Every offseason, we hear pundits predict the demise of the Kansas City Chiefs as kings of the AFC and their own division.
But in this past offseason, it seemed especially loud.
It started in early March, when the Denver Broncos acquired Russell Wilson in a trade with the Seattle Seahawks. Then the Los Angeles Chargers dealt some draft picks to get edge rusher Khalil Mack from the Chicago Bears. Then it became a trifecta: the Las Vegas Raiders landed wide receiver Davante Adams in a deal with the Green Bay Packers.
The narrative began to build. Would these moves end the Chiefs’ dominance of their division?
Many pundits thought so — and fans of the other AFC West teams agreed. And why not? With the NFL salary cap and revenue sharing, hope always springs eternal. Every year, it’s possible to believe that if your team makes the right moves, they can live the rags-to-riches story we all dream of.
Each offseason, there are a handful of big-name free agents. All fans daydream about these players joining their teams. So we tune into our radios and monitor all our news sites, waiting for the news that our team has signed one of these big-name players to help lead them to the promised land.
So what moves did Kansas City make in response?
The day after the Davante Adams trade, the Chiefs signed free agent wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. So we immediately began to envision how the former Pittsburgh Steelers wideout would fit in as the No. 2 behind Tyreek Hill.
But then came the news that none of us saw coming. On March 23 — less than a week later — Hill was traded to the Miami Dolphins. That was a gut kick for all of us. No matter how we tried to spin it, it hurt. The next day, the Chiefs signed former Packers wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling.
But then... nothing else happened. The rumbling started. What was Kansas City general manager Brett Veach doing? You could hear the voices everywhere. Fans were making our feelings known about the lack of activity at One Arrowhead Drive.
It reminded me of the famous scene in the 1986 basketball film Hoosiers, when one of Coach Norman Dale’s players fouls out. A player Dale had previously taken out of the game — the only one left on the bench — gets up and heads to the scorer’s table.
“Where are you going?” asks Dale.
The player gives a puzzled look to his coach.
“Sit down,” commands Dale.
Boos begin to rain down from the crowd as they realize there are only four players on the court. The referee comes over to the bench.
“You need one more, coach.”
“My team’s on the floor,” says Dale.
With resolve, the coach then waves his playbook in the air — as if to say, “I am going to live or die by doing what I believe in.”
Brett Veach was doing the same thing.
The offseason narrative that began to build with the Russell Wilson trade depends on a simple idea: that one player can change everything. But is that really true? You may remember then-Kansas City Star columnist Jason Whitlock’s infamous 1998 prediction: that after acquiring defensive tackle Chester McGlockton, the Chiefs would go 16-0. They finished 7-9 that season.
Back in August — after the Chiefs had used the draft picks from the Hill trade to upgrade the wide receiver room, add speed to the defense and add premium players to the secondary and defensive line — I wrote that even with everything that had happened in the rest of the division, I still believed that the Chiefs were going once again repeat as division champions. After two games, I haven't changed my mind. I think the Chiefs have shown that their general manager was right: their team is on the floor.
Folks, football is the ultimate team sport. The Chiefs are still seen as one of the NFL’s two best teams — and they sit at their familiar spot at the top of the division. It is still early, of course — but I think it is safe to say that the predicted demise of the Chiefs as one of the league’s best teams was a little premature.