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Two Chiefs teams listed among greatest NFL dynasties

A new Football Outsiders series ranks 56 NFL dynasties — and two Chiefs teams are among the top 40.

Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

The football analytics site Football Outsiders (inventor and custodian of football DVOA ratings) is in the midst of releasing their list of the 56 greatest dynasties of NFL history — and Kansas City Chiefs teams of two different eras appeared in the list of numbers 31 through 40 released on Tuesday.

In the article introducing the project, FO analysts started with a system that awarded dynasty points on a yearly basis. Based on the Bill James model — which identified 37 baseball dynasties in 2012 — it awards points in this way:

  • Six points for a championship with a winning percentage of at least 0.8125 (13-3 in current era)
  • Five points for any other championship
  • Four points for losing a championship game and having a winning percentage of at least 0.8125
  • Three points for losing a championship game and having a winning percentage of less than 0.8125
  • Three points for winning your division and having winning percentage of at least 0.8125
  • Two points for winning your division and advancing beyond the Wild Card round
  • Two points for having a winning percentage of at least 0.8125 without winning your division
  • One point for making any other playoff berth
  • One point for a winning percentage of at least 0.6430 (11-5 in current era)

A team is only awarded points for one of these categories per season; they only get the points from the highest category in which they quality.

Once a team acquires some of these points, a dynasty period begins; points start accumulating. But teams lose two dynasty points in any season they fail to gain dynasty points — minus an additional point in any season where they also have a losing record. Once the accumulated score falls to zero — or a team has two consecutive seasons without positive points — the dynasty ends. The points earned revert to the total from the last season in which they earned points.

FO defined one more caveat:

We do need to make one more tweak, however. One-point seasons can artificially extend a team’s reign; it doesn’t feel right for a 9-7 wild-card round exit every couple of years to keep an era together. So, for our purposes, two zero-point years count as a reset. Alternatively, a team can replace one (but not both!) of those zero-point years with a year that qualifies for 1 point in only one way — which, in modern times, means an uneventful playoff berth. At that point, their score resets to zero, and they have to start from scratch yet again.

If that doesn’t make any sense, the introductory article provides some examples to make it clearer.

Over 100 years of NFL history, FO found 56 dynasties that accumulated at least 10 points — all of which were identified in their original article. Then it was just a matter of applying their usual DVOA (and in pre-DVOA years, other metrics) to rank them.

No. 35: 1990-1997 Kansas City Chiefs

Peak Dynasty Points: 10

Average DVOA: 18.5%.

Top-Five DVOA: 23.7%

Championships: 0

Record: 86-42 (.672)

Head Coach: Marty Schottenheimer

Key Players: T John Alt, G Will Shields, DE Neil Smith, DT Dan Saleaumua, LB Derrick Thomas, CB Dale Carter

Z-Score: -2.24

This is Marty’s second appearance on this countdown, after his short stint with the 2006-2009 Chargers. Both teams barely squeak onto the list, with just 10 dynasty points to their name. Both rank higher than you probably think they should due to their DVOAs — at 19.1% and 18.5%, they both rank in the top five among teams we’ve seen up to this point. They are also, by a wide margin, the two least-accomplished teams to ever rack up 10 dynasty points; they’re the only teams on this countdown to never even play for a league championship, much less win one. That’s the Marty Schottenheimer guarantee for you: consistent regular-season success (the eighth-most wins in league history, and 74 games above .500!), regular playoff berths (13, more than all but five other coaches!), and then bupkis in the postseason (a 5-13 record).

It is common to blame Martyball (run on first, run on second, pass on third, punt on fourth, a tradition proudly being carried on by his son in Seattle to this day) for the postseason failures of Schottenheimer’s teams. It’s conservative, for sure, and Schottemheimer’s reputation for turtling on small leads and focusing on his defense isn’t unearned, but the guy won more than his fair share of games — 200 of them, as a matter of fact. With Andy Reid finally breaking through, other contenders like George Allen and Bud Grant long retired and/or dead, and the closest active challengers such as Mike Zimmer or Jason Garrett years away from touching his legacy, Marty is once again where he belongs — the greatest coach who never won a title.

If you were to invent a grading system intended to find teams whose fans thought should have won championships, it’s hard to imagine that three teams from this period — the 1993, 1995 and 1997 Chiefs — wouldn’t be on it. (You’d certainly find the 1990-1993 Buffalo Bills teams that lost four straight Super Bowls on that list, too — but we’ll leave our SBNation sister site Buffalo Rumblings to write about them).

We spent the better part of two full decades writing about those three teams — and everything that went wrong — but thanks to the teams that come in two spots ahead of Schottenheimer’s great squads, we no longer seem to be focused on them.

No. 33: 2015-2019 Kansas City Chiefs

Peak Dynasty Points: 11

Average DVOA: 22.6%.

Top-Five DVOA: 22.6%

Championships: 1.

Record: 57-23 (.713)

Head Coaches: Andy Reid

Key Players: QB Alex Smith, QB Patrick Mahomes, WR Tyreek Hill, TE Travis Kelce, T Eric Fisher, DE Chris Jones

Z-Score: -1.89

Lacking a crystal ball, we obviously can’t say anything about how the Chiefs’ run will go from here. This could be it, in which case it’s a very tightly compacted run of high-quality play with a title to serve as the crowning jewel, like the Joe Flacco Ravens. Other comparisons would be a less skilled version of the late-1940s Bears under George Halas, or a more-successful 1990s Steelers. These are the sorts of comparisons you can make if the Chiefs just fall off the face of the Earth.

Running off back-to-back Super Bowl championships in 2020 would likely bump the Chiefs into the top 20, placing them in the company of teams like Peyton Manning’s Colts. A third Super Bowl win in 2021 would vault them into position as the best Chiefs team of all time (spoilers!), while a fourth in 2022 would propel them into the top 10 in near-record setting time.

While they have some fun projecting what the current Chiefs team could do from here, FO doesn’t comment on the team’s 2014 season, in which the team missed the playoffs by the skin of its teeth. With just a playoff berth in 2014, this particular dynasty would have scored 13 points instead of 11 — and included the whole of Andy Reid’s Kansas City tenure.

This also might have moved it above the No. 32 Chicago Bears of 1932-34 or the No. 31 San Diego Chargers of 1960-65. Both of those teams accumulated more than 13 dynasty points, but other factors could have moved the Chiefs ahead of them. Another small change — the elimination of a certain penalty in a certain game — might have pushed Reid’s teams into the top 30 on the basis of dynasty points alone.

But as we know all too well, it is a game of inches. In this case... about six of them.

One other Chiefs dynasty — the 1966-71 team — is in the top 56. They’ll be ranked somewhere in the top 30. Soon, we’ll find out exactly where they land.

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