I have lost hope. I feel stranded on NFL Island and the Kansas City Chiefs organization is the search plane flying overhead oblivious to my futile smoke signals below. The plane passes, and all hope is lost. There’s nowhere to go from here in the life of a Chiefs’ fan.
In today’ NFL, it is almost impossible to lose hope. Bad teams are given high draft picks and owners have no patience for failure and make hasty changes in search of immediate improvement. Teams can swing from the bottom of a division to the top in a matter of single NFL offseason. It takes sheer incompetence, complete and utter mismanagement and damn-near intentional self-sabotage to be as consistently bad as the Kansas City Chiefs.
There is not one single thing that I, a die-hard east-coast Kansas City Chiefs fan since 1988, can point to as a glimmer of hope. There is nothing to look forward to. We are in Groundhog Day mode speaking gibberish to Wilson in Cast Away. It’s lonely being a Chiefs’ fan these days. As a matter of fact it has been lonely for a long time as a defender of the Arrowhead and Red & Gold. The difference is, there’s no longer that “thing” that gets me excited about my team.
In my youth and formative years I had Okoye and a pounding rushing game to look forward to, the Derrick Thomas sack-parade stifling defense, the Montana magic and postseason dreams in my young-adulthood; the Trent Green greatest show on Midwest-tundra fireworks and a man named Priest setting records. Since then I’ve had Herm, and Haley, and Romeo. If Marty-Ball made me want to pull my hair out, then the Patriots-West project makes me want to remove my entire head. Sure I’ve had some fine players to root for during that time, from the Cowboy Jared Allen, to Tony G’s brilliance, and Jamaal’s speed, but they weren’t enough. Time and time again we were told that we were just a few pieces shy of getting to the next level of the NFL elite. And so dutifully the fans played along and drank it up.
Now here we are and if this isn’t rock bottom I think we may have to dig to China. If the Chiefs were a public company we’d be in the midst of selling our shares for pennies on the dollar. If they were a movie, it would be Pluto Nash. If they were a racehorse, it would be out behind the stable getting put down. If you or I had performed as Scott Pioli has in our own job, I’m pretty sure our annual performance reviews would involve words about “moving on”, “underperformance” and “letting you go”. Instead, the captain of the ship, Clark Hunt, sits idly by as his business is viewed as the laughing stock of its industry.
Normally fans of underperforming teams whose seasons have long been over can start looking to the draft and prognosticate about the players that can turn their fortunes around. For Chiefs’ fans, we’ve seen this show before and it doesn’t end well. How are we as fans supposed to look forward to an offseason and draft with a regime that has sent us into this very abyss we’re in? Clark Hunt has no choice but to completely start over. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy to do. It requires admitting failure. It requires humility to admit he was completely bamboozled by a guy who could easily be a used-car salesman if he wasn’t an NFL General Manager.
Scott Pioli has proved himself to be a fraud, a snake-oil salesman. He is nothing more than a blow-hard that sold Hunt of grandeurs of NFL titles he won on the back of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. There used to be valid arguments about who was ultimately responsible for the success in New England. Now, there’s unconditionally one less name in that discussion.
Even if Hunt steps up soon and shows his fan base that they are the backbone of the organization, not some swindler from New England, the franchise faces an uphill climb. In all of the years to be a team saddled with the #1 overall pick, this does not appear to be the year to have it. Last year we had Luck and RGIII, both guys who appear to be on the road to becoming franchise quarterbacks. 2011 yielded Cam Newton, having a bit of a sophomore slump but nonetheless a very promising QB. Before that came Sam Bradford, Matthew Stafford, and Matt Ryan; all guys that while they may not pan out to be the next Brady or Manning, are certainly something to build your franchise around.
This year we have no clear-cut top-flight QB heading to the draft. Matt Barkley has largely played himself out of the top pick to the point where some draft experts don’t see him as worthy of being in the top 20. Geno Smith has his proponents, but certainly has not shown the consistency of an overall #1. Leave it to the Chiefs to suck so bad, they can’t even suck at the right time.
The saddest part about this entire era of failure will be that we have seen promising young careers largely wasted. Franchise pillars that could have been staples in this team’s annual dominance such as Tamba Hali, Derrick Johnson, Jamaal Charles, and Dwayne Bowe, now find themselves on the other side of the NFL career bell-curve wondering what the hell happened. We can only hope Hunt has enough sense to make change now instead of wasting even more time and careers in the process.
Pioli will somehow wind up with another high profile job backhandedly bashing the Chiefs on his way out and blaming the organization for his failure, yet we know that it’s an organization he assembled.
The only thing left is to hope for is that something gives us a reason to regain hope. We need a passing cargo liner out on the distance to see our fluttering smoke signals from the island. If not, there’s a chance we may never get off it.