Chiefs-Raiders rivalry a thing of the past
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – When Scott Pioli took over as general manager in 2009, he flushed the Chiefs' organization of virtually everything and everyone connected to its recent past, including coaches and office personnel from numerous departments, all in an effort to launch a new beginning.
With all the changes, however, Pioli also might have flushed the Chiefs-Raiders rivalry, at times one of the most bitter in all of sports.
"It's really not a rivalry anymore," former Chiefs defensive back Jayice Pearson said by phone Wednesday. "It's not anything like it was in the 1960s or the 1970s or in the '90s when Marty Schottenheimer was here.
"Now it's nothing. This new regime came in and wiped out most of the people in the building with ties to Kansas City that had a connection to that rivalry. There are very few Kansas City people left in the organization so no one really knows about the rivalry.
"There's no such thing as 'Raiders Week' anymore. This might as well be Tampa Bay or the Colts coming to town."
But it is the Raiders coming to town on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium. It just doesn't feel like the Raiders are coming to town.
"There's no buzz anywhere about it," Pearson said. "There hasn't been a buzz about it for quite awhile. It used to be the greatest two weeks of the season – the two weeks of 'Raider Weeks.' "
Schottenheimer was instrumental in renewing the Chiefs-Raiders rivalry in the 1990s.
Former Chiefs center Tim Grunhard, now offensive line coach for the Kansas Jayhawks, told me what it was like under Schottenheimer when the Raiders were the next game up.
"We'd walk into the stadium on Monday morning," Grunhard said, "and already Marty had put up signs everywhere. There were signs in the lobby, signs in the locker room, there were even signs above the urinals – Raiders Week, Raiders Week, Raiders Week.
"It was a week more significant than any other week during the season."
Former Chiefs quarterback Rich Gannon also remembered those times.
"I remember on Wednesdays, he would always pull out those old clips of Raiders-Chiefs games from the old days. You'd see some Raider ripping off Lenny Dawson's helmet. You'd see Raiders guys punching the Chiefs at the bottom of the pile. You'd see all those late hits out of bounds.
"The message Marty always preached was that 'Men, these guys have no respect for you. Never did.' That would always fire us up."
And it worked. Schottenheimer's Chiefs teams were an astounding 18-3 against the Raiders.
But that all has changed. The Raiders, despite being one of the worst teams in the NFL in recent memory, have owned the Chiefs lately. The Raiders have won six of the previous nine meetings between the teams.
Worse yet, the Raiders have won five straight at Arrowhead.
"That never would have happened under Marty," Pearson said, "no matter how bad we might have been."
Today's Chiefs, though, view the Raiders' game differently.
"Our emphasis is on getting win No. 2," defensive end Tamba Hali said after Wednesday's practice. "It's a rivalry still, I think, in terms of some cheap shots and so forth. But it's a division game and all division games are important. We need to win."
Have the present Chiefs coaches stressed the importance of the Raiders' game in terms of the rivalry?
"Well, all coaches do things differently," Hali said. "We know it's a big game at this point of our season. Coaches don't have to go paint the walls to let us know it's a big game. We're 1-5. We need to play well and get a win."
But is this game even more special because it's the Raiders?
"They're all important when you're 1-5," said Chiefs cornerback Stanford Routt. "It's a division game. We're 1-5 and they're 2-4. That's all the inspiration we need."
So the coaches haven't talked about the Chiefs-Raiders rivalry?
"Every game, every week in the NFL is a rivalry," Routt said. "You get more up maybe for divisional games."
Routt, of course, spent the last seven seasons on the other side of the alleged rivalry with the Raiders. Even there, though, he didn't sense that the Chiefs-Raiders games were more significant than the other games on the schedule.
"It's no different than Bills-Patriots or Packers-Vikings," he said. "You get up for games in the division. Like I said, all games are rivalries because you have to win. Right now it's all about getting our second win, no matter who it's against."
To ex-players such as Pearson, the fading of the Raiders-Chiefs rivalry is sad, and too much of a sign of the times.
"To me, it's sad because what you're seeing is a disconnect between the fans and the team," Pearson said, "and a disconnect between the fans and the organization. The fans here in Kansas City love 'Raiders Week.' They want to gear up for it.
"But the organization as a whole doesn't seem to care about it. It's used to be one of the most fun weeks all year. Now the only people talking about it are the media. It's too bad."