Worst To First in The NFL--Just How Often Does It Happen?


Ok.  Here I go again.  All of the second guessing, nay saying, and anti-quality Chiefs team rhetoric can only be tolerated for so long (especially with a winning record!) before I have to tear a hole in the time space continuum
and peer into an alternate universe for solace.  I know that Chiefs fans are not necessarily trying to be negative about our Chiefs.  I mean, they still love the Chiefs but they just have a few things that they have to get off their chest.  Stuff like, "Matt Cassel couldn't throw up", or " Thomas Jones is a solid runner and all that but why should we settle for a first down when Charles can go to the house", or even "2-0?  Thank God we got lucky and won 2 early because the way this team is playing you'd think Herm was back".  (Sorry NJ, top of what's left of my mind).


When it all starts to get me down, I project what could happen. Then, I go out and see if I can find examples of a time when what I have projected and wish to happen actually did happen.  Then I try to see if it seems even slightly possible that our Chiefs could replicate those events. Thus the title of this post.  Going from worst (or at least really, really bad) one year (or God forbid, multiple years) to winning a Superbowl the next is ridiculous you say?  Read on McDuff and let the chips fall where they may (just not on the carpet--wives get pissed for the strangest things).   

Prior to about 1980, being a bad football team in the NFL kind of meant that you were always a bad football team in the NFL.  Most of the Championships were won by the powerhouse teams, who continued to be powerhouses year in and year out.  Then a switch was flipped and things started happening that would make the NFL even more popular than it had been to that point.  Free Agency affected the league.  Suddenly, any 'ol upstart team could win on any given Sunday. 

In the thirty years since the 1980 season (coincidently the same season of a certain Browns team that I enjoy writing about-Ha!) there have been thirty Superbowls.  Just how many times has a team been really bad for a year or multiple years and then made a Superbowl run the next?  Well this is of course debateable, but I think that in 9 of those thirty years, 10 teams have done it.  That means that 30% of the time since 1980, one team has beaten the odds and made a Super Bowl run after having been in ICU the previous season(s).  

I think that is astounding.  These success stories have given football fans reasons to hope.  A team on life support one year could win the whole shootin' match the following year?  It is possible.  How did they do it?  Well, that seems to mystify folks because I am pretty sure that none of the talking heads at the time, much less their fans, were predicting a Super Bowl appearance from these teams.  Brothers and Sisters of the Red Brigade rejoice, I give you the Hall of Shame to Hall of Fame Holy Grail.

1981--There were actually two teams that made the SB this year that fit the mold.  The 49ers and the Bengals.

The 49ers season was incredible considering that they had gone 8-24 the previous two seasons (coincidently Walshes first two seasons--do you think any 49er fans were bashing Walsh like we see some Chiefs fans now bashing Haley?  Uhhhhh, yeah).  They started the season 1-2, combined a steady offense with a very strong defense led by Ronnie Lott and safety Dwight Hicks and wound up playing on Super Bowl Sunday. The best part?  Just like the 2001 Pats the party had just begun. 


1981 NFC Championship The Catch (via MrDannySports)

The Bengals of the same season were just as amazing considering where they were coming from.  This was Chris Collinsworth's rookie season.  The Bengals had only won 14 games in the previous three seasons, yet they would go on to play the upstart 49ers in the Super Bowl.  Two teams doing the 180 like that hasn't happened again, but OMG what a fan pleaser!



1996-- The Bill Parcells Patriots.  This is important mostly because our own Todd Haley is a disciple of Bill Parcells.  Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports lays it out:

1996 New England Patriots
Behold, the magic of Bill Parcells. After watching Drew Bledsoe throw more interceptions than touchdowns in his first three seasons as a starter, Parcells finally got into his quarterback’s head and reprogrammed the buttons. Bledsoe had arguably the best season of his career, backed by running back Curtis Martin and wide receiver Terry Glenn. While the Super Bowl run came one year removed from a 6-10 season and New England started 3-3 in 1996, it was more of an eye opener because of the long run of futility for this franchise. Throwing out Parcells’ 10-6 season in 1994, this franchise had a record of 25-71 in six of its previous seven years. That adds a jaw-dropping quality to an unexpected Super Bowl berth.

