The Fall of the KC Defense: A Retrospective


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From the FanPosts - Woodman

For anyone who has been a Chiefs fan for more then a decade there is a sense of pride when thinking about the defense our team had back in the 90's when DT was racking up sacks and Marty ball did not just define a coaching style, but an attitude.  People feared the Chiefs and it all started with the defense.  Well the last decade has been a little different.  The last time we had an elite defense was 1997 (13 seasons ago).  If you're like me that makes you feel old.  Can it really have been that long?  Sadly, yes.  Here is a look at where our team finished each season in the rankings for Yards Per Game and Points Per Game:

  • 1997:  11th YPG  1st PPG
  • 1998:  9th YPG  22nd PPG
  • 1999:  14th YPG  13th PPG
  • 2000:  18th YPG  19th PPG
  • 2001:  23rd YPG  23rd PPG
  • 2002:  32nd YPG  28th PPG
  • 2003:  29th YPG  19th PPG
  • 2004:  31st YPG  29th PPG
  • 2005:  25th YPG  16th PPG
  • 2006:  16th YPG  11th PPG
  • 2007:  13th YPG  14th PPG
  • 2008:  31st YPG  29th PPG
  • 2009:  30th YPG  29th PPG

So what happened?  How did we go from one of the great defensive teams in the NFL to a whipping boy.  I mean from 2001 (when Vermeil came in) to present we have an average year end ranking of 25.5 in YPG and 22 in PPG.  Well if the old sayings "championship teams are built through the draft" and "defense wins championships" are both true then it stands to reason that it is vital that a team draft quality defensive players.  Let's take a look at how that's gone and who's to blame.

As I mentioned, 1997 was the last time we had an elite defense.  It also happens to be the last time we went an entire draft without picking a defensive player.  So we didn't take a single defensive player in the draft and then were #1 in the league in PPG that season.  Why?  Because we had a roster full of developed defensive talent.  Now I took the time to look at every defensive draft pick we've made since that year.  Let's take a look.

1997:  No defensive picks


  • 4th round - LB Greg Favors
  • 5th round - DB Robert Williams
  • 6th round - DT Derrick Ransom
  • 7th round - DB Eric Warfield

Summary:  Warfield became a solid starter and was great value for a 7th rounder.  The rest were role players at best.




  • 3rd round - LB Gary Stills
  • 3rd round - DB Larry Atkins

Summary:  Stills was a special teams stud, but neither pick was a factor on defense.



Summary:  Bartee never developed.  Wesley was a solid starting player for several years.  Dennis didn't pan out.




Summary:  Downing was a bust, Beisel and Harts were role players for us for a little while, and Sands was a solid player for a couple years (too bad we let him go and those years were in a Raiders' uniform).


POINT OF NOTE:  From 1997 to 2001 we only used one second round pick on defense (Bartee) and no first rounders.  That's 5 straight years of not going after big time defensive talent in the draft.


Summary:  Okay, so at least they tried to bring in some talent on defense via the draft.  Too bad both Sims and Freeman flopped.  The salt in the wound is that had we taken Haynesworth or Henderson instead things might have been different.  Another point of note, the best defensive pick in this draft by far was Fujita.  However, we let him get away and he has been a solid starter for other teams while we have struggled to put NFL caliber players on the field at LB.  Sadly, this will not be the last time I say that.


Summary:  Mitchell was a solid starter for a couple of years and then like Fujita we let him go and then struggled to fill our LB core with solid players.  Battle was a bust (would it make you sick to know that the Bills Terrance McGee was still on the board when we took Battle) and Wilkerson was good value for a 6th rounder but has put up more of his numbers after he left the Chiefs too.


Summary:  This draft pisses me off the most.  Players we passed on to draft Siavii and Fox:  Darnell Dockett and Shaun Phillips.  To Fox's credit, he was a starter this last year, but for the Steelers not the Chiefs.  Then there's Allen, the one home run defensive draft pick that we made in 8 years (1997-2004) and he is not on our team anymore.  We don't need to reopen the JA trade and what the value we got was.  Let's just say that on a team that had been FAILING to draft defensive talent the fact that we had to get rid of the one star we had hurt, and hurt bad.


Summary:  Johnson has great talent and is at least still on the team but has yet to really live up to his draft position.  The other three are long gone.


HUGE POINT OF NOTE:  From 1997-2005 (9 drafts) we drafted 26 defensive players.  Of those, Derrick Johnson is the only one currently on the Chiefs roster.  Think about that, 9 drafts, 26 players and we have one LB who may or may not even start for us this year.  That is what makes letting players like Fujita, Mitchell, and Allen (as well as Donnie Edwards who was drafted before 97) go so painful.  No wonder our defense has crumbled over the last decade.



Summary:  Hali was a good pick and is one of our better defensive players.  I'm just going to leave the Pollard debate alone, we've said enough.  Maxey didn't pan out but when you add getting a starting caliber safety in the 7th round to our best pass rusher this is the best defensive draft we've had up to this point.


Summary:  Both are still in the NFL, but not with the Chiefs.  Could they have worked out if the new administration hadn't changed the scheme?  Hard to say.


Summary:  Both starting CBs and probably our best player in the defensive front seven?  It doesn't even matter if Morgan pans out, this is the best defensive draft of the decade.




Summary:  Too early to call it either way.  Jackson and Magee could be long time players in our front seven or not.  Washington looked bad last year, but we knew he was raw and needed work coming in.


POINTS OF NOTE:  In the past 5 drafts we have used a total of 7 first or second round picks on defense (compared to 1 from 97-01).  From 2006-2009 we used 14 picks on defense.  9 of those 14 are still on the roster (compared to the 1 from 97-05).


I don't care what you think about Carl Peterson.  You may think he is the devil and ruined our team or you may think he was a great GM who helped build the Marty teams we all miss so much.  The fact of the matter is that from the time Marty left up to when Herm was hired Carl clearly SUCKED at drafting defensive players.  He also did a piss poor job of resigning the few good players we did draft.  So stick that in your "But there’s nothing I can do about it. It’s no longer my watch" pipe and smoke it Carl.

If you know me at all you know I have to leave things on a positive note.  The good news is that over the last few years we seem to be righting the ship.  We now have a core group of young talented players to build around (Dorsey, Flowers, Hali, Jackson, Carr, and possibly DJ, Magee, and Page).  As these players all develop and come into their prime our defense WILL get better.  However, I don't think we're there yet.  I think everyone knows who I would like the Chiefs to draft, but even if they don't go that way I still firmly believe that adding more talent to the defensive side of the ball should be a priority, especially when you factor in the FAs we've already signed on the offensive side of the ball.  Hopefully Pioli is thinking the same thing.



This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Arrowhead Pride's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of Arrowhead Pride writers or editors.

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