Ex-Oilers great Warren Moon on Chiefs' playoff gag: 'I could relate'
JAN 06, 2014 10:45p ET
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- And here's where a weird story gets freaking weirder: Warren Moon, the last great quarterback to get his heart ripped out of his chest in the AFC playoffs, spent his Saturday watching the same thing happen to Alex Smith while, in all places ... Kansas City.
No kidding. So how did you feel?
"I could relate," Moon says.
Could he ever. The Chiefs became the second team in NFL playoff history to blow a 28-point lead in the postseason, watching a 38-10 third-quarter lead turn into a 45-44 loss. Moon's Houston Oilers famously coughed up a 32-point lead at Buffalo during the AFC Wild-Card Round in January 1993 before falling to the Bills in overtime, 41-38.
And let's be clear: This ain't the '72 Dolphins -- the '92 Oilers wanted the '13 Chiefs to join them in the Choke Club. Hell, they would've been happy for the Andy Gang to take every last stinking seat in the V.I.P. section.
"I've been out of the game for 12 years, but I still hear about that game; it never leaves you," chuckles Moon, the Pro Football Hall of Famer who threw for 49,325 yards over a 17-year NFL career. "The only thing that I was hoping was that the Chiefs would lose by more so they would've been (on the other end) of the biggest comeback, so we would've been the second-biggest."
"To be honest, I was hoping they broke that record so they'd stop talking about us," says former Oilers linebacker Al Smith, another All-Pro on the field that day who'd like to wipe that particular contest off his resume. "But at the same time, from a fan's perspective, it was a great game, as far as back and forth."
Yeah, well, so was Bills-Oilers, unless you happened to be wearing Columbia blue. Which begs the question: How does one move on from ... well ... that? From a live de-pantsing on national television? From a game that's going to live in immortality in the hearts and minds of Indianapolis and on the playlist of the NFL Network?
"The only way to get the bad taste out of your mouth is to get back on the field again," Moon says. "And (show) that you're better than that. You've got a long time to have to wait to have to do it, but you can get it done."
Because if there's a silver lining, Chiefs fans, it's the fact that Moon's Oilers did exactly that. Houston's '92 Wild-Card club went 10-6, blew it in Buffalo, got up, dusted themselves off, added Buddy Ryan as defensive coordinator, and went 12-4 the next season, winning the old AFC Central along the way.
"Well, that (Bills loss) was our motivation," Moon says. "And I heard one of the Chiefs players, I think it was one of the wide receivers, who said that it was going to give him more incentive to work (toward) next year. That's kind of what it did for our team.
"We felt like one of the keys was being able to play at home, and that was one of our incentives to work on (for) next year, to win enough games to have home-field advantage ... I think people felt that our team would never bounce back after a loss like that, so that's one thing we wanted to show, was that we had a lot more character than (they thought)."
Not just character; those Oilers were remarkably talented, too, considered one of the best teams in modern NFL history to never reach a conference championship game, let alone a Super Bowl. Ironically, the Chiefs are partly to blame -- Houston got that home-field edge in the '93-'94 playoffs, only to be eliminated in the Divisional Round at the hands of a Kansas City squad led by Joe Montana and Marcus Allen.
Nor did it help that the Oilers' coaching staff was also, shall we say, dysfunctional at best. You had Ryan on one side, Kevin Gilbride on the other, a tempestuous relationship that eventually led to a fight on the sidelines.
To those old Oilers, Andy Reid and his staff are a different story -- and a different sort of stability.
"The one thing I would say Kansas City has is, they have a solid, proven coach and coaching staff," says Smith, who's now doing broadcast work in Nashville. "And, at the time, we didn't have that. We had a young coaching staff and we didn't have a coach that had the respect of a coach, the presence of a coach, that Andy Reid has.
"But the one thing I would say to the Chiefs, the thing they do have, they have stability at quarterback. They have a good defense. They have playmakers on the offense. And the common denominator is that they have a great coach who is able to keep them together and bring them together. Especially after (just) one year, I think they exceeded expectations from the outside, going from 2-14 (in 2012) to where they came this year. ... there's a building process and they exceeded that building process. If they didn't lose their running back (Jamaal Charles) early in the game, that could've made a big difference in time, to keep Indy from coming back, time-wise."
Without Charles in the fold, and up big, the Chiefs in the second half attempted 28 passes and just 10 runs. And even though Reid lost five key players to injury over the course of the contest, he never appeared to break out in a cold sweat.
"Oh yeah, I think Andy Reid knows how to handle that type of situation," Moon says. "He has such a great demeanor, first of all. He's not an emotional guy where he's not going to panic, one way or another. He's not like Gunther Cunningham."
And thank goodness for that.
"You have to pretty much get away from it," Smith says. "Most of the guys won't watch the films now -- they'll watch it at training camp or (at) OTAs, once they get back into football mode.
"But the big thing is to just let it go at this point. There's nothing you can do about it. At this point, all you can do is beat yourself up."
Moon's advice: Turn the page. Also, avoid television coverage of the playoffs the rest of this month, because there's a good chance the Chiefs are going to be all over it, for all the wrong reasons.
"It's tough," he says, "because you hear about that loss all the way (through the postseason) ... at least, for us, you heard about it all the way through the playoffs, because Buffalo ended up going to the Super Bowl, so every time they always talked about what Buffalo went through in the playoffs, you have to keep re-living it."
All the bad calls, all the injuries, all the coverage breakdowns, all the flukes. Especially the flukes. But while Moon believes in Reid, he doesn't believe in postseason curses.
You make your own luck.
You make your own legacy.
"At some point, they're going to win," Moon says. "Just like the New Orleans Saints finally won a playoff game on the road for the first time in their history (last weekend). At some point, it's going to happen. It's going to happen."
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.