Every person has a legacy. Whether you are a teacher, engineer, soldier, blogger or NFL player, you're remembered for what you have done and how you've influenced those around you. More often that not we get to choose the path that leads the legacy we leave behind. These decisions we make in our daily lives layout a road map for where we've been and what we've done. Thus defining and determining our legacy.
The Kansas City Chiefs have four core players who specifically chose to spend the prime of their careers representing Kansas City to the best of their ability, both on and off the field. Derrick Johnson, Brandon Flowers, Tamba Hali and Jamaal Charles. Each of these players decided to sign their second NFL contract with the Chiefs and extend their playing careers while defining their future legacies' on the success the Chiefs have during their time here.
If these players NFL careers were a book, the Chiefs went from being a chapter in the book to the setting for the book when they signed those extensions. But the early struggles of this team this season could have a lasting impact on these four players' legacies for generations of fans that might not even be old enough to tell you one thing about these players right now. The next few games could easily determine the theme for these books.
The players were genuinely happy when Romeo Crennel had the interim tag removed and was hired on as head coach following the 2011 season in which he led the team to a 2-1 record down the stretch, including a win over then-undefeated Green Bay. Crennel endeared himself to the players and was thought of as a 'father-figure' type whose demeanor was much less demonstrative than that of Todd Haley, whom he replaced towards the end of the 2011 season.
These four players were on-board with this decision when it was announced that Crennel was taking over as head coach. Derrick Johnson via kcchiefs.com 1/11/2012
"I think it's a great decision by the people upstairs," Johnson said. "I'm sure that all of the players are very excited and we kind of feel like we got what we wanted, so there are definitely no complains. It will be all open-arms."
Derrick Johnson is one of three of these 'core four' players that play on the defensive side of the ball for the Chiefs, which would be Crennel's forte. Along with Flowers and Hali, Johnson should be leading this defense. His decision to stay in Kansas City during the prime of his career and play for the coach he ultimately wanted to play for means he's placed his bet on his legacy and his career, and he's not only put that money on the Chiefs, but on Crennel too.
One of the best middle linebackers in all of football along with one of the fiercest pass rushers in today's NFL, joining a top cornerback and very easily when fully healthy, one of the best open-field tacklers in the game, decided that Kansas City was the place to define their legacy and that Crennel was the guy to get them there. The problem is the narrative of that legacy is slowly slipping away.
It's not to the point yet of saying the Chiefs upcoming game against the New Orleans Saints is a do-or-die game for this organization, that seems a little silly at this point. But it's not out of the question to think about the long-term ramifications of a continued-decline in preparation and results for a once-promising Chiefs team in 2012. Could dropping the next three or four games mean the end of the Crennel era in Kansas City? How would that change affect the legacies of three players who sit in the prime of their careers and would then have to go through another organizational change?
There's no way to predict the future and know how things will turn out, but the ramifications are long-reaching if this season doesn't turn around fairly quickly AND a change is then made. These four players, especially the three defensive players specifically, will have a chapter in their NFL autobiography that talks about the 'potentially' career-altering first half of the 2012 season, and what might have been.
The good news is this doesn't have to happen and the even-better news for these players, and the protection of their legacies, is they can do something about it. We've heard a lot of 'cliches' thrown around recently and here comes another one that any high school athlete has heard thousands of times. 'A man's character isn't defined when things are going well, it's defined by how they respond and react when things are going terribly wrong'. The expectation and search for a tangible example of leadership can hopefully be seen by every member of the Chiefs organization over the next few days.
There's no one way to lead people. Some people need to be yelled at and that's what gets the most out of them while some people need to be told just once, directly. I played for a college baseball coach that was known for being brutally honest, never sugar-coated anything. It stung sometimes but you always knew where you stood and everyone respected that. It's up to the guys on this Chiefs team who have been around and know the personalities and motivational needs of those around them to do just that, get the most out of these guys and have them playing at a level they've shown to be able to do in the past.
The most frustrating thing for most Chiefs fans right now is these players have shown the ability to play at a certain level before, and they just aren't playing there right now. It'd be one thing if we were needing guys to play above their capabilities in order to achieve the success that even some outsiders had predicted for this team, but that's not what's needed. We just simply need the players to play at the level they are capable of playing.
It's up to those 'core four' players to ensure this happens, demand it happens, and hold each other accountable for making it happen. If nothing else I hope this opportunity to develop, define and demonstrate the leadership needed to change the culture of an organization, a city and a fan base is not lost among these players. They didn't want this opportunity under these circumstances, but 'attitude reflects leadership, captain.'
It will be after all, a big piece of their legacy as well.