The best Kansas City Chiefs to ever wear the uniform: No. 26
By Matt Conner
In this special offseason series, we analyze the best players in Kansas City Chiefs history to wear every single uniform number. Here’s No. 26.
My son wants to dress himself these days. This is not a big deal to either me or my wife, but we recognize that some parents would be quite uncomfortable with their 4-year-old choosing his apparel, especially because that means we often leave the house wearing a cape my wife made for him or a train conductor outfit. Every day is Halloween.
If he wasn’t so young, I’d be concerned. And at some point, we might even have a moment where I tell him not to wear something for the sake of his social future. Certainly if he had a No. 26 jersey, I would tell him to take it off right then and there.
Some things just aren’t meant to be worn. I can’t explain what’s wrong with No. 26, but I’ve seen the effects and that’s all I need to know.
Don’t believe me? Just trust me that you don’t own a No. 26 jersey and you never will.
This jersey is haunted, at least in recent years. Some players of Chiefs past have been able to forge decent careers with this jersey, but the latest attempts to wear the number haven’t helped at all. Check out this list:
- C.J. Spiller – A hilarious revolving door last year included 4 separate releases in one year
- KeiVarae Russell – His unexplained release as a third round pick without ever playing a single down remains the biggest draft mystery (and blemish) on John Dorsey’s record.
- Sanders Commings – His NFL and MLB hopes never quite worked out.
- Stanford Routt -The worst FA signing this decade.
- Saalim Hakim – I don’t even remember this guy
Both Damien Williams and Will Redmond are wearing this number right now for the Chiefs, so it’s clear that maybe K.C. is hoping that they will break the curse by applying it twice—as if they’re challenging the gods by daring them to multiply their powers over two players. Redmond is a bit of a cornerback longshot, but Williams has the easier path to the active roster. He will likely challenge Charcandrick West in a showdown of scatbacks.
Maybe either player on the current roster can upend this trend, but they’re more likely to become additional footnotes that No. 26 is not something to mess with.
The Runner-up: Frank Jackson
Frank Jackson was one of the very first standout wide receivers in Chiefs/Texans history. As a former 19th round pick, he faced an uphill climb, but the Chiefs made room for him on offense after converting Johnny Robinson from the offensive side to the defensive side—a good move given that Robinson is now a member of the Chiefs Hall of Fame as one of the best safeties to ever play in K.C.
Jackson would finish his five-year stint in Kansas City with one Pro Bowl nomination and 163 catches for 2,516 receiving yards and 21 touchdowns. He was also a kick and punt returner and won the AFL championship in ’62.
The Winner: Gary Barbaro
The Kansas City Chiefs rightly inducted Gary Barbaro into the team’s Hall of Fame in just the last five years, even though Barbaro’s career finished long before that moment. It might have taken some time, but there’s no denying that Barbaro is one of the best defensive backs to ever suit up for the team.
Unfortunately for Barbaro, few people were interested in the Chiefs when he played and even now, no one really looks at the late ’70s as some bustling era of Chiefs football to remember. They were, after all, 35-63 during his seven-year stretch with the team and it ended with the strike of ’82. Just like that, his 101 game career was over and the team was forced to move on in ’83.
Still for those seven years, Barbaro was the man on the Chiefs defense and was named team MVP in ’79. Barbaro was a three-time Pro Bowler with 39 career interceptions, a total that was third in franchise history when he retired and remains fourth overall.
Fortunately for Barbaro, he was able to perform with No. 26 on his jersey. Or maybe that kept him from even greater things.
Next: The Best to Wear It: No. 25
Congratulations to Gary Barbaro for being the greatest Chiefs player to ever wear the No. 26 on his uniform!