Parcells obviously took what he found and made it better.  That is what I think that Haley is doing in KC.  Did you see the part about Bledsoe having more interceptions than TDs during his first three years as a starter?  Will Haley enjoy this kind of success with Matt Cassel?  This is the kind of stuff that gives me the patience to see what is happening with Cassel and his group.  Weis can't fix it if he doesn't know what is broken.  He must see the mistakes in game situations in order to make the needed repairs.  On another note, which Chiefs tandem to you think better resembles Parcells tandem of Martin and Glenn?  Charles and Bowe or Jones and Bowe?  This may just explain why Jones is listed at the starter (I sure hope that is not a controversial statement--sometimes I crack myself up).



Then there was the 1998 Dirty Birds AKA the Atlanta Falcons.  They went on a run to the '99 Superbowl after having been 3-13 in 1996 and then starting out 2-8 under Reeves in 1997.  Who was the QB here?  I didn't think you would remember, it was Chris Chandler.  You see?  You don't have to have Joe Montana to get to the Super Bowl after all (I will NOT say that it doens't help).  In that year, the Falcons fielded two 1000 yard receivers.  I am sure you will remember them, their names are as regconizable as Kleenex and Q-Tips.  Tony Martin and Terance Mathis.  What?  You say you don't really remember them?  Hm.  I guess Randy Moss and Jerry Rice really aren't requirements for a Super Bowl run.  Who'd a thunk?

1999--Now we start getting into the Fun House.  The next team went 4-12 the year before their Super Bowl run.  I think we know of another team that went 4-12 last year, don't we???  Even better, this team hadn't won more than 7 games in the NINE previous seasons.  Hello, can you say bottom dwellers?  Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls and children of all ages, I give you The Greatest Show On Turf:


The Greatest Show On Turf (via slap29)

I feel very comfortable in saying that nobody believed that the Rams could do what they did.  This was Holt's rookie season.  They had sucked forever, lost their starting QB and went to an arena league reject that was bagging groceries a few months ago, had a new unproven rookie WR named Holt, blah, blah, blahhhhhh.  Do Haley's words about how many skilled players exist that never get the opportunity to showcase those skills in the NFL ring any truer when you see these kinds of examples?

2000--Ok, now I gotta go serious on ya.  Ray-Ray serious.  The following year to the Turf show, somebody in Baltimore refused to believe that a team with an offense consisting of 53 guys off the street couldn't make the Super Bowl.  Talk about _______ WILL (fill in the blank with your favorite team).  This defense absolutely has to be included in the discussion of the most dominating defenses ever fielded in the NFL.  These guys were bad ass.


superbowl XXXV Highlights - Ravens vs Giants (via Lanehastheblame)

So, Defenses really do win Championships sometimes huh?  I would like to take this opportunity to tell those members of the 2010 Chiefs Defense that might be in the audience--Read that last part again.  Moving on.

2001--Now it is time for a little more Patriots talk.  I have put my views out there several times on this team and the similarities between it and the current Chiefs.  Not the least of which is the OC and DC, they are the SAME DUDES!


Here is some more from Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports:

In the rear view mirror of all of New England’s success this decade, some have already forgotten how amazing it was for this Patriots team to advance to the Super Bowl. On the heels of Bill Belichick’s 5-11 debacle in his first season, little was expected of the Patriots heading into 2001. Even less was expected after Drew Bledsoe was knocked out in the second game of the season, and New England fell to a 1-3 start. But a consistent offense found traction behind blossoming quarterback Tom Brady and running back Antowain Smith, and defense ultimately made the difference down the stretch. Little did we know this would be the franchise that defined the NFL going forward.

Like them or hate them, they did win three Super Bowls in four years.  The Chiefs now have nearly all of the brain trust in KC that was present when this Dynasty was born.  Doesn't that give you some confidence?  If your answer to that is no, you need to ask yourself what it would take.  They have now won six games in the last two years.  That is the same number that they won in the two years before this but they still have 14 games to play.  And let's be realistic here.  The Chiefs are exactly 18 games into this resurrection and have changed the coaching staff twice in that time.  They have also made many player-personel changes in the same time span.  In spite of that they have started off the season 2-0 and won three in a row since last year.  Sounds pretty encouraging so far.  Ok, off the soap box.

