View Full Version : Baab: That 70s woe: Last time Chiefs were this bad, disco ruled

01-06-2008, 08:53 AM
This is a pretty long article, so I am just going to put the link in this post. I will copy and paste in the next post or two. Pretty good read.


01-06-2008, 08:55 AM
The general manager had lost his fire. The drive to Arrowhead Stadium seemed longer each day, but it gave him time to think, time to let the unrest and the criticism sink in.

Maybe he had lost more than his fire. His passion? His will?

No, the suggestions were worse. Perhaps the general manager had lost his touch, that the game had become too big for him — yes, even him — and that it was time he step away, burn rubber out of Kansas City and out of the Chiefs front office once and for all.

In his rearview would be all he had built, the legacy he and team founder Lamar Hunt had forged and the trophies they had collected. Losses had mounted. Fans stopped caring. The bad had trumped all the good, and the resolution to Kansas City’s hottest barstool topic was that it had to be done: If the Chiefs truly were to rebuild, the general manager had to go.

Had it really come to this?

“Going to work every day, that’s always a challenge,” the general manager says. “It’s not any fun. It’s a whole lot more fun when you’re winning.”

He admits now he made mistakes, now that the chaos is behind him. Players had aged. Scouting had suffered. The general manager had chosen a wrong man or two to be head coach. Front office officials had been drunk off past success, their vision too blurred to realize they had grown complacent and now were staring a hurricane in the eye.

It had caught up to him. He knew it. But he kept going to work, kept trying to ignore the critics, kept making the drive to Arrowhead.

Thirty years after the Chiefs’ first rebuilding effort and nearly 20 years after their second reconstruction, the general manager says there is hope as the team enters its third era of rebuilding.

The general manager is Jack Steadman, who spent nearly 50 years in the Chiefs front office before he retired last year. He was a Chiefs executive during the team’s worst funk, when the Chiefs employed five coaches in the 14 years between playoff appearances during the 1970s and ’80s. He was GM during the mid-’70s when the team cut ties with the aging players who led Kansas City to a win in Super Bowl IV and was team president when the Chiefs endured 11-loss seasons in 1987 and ’88.

Steadman has been there. He knows the current general manager, Carl Peterson, has another high-risk project ahead. Some believe this year’s Chiefs team was the worst in franchise history. But Steadman knows the mistakes the team made in the 1970s — ignoring signals, remaining loyal to aging stars and making quick fixes — led to the darkest era in Chiefs history and a long playoff drought. Those are mistakes Peterson cannot afford to repeat.

There are similarities to this offseason’s project and those in the ’70s and ’80s. Those efforts yielded mixed results but came with high prices. It was Steadman, after all, who resigned as team president in 1988 to make room for Peterson, who rebuilt the Chiefs into an AFC power during the 1990s.

Steadman has heard the whispers that followed Peterson this past season, when the Chiefs lost nine in a row and finished 4-12. Last week, the Chiefs began a high-stakes offseason in which they will rebuild for a third time. He knows that more bad would trump all of Peterson’s good, as it did for Steadman two decades ago.

“It’s déjà vu all over again,” Steadman says.

Step 1: Identify weaknesses

Bill Grigsby is the man who flips disappointment and delivers hope. He has been on the Chiefs’ radio broadcast team 43 years, time enough to watch and experience and talk into a microphone about plenty of new players, upgraded offenses and offseason overhauls.

He is an admitted optimist, even during 4-12 seasons.

“I can see positive in things even when they’re bad — real bad,” he says. “And I’ve seen the real bad.”

He also saw the good. Grigsby delivered play-by-play of the Chiefs’ appearance in the first Super Bowl, a 35-10 loss to the Green Bay Packers. Three years later, Kansas City was back — and this time Grigsby could talk about a championship. The Chiefs’ Super Bowl victory after the 1969 season remains the team’s only NFL championship in 45 seasons.

Grigsby had reason to be optimistic, and coach Hank Stram had reason to be loyal. Stram rewarded players from the Super Bowl team with job security, even as they aged well into their 30s. Players slowed and weakened and eventually broke down. The team did the same. Five years after the Super Bowl win, the Chiefs finished 5-9 and finished tied with the San Diego Chargers for last place in the AFC West. In December 1974, Stram was fired.

Steadman says now that the decision to allow Stram to oversee the Chiefs’ scouting was a “big mistake,” one that led to the ’74 season and Stram’s dismissal. Another mistake, Steadman says, was failing to upgrade an aging offensive line, a problem today’s Chiefs also made entering this past season.

Offensive linemen, because of size and durability, are long-term investments. They can be drafted and plugged into the starting lineup and trusted for years to hold down a position while a team upgrades elsewhere. A solid lineman could start each game for upward of 15 seasons.

“You kind of take them for granted,” Steadman says. “You’re working on replacing other things. Sometimes the teams have a way of forgetting the offensive line.”

