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The Kansas City Chiefs want to build a dynasty. But they keep getting in their own way

Chiefs wide receiver Kadarius Toney (19) runs down field after catching a pass against the Buffalo Bills Sunday, Dec. 10.
Peter Aiken
Chiefs wide receiver Kadarius Toney (19) runs down field after catching a pass against the Buffalo Bills Sunday, Dec. 10.

With Patrick Mahomes at the helm, the Chiefs have come remarkably close to five Super Bowl appearances in a row — only a few key penalties stood in the way. Football experts say, with NFL competition as tough as ever, maintaining a dynasty requires a keen attention to detail and some tough decisions.

As the Kansas City Chiefs try to become the first NFL team to win two straight Super Bowls since the New England Patriots in 2003 and ‘04, sports author Michael MacCambridge likes to remind fans the Chiefs’ recent stretch would be even more impressive — if not for a referee’s call and a bad kick.

It’s the little things that have a way of preventing teams from maintaining a dynasty, says the Kansas City native, whose latest book explores the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 1970s reign.

Sure, the Chiefs have been to three Super Bowls in the last four years, but “if Dee Ford doesn’t jump offside (in the 2019 AFC Championship), or if the Chiefs get at least a field goal at the end of the first half in the 2021 AFC Championship game, they will have already gone to five straight Super Bowls,” MacCambridge says.

Ford’s offside call came during quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ first season as a starter, against the Pats, and wiped out a Charvarius Ward interception that appeared to lock down a Chiefs victory.

The Chiefs, who are now 8-5, saw an untimely penalty once again rear its ugly head Dec. 10 in their 20-17 loss at Arrowhead Stadium against the Buffalo Bills. As a result, their flashiest touchdown of the season so far was taken off the scoreboard.

After catching a lateral pass from Travis Kelce, who had just caught a pass from Mahomes, wide receiver Kadarius Toney ran down field and into the end zone. The problem was one of mere inches: Toney was lined up offside at the snap of the ball.

Heading into the Dec. 17 game at New England, the Chiefs rank 21 out of 32 in the NFL, with 83 penalties for 690 yards — an average of 6.4 penalties and 53 yards per game.

In his less than 3-minute-long postgame news conference, head coach Andy Reid twice used the phrase “getting better” and finished with: “We’re playing better than a couple weeks ago.”

Still, the Chiefs have lost three out of their last four games, a trend some fans are starting to come to terms with.

This season marks the first full season for Toney in Kansas City, after he was acquired midseason last year from the New York Giants. He’s part of a revamped receiving corps that has gained a reputation this season for dropped passes, and has some online commenters raising a tough question.

“You can say you want to keep everybody, but you’re not always going to be able to keep everyone,” says Scott Pioli, a former Chiefs and Patriots front office executive who’s now an analyst for the NFL Network.

Pioli is familiar with the delicate balance of putting the right pieces around a franchise quarterback — he did it with Tom Brady before becoming Chiefs general manager from 2009 to ‘12. It’s also symptomatic of the salary cap era, he says.

“There’s this confluence of players wanting to cash in one more time — or for the first time,” he said.

Former Kansas City Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli, left, talks with Chairman and CEO Clark Hunt prior to a 2012 game in Kansas City.
Ed Zurga
Former Kansas City Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli, left, talks with Chairman and CEO Clark Hunt prior to a 2012 game in Kansas City.

After his Super Bowl win with the Chiefs last season, wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster cashed in on a three-year contract with the Patriots for $25.5 million, with $16 million guaranteed.

Team executives move fast, too. Just 12 days after the Super Bowl celebration parade in Kansas City, Chiefs general manager Brett Veach and his staff were gearing up for the NFL Combine, a collective analysis of the top college prospects.

“Since that Super Bowl parade, it’s been Combine meetings, (the) Combine, free agency, back to Combine meetings,” Veach said before the NFL Draft in April.

With several key players on one-year contracts this year, the revolving door between Kansas City and other NFL cities figures to continue swinging.

Most notably, Chris Jones signed a one-year deal before the start of the regular season for $19.5 million. Jones will turn 30 in July.

It reminds Pioli of a similar dilemma with defensive lineman Richard Seymour who was early in his career when the Pats won their back-to-back championships. After eight years on the team, and one month before the future Hall of Famer turned 30, the Pats traded Seymour.

“Unfortunately, we moved on from him,” Pioli says.

Even if the Chiefs can get all the details right, author and Lamar Hunt biographer MacCambridge says, in the modern NFL era, one team may never dominate again because the competitive edge is so minute.

“It’s built for competitive balance,” says MacCambridge. “The teams that finish first, draft last. The teams that finish (in) first place in their division have tougher schedules the next year.”

All those things added up mean the Chiefs are now not only faced with the challenge of reaching another Super Bowl, but their path to a No. 1 seed in the AFC Playoffs — and an unprecedented sixth straight conference championship game at home — has all of a sudden become rockier.

Sports have an economic and social impact on our community and, as a sports reporter, I go beyond the scores and statistics. I also bring the human element to the sports figures who have a hand in shaping the future of not only their respective teams but our town. Reach me at gregechlin@aol.com.
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