peterson and Marty… they’ll get a lot of wins but not many fans here will be happy. It’s going to take some Super Bowl appearances and wins to calm our long time fans.

  • steve james

    Fortunes can’t help but change. I hope we can at the very least play Spoiler to Horse Face & Manning. They have problems behind the scenes in Denver that could impact the on field product. I do hope the men involved get help but it does show that things are ever changing & you never know what could happen week to week.

    As to the R&D department at Arrowhead? You can’t even see one photo of those two & not see the shared focus they have. I think that will be the most well oiled productive team in the NFL for years to come! I think Reid’s troubles in Philly largely stemmed from to much responsibility & duties. Filling both roles with one man just means you do neither duty as good asyou could with just one role to fill.

    • KCMikeG

      The Horse & Pony show shall meet their match in Arrowhead. Reid’s decline had many factors – the troubles with his sons, the decline of the OL, a wild man with the ball at QB and the over paid free agents that thought all they had to do was show up. R&D are a great match and Clark was brilliant in his establishing the structure for the future. Great things are coming back to KC!

      • ladner morse

        I think R&D are a good match too. My only question is whether or not they are too much alike. Marty and Carl often didn’t see eye to eye and I think that is what helped them in the long run. It’s the divergent opinions that help keep things hopping and challenging as long as one of the parties doesn’t weary of the hassle. I’m hoping R&D have different opinions… but work well at resolving their differences and are willing to make their sacrifices equitable… for the good of the franchise.

        • Joe Myers

          J

  • steve james

    Just read the linked article from 2008 & found this gem.

    Its not surprising that the Bill Polian-Tony Dungy and Scott Pioli-Bill Belichick partnerships have had outstanding success for years.

    • ladner morse

      Here’s the full quote:

      “5. Expertise
      If the objective of having a football franchise is to win championships, the best chance to do that is to have the most qualified people.Just as bringing in a great player will win games, the same holds true with coaches and general managers. Egos aside, the confidence and assurance ofworking with a great counterpart forces you to improve your game, because believing you can win is often as important as a great player or a great play call. It’s not surprising that the Bill Polian-Tony Dungy and Scott Pioli-Bill Belichick partnerships have had outstanding success for years.”

  • Guest

    I couldn’t get past all the dot dot dot’s in the middle… of sentences. I found myself looking at how… many there were… instead of reading… the article.

    • ladner morse

      Some read for correctness. Some for content.

      Every dot, dot, dot… was thought about and planned.

      Sorry it doesn’t meet your standards.

    • Joe Myers

      Wow I don’t think anyone cares

  • KCMikeG

    Very insightful. One of your best. Nice to see Clark get some credit for taking the reigns and leading our team back to greatness after all the negativity he has endured. His father will be proud after all is said and done.

    • ladner morse

      Thanks Mike. I was a bit confused by Clark’s actions at first. Upon further reflection, and a little research, it looks like he’s hitting home runs with this regime.

  • Jason Collins

    It’s funny to think everyone wanted Marty ball out of K.C. “He can’t win the big one”! At least he won games… It has been almost completely one failed season after another. If KC loses one more game to the raiders I’m jumping ship.

  • Brian Bunting

    Chiefs will always suck. They can go 16-0 and will still lose thier first playoff game. Why? Because the Chiefs suck. Always have and always will. Really, 3 playoff wins since SB4. You guys are the most delusional fans on the NFL.