When the Kansas City Chiefs began their self-dubbed Run It Back campaign in August, questions surfaced about potential complacency after they had won the title.
Getting over the hump of winning a championship is a near-impossible task. That was easily evidenced by the 50 years it took Kansas City to get back to the Super Bowl — let alone emerge victorious.
But dating back to August, the Chiefs never shied away from that conversation.
“We’ve got a pretty good understanding of how to get there,” said Kelce on August 14. “We did it last year. We have great leaders in this locker room. When I say that, I mean that it’s every single day. It’s not like one day it’s someone else. Every single day we’ve got the same guys leading the charge and not settling for anything less than what we did last year or even more so ante it up and double down on everything that we did last year. It’s a mindset and everyone is just eager to get out there and get to work.
“As long as we’re working our tails off every day, we have the players to make plays on Sundays. We just have to put in the work to get down the timing of things, make sure our fundamentals are there and then just go out there and have fun on Sundays.”
The Chiefs — and Kelce and particular — followed up on those words. After signing a contract extension — another reason to become complacent — Kelce had the most productive season of his career, finishing second in the league in receiving and setting the single-season NFL tight end record.
Talks of complacency did resurface in the middle of the season after the team’s starters lost their only game of the year to the Las Vegas Raiders. The result upset the Chiefs’ defensive leader, Tyrann Mathieu, and Kansas City rebounded with a dominant performance in Buffalo on a rainy early afternoon.
Mathieu acknowledged after the game that beating complacency for a team expected to win every week remained an everyday battle.
“I think it’s always a challenge,” Mathieu admitted in October. “Any time you have a successful team, championship team and most of those guys come back to the very same team, I think the challenge is always trying to overcome complacency, overcoming the feeling that you’ve done enough or that you’ve accomplished enough. But we got a lot of great leaders on our team, got a lot of guys that love ball. I wouldn’t necessarily equate the Raiders game to us being complacent.
“I thought those guys showed up, played harder than us, they made the plays that counted, and we didn’t. I think we tried our best to learn from it and I think obviously that game is still in the back of our heads. We’re trying our best to avoid that.”
The Chiefs’ starters never lost a game after that — all the way up to last week’s AFC title, when Kansas City beat the Bills again to head back to the Super Bowl.
The Chiefs have beaten a lot of teams since Patrick Mahomes took over as the team’s quarterback in 2018, but the thing he said he is most proud of is the fact that nobody in their locker room has grown satisfied.
They want more — from Mahomes to player 53.
“No one has become happy with winning one Super Bowl championship,” he said Wednesday. “Everybody’s trying to make themselves better every single day and not trying to take a day for granted. You don’t have that in every single organization, in every single locker room. I think that just comes with the culture that Brett Veach and coach (Andy) Reid have instilled in us, and that’s to get better at least 1% every single day.
“That’s why I think we are in this game and why we have a chance for another Super Bowl championship.”