On Saturdays through May, Arrowhead Pride contributors list (and explain) their top five Kansas City Chiefs of all time.
My top 5 all-time Chiefs
- Edge rusher Derrick Thomas
- Linebacker Derrick Johnson
- Linebacker Willie Lanier
- Nose tackle Curley Culp
- Linebacker Bobby Bell
Of course, any list that I would make would have a decidedly defensive slant. So I wholeheartedly embraced it by naming my Top 5 Chiefs defenders of all time.
Many of my colleagues have placed Derrick Thomas on their lists. He easily tops mine. Utilized as a jack-backer or a down lineman, Thomas was an impact defender who could not be schemed out of the game. Thomas averaged 11.5 regular-season sacks through his career — an insane eleven-year pace. An easy Pro Football Hall of Famer, Thomas stands atop my list as the greatest Chiefs defender of all time.
Derrick Johnson might be my favorite Chiefs player of all time. He helped a new generation of Chiefs fans fall in love with the linebacker position. Johnson had fantastic cover skills — and the body control to knife into the backfield and make plays. In his day, Johnson wasn’t ever considered one of the NFL’s elite linebackers — being overshadowed by Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher — but DJ was one of the best WILL linebackers to bridge to the modern game. He had a playing style that coined a phrase — “DJ Special” — that easily charted for me.
Willie Lanier — known as “Contact” for his ruthless hitting style — was one of the first African-American linebackers in pro football history. He hauled in 27 interceptions over his career, including four in back-to-back seasons en route to the Chiefs’ first Super Bowl victory. Lanier was a key cog in one of the NFL’s best defenses at the start of the Super Bowl era, having his #63 jersey retired on the way to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Curley Culp has been largely overlooked on these lists — something Culp was accustomed to during his playing career. He was considered too short to play on the defensive line — and not quick enough to line up on the second level. So he helped create a smaller, quicker version of the existing nose tackle prototype. His penetrating style of play commanded double teams and forced shifts in blocking schemes, allowing Lanier and Buck Buchanan free runs into the backfield. His play at nose tackle in the Chiefs 3-4 scheme helped further popularize the alignment — and over the next decade, had teams searching for the “next Culp” to make their 3-4 alignments work.
Bobby Bell is one of the best athletes to play linebacker in the league’s history. Checking in at 6 feet 4 and 228 pounds, Bell reportedly ran a 4.5 40-yard dash — and had elite explosion. He used that explosion well as a blitzer, logging 40 sacks — despite blitzing from what was then the non-traditional side of the field. Bell is still tied for most pick-sixes by linebackers in NFL history — even though the game was significantly less pass-heavy when he played. Coach Hank Stram said that Bell could “play all 22 positions on the field, and well.” Bell has been a wonderful ambassador for the team since retirement, and is well-deserving of a spot on my list.
How perfect is this list?
This poll is closed
- Derrick Thomas (26 points)
- Patrick Mahomes (19)
- Len Dawson (16)
- Tony Gonzalez (8)
- Derrick Johnson (7)
- Will Shields (6)
- Jamaal Charles (6)
- Willie Lanier (5)
- Bobby Bell (3)
- Eric Berry (3)
- Travis Kelce (2)
- Curley Culp (2)
- Alex Smith (1)
- Jan Stenerud (1)
- Jamaal Charles was the best of all running backs — Matt Stagner
- Derrick Johnson squeaks in the top five — Ron Kopp, Jr.
- Without Bobby Bell, the team’s story is incomplete — Kent Swanson
- Jamaal Charles was the king of the Game Pass Era — Tom Childs
- Jan Stenerud turned placekickers into weapons — John Dixon
- Will Shields never missed a game — Ethan Douglas