Every year, 32 teams take to the field in hopes of winning an NFL championship. Each have dreams, some more realistic than others, about raising the Vince Lombardi Trophy in February. For our Kansas City Chiefs, the flame of belief flickers once more with the full compliment of players descending on Arrowhead this Tuesday.
Last year, the Chiefs made the playoffs and fell in one of the most heartbreaking losses of all-time to the Indianapolis Colts. It left a brutal taste in everybody's mouth, from the players and coaches to the fans alike. It hurt, and it still stings, but it is time to turn the page and move on.
In these eyes, Kansas City has legitimate hope of going to the Super Bowl this season. Despite many predicting a fall back to the pack, I believe this team will improve while some of the main competition might not.
The Denver Broncos added high-priced and marquee names in the offseason with the signings of Aqib Talib, DeMarcus Ware, T.J. Ward and Emmanuel Sanders. What everybody fails to mention are the losses of top players such as Knowshon Moreno, Zane Beadles, Eric Decker, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Wesley Woodyard and Shaun Phillips.
Would you make that trade if you were John Elway? No chance. Now factor in that Ware is coming off a season in which he had six sacks in 13 games, his first campaign as a 4-3 defensive end. Don't ignore that Talib has not played more than 13 games in a season since 2009. Also, remember it is almost impossible for Peyton Manning, despite his greatness, to have a repeat or better year than his 2013 showing. The arrow is pointing down in Denver.
Kansas City lost some pieces, but mostly spare parts. Outside of Geoff Schwartz, everybody had solid depth behind them or was likely upgraded in the draft (De'Anthony Thomas) or in free agency (Vance Walker). Take it from someone who pours over game film daily, Walker is going to make a massive difference.
With a second year under the same coaching staff and with a very similar roster, I expect to see big strides in Kansas City. The record may not change much due to a harder schedule, but this team has the potential to be very dangerous in the postseason should the first-half defense marry the second-half offense.
Sometimes, an outsider sees things differently than those inside the bubble. Most Chiefs fans are from Kansas City or the surrounding area. I'm from New York, where nothing short of championships are tolerated by both the media and fans. Sometimes it's borderline insane, but the message is crystal clear. I've seen Mariano Rivera booed off the field after blowing a save ... in April. The mentality is constant: Win it all, or you have failed.
From my East Coast view, whether I'm right or wrong, it appears there are times when good enough is actually good enough with this franchise. It's maddening and must change.
That mindset of absolute victory needs to take hold with the Chiefs. Anything less than a deep run in the playoffs this year is a complete failure. It all starts this week, when everybody gets on the field, in the classroom, and in the weight room together. The team-building needs to start in earnest with Alex Smith, Eric Berry and Andy Reid leading the way.
No longer can a close loss be seen as a moral victory. Games at Arrowhead have to be looked at as must-wins even if they are against the New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks and Broncos.
The talent is there to make a championship chase. Look at both sides of the ball and you will see men with the ability to lead a charge into January, and perhaps further. Last year, this team showed flashes of what it could be on both sides of the ball. Now, those moments need to be strung together into 60-minute efforts.
The roster includes stars such as Jamaal Charles, Brandon Flowers, Tamba Hali, Dontari Poe, Justin Houston, Derrick Johnson, Alex Smith, Eric Berry, Dustin Colquitt and Dwayne Bowe. Those names are surrounded by solid players like Mike DeVito, Anthony Sherman, Rodney Hudson, Donald Stephenson, Ryan Succop, Anthony Fasano, Vance Walker, Sean Smith, Husain Abdullah and Marcus Cooper. Those men are flanked by young, promising players named Dee Ford, Phillip Gaines, De'Anthony Thomas, Travis Kelce, Sanders Commings, Knile Davis and Junior Hemingway.
Forget this nonsense of going .500 and waiting for 2015. Talk like that is for the meek, and ultimately for losers expecting to build on that reputation. It is time to win, and to expect it, now.
In 1984, the winner of the American Football Conference was given the Lamar Hunt Trophy for the first time. Now, 30 years later, it still has not been claimed by the organization he founded.
It is time to change that.