So many have waited for this, for the entire length of their adult lives: a talented team on the verge of greatness, solid on every side of the ball, with everything to hope for and every chance to improve.
That describes the current 2012 Kansas City Chiefs.
So, why doesn’t everybody see it?
Sometimes you can stand too close to the mirror that you can’t see the whole reflection. That’s happened here, especially for fans who may not readily recall what the Chiefs were like just a few short years, or decades, ago.
These Chiefs have a strong front office and a strong coaching staff, with several good drafts under their belts and now one very memorable, perhaps destiny changing, free agency period… as well as some significant season ending victories, not to mention an AFC West Championship just one year removed.
So, why do many fans refuse to recognize the winning destiny path of the 2012 Kansas City Chiefs?
These days, every move a team makes is dissected even before the move is made and many times fans can’t appreciate the real progress that’s taking place. In other words, fans do a lot more thinking and analyzing… than feeling… in the digital age.
A few decades ago, I was watching the “Immaculate Reception” game… before the game was given its moniker. It was a classic defensive playoff chess match that took place in late December of 1972, I was still just 21 years old and already entrenched in the joy of Raider revilement. The Steelers were 6-8 the previous season and had not been to the playoffs since they were the Chicago Cards/Pittsburgh Steelers in 1944.
Although the 1971 Steelers wouldn’t win their first Super Bowl for a couple more years, what I recall about watching that game was that they looked good, looked like a winner and looked like they’d win that game… even before Franco Harris snatched that ball off the turf like he was keeping an egg from falling on the kitchen floor.
Chuck Noll later said, “The thrill isn’t in winning, it’s in the doing.” Many fans have over-popularized Vince Lombardi’s comment about winning being the only thing but, I think Noll had it right. That applies to the Chiefs because they’ve been doing great lately, on and off the field.
I also recall having similar feelings and thoughts about the San Francisco 49ers as they looked like winners… before Dwight Clark made “The Catch” against the Dallas Cowboys in January of 1982. Like the Steelers, the 49ers had only won six games the previous season but, were growing so rapidly as a team and organization that winning looked inevitable. Which it was, and they secured their first Super Bowl trophy that same year.
In the leadership lessons Bill Walsh taught, he spoke of the need for everyone to share a vision of contributing to the team’s success.
"Winning a Super Bowl results from your whole team, not only doing their individual jobs but, perceiving that those jobs contributed to overall success."
The Chiefs game against the Packers in December 2011 may have been that conspicuous moment in Chiefs history. Although it was Kyle Orton who led the charge that day, the victory was a team victory. A victory for the organization. The same could be said for the Chiefs last game of the season vs. the Broncos. Although it was Brandon Carr who secured that victory with an interception of a Tim Tebow pass, it was a team victory.
I’m not blinded to the needs that the Chiefs have on both sides of the ball, but the progress they have made in just the past three seasons can’t be denied and the overall squad morale and shape of the franchise may be better right now than it has been in over a decade.
The progress shown in just four years is notable.
In 2008, Damon Huard, Tyler Thigpen and Brodie Croyle were the Chiefs QBs. RB Larry Johnson led the team with 874 yards rushing and Tyler Thigpen was second. Some might argue that Cassel, Stanzi and Quinn are not all that much better but, if you look at every other position, as well as the coaches and front office, the Chiefs are in great shape moving forward. Yes, the Chiefs still had Tony Gonzalez and Jared Allen on the roster but both were malcontents.
Is this team a team of destiny? Yes. I think so. I’m beginning to get that feeling. That feeling. Isn’t that the vision that Walsh spoke about. “Perceiving that those jobs contributed to overall success.” Isn’t that the vision that truly makes a team, a team?
And, isn’t that a feeling?
The week before the Packers game I felt like the Chiefs could and would win that game (I should have gone to Vegas).
The last week of the season I was positive the Chiefs would win that game against the Broncos and was surprised when the game was so close.
When the Chiefs lost in week 15 to the Raiders by a field goal they essentially lost the AFC Championship that day too. However, you could see they were competing and playing to win and making progress. They nearly won that game too. You could tell that what Chuck Noll said was true of these Chiefs that day: the thrill is in doing. And you could get the sense that more winning is coming.
Does any of that prove that the Chiefs are a team of destiny? Not really but, you can feel and sense the Chiefs’ culture changing. It’s not just one thing. It’s many. That’s why Walsh’s comment is so important.
Four years ago the Chiefs’ offensive and defensive rosters were not only weak but so was special teams and they ended up with three different place kickers that year. Eight seasons ago the offense was one of the best in the league but the defense was unspeakably bad and fans were growing less and less fond of Carl Peterson each moment of each season. The ’90s were filled with great promise in Martyball, Montana and Derrick Thomas. However, with an offense that never found a singular identity, those teams won a total of three playoff games but had no Super Bowl appearances.
I’m in no way pretending that these Pioli-led Chiefs are one of the league’s best, however, they may be the Green Bay Packers of three or four years ago on the verge of yearly contention… minus the QB.
Yes, the Chiefs will likely have to address the QB position within the next one to two seasons, possibly even in this draft. But, couldn’t you feel the hope as a result of Clark Hunt, Scott Pioli and Romeo Crennel each coming out publicly in favor of signing Peyton Manning? It shows the team’s leadership is targeting a performance level higher than Matt Cassel’s.
I can go along with the Cassel apologists who say he still hasn’t received a fair opportunity to shine behind a line as stellar as the New England Patriot line that he played behind in 2008. Now, I believe the Chiefs are close to having that level of offensive protection for Matt Cassel. So, it will be time for him to put up or move on.
Isn’t that exciting to you? We’ll soon know the results of the Matt Cassel experiment and either way, we’re on the verge of knowing.
We’re on the verge.
The winter signings of Siler, Bowe, Gordon, Routt, Boss, Hillis, Quinn and Winston are not just signs of the leadership opening up their offseason game plans and wallet. The team is actually stronger now as a result of these moves. In the case of RT Eric Winston: there is now a great strength where there once was a great weakness.
So, hope runs rampant and we’re only seven days into free agency.
Besides this great free agency period and the up coming draft, the Chiefs have many other reasons to feel extremely encouraged:
"Mr. Jamaal Faster-than-a-speeding-bullet Charles and his 1467 rushing yards are back.Mr. Eric Berry, the first year All-Pro is back.Mr. Tony “OneHandedCatchInTheBackOfTheEndZone” Moeaki is back.Todd “The Tasmanian Devil” Haley is gone.Clark Hunt has finally, finally opend his wallet, for whatever reason.Rookie of the Year Justin Houston is likely to pick up where he left off.The cohesiveness of OC Daboll and HC Crennel and GM Pioli.Matt Cassel has the same QB coach two years in a row.Baldwin, Hudson, Houston, Powe and all of the other rookies, are getting their first full offseason program of assistance.Other AFC West foes have not kept pace with the Chiefs this offseason."
Also, knowing that the Chiefs have very few holes now to fill, with some adept drafting moves in April’s three day event, they’ll be well on their way to winning the AFC West… and so much more.
A winning destiny.
This is the year.
I can feel it.