The Golden Years

The hands of my clock in the Rest Home For Bewildered Writers have just ticked past midnight and here I am. It is 2041 and I am sat at the desk in my little bedroom, sipping a decent Japanese single malt and thinking back over the last 20 years of The Kansas City Chiefs.

I’m mostly recalling the teens and the twenties when I was a young man with knees that worked and we started on this glory road with Big Red. I watched as he put together a team that would enjoy divisional, conference, and national dominance for the best part of a decade. Then came the fall but the wilderness years are fading into bad memory as the rebuilding under Coach Alex Smith continues.

Let’s talk Mahomes first. You just cannot talk about the 2020s Chiefs, or even the game of football without talking about Patrick. That first season was certainly no flash in the pan. Every other season failed to disappoint. He is now rightly acknowledged with a Gold Jacket as the most complete and skilled QB that the game has ever seen.

Three Super Bowl comeback wins as MVP, two Super Bowl losses. Even near the end when his feet no longer carried him so quickly beyond the flailing grasp of defenders on those characteristic looping rollouts, the Mahomes right arm remained lethal at all ranges, the left arm continued to surprise and baffle defences on short-yardage and his ability to read the field seemed to improve year after year.

Big Red? Well, the Gold Jacket with red lining was certainly a nice touch. Things were never quite the same after Eric Bieniemy and Steve Spagnuolo set out on their own as head coaches to create new branches of the Andy Reid coaching tree.

It was certainly hard to take when that Bieniemy coached team held on to take the second Super Bowl from us late in the fourth quarter by using a close cousin of Jet Chip Wasp as their final play of the game. Eventually, soon after Brett Veach called it a day, Andy met a cheeseburger he didn’t like and retired with honor, leaving a Head Coach-shaped void that was never quite filled until the last few years.

I also get to thinking about the other players who were there when The Chiefs went from being a good team to an all-time great team.

Whatever happened to Tyreek Hill? One minute, the next big thing, then the big money move in 2023. It soon became clear that whilst being able to run like a cheetah is a good thing, you still need a QB who can see that you’re open and then thread that thirty-yard throw through a rapidly closing gap of possibility and into your waiting arms.

Then we have the mystery of Clyde Edwards-Helaire and why it took him until 2022 to record his first thousand yards rushing season? He sure made up for lost time though. It could be that by 2022, we had the late-career returns of Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz on the offensive line, fresh from a season of rest and recuperation, fully recovered and re-joining what was one of the best and deepest lines of the early 2020s. I still smile remembering the Big Fish repeat of his Superbowl sideline beer can crush and shower exploit.

Kelce, Travis Kelce, did a man ever appear to enjoy football more? Let us sing songs of the greatest tight end of his era and mourn the niggling injuries that affected the back end of his career. Didn’t stop him from earning another ring though, and nobody who watched the Conference playoff will forget that slant run, long-reaching catch, and the way he broke two tackles on the way to completing the crucial third and long in the third quarter.

On the other side of that team, we had Tyrann Mathieu. As he grew in maturity and stature during his final few seasons he was acknowledged as a model professional. He is now coaching the safeties at Arrowhead, making sure that the next generation plays his brand of thinking, fearless football and always making sure that they collect the rent.

Just starting back then was the multiple All-Pro and Pro Bowl back L’Jarius Sneed. Equally at home playing corner of safety, he was a mainstay of the secondary for many years. He was also another of those lucky fourth-round picks that have continued to provide a successful Chiefs organization with a flow of talent in every draft.

On the defensive line, those early years were marked by an ever-shifting cast in search of a dominant edge rusher back when that was still an essential component of the game. Frank Clark saw out his contract with honor. The sacks and tackles kept coming right to the end. Chris Jones was able to run back another two touchdowns in his career, finally making it to a first-team All-Pro before his last game for the Chiefs against the Beverley Hills Raiders.

I’m taking the last sip from the Nakatomi 12-year-old scotch now and I’m thinking that it has been a good couple of decades for The Chiefs and as things look, the next couple are going to be at least as good.

One last thought, how is the apparently indestructible Danny Sorenson still playing at over 50 years old? Every year is rumored to be his last but somehow, there is always one more season left in him…