Sitting here in the Houston airport on my way back to Kansas City, I decided to look in the stores. (I hope our new terminal at KCI is going to have some of these same amenities!) You see a lot of Texas-branded souvenirs.
It got me to thinking about how the Texans are an NFL team much like the Kansas City Chiefs were for so many years: without good leadership and direction — and more importantly — without that all-important franchise quarterback. Houston now sits at the bottom of almost all the power rankings — and after Week 4, are the league’s only winless team.
The Chiefs (and their fans) know exactly what that feels like.
After the glory days of Len Dawson, Hank Stram and the victory of Super Bowl IV, years of futility became the norm. But one of the things the Chiefs had going for them was good ownership. Lamar Hunt was the primary architect of the American Football League and founder and owner of the Dallas Texans, which moved to Kansas City 1963. He was a fantastic owner who provided stability throughout all the years that the team struggled.
When he died in 2006, ownership and control passed to his son Clark Hunt. His first great decision was to release general manager Carl Peterson. To his credit, he hired one of the best candidates then available: New England Patriots assistant general manager Scott Pioli.
The new GM was given the keys to Chiefs Kingdom — and almost unilateral control of the team. Today, we may cringe when his name is even mentioned. But at the time, the vast majority of Kansas City fans celebrated the hire, believing that brighter days were ahead.
Unfortunately, what transpired were among the darkest days in franchise history — capped with the horrendous murder-suicide involving Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher.
To his great credit, Hunt recognized that the entire Pioli era had been a failure. The GM was dismissed on January 4, 2013 — the same day that former Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid was signed to a five-year contract. A week later, the team hired former Green Bay Packers executive John Dorsey to become the general manager. But there was a significant change: both men would be on an equal footing, each reporting directly to Hunt.
It was one of the best decisions Hunt has made.
He had hired the best man for the job. When it didn’t work out, he learned from his mistake and tried again. Then he did the best thing an owner can do: get out of the way, allowing his people to do their jobs.
Hunt’s decisions led to what the Chiefs now enjoy: a championship-caliber team with a future Hall of Fame coach and one of the NFL’s best GMs — and to the team drafting the quarterback that Kansas City fans had dreamed about: Patrick Mahomes. And even though the roster will change every season, Chiefs fans know that every year, the team will be competing for a championship.
These decisions are also part of the reason why the Chiefs are one of the NFL’s most respected organizations — and why Hunt has become one of the league’s most admired owners. We should all appreciate him. Many other NFL fan bases would love to have an owner just like him.
At this moment, the Chiefs are consistently fielding one of the league’s top 5 teams. It is well on its way to a possible seventh straight division title — and is once again one of the favorites to go to the Super Bowl. And after another incredible victory over Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it is setting up to be another amazing year that will conclude with a deep playoff run.
My friends, enjoy this ride. Chiefs fans are experiencing what will likely be seen as the greatest era in franchise history. Be grateful for a terrific owner, an awesome coach (and staff), a savvy general manager and the best quarterback in the league.
This is our time. Savor every moment.