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Carl Peterson Leaves the Chiefs' Franchise as he found it

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Via JOHN SLEEZER/The Kansas City Star

"After nearly two decades of NFL mismanagement, a town full of skeptics greeted Carl Peterson. Years of empty slogans, broken promises and last-place finishes by the Kansas City Chiefs had just about destroyed public confidence.

By December 1988, when owner Lamar Hunt finally made a front office housecleaning, the Chiefs were struggling to their second straight four-win season. Many ticket-holders wondered if he was sabotaging the team so he eventually could relocate..."     -St. Louis Post Dispatch, 1991

Almost twenty years after assuming de facto leadership of the franchise, President/GM/CEO Carl Peterson will vacate his posts with the Kansas City Chiefs at the end of this season.

During that time as the main man in charge of the Chiefs' front office (running both the business and football operations), Peterson's efforts helped lead his teams to a 176-141-1 record. The Chiefs' were a playoff team nine times under Peterson and went to the AFC Championship in the 1993 season. That would be the closest the Chiefs would come to a Super Bowl under Carl Peterson.

After 1971, the Kansas City Chiefs were a joke of a franchise. From 1972 to 1988, the Chiefs finished the season above .500 four times. Four. That snippet at the beginning of the post wasn't lying about how bad things were.

You know the drill from here. Carl Peterson came on board in the 1989 season. The Chiefs went to the playoffs six out of the next seven years. Winning was back in vogue in Kansas City and Carl Peterson had a lot to do with that.

The Super Bowl-less winning continued through 1997 until the Chiefs lost a bitter playoff game against the Broncos. After that 1997 season, things never were the same.

Via MIKE RANSDELL/The Kansas City Star

The Chiefs floundered for five seasons after that '97 playoff loss. Dick Vermeil took a paper tiger Chiefs' team to the playoffs in 2003 and I'm sure every KC fan was gritting their teeth hoping the defense didn't fall over and die in that playoff game against Indy. But it did.

The strategy during Vermeil's tenure was Super Bowl or bust and the Chiefs busted big time in the years following those poor free agent and draft decisions. Much of this heat fell on Carl Peterson.

And that brings us to the Carl Peterson/Herm Edwards era, which to say has been unsuccessful would be a huge understatement.

Peterson leaves the Chiefs' franchise is a position similar to when he came on in 1988. A sour fan base. A recent culture of losing. Two terrible statistical years in a row.

I hope the new guy can fix the Chiefs like Carl Peterson did.


I never have had the same hate for Carl Peterson that a lot of fans seem to have.

Over the last few years, when I looked at Carl Peterson I saw a flawed strategy of free agency over the draft. I saw no playoff wins in fifteen years. I saw repeated disappointments in personnel decisions, coaching choices and losing seasons.

But...I also reminded myself of the brilliant first half of Peterson's career. The six straight playoff appearances. The annual Sports Illustrated preseason issue touting the Chiefs as the AFC's Super Bowl representative. The defense. The excitement.

Those were good times to be a Chiefs fan.

And that's what has neutralized me to the hate that so many others appear to feel toward the man. I try to be fair. I don't discount past events because they're in the past. Carl Peterson did a good job here for a long time. He eventually grew stale in his capacity to manage and draft a football team. There are two sides to his career.

His hard line negotiations with a number of players over the years caused resentment in the fan base. These were the start of the business over football arguments that became so cliché in Kansas City over the years. That Carl Peterson was unable to separate the football side of the business with the revenue generating side. Chiefs' tickets never really were out of whack with the rest of the country. I never really saw the evil revenue maker in him.

(Photo source)

It's impossible to point to the exact moment that Peterson became a perpetual villain in Kansas City. The local paper, The Kansas City Star, seems to have had an unwritten rule for some time now that they have to act like hostile children towards the man. Local television sportscasters have reserved their most vitriolic commentaries to talk about Carl Peterson.

Every Super Bowl-less season added more Peterson haters to the mix. The lack of a championship is the biggest pock on Peterson's career. If the Chiefs had one a Super Bowl during his time, we really would be sitting here and saying "At least he won one Super Bowl..." and things would be different.

In the twilight of his career, Carl Peterson was blamed for nearly everything a GM could be blamed for. He had been unsuccessful for too long. The fans and the media had begun look at Carl Peterson through a permanently negative lens. It would be tough to find a Chiefs' fan who could say he or she supported Carl Peterson without some sort of caveat.

After turning the Chiefs' franchise completely around in only a few years in the 1990s, Carl Peterson ultimately commanded too many roles, for too long and produced too few results to justify his continued involvement with the Kansas City Chiefs in an official capacity. The losing, the poor drafts and the empty Arrowhead Stadium signaled that a change was needed and Clark Hunt asserted his ownership role for the first time in a direct manner.

I wish Carl Peterson the best of luck in his future endeavors. Peterson's absence isn't a guarantee of future wins but it's a start for a franchise that desperately needs an injection of new leadership.

Sort of like it did in 1988.