From the FanPosts -Joel
On September 12, 1977, Kansas City's Brush Creek rose out of its banks following torrential downpours to the west of the Plaza, flooding the city's historic shopping district. 25 people lost their lives.
At that time, I was working at a small radio station in northwest Missouri. The next day, I remember reading a follow-up story on the AP wire (that's Associated Press, not Arrowhead Pride) that quoted Kansas City Chiefs Head Coach Paul Wiggin: "Something like this makes you realize there are more important things in life than football."
I clearly remember what I thought as I read Wiggin's words: "What an idiot. You have to be a grown man at the top of your profession before you figure that out?"
We know now that Paul Wiggin was indeed an idiot. But that day, he had it right.
In an article I wrote this past March, I suggested that the significant changes in the way Clark Hunt has conducted the business of the Chiefs franchise since last season might be due largely to the Jovan Belcher tragedy last December. I argued that the suicide of a person close to you changes you in fundamental ways, and causes you to look at life differently.
And after reflecting on Joe Posnanski's outstanding article on Andy Reid from last week - and watching Reid's brief remarks to the team in the locker room following yesterday's victory over Oakland - I am more convinced than ever that the tragedy not only significantly impacted the owner of the team, but everyone else, too. And Clark Hunt - by accident or design - chose the perfect coach to lead his team.
Nobody outside of Kansas City can figure out what's going on here. Pundits who are convinced that the key to NFL success is to field a franchise quarterback surrounded by elite wide receivers - which account for approximately 97.62% of all pundits - simply cannot accept that the Chiefs are one of two remaining undefeated teams. In yesterday's gameday highlights show on NFL Network, long analyses of the Denver's sixth victory over the winless Jaguars - and the Patriots win over the previously unbeaten Saints - were preceded by the highlight reel from Chiefs-Raiders game… which contained exactly two plays. NFL.com's Marc Sessler wrote "The Chiefs are 6-0 because of a defense draped in strength at every level. Kansas City's paint-by-numbers offense, however, is a different story and the reason this team ultimately will fail, despite the pretty record."
These guys simply don't understand what's going on - so to them, it isn't even happening.
To his credit, Joe Posnanski tried his best to figure it out - and JoePo's best is quite a lot. Interviewing people both inside and outside of the team in Kansas City, he noted that everyone points to Andy Reid as the difference maker. On the surface, this makes perfect sense. Reid was a successful coach for 14 years in Philadelphia. Early on with the Eagles, he found success by making gutsy personnel decisions and sticking to them, and by relying on a stout defense…just as he has done in Kansas City. Interviewing players, Posnanski found that unlike most other coaches, Reid does not treat his players as kids who require coddling, supervision or excoriation. Instead, he treats them like the men they are, which earns their respect.
If Joe had waited until after Sunday's game to write his article, he might have been able to put it all together. But when I watched Andy Reid talking to his team after the game, the light bulb over my head finally lit up. There was no rah-rah about 6-0. There was no serious talk about playing these games one at a time. There was no 11'O'Clock Rule, or even a stern warning about curfew. Instead, there was only this:
"How 'bout them Chiefs? Are you enjoying these? You should enjoy every one of them. Be smart tonight."
Until I read Joe Posnanski's article, I had forgotten that Andy Reid's oldest son Garrett had died of a drug overdose in August of last year - just before the Eagles season began. I had forgotten about the media speculation over whether this distraction was part of Philadelphia's 4-12 record in 2012. But after watching Reid address his team on Sunday night, I suddenly realized that while Garrett's death was very probably a distraction for Andy Reid during the 2012 season - how could it not? - he has emerged from the ordeal as a better coach. Not because his son's tragic death made him better at the Xs and Os, but because it made him a better person… just as a I believe the Belcher tragedy made Clark Hunt - and Belcher's teammates - better people.
Andy Reid now realizes that while it is his job to be a NFL coach, at the end of the day, the most important thing is that the young men who play for him enjoy the moment today, and be smart enough to enjoy the possibility of another moment just like it next week. Life is short. You may not get another chance.
Could there have been anybody better to coach the Chiefs after the Jovan Belcher tragedy?
You see… much as we'd like to reduce it to acquiring player X and releasing player Y during the offseason and adding up the talent now available, the NFL isn't a mathematical equation. It is a team game. Yes… talent matters. Yes… coaching matters. But talent and coaching aren't everything. Every year, teams with superior talent and coaching miss the playoffs because they fail to play with heart and character… in short, because they fail to play as a team.
The Kansas City Chiefs had some talent when Andy Reid arrived. Thanks to Reid and Dorsey they now have even more. And now they finally - finally! - have coaching. But because of the tragedy that recently surrounded this team - and their new head coach - it has heart and character, too. In spades. This is what is allowing the team to play above itself - to become more than just the sum of its parts - week after week. You can't read it on the stat sheet or bottle it up, so you're not going to hear guys talking about it on NFL Network. But there can be no doubt that it is there.
This heart and character may not be enough to beat the Broncos in Denver. It may not be enough to beat the Broncos in Kansas City. It may not even be enough to extend the Chiefs unbeaten record to seven this Sunday against Houston. But I can say this: I am proud of this team and what it has achieved, and I can say without reservation that it has been more fun to watch than any team that I have ever seen wearing the red and gold.
And even though I can't afford it, I will be there in row 12 of section 302 this Sunday, screaming my lungs out. My only regret will be that the people who sold my tickets to StubHub haven't yet learned a very important lesson: in life, you can't afford to miss moments like these. Life is short. You may not get another chance.
How 'bout them Chiefs? Are you enjoying these? You should enjoy every one of them. Be smart tonight.