From the Fan Posts. - PS.
There just seems to be something about this offseason and the way the Kansas City Chiefs have handled not only the draft, but also their undrafted free agent signings following the draft. Add to that the trading of Dee Ford and the release of both Justin Houston and Eric Berry. Then add to that the free agents that were brought in before the draft and it all adds up to one busy offseason, and I think a great one overall. Even more than that, I just feel like the Chiefs have the possibility of looking back on this particular offseason as the one that finally, finally put them over the top. It has brought back some memories of mine from many years ago regarding another team I used to follow.
As a first-time poster here on AP, I want to provide some background to help you understand how I became the Chiefs fan I am today. I am an older guy (let’s just say over 50) and I have been a fan of the NFL since my earliest memories of childhood. I have been an absolute diehard Chiefs fan since the days of John Mackovic in the mid-1980s. But interestingly enough, I did not start out in life as a Chiefs fan.
My very first memory of watching the NFL goes all the way back to December of 1972. I grew up in New Kensington, Pennsylvania, which is just up the Allegheny River Northeast of Pittsburgh. I was 7 years old and, although my memory is somewhat sketchy, I can remember that my dad would park in front of our television and watch every single Steeler game, and it was usually along with one of my seven Italian uncles. On this particular occasion, I can remember something happening that I had never seen before. Something happened during the game that made my dad and my uncle Jack Marino start jumping up and down and screaming like banshees.
I remember looking at the television and seeing the Steelers and their fans running all over the field. Of course, at the time, I had no idea what was really happening in those moments, but I learned later that the Steelers had just won their very first playoff game in the history of their franchise and what my dad and uncle were going so crazy about was how the Steelers won that game. They won it on a play that later came to be known as the Immaculate Reception. That is my first memory of watching the Steelers and the NFL.
As each year passed and I grew older and began to understand the game more, I became a diehard Steelers Fan. It was the perfect time in my life because as I got to understand the game, I got to watch my team and my heroes win four Super Bowls in six years. They won that fourth Super Bowl after the 1979 season and by 1983, many of those great players started to retire. I graduated from high school that year and moved to the Midwest to go to school. Within a week of living in Kansas City, I met the girl who would become my wife. I attended school and ultimately graduated.
Now this is where I will lose my Steelers friends. For whatever reason, I did not watch much football during those school years and when I did watch football, it was usually the Chiefs or one of the other AFC West teams. I don’t think I saw a Steelers game for three years, and when I finally did see one, I did not recognize any of the players. It was like an entirely different team from the one I rooter for as I was growing up. In those days, players did not change teams nearly as often as they do now. It was not uncommon for most players to play their entire careers for the team that drafted them. So when I saw that game, it was kind of like a death of sorts. All my beloved heroes were gone and it was as if another team came in and took over. I came to realize that that great team that I loved and cheered for was forever gone. It left a very sad and bitter taste in my mouth and in the end, I felt like a fan without a team.
Well, it just so happened that in 1986, John Mackovic was in his fourth year of coaching the Chiefs and the Chiefs made the playoffs that year. Of course, the Chiefs lost to the Jets, 35-15, and Mackovic was fired. Frank Gansz was hired in his place. After two abysmal seasons under Gansz, the Chiefs hired Marty Schottenheimer, which I absolutely loved because I knew of Marty and knew that he was a good coach.
Marty had been the defensive coordinator and then-head coach for the Cleveland Browns from 1980-88. By this time, I was a full-blown Chiefs fan. I started buying Chiefs gear to wear and I did so proudly. I would go to an occasional game and thoroughly enjoyed being a fan again. When Joe Montana came to the Chiefs in 1993, I was caught up with the euphoria that engulfed the rest of the city. By this time my wife and I were eating, living and breathing all things Chiefs.
It has been a rollercoaster of a ride though. I became a season ticket holder in 1995 and was one off and on until 2011. I was there for the playoff losses in 1995 and 1997, and it was brutal. Along with so many of you, I have stuck with our team for better or for worse and have had my heart ripped out so many times that I wonder why I keep coming back for more.
But it is like my wife says: we have to keep following because one day they just might do it. I have to admit that after all of those bitter playoff losses and the endless train of castoff quarterbacks from other teams, I had started to get to the point where I just didn’t want to suffer anymore. I love my Chiefs, but after getting smacked hard in the face and then coming back for more only to get smacked again. Eventually it got harder to keep coming back. It was almost like a defense mechanism. I still watched every single game, but I could not bring myself to believe.
That, of course, has all changed, and you all know why.
But even with the miracle that is Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs have not yet built a perennial championship team…not yet anyway. And so after many, many years, I caught myself thinking about how the Steelers did it. How did they go from a perennial loser for almost 40 years to winning four out of six Super Bowls?
It started with the hiring of Chuck Knoll and drafting of Joe Greene in 1969, then Terry Bradshaw and Mel Blount in 1970, followed by Jack Ham, Dwight White and Ernie Holmes in 1971, and then Franco Harris in 1972. After a below-average draft in 1973, the Steelers ended up selecting four guys in the 1974 draft that would all end up being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Those players were wide receiver Lynn Swann, wide receiver John Stallworth, center Mike Webster, and linebacker Jack Lambert. The process of building their team was done over a five-year period.
Now I look at our Chiefs.
I truly believe that they are in the process of adding the final pieces of the puzzle that will help them reach and win their first Super Bowl in 50 years. But not just one. I believe the Chiefs are being built to win multiple championships. But in order for that to happen, the Chiefs have needed to have success in both free agency and the draft.
Don’t get me wrong. I understand that things are very different than how they were in the mid-1970s. Back then, there was no free agency and the draft consisted of 17 rounds. Of course, there are now only seven rounds and the rest has been changed out for the signing of undrafted free agents. Add to that the era of free agency that did not exist back then, and you have a system that in so many ways is different. But what is not different is the fact that if you are going to build a team that can contend for a championship for multiple years, you still have to draft well, sign the right free agents and be very good at building the bottom end of your roster.
It is my humble opinion that the Chiefs and Brett Veach have done an amazing job, especially from what I see happening in this particular offseason. When I review each player the Chiefs drafted and the undrafted free agents, I cannot help but get excited. It is eerily reminiscent of the Steelers 1974 NFL Draft and how they built their team. They still swung and missed on a lot of players but the ones they hit on, they hit on big time. I can honestly see that happening with not just a good portion of this year's draft picks, but even with several of the undrafted free agents.
Time will tell but, as a Chiefs fan, I have seen a lot of games in my life and have lived through a lot of offseasons. Call me the eternal optimist, and I can live with that, but I truly believe we are going to look back on the offseason of 2019 as the time when the team added the final pieces of a championship team.
There is still a lot of work to do and the Chiefs aren’t done yet. I am hoping that they add one or two more pieces before they take the field for the first game in September. But they are showing me a willingness to do whatever it takes and to put the necessary work in not just to make the Chiefs into a championship team, but one that will compete for a championship for the foreseeable future.