The Chiefs are the most resilient team in the NFL and I don't think anyone, even the haters in the Media, or the guys at MHR can say otherwise. Week after week regardless of the assignment, be it an Elite QB like Eli Manning or Tapeless Wunderkind like Case Keenum, a tough front seven like the Bills, or the Next Big Offense like Philly, the Chiefs have found a way to dig deep and win. They've played with Brandon Flowers; they've played with a makeshift TE corps, They played with a blister-hobbled #25, they've had it rough, but they never give up, and they just keep winning.
Since the beginning of the season, I have been wondering, in between frantic fits of pinching myself to make sure I am not dreaming, just what has transpired to change this team from a pathetic put-upon group of talented losers in 2012 into an upcoming contender in 2013. Yes...we all know the how the puzzles pieces came together. The Andy Reid, John Dorsey, Bob Sutton and Alex Smith angles have been well covered. And yes Dorsey has done an outstanding job in free agency cobbling this 9-0 juggernaut together. Put really good teams are more than the some of their parts. The 2012 Chiefs had some very good parts, and it showed in fits, but they were not a good team. They were not resilient.
Good teams, teams that can compete every week, regardless of the ups and downs of the agony of statistical variance that is an NFL season, require passion, commitment, courage, and resilience. They require self-confidence, and genuine teamwork. Players have to be willing to set aside differences, egos, career worries, and focus on playing winning football, week in, week out. Being a good NFL team is impossible if the locker room is full of bickering, jealous, egotistical, divas who care more for their own stats, paycheck, fame, and playing time they do for the guy with locker next to them.
Case in point, the recent, disgusting, goings on in Miami involving Dolphins G Richie Incognito. Incognito has been suspended after the NFL was provided with audio of appallingly hateful, bullying, messages Icognito left on the phone of rookie tackle Jonathan Martin. According to audio made public by ESPN, in one of the messages Incognito tells his teammate:
"Hey, wassup, you half n----- piece of s---. I saw you on Twitter, you been training 10 weeks. [I want to] s--- in your f---ing mouth. [I'm going to] slap your f---ing mouth. [I'm going to] slap your real mother across the face [laughter]. F--- you, you're still a rookie. I'll kill you."
Now I am not saying this kind of bullying is widespread in the NFL. But it does serve to illustrate how bad things can get. How many times have heard players like T.O, Albert Haynesworth, and Randy Moss, described as "locker-room cancers" for their self-aggrandizing, destructive, behavior?
Having said all of this, here's my hypothesis: the most important thing Chiefs are doing to win games is not something that we can see, directly, on football field. But it can be seen in a video posted on the KC Chiefs website after yesterday's typically resilient win in Buffalo:
In the video, I think we got a glimpse into the mindset that is propelling the resilient Chiefs through the 2013 campaign. It's all about the family. This team has bought into the all for one and one all ethos that Andy Reid has helped instill in them after the terrible tragedy the core players suffered through last year. I've watched every game this season, and here's what I have not seen: players on the sidelines shoving, fighting, or berating teammates, coaches and players in each others faces, or anything even remotely resembling the tired NFL trope of the sideline prima donna demanding to be put in the game for more time.
This season what we have seen instead of anger and pouting on the sidelines when a game is not going well is calm, determination, and resilience coming from Coach Reid right on down to the last player. The Chiefs are not always winning pretty, or blowing opponents out of the water, but they are resiliently competing week after week and supporting each other on the field. Winning games helps the team spirit and confidence a lot I am sure, after all success breads success. But I think there has been a very real, and very refreshing, culture change here. The Chiefs are operating in an entirely new way, with a group of players determined to win and capable of checking their egos at the stadium and playing for one another as a family. I hope is more than a season-long shift. I hope it becomes the Chiefs Way. If the core of this team stays together, and stays competitive, I am sure it will.