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Obituaries: The Chiefs’ fullback position

On Wednesday, Kansas City’s Andy Reid spoke about the demise of the fullback position.

KANSAS CITY, MO — The fullback position in Kansas City passed away on Wednesday. May 24, 2023 at the ripe old age of 73, surrounded by a host of journalists — and its most faithful paramour: Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid.

During its long lifetime, no modern NFL coach was more dedicated to the fullback than Reid. The position came to notoriety in the early 1900s as a punter and drop-kicker. In fact, the first roughing-the-kicker penalty was called, “running into the fullback.”

As the game developed, fullbacks rose in prominence. Many of the game's greatest rushers counted themselves among them. Players like Jim Brown, Bronko Nagurski, Franco Harris, Larry Csonka — and Chiefs legend Christian Okoye — were all considered fullbacks at one point in their careers.

Over time, however — and with the advent of shotgun offenses — NFL teams began to run fewer two-back formations, relying instead on a single-back rushing attack. This eventually rendered the once-prominent position into a relic of a bygone era.

Even as offenses evolved, though, Reid remained faithful to his roots in the West Coast offense. He always made sure there was a place for a fullback on his 53-man rosters — even if they were utilized on a only handful of plays in each game.

Over the years, Reid has had a number of them. The most famous were Pro-Bowlers Cecil Martin and Anthony Sherman. Then there was former Las Vegas Raiders player Jon Ritchie — and Thomas Tapeh, who played four seasons for Reid when he was with the Philadelphia Eagles. Michael Burton was Reid’s final fullback, appearing in 35 games over the last two seasons, rushing for 33 yards and a touchdown during that time.

But all great stories must come to an end. It looks like Reid's romance with the position has finally reached its conclusion. Speaking of the position on Wednesday, Kansas City’s head coach appears to have already found comfort in the arms of another.

“Yeah, so the tight ends can work into that spot,” Reid explained to reporters. “You know, we know Noah [Gray] can do all of that — and that’s kind of where we went with it. We’ve got a number of tight ends that we feel comfortable with, so maybe you keep an extra tight end as opposed to that.”

If we are being honest, the fullback’s time had come. In the modern game, there simply isn’t room for a full-time player to serve as a lead blocker out of the backfield. Even so, Reid said that part of the reason that the team isn’t presently carrying one is that it has so many tight ends available. Reid isn’t ruling out the possibility that if another one caught his eye, he could strike up another romance with a fullback.

“Would we go back?” he asked. “I mean, that’s not a problem. We like what we had last year with it.”

The fullback position is survived by several current players, including the San Francisco 49ers’ Kyle Juszcyk, the Baltimore Ravens’ Patrick Ricard and the Miami Dolphins’ Alec Ingold.

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