It is that forgetfulness that threw the Chiefs into a mess this past season as it did in the ’70s. Steadman says the Chiefs didn’t identify their weakness on the line until it was too late, and the mass upgrades the error required took years to pay off. After a postseason appearance in 1971, the Chiefs missed the playoffs each season until 1986.

Steadman admits he made other mistakes during the team’s first major rebuilding, after Stram was fired. After Paul Wiggin went 11-24 in 2 1/2 seasons — defensive backs coach Tom Bettis was promoted after Wiggin was fired seven games into the 1977 season — Steadman hired Marv Levy. Before Levy became a Hall of Fame coach with the Bills, he had one winning season in five years with the Chiefs. One of the losing seasons came in 1982, when the Chiefs went 3-6 during a strike-shortened season.

People began suggesting to Steadman that Levy could not succeed in Kansas City. They told Steadman that Levy had lost players’ trust. Steadman fired Levy after the ’82 season. It is a move Steadman now says was his biggest mistake in five decades with the Chiefs.

Levy’s replacement, John Mackovic, was the Chiefs’ fifth coach in less than 10 years. It created more turmoil and more unrest and, Steadman says, compelled critics to question his own ability.

“We paid the price for it,” he says, “and it was a long time turning it around.”

It is what the Chiefs will try to do in the coming months as they research free agents and identify draft prospects. Steadman admits there are similarities between the upcoming rebuilding effort and the one the Chiefs endured in the ’70s.

One voice, however, believes this effort will be different. It will come together faster, he says, because Peterson and coach Herm Edwards identified early the problems that led to Kansas City’s worst record in 30 seasons. This time, the Chiefs are rebuilding just a season removed from a playoff appearance.

01-06-2008, 08:57 AM
continued from post 1.

The voice belongs to Grigsby, who says he has seen evidence today’s Chiefs can avoid the turmoil that followed the mistakes Steadman and the front office made in the 1970s, mistakes that dug the Chiefs into a deep hole they did not escape for more than 10 years.

“I really believe that in looking at all the ups and downs, the good, the bad and the ugly, that this one can be corrected fast,” Grigsby says. “It will be back. I know it will be back.”

Step 2: Disassembly

The Chiefs were soaring after their 1986 playoff appearance. Expectations were high. Glory days had been circled on the 1987 calendar.

Then came news of a player’s strike. One game, in week three, was canceled. Replacements played the next three.

When the strike was resolved, the regulars returned to work. By then, the Chiefs were 1-4 and would go on to lose nine in a row, the longest losing streak in team history but one matched by the Chiefs this past season. Another playoff appearance was dead. Glory days would have to wait.

“It was a lost year,” says Deron Cherry, a six-time Pro Bowl free safety for the Chiefs who played on the ’87 team.

Kansas City finished that season 4-11. A year later, the Chiefs matched that record. And this time, there was no strike to blame.

Tight end Paul Coffman knows the look. He saw it when he played for the Chiefs in 1987. It is the look of apathy, of players who are convinced they begin a game already at a disadvantage. Coffman saw the look in the Chiefs’ first 4-11 season. He saw it again on Chiefs players’ faces this season.

Players were asked throughout this past season whether effort had suffered, even during Kansas City’s nine-game losing streak. No, they insisted — they were striking out, but by God, they were going down swinging.

Coffman, who says he follows the Chiefs, says players might have believed they played with maximum effort even if they did not.

“Sometimes I think guys are kind of fooled (into) thinking, ‘I’m doing everything I can.’ But there’s always a little more you can find,” Coffman says. “It looked like when things started going bad in the second half of those games, it was almost like the mind-set was, like, ‘Here we go again.’ There were times when you could see that the effort didn’t seem to be there.”

Players in 1987 and ’88 believed they entered games at a disadvantage. Their play confirmed it. But it did not appear to be a talent issue. Four Chiefs players were selected for the Pro Bowl in ’87 and three in ’88. Instead, Cherry says, coach Frank Gansz brought with him an attitude that never jibed with players. He was a former special-teams coach that, according to some, did not possess the personality to be a head coach.

“I can’t say that he necessarily was the right guy for the job,” Cherry says.

It was after the ’88 season that Chiefs owner Hunt began the team’s second major restructuring. And this one included far more disassembly than the 1970s effort. Steadman resigned as president 10 days before the end of the season, and general manager Jim Schaaf was fired the same day. Hunt hired Peterson, who fired Gansz two weeks later and hired Marty Schottenheimer.

Peterson and Schottenheimer brought with them a swagger that translated into victories. After the Chiefs won eight games in 1989, they made the playoffs the next six seasons.

Before the Chiefs could win, another former player says, they had to believe they could win.

< Previous page

Rebuilding the Chiefs
Then & now
“Marty’s favorite phrase was, ‘One brick at a time, one play at a time,’ ” former Chiefs kicker Nick Lowery says. “From the very first play, the level of belief was already, immediately better.”

