|03-30-2005, 03:59 PM|
ChiefsPlanet Pick'em Champ!
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Thought you'd all love this!
The Chiefs used to win championships. They used to be Len Dawson, then Ed Podolak, then Buck Buchanon, then Willie Lanier, then Derrick Thomas. They used to gather AFC title rings and inhale all of the accompanying admiration as camaros clopped through the downtown streets, dragging Go Chiefs to slake the fans who hankered for one final taste of their Chiefs before spring dawned.
The Chiefs never needed excuses for championships they lost. They were above blame; they were the Chiefs. Only now, they have endured 35 years without a Super Bowl victory. Absence demands answers. A superbowl trophy sits in the trophy case looking for a brother. Fans fill the stands of Arrowhead Stadium by the millions in hopes that it's the year the franchise can display two hands' worth of rings.
“That is a long time,” says Hank Stram, head coach of the last championship team in 1970. “Thirty-five years. Wow.”
The Chiefs understand his shock. The Steelers have captured four since 1970. The Raiders have won three — all with different coaches and in 2 separate cities. The Rams have even won a Super Bowl more recently than them.
The Chiefs remember that one. In 1999, they finished 7-9 while watching an unknown Rams team that had the worst record in the decade of the 90's win it all team with inferior talent from an inferior league and for what Kansas Citans then and always will deem an inferior fan base. Because of an miraculous rags to riches story, God forbid if your last name is Warner.
The Chiefs can't forget. They squandered 13-3 record in 1997 to the Colts and lost again to them in 2003. Their biggest gap between playoff wins: 23 years.
The Chiefs don't want to match that. Kansas City hit the pause button two Januaries ago Chiefs went 13-3. Just as soon, Kansas City cried when the Colts steamrollered the defense in the playoffs.
The Chiefs are back. They like this 2005 team. They've got an pro bowl QB. They've got the best running back in football. They've got a head coach in whom they believe. They've got reason to hope.
At this point, that's the best they can do.
Despair peels from the snapshot. It's easy to capture the look on Dante Hall's face — fear and anger and disappointment and disgust, a sense of doom. That moment defined the 2003 playoffs Chiefs: a team so sound during the regular season, a 13-win team, now playing scared.
It was the fourth quarter of the playoff game, and Dante Hall had returned a in suing kick off for a TD, but the defense let them down and the Colts marched down the field to score again. They never punted the entire game.
“It happened,” Vermiel says. “Obviously, it won't happen again.”
Such an attitude courses through Chiefs camp, where the embarrassment of 2003 is all but forgotten. It's a new season, 16 games to play. Carl Peterson, just signed a new contract extension, made it a point not to lose sleep over the playoff failures.
His favored Chiefs had lost the AFC Championship Game in 1993 with Hall of Famer Joe Montana leading the charge. They won 2 playoff games that year and haven't won one sense. Most of the Chiefs from last season are back, and though the acquiring Kendrell Bell was a hit to the cap, they figured the deal was well worth it.
Because as history has shown, the window of winning shuts quickly. In the years after Stram and before Schottenhiemer took over Chiefs never made the playoffs. He wants to rectify what could have been.
“The most accurate way to express our disappointment was that we thought it was going to be a really good series,” Vermiel says. “It should've gone six or seven. We were good enough.
“The most dramatic one is when you get beat and can't stop the other team on defense, you probably could've had it closer. It's not worth talking about, making excuses.”
So he doesn't. Neither do the Chiefs. Indy, they say, was the better team that week. Kansas City's defense faltered; its special teams was worse. It was atypical at a time when consistency matters.
It got the Chiefs there in the first place. Running back Priest Holmes kept intact his run of Barry Sanders-like seasons. Quarterback Trent Green had the best year of his career offensively and was selected to the pro-bowl. Special teams returner Dante Hall put up career numbers.
And it ended like that. A loss. A shaming. A chance, such a great one, discarded like an empty milk carton.
“When you get beat and give up as many points as we did,” Holmes says, “there's really not much you can do.”
Except win this year. Hall. He can't shrug off the loss of catcher Daryl Blaylock he just prefers to think ahead.
Lamar Hunt is hitting fungoes to the Chiefs. His face, ruddy as ever, matches his jersey as the sun bears down. He is 82 years old, the last vestige of a winning era.
Entering his 60th season in as Chiefs owner.
“I'd like to have one every year,” Hunt says. “That's what you're thinking: championship.”
He knows better. Since leading the Chiefs to the '70 Superbowl, he has witnessed the high of '93 and the fiasco of '98 when Schottenheimer quit, Gunther took over for a couple years, then Vermiel-who's first year had 5 home losses the most in 36 years.
Since '70, he has three times seen the in-between: climbing to the cusp of a championship before a long plunge.
“It's tough,” Peterson says. “I don't care what anybody says. No matter what club, you never know what's going to come up from one year to the other. We're always coming close. And that's the thing.
“That's never good enough.”
Hunt is the Chiefs' conscience. Years in Kansas City him the greatest understanding of the team, better than all the self-congratulatory Chiefs fans who believe they're the game's greatest when, deep down, they're like any other: they lionize winners and lament losers.
“People,” Vermiel says, “don't remember who loses the divisional playoffs.”
Which motivates the Chiefs. They want to repeat history instead of becoming it. Thirty-four years is a long time. Too long for the Chiefs, who miss the noises that come with winning.
They hear the cameros reving, the jeweler asking for their ring size, the flag flapping in the wind. It all sounds beautiful
|03-30-2005, 11:07 PM||#4|
Together is Powerful
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I couldn't finish it.