View Full Version : Posnanski: Waters' superb play warms a cold day

12-20-2004, 02:10 AM

Waters' superb play warms a cold day


This was a good game to watch Chiefs offensive lineman Brian Waters play. It was bitterly cold Sunday. The field was harder than granite. The wind cut deeper than a Jon Stewart monologue. The Chiefs, of course, were long gone from the playoffs, while their opponent, Denver, had its season on the line.

The wind chill at kickoff was minus-1.

Yes, this was a good time to watch Brian Waters play.

The man has had one incredible year. On a Monday night in Baltimore, in front of a national television audience, Waters flattened Ravens maniac Ray Lewis. That was the talk of the league for a while. Three weeks later, after the Chiefs ran for eight touchdowns against Atlanta, Waters became the first offensive lineman to be chosen the AFC offensive player of the week.

But then, every week, no matter who is playing running back for the Chiefs, no matter the weather, the opponent, the situation, Waters has been what one Chiefs official calls “the best player on the field. Period.” With Priest Holmes hurt, with the season a dismal disappointment, the Chiefs are still on pace to rush for 32 touchdowns, as many as last year and third most in NFL history.

You will notice the team very often runs behind Brian Waters.

“He's got to be the strongest guy in this locker room,” Chiefs fullback Tony Richardson says. “I mean, he's ridiculously strong. And he's a great athlete. This week in practice, Brian had to play a little center. … It was incredible to watch him snap the ball and move around. It's like he can do anything.”

There are people around the NFL who believe that Waters is playing better than any guard in football, even better than his teammate and mentor, nine-time Pro Bowler Will Shields. But it's one thing to play good football on national television or when your team is scoring touchdowns at will. It's quite something else to give everything in a meaningless game, in a merciless wind, with nothing on the line except professional pride.

“I hear people say that, you know, ‘We've got nothing to lose,' ” Waters says. “But when you're an offensive lineman, you always have a lot to lose. You miss, and you might get your quarterback hurt. You miss, and you might get your running back hurt. You have to fight with all you've got.”

Sunday, I watched Brian Waters play. There were so many other things to see: There was the Chiefs playing a complete football game, the kind of game that makes you wish the season could start again. There was Dante Hall returning the opening kickoff for a touchdown. There was Larry Johnson running for 151 yards against what had been one of the best rushing defenses in the NFL. There was a Chiefs defense blitzing with abandon and forcing turnovers — playing a little Gunther Cunningham football. There was Denver's Jake Plummer, who is very high on my all-time “Players you think are pretty good until you actually see them play” team.

There was Trent Green, two passes away from quarterback-rating perfection. Green was 15 of 17 for 221 yards and three touchdowns — that's a perfect quarterback rating of 158.3. Then, for reasons unknown, the Chiefs had him throw two more passes even though they led by 32 points, and he lost the perfect rating. Shame.

But the best part of this game was watching Brian Waters work. You don't have to know anything about offensive-line play to appreciate what he does. On running plays up the middle, he moves his man out of the way. On running plays outside, he runs in front of the back and knocks people down. On pass plays, he stops his pass rusher cold.

And he does it all game long. That's what makes him special. “He's so consistent,” Shields says. You have to remember, Waters was not an offensive lineman in college at North Texas; he played tight end and fullback. When he reached the NFL, he did not know much about blocking techniques and studying film and reading a defender's movement.

He was just hoping to stick in this league.

But he learned from the best. He plays the same position as Shields, of course, and he plays right next to another future Hall of Famer, Willie Roaf. He studied them. Waters didn't just study the way they blocked or the way they practiced.

No, he watched how they carried themselves.

“This offensive line never, ever takes a play off,” he says. “That started long before I ever got here. You're talking about guys like Will and Willie — they show up every single day, and they go to work. That's how you play football.”

That's how Waters plays the game. He plays with heart, and after the game, he speaks from the heart, and it's good to see great athletes who get it.

“When we lose, I feel like I didn't play well enough,” he said. “That's how I look at it. And when we win, like we did today, I think: ‘OK, I was good enough today.' ”

This week, the Pro Bowl team will be announced. Brian Waters deserves to be on the team. But with offensive linemen — guards especially — it's hard to break through. Since 1996 in this conference, only five different guards have been chosen to the Pro Bowl. It's a numbers game, and the Chiefs have not had a good season, so there's a good chance that Waters will get left out.

If so, Sunday will be his day. On a frigid afternoon, he blew apart the Denver defensive line, opened huge holes for Johnson, protected his quarterback. He did it without much notice, which is just how he likes it.

On the surface, Sunday's game did not do much except move the Chiefs a little lower in the NFL draft order.

But to Brian Waters, it was a good day's work.

“There were 60,000 or 70,000 fans out there giving their best in that weather,” he said. “I mean, the least I could do is work as hard as they did.”

Hammock Parties
12-20-2004, 02:21 AM
Wow. This is a great article. I will file it away in ye olde Chiefs fan archive.

12-20-2004, 02:38 AM
Its good to know this guy was brought up right with the likes of Shields. Hopefully he will be the Sr. guy and he will pass on the same passion and drive to his linemates.

Bob Dole
12-20-2004, 06:54 AM
This article points out exactly why we needed to lose yesterday.

It's really too bad we won and damaged our position in the draft. We MUST draft in the top 10 to get an impact player!


Bob Dole
12-20-2004, 09:23 AM
Bob Dole was really hoping some of the advocates for losing would feel compelled to comment.