Thursday Tribute

Thursday Tribute: Derrick Johnson

The Chiefs’ all-time leader in tackles played a crucial role in anchoring the defense during his 13-year run in Kansas City.

After his first-round selection in the 2005 NFL Draft, linebacker Derrick Johnson walked through the door with big expectations. His time in college showed his potential and how dominant he could be.

At Texas, Johnson was awarded a back-to-back first-team All-American in 2003 and 2004. Johnson won the Dick Butkus award as well, which is given to the best linebacker in the country.

Earlier this month, the former linebacker achieved great academic heights when he earned his education degree.

Johnson’s time with the Chiefs saw his potential reached and then some. Throughout his 13-year career, Johnson played with different players and pieces constantly, but No. 56 was a consistent and reliable piece on defense.

The Chiefs went 10-6 in Johnson’s rookie campaign but missed the playoffs. Johnson showed he could make an immediate impact with 96 tackles along with a pair of forced fumbles, according to Pro Football Reference.

The next season saw the Chiefs finish 9-7 and actually get into the playoffs this year as a wild card. The 12-4 Indianapolis Colts led by Peyton Manning dominated the Chiefs, 23-8. Johnson recorded 12 tackles in his first career playoff game, according to Pro Football Reference.

Over the next three seasons, the Chiefs struggled to get back into contention. Despite the lack of team success, Johnson continued to develop as he had six interceptions, along with two pick-sixes in the 2009 season.

In the 2010 season, the Chiefs would win the AFC West, but another blowout playoff loss was added in a 30-7 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

The Chiefs did have some promising pieces to build with: running back Jamaal Charles, safety Eric Berry, defensive end Tamba Hali, and of course Johnson in the middle. However, the next two seasons saw the team underperform, which led to some crucial changes.

Former head coach Todd Haley was fired and replaced by defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel. Then a 2-14 season saw the Chiefs move on from Crennel, hire Andy Reid and sign quarterback Alex Smith.

Johnson throughout this time of rebuild was going to work. From 2010-2012, Johnson had 29 passes defended and 377 tackles across the three seasons. Johnson was named a First-Team All-Pro in 2011.

After four seasons under Reid, the Chiefs were looking for a change. This team they assembled was good, but not great enough to win a Super Bowl it seemed. Players like Johnson, Berry, Smith and others had one more season to get that Lombardi trophy.

The Chiefs would make the wild card game and face off against the Tennessee Titans. In the second quarter up 14-0, Johnson came off an inside blitz and flatlined Titans Quarterback Marcus Mariota.

Mariota fumbled on the play, but the referee signaled forward progress and the Titans were able to kick a field goal (I still think this is the worst call in NFL history.) Johnson made a game-changing play that could have changed the outcome of not only the game but that Chiefs team entirely.

Johnson holds the Chiefs record for tackles with 1,171 total tackles, according to Pro Football Reference. Johnson was a four-time Pro Bowler along with that, and I would expect to see his name displayed in the Chiefs’ ring of honor in the near future.

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