Do the Kansas City Chiefs have a marketing problem?

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 4: Eric Berry /

The Kansas City Chiefs lack a single player in the Top 50 in NFL jersey sales. Do they have a marketing problem?

The National Football League’s Player Association released their top player sales list in terms of all licensed merchandise. Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliot led the entire league in sales, and the Cowboys themselves were very well represented with five of the top 15 players in overall sales, including current quarterback Dak Prescott (No. 2) and former/retired quarterback Tony Romo (No. 15). In other words, the Cowboys are so popular that a quarterback who didn’t play for them all of last year still sold more jerseys than nearly everyone else in the NFL in the last fiscal year.

A closer look at the list reveals something interesting, or rather an absence of something. There’s not a single Kansas City Chiefs player among the lot. It would be understandable for the Chiefs to not land a player in the top 10. After all, larger media markets come into play and star quarterbacks are always going to move merch. The Chiefs don’t boast a Tom Brady or a Big Ben or a Drew Brees. But top 50? That seems a bit off.

The Chiefs aren’t the only team without a player in the Top 50 overall. The Los Angeles Chargers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Buffalo Bills, Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns are the other teams without a single player on that same list. Yet this bit of company is revealing. Besides the Baltimore Ravens, each of those teams are typically mired in the basement of their respective divisions (and in the case of Philip Rivers, it shows how much less attention he’s getting on the West Coast).

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In case you think the Top 50 is tough to crack, let’s also lay out some of the names who are on that list. The Los Angeles Rams have two players, Jared Goff and Todd Gurley. Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith and wideout Stefon Diggs are also on that list. Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin is there, as is Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jarvis Landry. If you find this a bit hard to believe, welcome to the club.

How is there not a single member of the Kansas City Chiefs on this list, a team with arguably the most recognizable head coach in the NFL this side of Bill Belichick? The Chiefs have created a winning culture, boast one of the best (and loudest) fan bases in the entire league, have earned significant prime time play over the last few years, and will be on primetime TV more than any other team in the NFL in 2017.

Consider some of the players who are not on that list:

  • Eric Berry – An All-Pro safety likely Hall of Famer who has the most inspiring story in the NFL in recent years.
  • Marcus Peters – A lockdown, Pro Bowl cornerback who is setting NFL marks with the amount of INTs so early in his career.
  • Travis Kelce – A Pro Bowl tight end with undeniable charisma (and a dating show!)
  • Jamaal Charles – The running back hasn’t played but that didn’t stop Tony Romo from showing up at No. 15 overall.
  • Justin Houston – Again some injury history here, but he’s one of the NFL’s top 10 elite defenders when he’s on the field.
  • Tamba Hali – A franchise favorite who is among the active leaders in career sacks.
  • Tyreek Hill – Literally the fastest player in the league.
  • Derrick Johnson – Another franchise fave who set the team record for total tackles.

If we’re not being homers here, we’re fine crossing off Tamba Hali, Justin Houston, Jamaal Charles and Derrick Johnson simply because injured players aren’t usually inspiring fan purchases. That said, Berry and Peters are arguably the very best at their positions, so the idea of Harrison Smith selling more jerseys just sounds ridiculous. Tyreek Hill’s history might come into play here, but there’s no denying how electric he can be. Kelce is becoming a household name.

Or is he? Maybe that’s the real question here: do the Chiefs have a marketing problem? The on-field product is as dynamic as any in the NFL. The team is loaded with dynamic young stars who are among the very best at their respective positions. The team also employs longtime fan favorites, living legends who will be enshrined in the Ring of Honor one day. A fan can attend a game at Arrowhead these days and walk away saying, “I saw the Chiefs when [insert name here] was playing.” It’s a loaded roster, top to bottom.

Having a rookie quarterback like Patrick Mahomes might help, and he might even sell enough jerseys to put a member of the Chiefs into next year’s top 50. Even then, however, my question would be this: “How much more Mahomes jerseys could the Chiefs be selling than they are now?” Because it’s clear that there’s a disconnect between the product on the field and the average NFL fan.

The Chiefs are one of the best products in the NFL these days. Too bad they’re not selling products at the same rate. Something isn’t clicking on a national level and it’s not John Dorsey’s fault. He’s put together something worth buying. You just have to wonder whether the problem is a marketing one or whether the blame lies somewhere else.