The Kansas City Chiefs and a crisis of belief

The greatest tragedy of the 2023 season is the fact that the defending world champions have lost faith in themselves just 10 months removed from a league title.

Las Vegas Raiders v Kansas City Chiefs
Las Vegas Raiders v Kansas City Chiefs / Jamie Squire/GettyImages

If I have lost confidence in myself, I have the universe against me - Emerson

For months now, the Kansas City Chiefs have been lying to you. Whether they've taken to post-game press podiums or sports podcasts, they've made a concerted effort to present themselves as stoic in the face of adversity. Since returning from their Week 10 bye, the team has dropped five of their last eight games. This team has been plagued by porous offensive production, turnovers, drops, and untimely penalties. They've done their level best to try and inspire confidence in their ability to turn things around offensively. The trouble is, they don't believe a word they say.

Teams that trust their own ability to evolve and overcome moments of adversity exude that in their actions on the field, and more importantly, on the sideline. This team slams helmets, blames officiating, and gets caught on camera having a meltdown when plays fail and game outcomes are decided. Think of the championship-caliber Chiefs teams in recent years. They were marked by resiliency and poise. In 2023, this bunch comes unglued over the smallest challenges. The outbursts belie the strong face the Chiefs have shown us.

Why would a team that has been molded by the fires of adversity over the past five years find itself melting down this season? Why does it seem this time that the team is folding in on itself and incapable of rising above its limitations? I submit to you that this organization knows full well it's incapable of digging itself out of the hole it's created. Throughout the season, players have suggested that once they clean up the mistakes, and that they can play the brand of football they're accustomed to playing. The dirty little secret is that this isn't uncharacteristic of the 2023 Chiefs. Mistakes, unforced errors, and an overall failure to play consistently good football define this team. This is simply who they are.

Hell, even the body language of this football team suggests it's in full-on panic mode. All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce looked positively despondent in this week's episode of the popular New Heights podcast. Kelce is as passionate a football player as you'll find in the National Football League, but he looks like a man quietly contemplating retirement.

Kelce had this to say about the Chiefs' Christmas Day loss to the Raiders, "Every single play is somebody not doing their job, and it's me ... it's everybody on the team. And whether that's prep, whether that's having the confidence and understanding of what the defense is in their coverages, their gaps in the run game, how we're picking up blitzes, how we're running routes versus certain coverages. All the above."

Kelce went on to discuss the need to be a better, more accountable leader of the team moving forward. "I'm just not playing my best football. I've got to f— lock the f— in and be more accountable for him [Reid], be more accountable for my teammates. I've got to keep my f— cool, man, because as a leader on this team, that's not how you switch the momentum." Those sentiments were echoed by head coach Andy Reid and reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes. If there's any chance this team turns things around in time for the postseason, it starts with the leaders of the team exhibiting sincere faith in their ability to right the ship.

Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately), there is still football to be played. Two weeks remain in the regular season and while Sunday's loss gives the Raiders a glimmer of hope to win the AFC West, the Chiefs can still slam that door shut with a win on Sunday. The 1 seed is burned, but the Chiefs can essentially cement their grasp on the No. 3 seed if they take care of business when the Bengals come to town. For me, it's no longer a question of what I believe about the Kansas City Chiefs. The only thing that matters is what this team believes about itself. We'll soon find out.