Hello there AP.
Some of you guys might recognize me as a somewhat regular commenter on a lot of AP’s fantastic threads. I figured it was time for me to cement myself as a regular contributor to this excellent blog and community by attempting my first relevant FanPost. So here is my take on the Chiefs: Past, Present and Future.
Let me first start by saying that I grew up in Kansas City. When Carl and Marty took the helm in ’89 I was 5 years old, so my memory of the 90’s ascension is not completely first hand. Luckily I had my parents and other friends and family members fill to me in on the history as I got older. Through the 90’s I remember going to Chiefs Game Day parties with my parents and staying up late on Monday nights to watch the Red and Gold win memorable games. My parents used to make “Bronco Burgers” when we played the Donks. The 1994 Monday Night game where Montana brought us back against the Broncos in the final moments was probably the game that cemented me as a Chiefs fan forever. At 9 years old I remember being emotionally invested in that game and I specifically remember the reaction of my parents, who acted like they had just won the Power Ball jackpot when Montana lead us on our own version of “The Drive”. My parents succeeded in raising me right.
There was nothing like the 90’s Chiefs. Neil Smith. Derrick Thomas. Joe Montana. Marcus Allen. I grew up watching the greatest Chiefs team to ever take the field, and I was proud to be the member of a family and community that used the term “us” and “we” when talking about our team.
Fast forward to 2008, skipping me telling you guys about how I’ve watched almost every game up to then, and the level of disappointment I felt through the multiple playoff let downs (as I’m sure many of you remember vividly). As we all know, the level of prestige and play has deteriorated horribly over the last 3 years. That was not what Chiefs football is supposed to be. The 2008 season was the cherry on top of that disaster sundae. We completely lacked any sense of direction. We lacked a decent number of solid players that could be built around. We had the worst pass rushing defense ever. We had a QB that was decent… until he had to throw the ball. The end of 2008 was almost enough to make me hang up my Chiefs gear and jump on Minnesota’s band wagon. At least that way I could still follow my favorite player, Jared Allen. But I couldn’t. I was raised better than that.
The Pioli and Haley hirings were good news. It was good to see Clark Hunt go after the most sought after GM candidate of the decade, but I was still pretty emotionally numb from the 3 previous years of crap. The Cassel/Vrabel trade helped a little, but I was still wary of the offensive line. And my concerns were well warranted. The lack of attention to the offensive line was enough to quell what little excitement I had generated through the Pioli/Haley/Cassel pick up. The draft didn’t help either. I get why Jackson was picked. The embarrassing emergence of one of the worst defenses EVER was enough to warrant a need to address the defensive line that was mostly responsible for that. Regardless, the 2009 draft left much to be desired.
We all know how the 2009 season went down. When it started, my expectations were not so much to double or triple our wins from 2008. I was more interested in seeing improvement. I wanted to see leaders emerge. We lacked those at the end of 2008. My main concern was that we see some of these “foundation” guys show up. And guess what? They did. Hali stepped up. Flowers stepped up. And Jamaal Charles… wow. Looking back on the last 16 games, it’s fun to see the chain of events that lead to the 44-24 beat down on the Broncos to finalize 2009 and hopefully give us a taste of what 2010 will offer.
The LJ issue was interesting. Getting his broke ass cut from our team is probably the most important thing that happened this year. Removing the cancer gave us the chance to heal. Jamaal took over and showed that not only can he be an adequate back… he could very well be one of the best backs in the league.
The way the Chiefs responded to having the Steelers take over Arrowhead was another key point to the season, in my opinion. The way they came out and fought for their pride and dignity to show that this is still their house was promising. It showed dignity and respect and loyalty and honor and so many other traits that the Chiefs I grew up with showed. They played like the team I remember from childhood. For at least that one day, the Chiefs showed a glimmer of what could come under this new regime.
The weeks following that obviously erased the complacency that came with the win over the Steelers. The Blackout was a new low for us. But I think that like the LJ incident, more good than bad will come from it. Blacking out the last home game of the decade was fitting. It sent a clear and concise message to Hunt and company. How much of that message ties in with the moves being made now will never be known, but I don’t think it hurt. Owning a 19 year sell out record is not a right. It’s a privilege. Ending the streak marked the end of a decade of Chiefs football that repeatedly let us down. A new decade starts with a New Arrowhead in 2010. Out with the old, in with the new. The goal now should be to forget the recent past and build a team that will fill this stadium with nothing but fans in Red and Gold for a long, long time.
Haley’s growth as a head coach is promising as well. In my opinion, he got a bit of a bad rap from the media. Yes, he is a very intense, fiery and demanding head coach. But I think that media members, mainly Jason Whitlock and several members of the sports radio arena made him out to be an egotistical monster that he’s not. He showed a lot of progress from the beginning to end of the season. His tantrums became more controlled and we saw the players respond positively to him on several occasions. Not to mention that whatever he said to the Chiefs right before the last Denver game showed that he can and will motivate this team. I truly believe that Todd Haley is dedicated 110% to making the Chiefs a better team, and his personal drive and work ethic will rub off on the team very soon. Having Charlie and Romeo at his disposal will help him immensely.
I’m not one to get easily excited over off season acquisitions, but the Weis and Crennel hirings are definitely getting my hopes up. It shows me that for the first time ever (in my limited memory banks) that the Chiefs are serious about making themselves a real contender, not just an exciting team that can fill a stadium, which is a knock that Peterson got a lot. Pioli has had a year of hands on experience to identify where the major issues are with our Chiefs, and it appears that he will aggressively go after what he believes the solution is. The Weis hiring came so quickly that you have to come to the conclusion that he was proactively planning the offseason long before the season was over. He’s not sitting around. He’s constantly working to put his plan (which is becoming apparent) into action. Chief’s fans, I think we’re in good hands. For the first time in a long, long time, I think we can actually hope for… no, expect a Lamar Hunt trophy, at the very least. It’s past due time for us to hold the trophy that was named after our founder.
It’s going to be a long road to get there though. A lot has to happen between now and then, and even with all the good things going on right now, expectations should be reasonable, and should be held in check by a realistic evaluation of what is going on. The Crennel/Weis signings are a big step in the right direction, but remember that games are won by the players on the field. The players we already have need to work hard in the coming months to continue to get better. Pioli has to target key guys in the free agency. Not necessarily big names mind you, but guys that fit into what we’re doing here. His draft acquisitions have to be spot on. A failed draft could set us back pretty badly. Hopefully the moves that come in the following weeks and months are solid and set us up to make a respectable come back in 2010. Here’s to returning Arrowhead to a stadium that is controlled by Chiefs fans, and a team that is preparing to make a run deep into the play offs in the near future….