KC Chiefs have undergone different sort of rebuild this offseason

BALTIMORE, MD - NOVEMBER 01: Orlando Brown #78 of the Baltimore Ravens during a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium on November 1, 2020 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Benjamin Solomon/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - NOVEMBER 01: Orlando Brown #78 of the Baltimore Ravens during a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium on November 1, 2020 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Benjamin Solomon/Getty Images) /

It’s late May, and you know what that means: the end of school, dawn of summer, and one part of the year where pro basketball is watchable. But for football fans, the months of May, June, and even July are rather barren, not unlike a home game for the L.A. Chargers. Where the fall and winter provide us with an endless bounty of football fodder, the summer days feel gutted. The beach is nice, and ice cream is cool, but Patrick Mahomes hitting Tyreek Hill on an 18 yard go-route is a different kind of thrill. No combination of beaches, ice cream, or puppies can match it. I’ve tried.

The NFL “dead season” has a special significance this year for K.C. Chiefs fans, though. Because a lot has happened in the past few months. And, I submit, some unwinding may be in order.

Consider everything that has happened in the Chiefs world since the dawn of 2021. We saw an incredible playoff run to the Super Bowl, which included some truly wild Chad Henne heroism. Henne’s relief for an injured Patrick Mahomes was enough to propel the Chiefs to the AFC Championship, which they won in rather typical Chiefs fashion: behind the arm of Mahomes and the hands of Hill and Travis Kelce.

But the Super Bowl was a different story. Where Super Bowl LIV had a fairy tale ending, the sequel served up the opposite. Mahomes was pressured relentlessly, and dropped passes, untimely penalties and poor situational play signed the Chiefs’ death knell. At best, it served as clear instruction to some of the weaknesses the team has (had?). Regardless, it was tough. It was the kind of gut punch that only a certain kind of team can get back up from.

K.C. Chiefs have reimagined what it means to rebuild.

In the weeks/months that followed, the Chiefs showcased their ardent commitment to never, never repeat the events of Super Bowl LV. They embarked on a sweeping overhaul of their offensive line. Out were the likes of instrumental veterans Mitchell Schwartz and Eric Fisher, moves which signaled the major overhaul to come.

As Chiefs fans know, however, the overhaul wasn’t completed in a day. There were plot twists, which including to excitement of a potential Trent Williams addition, which didn’t come to fruition. There was the fleeting prospect of a Rodney Hudson reunion. And, if my Twitter gauge is remotely accurate, some fans felt unsteady as free agency progressed. The plan didn’t seem to address a rather important part of any offensive line: tackles.

Enter the trade for Orlando Brown Jr., which was a stunning delight for most fans. The Chiefs acquired the 24-year-old in a deal which, at its core, sent the Baltimore Ravens pick 31 in the 2021 draft. It simply isn’t often that a team acquires a young, proven blindside protector like that. The symbolism of the trade speaks largely to that cutting Super Bowl. Never again will the Chiefs lose like that. The Brown trade was far from a band-aid solution to that championship-level cut. It was a full-fledged attack on the identified cause of the wound.

The point being, we can trace the Chiefs’ offseason strategy to that Super Bowl defeat. Further, though, the ambitious offseason is a sign that the Chiefs, despite their status as a top NFL team, are in the process of a kind of rebuild. Not the kind of “rebuild” that we typically think of (tanking, commitment to young players, focus on accruing draft capital) but instead, a transformation, one that seeks to preserve what makes the Chiefs great already, supplemented with a kind of stark structural change to the team.

At the heart of this offseason, then, is a sense of rewiring. Not because the Chiefs were broken, though, but because these sorts of major changes don’t happen in a vacuum. The changes the Chiefs are after require a bit of time to achieve that new identity.It’s naive to assume at face value that the o-line overhaul will immediately catapult the Chiefs to unflinching invincibility. However, nor is it really the point here. Instead, the offensive line overhaul sends a clear message that the Chiefs are in a process of becoming despite their standing as one of the league’s best teams.

So, what does any of this have to do with May, June, July, the “dead season” for the NFL? Well, growth, in general, isn’t achieved by action alone. After all, muscle memory is strengthened largely through a combination of rest and repetition. Perhaps, then, we can imagine the Chiefs as being in a sort of rest period. Not mere idleness, though, but instead, instructive rest. For the Chiefs to become more than what they have been, this sort of settling period, though not as exciting as the free agency flurry, is itself a requirement for growth.