This year’s Chiefs will not make drastic staff changes, although many fans have suggested them. They flock to message boards and comment boxes to suggest Peterson and Edwards should be fired. Both, however, are expected to return next season.

Both men will spend the offseason disassembling the Chiefs roster and identifying ways to strengthen it. The key, Cherry says, is making certain all players believe better days, if not glory days, are on this year’s calendar.

“You have to get those guys moving in the right direction,” Cherry says. “I think that’s going to be Herm’s biggest challenge. It can turn around that quickly. It’s not going to be easy, but it can be done.”

Step 3: Reassembly

Steadman, who was reassigned within the organization after he resigned in 1988, says the Chiefs’ upcoming rebuilding project resembles what he faced in the 1970s. That similarity should frighten Chiefs fans, although Peterson possesses advantages Steadman says he did not possess.

The first is a vast scouting department with nine branches and a nationwide reach. Peterson admitted this past week he made mistakes in the past drafts but pointed to recent drafts, such as those in which the Chiefs picked quarterback Brodie Croyle, defensive end Tamba Hali and wideout Dwayne Bowe, as proof Kansas City’s draft strategy has improved.

Steadman says Peterson’s best advantage is an NFL free-agent system that allows the Chiefs to pick from several options at any one position. NFL teams did not have that luxury during Steadman’s tenure, which made bad drafts or personnel decisions even worse.

This year’s Chiefs, though, plan to upgrade first through the draft, a sign Peterson and Edwards are committed to lowering the team’s average age — opening-day starters in 2007 averaged 30 years, two years too old, Steadman says — and fill in holes through free-agency. Edwards said this past week any free agent must fit into the team’s strategy and that big names likely will not find their way to Kansas City. Blockbuster trades are unlikely for salary cap reasons.

The important dates on Peterson’s and Edwards’ calendar are April 27 and 28, the dates of this year’s NFL draft. The two must identify working parts with which to reassemble the Chiefs after a disassembly during the coming months. Older players, such as veteran receiver Eddie Kennison and linebacker Donnie Edwards, could be let go. Regardless, Peterson and Edwards cannot afford to make mistakes, an assignment that will come with enormous pressure from the critics that already have begun suggesting they should be fired.

“I certainly know that I’ve been through this before, on more than one occasion,” Peterson says. “There’s pressure every year. We made mistakes, no question about that. We all learn from mistakes.”

Steadman knows the feeling well. He is the man who continued to drive to work during the difficult times, the previous eras of Chiefs rebuilding. Another long-term and mistake-filled rebuilding effort such as the one Steadman engineered in the 1970s cannot happen.

It is a task Steadman says he is relieved to not be charged with. He can continue to bask in the comfort of retirement while others strap in and hit the gas on the Chiefs’ third era of rebuilding in nearly 50 years. He knows what is in his rearview: projects that came with mixed results and heavy criticism.

It is an assignment that Peterson and Edwards will face for the next eight months. And failure is not an option.

“There is tremendous fan pressure on that organization to excel in every area,” Steadman says. “If there’s anybody on that staff that doesn’t excel during this period, they’re going to be gone. I just believe that (chairman) Clark (Hunt) and Carl will not accept anything except excellence. I’m not a patient person. But I know that we’re on the right track, and the people in the organization have to prove we’re on the right track by drafting and signing the right players. You just can’t afford to fail.”

01-06-2008, 11:08 AM
More defense of Carl's ineptness. No, it's time for a change. The organization can piss up a rope.

01-06-2008, 11:32 AM
Pretty interesting article though. Although it made me relive the nightmare of the 70's and 80's.

Although during the 70's and 80's I don't remember any Chief coach say part of the problem was the offense scored too fast and too much. To me that has to rank right up there with one of the dumbest things I've ever heard a coach say.

01-06-2008, 11:37 AM
They're stating the 70s and 80s were worse,so they can deflect from the actual garbage out at Arrowhead. We can rebuild all we want-we've been doing it for 19 years under Carl's watch and nothing changes. It's just more of the same. The scam artist needs to be outed.

01-06-2008, 11:44 AM
Although during the 70's and 80's I don't remember any Chief coach say part of the problem was the offense scored too fast and too much. To me that has to rank right up there with one of the dumbest things I've ever heard a coach say.

I've heard a few other people say that, and it was dumb as hell every time. "I hate this sports car, because it goes too fast!" Morons. :shake:

01-06-2008, 11:45 AM
I guess 87 and 88 didnt count as bad??

Extra Point
01-06-2008, 11:57 AM
Mackovic had one more win than Edwards after two Chiefs seasons. Herm will have at least two more years in KC. If you don't like it, get over it!

(But I can't wait to see the comparison between these two coaches after Herm's 4th season here!)

01-06-2008, 11:58 AM
SHIT! We suck and will suck for another decade.

***EDIT*** But atleast we still have Brodie and JA.