Chiefs veterans have been through highs, lows

There are only seven players left on the Kansas City Chiefs

roster who’ve been with the team since the 2008 season, who have

enjoyed scant few highs and unimaginable lows.

In that time span, there have been four coaching changes.

There’s been two seasons in which the Chiefs went 2-14, matching

the franchise mark for futility. There was a murder-suicide

involving a teammate and a fan revolt that came to symbolize a lost

season a year ago.

Yet for Jamaal Charles, Brandon Flowers and the rest of those

hardy souls, all those years of disappointment have been worth it

now that Kansas City is back in the playoffs.

”The last couple years, we’ve been through all kinds of

situations, losing seasons, tragedy. It opens your eyes a lot,”

said Charles, the Chiefs’ Pro Bowl running back. ”You see so many

people work hard, we deserve this. We’ve wanted this and now we’re

here.”

As the Chiefs prepare to visit Indianapolis for a wild-card

showdown Saturday, there’s an unmistakable bond that seems to unite

the longest-tenured players in the organization.

Linebacker Derrick Johnson and punter Dustin Colquitt were

drafted in the same class in 2005, so they’re actually on their

fifth coach: Dick Vermeil, Herm Edwards, Todd Haley, Romeo Crennel

and now Andy Reid, who has guided Kansas City to an 11-5 record in

his first season in charge.

Linebacker Tamba Hali is the only player left from the 2006

class, which means three players still remember the sting of losing

a wild-card playoff game at Indianapolis that season.

Wide receiver Dwayne Bowe is the only player left from the 2007

draft, so in a span of six seasons, those four players put together

a forgettable record of 29-67.

But things started to turn around when Flowers, Charles and left

tackle Branden Albert were drafted in 2008. They went 2-14 their

first season and 4-12 the next, but wound up going 10-6 and losing

a wild-card playoff game to Baltimore after the 2010 season.

At that point, those three figured only good days lay ahead.

”Every day that goes by we have to cherish because next year

could be totally different. I experienced that,” said Flowers, the

Chiefs’ Pro Bowl cornerback. ”I went to the playoffs a couple

years ago, thought we had a young team and we’d be there every

year. This is my first time back.”

Indeed, the Chiefs slipped to 7-9 the following year, when

dysfunction in the front office resulted in a mid-season coaching

change. Haley was fired and Crennel took over on an interim basis,

and the first signs of cracks began developing within the

organization.

They blossomed into massive fissures last season, when Kansas

City won just twice. Along the way, fans started to show up to

Arrowhead Stadium wearing paper bags over their heads – those who

still bothered to show up, at least. The team struggled on offense,

was abysmal on defense and then-general manager Scott Pioli was

pilloried by folks hungry for change.

When those seven veterans stepped on the field late last season,

they gazed skyward to see airplanes towing banners paid for by fans

pleading for Pioli to be fired.

They got their wish in January. Crennel and Pioli were both

shown the door, and Reid was hired along with new general manager

John Dorsey. They set about overhauling the roster, but perhaps

more importantly, they completely altered the psyche of the

team.

No longer some downtrodden bunch of sad-sack losers, the Chiefs

suddenly believed they could win. The result was a dramatic 9-0

start, a winning record and a berth in the playoffs.

One that feels good to those who’ve been around the block.

”We all have a bond, not just us, guys that have been here, but

also the guys that are new,” Albert said. ”We all have a common

goal to get wins around here.”

Charles said the goal is to do more than get wins.

The Chiefs haven’t won a playoff game since 1993, when the

youngest members of the Chiefs were still in diapers. That would be

a good place to start. But for the guys who have been around the

longest, the only thing that seems to matter now is getting all the

way to the Super Bowl.

”I’ve been to Super Bowl games where I sat in the stands,”

Charles said. ”I mean, it’s fun, but not playing and playing in

one, why can’t we do it? I’m here. We’re in the playoffs. It’s

possible. Anything is possible.”

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