Since the season ended for the Chiefs, there has been ample time to ruminate about just what made the difference between the 4-12, 2009 squad and the 2010 AFC West Champions. So many things must be taken into consideration that it becomes readily apparent that it wasn't just one thing, but a host of things that created the biggest win-loss turn around in Chiefs history. Somehow, with all the expectations looking to the future, that achievement seems a bit overlooked. The Chiefs have never improved by six wins from one season to the next before now. I don't know if that makes me happy or sad. Is it a great sign post for what is to come, or an indication of what 40 years of Chiefs fandom has had to endure, or both?
Something that has recently made a splash in this posters twisted bean is the enigma that is Shaun Smith. While considering all the things that have seemingly made a difference in our team over the last couple of years, I began to wonder if Shaun, and his abrasive (yet sometimes humorus) persona was one of many necessary ingredients to turning around what many would agree was an abysmal team.
Shaun's history as an NFL player is like a road map for some crazy vacation. He was originally drafted as an FA by Dallas in 2003. He spent his entire rookie season on the Cowboys practice squad and then was waived the following August 31st and picked up off waivers the following day by the AZ Cards. That stint didn't last long at all as he was waived only 5 days later, to be picked up by the Saints a few days after that.
Shaun finally got on an active roster with the Saints and got his first start. Unfortunately, this gig didn't last long either as he was waived November 30th of the same year. Shaun got picked up off waivers (again) by the Bengals. he finally stuck somewhere. He stayed with them until March of 2007 when he signed as a resticted free agent with the Browns. HELLO ROMEO!
Interestingly this is also the first time (that I have seen although there may have been other reports prior to this) that Shaun showed his aggressive behavior. It was here that he reportedly punched Brady Quinn in the chops during an altercation in the locker room. This was subsequently confirmed by Browns TE Darrel Dinkins on a radio interview. Romeo and the team refused to speak about it, but it would return to the spotlight in the form of circumstancial evidence proving Shaun's proclivity as a trouble maker when he began his ascendance to sack master in KC. Sorry, I still find humor in this even at the same time that I would not condone the behavior if I thought it was done wantonly, for no reason other than satisfying his inner masochist.
Ultimately, Shaun was release by the Bengals in August of '09, picked up by the Lions, was cut in final cuts in September and resigned by the Bengals in December. In the interim, he played for the Las Vegas Locomotives of the UFL (who won their championship game). The following March of course, Smith came to the Chiefs. Whew! What a road this guy has had in only six years!
So just exactly what kind of attitude did Shaun bring with him to the Chiefs? I don't know. Do you remember this?
Shaun Smith Has Your Balls (via ChiefsGo81)
In consecutive weeks, he was accused by players from the opposing team of grabbing them in their private parts during play. Alex Mack of the Cleveland Browns made the first claim after the two teams' Week 2 matchup, followed by Anthony Davis of the San Francisco 49ers, who drew a penalty for retaliating against Smith in Week 3. Smith denied the allegations.[
Ok, so we know that Shaun had been accused of anti-social 'behavior' more than once. Based on his previous 'altercation' with Brady Quinn, many jumped immediately on the 'we don't want no dirty players in KC' bandwaggon. I found myself stuck in the middle. While the accusations seemed plausible given Shaun's previous antics, I just couldn't figure out why in the world a guy who has been dropped from NFL teams more often than a pick up line in a bar, would do something (repeatedly) that would jeopardize his shot at finding a home with a new team. I still can't.
So does that suggest that there may be something more to this than just Shaun being Shaun? Could it be that the fiendish Romeo Crennel was using EVERY possible advantage to MAKE other teams stand up and take notice? Is this all a part of the 'veteran presence' that is so important to the nucleus of a young team?
This is pure speculation on my part and I am not suggesting it's truth or falsehood because I have nothing, nothing, to prove this theory. I throw it out there for consideration only. If it was the case though, it wouldn't be the first time that a team brought in a 'ringer' to accomplish a specific task. Haley sure didn't seem surprised on the sidelines during that game. I recall laughing at Haley during that exchange in the 49er game because Haley was on the sidelines yelling at Shaun to 'tone it down'. It didn't look like it was all that unexpected. It was almost as if he was waiting for it.
Maybe Shaun was someone that Romeo knew wouldn't have a problem shouldering this burden. Maybe, part of the 'unsuccessfulness' associated with the previous versions of the Chiefs had to do with how they were being perceived in the league. It had been quite some time since the Chiefs fielded a 'feared' defense. Could this have been a message to those opponents that, "This ain't yer Grandma's Chiefs"? It certainly made a splash in the league. I wonder just how many of those offensive lineman changed up their play when they knew that they were facing Shaun "The Nut Job" Smith (Vito Corleone would be proud)? It might not be kosher, but I'll bet that his little dog and pony show affected more than one lineman and how they played on any given Sunday.
On another note, how would this kind of thing fit in with all the character discussions that have been made and regurgitated ad nauseum about what Haley and Pioli expect from their players? Would they dare to sponsor such a deviant plan as this? Wouldn't it fly in the face of all the 'team captain' talk about what kind of players they wanted in KC? Yet, Shaun was not pulled for his antic displays nor was he fined by the Chiefs (or ultimately the league I believe) because of his affinity for pulled pork (I apoligize).
Frankly, I would like to think that Shaun was indeed asked to 'mix it up' on Sunday's by his coaches. Here's a guy that has been at best a journeyman in his career (at worst a troublemaker looking for a paycheck). If he did indeed take one for the team and was considered a one year player for a particular purpose, I would say that Shaun has surprised some folks. He performed at a much higher level than almost anybody (except Romeo I'll bet) would have believed based on his previous stints with other teams. If he did take one for the team, he didn't let that screw up his attitude and become a problem that the Chiefs had to rid themselves of. Hell, he even got his own nickname. It's not every defensive player that can claim that kind of fame.
If the mantra for Pioli and the KGB is to 'do what it takes to win', I don't think there are very many fans who will argue with a Super Bowl trophy if indeed, one is accumulated based on that philosophy. Frankly, I can't see this type of thing as a regular part of what the Chiefs will do going forward. It may have been, however, one very important part of the Chiefs turning a corner from a team without respect in the league to one that commands attention and ultimately respect. That, my friends is not a bad thing. Shaun Smith deserves the fans respect for his part in the turnaround that he was a part of in 2010. I think he has it. He sure as hell, earned it. Welcome to KC 'Deep Freeze'. WE love you. Just keep your icy fingers off the popsicles.