2003--Yet another entrant in the worst to first Derby is the 2003 Carolina Panthers.  Could it be that the Panthers are an even better example of where the Chiefs currently are on the learning curve than the Patriots?  Their record over the previous two seasons to their Super Bowl could be where the Chiefs are headed.  More from Robinson of Yahoo:

This franchise was only two regular seasons removed from finishing a 1-15 nightmare when it rolled to Super Bowl XXXVIII. And while coach John Fox took over and moved the team to a modestly mediocre 7-9 in 2002, nobody expected a leap into the Super Bowl only one year later – particularly with the team starting quarterback Jake Delhomme, who hadn’t been more than a backup previously in NFL Europe and for the Saints. But thanks to a breakout year by Steve Smith, a huge season by Stephen Davis, and a defense that got better after an 8-5 start, Carolina surprised everyone and advanced to the franchise’s first and only appearance in the big one.

A break out year by Smith and a big season by Davis.  We have players in KC right now that are capable of these exact same kind of seasons.  Why is that so hard for fans to believe.  Dwayne Bowe can do what Smith does and Charles could do what Davis did.  The Chiefs are poised to break one off guys, they really are.  Maybe it will take another 7-9 season like the Panthers had, but it is on the way.

And finally we go to 2008.  Our head coach is probably familiar with this success story.  He lived it.  All the more reason that duplicating it in KC should not seem that far out of reach. 



This is Karlos Dansby.  When asked what he thought the odds of the Cards making the Super Bowl two years ago were, here's what he had to say:

"Too high to count," he said, shortly after the Cardinals beat the Eagles in the NFC championship game to advance to play the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII on Feb. 1. "Nobody believed it. Nobody. We couldn’t beat Atlanta. We damn sure couldn’t beat Carolina. And we couldn’t beat the Eagles, either. Nobody but the people in this locker room believed in us."

That sounds about like how the Chiefs must feel right now when they read Arrowhead Pride.  Ah, but believeing in each other was enough.  They believed all the way and were within a heartbreaking, spirit stripping play of being called World Champions.


Arizona Cardinals - Let It Rock - Miracle Season (via barolfe)

So there it is Chiefs fans.  A peek into the mind of a Mad Hatter.  I must be mad, right?  Running around talking about Super Bowls when the Chiefs have only won 6 out of their last 18 games.  Ridiculous?  These 10 teams will tell you, not so fast. 

What I find somewhat amusing is that since I climbed aboard this bandwaggon (nearly alone) in the cold, blustery, lonely Chiefs Purgatory of February of 2009, I have seen the landscape change.  In the years between Vermeil and Haley, we witnessed the implosion of several years of selling out the future to win now.  No matter who you blame for that, this most recent installment of Chiefs ineptitude caused the dream to die and the fans to became soured.

Couple that with the fans that remember the '70 Super Bowl and the long drought that has ensued, and it's no wonder why Chiefs fans are hard to convince.  I get that.  What I don't get is all the speculation on things that haven't come to pass as if they are reasons to pull the plug on the resurgence that is going on. 

Charles will eventually leave the team because of a lack of playing time?  We are only two games into the season and people are already panicking about how much playing time Charles has and what he will eventually do about it?  Why don't we win a few games first before we worry about who will leave the team.  Sheesh!  Charles is the best back on the team and Haley is A) to stupid to realize it or B) so arrogant that he will refuse to utilize his best player because he can't control his ego?  Please people.  In two games Charles has 141 yds rushing and Jones has 122.  Because of their styles, it took Charles only 22 caries to get to that point and it took Jones 33.  At the same time, we are reportedly 5th in rushing in the league averaging 131.5 yds per game and we have won 2 straight.  If I was a Chiefs running back, I would be pointing to our success, not quibbling over who got the most touches.  All indications are that this is what is happeing.  The best argument that some fans can come up with that we won't succed this year is that Charles will get pissed and leave in a couple years?  I'll take all the wins we can get until that bridge has to be crossed.

I recently had a discussion with another fan wherein I compared the Chiefs possibilities this year to those of the '81 Bengals.  You would think that the argument would be that the Chiefs aren't good enough to do that right?  Well, this guy says, "Oh sure, make it to the Super Bowl and lose?  One and done?  None of that for me buddy, if the Chiefs don't win forget it!"  Ridiculous?  To be sure.  The fact that he can't see how ridiculous that statement is, is what I don't get, yet sometimes the things I see posted on Arrowhead pride seem just as convoluted to me. 

It all comes down to faith.  Faith has been defined as, "Belief in things as yet unseen".  I have faith in the Chiefs ability.  I am a believer.  I'll bet Karlos Dansby is too.  Are the Chiefs abilities still 'as yet unseen'?  Maybe, but those 2 W's are shining like the lights on Broadway.   

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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