This is probably going to be long-winded and unfocused, so apologies for that.
I am not an old man, not even a middle aged man, but I am old enough to remember 1989. That was the year being a Chiefs fan shifted dramatically in Kansas City after a 15 year run of being consistently one of the worst teams in the NFL. 1989 saw the end of the Gansz era in KC, which itself had been predicated on a player-led mutiny of John Mackovic, the first Chiefs coach to get the team to the playoffs in over a decade. The inmates were very obviously running the asylum and the asylum wasn't very well run to begin with.
In 1989 Carl Peterson came to KC and brought Coach Marty Schottenheimer with him. Many fans may not be old enough to remember what a sea change that was to the Chiefs organization. For a football club that had been lost in the wilderness for years, Carl brought an up to date professionalism to the Chiefs. And the Chiefs became relevant again. I remember as a kid in the 80s going to Chiefs games with my dad. We would just go out to Arrowhead on game day and buy walk-up tickets as if it were a Royals game. We'd get good seats, too.
If we can check our emotions at the door and be truly objective about it, Carl was mostly great for the Chiefs. Most people in KC are Chiefs fans for what Carl did for the team. He brought them out of the wilderness. The team was competitive week to week -- if your bought a ticket to a game (and the days of buying walk-up tickets were soon over) they were probably going to win. As a consumer, there's not much more you can ask for. Despite never getting to the Superbowl, the Chiefs played in an AFC championship game (I was there in Buffalo on that dark, dark day) and had two 13-3 seasons with home field advantage through the playoffs. No Superbowl, but a decade of relevance to be sure. I totally reject the idea that Carl only cared about selling out the stadium because you have to have a winning team in order to do that (for further evidence, see the 2009 Chiefs).
If we can continue to be truly objective, Carl overstayed his usefulness by several years. (I'm not sure when he should have been dismissed, but if my last namer were Hunt I would have fired him after the "I know Willie Roaf filed his retirement paperwork way back in April but I don't think he really meant it so I'll send Will Shields to talk him out of it" incident decimated the Chiefs O-line, something we still haven't recovered from.) Clearly the game had passed him buy. Personally, I have kind of a love/hate thing with Carl. I love him for the 90s, but I am also glad he's long gone and his firing should have come a lot sooner than it did. Lamar Hunt was loyal.
I think we are witnessing the Renaissance of KC Chiefs football like it's 1989.
I think Scott Pioli has come to KC twenty years after Carl and has been assigned the task of not only rebuilding the on field product but also rebuilding the entire organization. Like Carl before him, Pioli must make the Chiefs relevant again. Carl inherited a club that had lost for years but he also inherited a team with much more talent on it than Pioli was given. I think we're seeing that next sea change.
There is a new kind of energy around this team now.
I don't live in KC any more. I get my Chiefs info from AP and I realize that the vast majority of us are pathological optimists and Kool Aid drinkers. But there's just something exciting going on that hasn't happened since 1989. Pioli is taking over an irrelevant, broken program and building it into something special.
I am heartened by the throngs of people showing up to training camp practice. I think Pioli is a genius for leaving Wisconsin (I am a veteran of three River Falls expeditions) and having the Chiefs train in the KC area is helping to reconnect the team to the city. I think this will pay off in a major way in terms of fan loyalty.
Weird as it is, I love the improvements the Chiefs have made to their website and media, doing a much better job of getting information directly to the fans and away from the sports media.
I believe in Todd Haley. We are all outsiders, but insiders know the truth. And if Haley were a screaming buffoon instead of a good coach who happens to scream there's no way the Chiefs would have landed Weis and Crennell and Thomas Jones (all three of those guys had other options -- they didn't have to come to KC but they chose to). There's no way they would have retained Chambers and Vrabel. Yeah, I think the guy may need to tone down some of the histrionics but I don't think there's a doubt that Haley's a good coach. And I am really excited by his own accepting of responsibility and his growth as a coach. I think the corner has been turned and Haley and Pioli have turned the organizational culture in the other direction in about year.
I think the most exciting thing about the Chiefs now is the buy-in. I don't know if we can all wrap our minds around the 100% OTAs thing. That's really an amazing number. Even both of our union reps attended all the OTAs and union reps usually don't attend them on general principle (you know, the "optional" part). I was reading about that piece of shit Albert Haynesworth and his inability to pass a conditioning test with the Redskins. This is how it works with the Redskins apparently: Haynesworth had to take a conditioning test because he attended 0% of the offseason program. Haynesworth apparently thought spending the offseason asking for a trade and whining about playing nose tackle would get him in football shape. It didn't. But here's the amazing thing. Shanahan required a conditioning test be passed by all the players who attended less than half of the offseason program. In One Eyed Shanny's world, 50% is pretty darn good. And One Eye won two Superbowls. I used to teach high school and if memory serves, 50% is still an F. The buy-in we are seeing at One Arrowhead drive is pretty amazing compared to others in the league. It's the "right 53" concept coming to fruition.
I posted a piece a few weeks ago about the Lakers winning the NBA finals (I am a west coast Chiefs fan) and how the town was affected by the championship. The response sort of devolved into praising or bashing the NBA and key players and that wasn't my point at all. Winning is good for cities. KC hasn't had a winner like that is 25 years. I really believe a team of that caliber is on the horizon and there isn't a fan base more deserving of it.
From the ashes the Chiefs are reborn. Won't it be fun to see Herm Edwards on ESPN talking about it?