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Ranking the Chiefs: our readers speak

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Wrapping up our lists of top five all-time Chiefs — this time with nothing but the voices of our readers.

Los Angeles Chargers v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

On Saturdays since the end of March, we’ve been running a series of articles where Arrowhead Pride contributors have named their top five Kansas City Chiefs. They were given no criteria for their selections; they could base them on anything they wished.

As a group, here are the Chiefs they chose.

Contributor top five

  • Derrick Thomas (34 points)
  • Patrick Mahomes (29)
  • Len Dawson (17)
  • Derrick Johnson (10)
  • Jamaal Charles (8)

Just outside: Tony Gonzalez (8), Will Shields (7), Travis Kelce (7), Willie Lanier (5) and Bobby Bell (3)

Each article contained a poll where readers could vote on the quality of the list. When we weighted the scoring with the readers’ votes, the list changed a bit.

Adjusted contributor top five

  • Derrick Thomas (21.21 points)
  • Patrick Mahomes (13.25)
  • Len Dawson (10.66)
  • Tony Gonzalez (5.72)
  • Will Shields (4.96)

Just outside: Willie Lanier (3.56), Derrick Johnson (3.44), Travis Kelce (2.67), Bobby Bell (2.18) and Curley Culp (1.20)

But that adjusted list was still somewhat biased by the selections of our contributors. So In the past week, we’ve invited readers to submit their own lists of top five Chiefs. Here are the results:

Reader top five

  • Patrick Mahomes (375 points)
  • Derrick Thomas (353)
  • Len Dawson (146)
  • Tony Gonzalez (121)
  • Bobby Bell (86)

Just outside: Will Shields (75), Jamaal Charles (63), Willie Lanier (53), Travis Kelce (34) and Derrick Johnson (30)

The big takeaway here is that despite the fact that he’s played for only three seasons, our readers are ready to place Mahomes at the top of the Chiefs pantheon — and value Hall of Fame linebacker Bobby Bell more than our contributors did.

Checking our work

But have we missed anyone we should have considered — or allowed recency bias to color our choices?

Using the Approximate Value (AV) metric used by Pro Football Reference, here are the top 10 Chiefs based on total AV during their time with the franchise.

  • Jim Tyrer
  • Will Shields
  • Bobby Bell
  • Derrick Thomas
  • Buck Buchanan
  • Len Dawson
  • Johnny Robinson
  • Willie Lanier
  • Chris Burford
  • Ed Budde

Using that same metric, here are the top 10 Chiefs based on average AV per season with the team:

  • Mitchell Schwartz
  • Willie Roaf
  • Patrick Mahomes
  • Chris Burford
  • Alex Smith
  • Trent Green
  • Abner Haynes
  • Tyreek Hill
  • Derrick Thomas
  • Bobby Bell

I’ve deliberately left off the actual scores in these two AV lists; we probably don’t want to get too far down in the weeds using a metric that has “Approximate” right there in its name! Besides... it’s pretty much a given that it’s very difficult to compare one player to another in a complex team sport like football.

Just the same, it’s not hard to see that the more people who were involved in creating each of these lists, they got better. That’s just what we would expect. Certainly we can see some cases of recency bias, too — something that was often acknowledged by both contributors and readers.

For example, all of us might not have given enough credit to Chiefs players from the 1960s such as Jim Tyrer, Johnny Robinson, Abner Haynes and Ed Budde. But it’s also true that more recent players like Mitchell Schwartz, Alex Smith, Trent Green and Tyreek Hill might not have received enough consideration.

We can argue about whether any of these Chiefs — both from the distant past and today — deserved to be on any of these lists, but they were rarely mentioned in the conversations. It’s possible we didn’t value them as much as we should have.

In the end, these lists were subjective — just as they should be. We hope it’s been as much fun to read them as it has been to bring them to you!


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