clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Chiefs’ all-time cellar dweller team: Defense, part 1

The best players on the worst Chiefs teams of all time.

Kansas City Chiefs v Boston Patriots Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Driving home from work last week, a thought crossed my mind: why we are so obsessed with talking about bad football teams?

Research has shown that it bonds us, giving us something to reminisce about over a beer — as in, “Hey, remember that time Trent Edwards and the Buffalo Bills dropped a 50 burger on us at home?”

They say that you don’t understand love until you’ve had your heart broken. As Kansas City Chiefs fans, there have been times where our battered hearts were ripped to pieces and sewn back together again — and the frayed strands that stitched them together were worn so thin that even the slightest wrong move could rip them apart all over again. But even then, we stood by our team and said, “We believe in you — and know that you can do better.”

In time, our faith was rewarded. And our hearts were healed.

In this five-part series, we’re picking the best 11 Chiefs on both sides of the ball — as well as special teams and coaches — selected entirely from those who served on the worst Kansas City teams.

The last time around, I told you that in the next installment, we’d cover WILL and MIKE linebackers, cornerback, defensive end and defensive tackle. But after further thought, I have decided to start at the back of the defense and work my way forward. So we’ll now cover the secondary: free and strong safeties, right and left cornerbacks and a MIKE linebacker.

Once again, here are the ground rules we’re using:

  1. A player had to have at least 10 starts in a bad season.
  2. The Chiefs had to have five or fewer wins in that season.
  3. Just one player at each position, using a standard pro set offensive formation and a 4-3 defensive set.

Let’s continue to discover the best players on the worst Kansas City Chiefs teams of all time.

SS – Bobby Hunt, 1963

Lance Alworth - San Diego Chargers - File Photos Photo by James Flores/Getty Images

A member of the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame. Bobby Hunt was drafted out of Auburn by the Dallas Texans in the 11th round of the 1962 AFL Draft. He rewarded their selection by being named an All-Pro in his rookie year, snagging eight interceptions in 14 games.

When the team moved to Kansas City the following year, Hunt kept the momentum going, intercepting six passes for a total of 228 return yards.

But his best season came in 1966, when he intercepted the ball 10 times. A two-time AFL champion, Bobby Hunt was the first in a long line of ballhawks at the back end of the Chiefs secondary.

Honorable Mention: Tim Gray

FS – Deron Cherry, 1988

Deron Cherry

It turns out that a lot of bad Chiefs teams have had excellent safeties. Undrafted out of Rutgers, Cherry makes a case to dethrone Brian Waters as the best undrafted player in Chiefs history.

In 1988, Deron Cherry was at the top of his game — and was the best free safety in football. A first-team All-Pro selection, he picked off seven passes and recovered six fumbles. When he was in his prime, there was not a better player at the position.

In 1990, Cherry was selected by Pro Football Hall of Fame voters as a member of the NFL’s 1980s all-decade team. His 50 career interceptions rank third all-time in club history.

Honorable Mention: Gary Barbaro

RCB – Emmitt Thomas, 1974

Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony

Thomas’ 58 career interceptions are the most in club history. His 12 interceptions in 1974 are the most by a Chiefs player in a single season — and is tied for the third-most in NFL history. Thomas was a five-time Pro-Bowler, four-time All-Pro, two-time AFL champion, three-time Super Bowl champion (once as a player and twice as a coach) and has a bronze bust at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

At six feet 2, he was a long corner whose upright running style was unmistakable on the field. If he and a wide receiver went up for the ball, there was very little chance that he would not win the battle.

Honorable Mention: Dave Grayson

LCB – Brandon Flowers, 2009

Titans at Chiefs David Eulitt/Kansas City Star/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

In his six seasons with the Chiefs, Flowers was as solid as they come. His stats don’t jump off the page, but his ability to play both on the boundary and in the slot made him a versatile chess piece for defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast.

2009 was Flowers’ sophomore season — and from a statistical standpoint, it was his best. He started 15 games, snagging five interceptions, 65 tackles and 23 passes defended.

A cap casualty after the 2013 season, Flowers purposely signed with the San Diego Chargers so he would have an opportunity to play the Chiefs twice a year, “That definitely played into the decision, just the way I play the game, I felt like it would be fun,” he said at the time. “Just going back to see some of the fellas, some of the coaches.”

So there were no hard feelings; it’s clear that he understood the Chiefs had made a business decision when they moved on from him.

Honorable Mention: Brandon Carr

MIKE LB – Willie Lanier, 1975

Super Bowl IV - Minnesota Vikings v Kansas City Chiefs

I must admit: this has been one of the hardest positions to choose. Everything in my gut said to put Derrick Johnson here — but I could not objectively overlook Hall of Famer Willie Lanier.

1975 was not close to his best season — but he still managed to intercept five passes.

A true pioneer, Lanier was the first African American to start as an NFL middle linebacker. Tackles were not recorded until 1994 — and to this day remain an unofficial stat in the eyes of the NFL. But those who watched him — or have seen his highlights — understand why he earned the nickname “Contact.”

Fluid and athletic, he had the speed to run sideline to sideline — and aggressively attacked opponents’ backfields, often running straight through the lead blocker to get to the ball carrier. If he got his mitts on you, it was over. Few people in the history of the game finished a tackle like Lanier.

He is ranked 53rd on the NFL’s Top 100 greatest players of all time.

Honorable Mention: Derrick Johnson

Here’s where we are so far:


  • WR1 — Carlos Carson, 1987
  • LT — Jim Tyrer, 1963
  • LG — Brian Waters, 2009
  • C — Jack Rudnay, 1975
  • RG — Tom Condon, 1978
  • RT — Jim Nicholson, 1976
  • TE — Tony Gonzalez, 2008
  • WR2 — Dwayne Bowe, 2008
  • QB — Len Dawson, 1963
  • RB1 — Jamaal Charles, 2012
  • RB2 — Tony Reed, 1978


  • SS — Bobby Hunt, 1963
  • FS — Deron Cherry, 1988
  • RCB — Emmitt Thomas, 1974
  • LCB — Brandon Flowers, 2009
  • MLB — Willie Lanier, 1975


How do you feel about part 1 of this defensive list?

This poll is closed

  • 41%
    Strongly agree
    (140 votes)
  • 47%
    Somewhat agree
    (161 votes)
  • 8%
    Somewhat disagree
    (27 votes)
  • 2%
    Strongly disagree
    (8 votes)
336 votes total Vote Now

In the next installment, we’ll pick the remainder of the defense: WILL and SAM linebackers, two edge rushers and two defensive tackles.

It's Game Time.

It's time for a title defense in Chiefs Kingdom. Sign up for Arrowhead Pride Premier and we’ll deliver 3 newsletters leading up to the Super Bowl packed with exclusive coverage and analysis from Las Vegas you won’t find anywhere else. For a limited time, use the code SUPERBOWL30 to save 30% plus a free trial