Say it with me; The Chiefs are a dynasty
Kansas City fought, scratched, and clawed their way into history.
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That word has a special meaning in sports. There are good teams. There are great teams. There are even all-time teams. But dynasties? Those are so rare that the word is hardly ever used, because it almost never applies. You might see a handful in your entire lifetime.
The names that are associated with those dynasties become something larger than just those individuals’ careers. The mystique of Michael Jordan wasn’t just because he was such a great player, it was because of the dynasty he helped create. Tom Brady’s unmatched (for now) resume wasn’t just about his individual brilliance, but his critical role in two different dynasties in two different decades. There’s something about longstanding dominance that stands out to us as fans of the sport, even if it’s a team you don’t cheer for. And it’s something that you never, ever lose.
Do you know why people look at teams like the Steelers, 49ers, Cowboys, and Patriots differently? Because no matter where they are now, they will forever be associated with the dynasties they have been a part of. As long as the NFL lives, those franchises carry with them a history that contains something that’s rare, something that’s different from having a few great teams. It separates them from someone like the Rams, who have a few different Super Bowls (and some terrific, all-time teams), but no dynasties. It is the ultimate achievement in sports.
And it wasn’t until Patrick Mahomes found Mecole Hardman in the right side of the end zone (the same general spot where Joe Montana found Willie Davis the night I became a Chiefs fan and my life, with zero exaggeration, was changed forever) that I realized this was the reason. That was why this year’s Super Bowl and playoff run meant so much more to me (and, I think, to so many other Chiefs fans and even the players themselves). The moment Hardman crossed into the end zone and the fact that they’d done it hit me, I knew.
(Of course Reid had to use the “corndog” motion, and of course it had to be Hardman)
It wasn’t just that the journey had been so, so much harder (it was). It wasn’t just that so many people had really, finally counted the Chiefs out this year (they had). We can talk about both of those things at some point (heck, maybe even here, I’m free-flowing right now and you never know where I’ll end back up), but those reasons weren’t why I came close to the same level of emotion I reached four years ago when Damien Williams broke into the open field and ensured the first Super Bowl victory of my lifetime for the Chiefs.
The reason was that there was still a part of me that hadn’t fully accepted what it is the Kansas City Chiefs have become in the Reid/Spags/Mahomes/Kelce/Jones era. A part of me was still holding back, just a little. I knew in my head that the Chiefs had a shot at a dynasty, but some tiny part of me was still waiting for the other shoe to drop. It was such a small piece of my heart (let’s face it, fanhood is an issue of the heart) that I didn’t even realize it was there until… it was gone.
They’d done it. They’d grabbed a piece of football history that no one will be able to take away from them. No one could even try to realistically deny the greatness of this team, not without sounding foolish. Their names would be carved into the NFL’s legacy like the Steelers of the 70’s, the Niners of the 80’s, the Cowboys of the 90’s, and the Patriots in their two different runs. And I never believed (though I didn’t KNOW I didn’t believe) that the Kansas City Chiefs, a team that spent two decades breaking my heart, would be able to reach that pinnacle. Until they did it.
And not only that, but they did it better than maybe anyone in history. Mycolleague Nic (you may know him as “HisDirkness” with Amateur Hour, the OG Chiefs podcast) has talked about this lately, but the Chiefs have just completed what is arguably the best 5-year stretch in the history of the NFL.
I’ve done the math myself, and let me just say that this is completely accurate. Mahomes and company have won 3 of 5 Super Bowls in 5 seasons. The other two years they made it to the conference championship and the Super Bowl. Only 5 other dynasties have done that; Pittsburgh ‘74-’78, Pittsburgh ‘75-’80, Dallas ‘92'-’96, New England ‘01-’05, and New England ‘14-’18. That’s the entire list.
But it goes beyond that. The years Kansas City didn’t win it all, they made it to the Super Bowl and the AFC Championship game. And that’s what separates them from those other dynasties except one. The ‘74-’78 Steelers lost in the divisional round and the conference championship. The ‘75-’80 Steelers lost in the conference championship and the divisional round as well. The ‘92-’96 Cowboys lost in the divisional round and conference championship. The ‘01-’05 Patriots? Missed the playoffs entirely one year, lost in the divisional round the other.
The only other team to match what the Chiefs have done, in the history of the NFL, was the ‘14-’18 Patriots (who, just like the Chiefs, lost in a Super Bowl and the AFC Championship game in their non-winning seasons). However, want to know what that Patriots dynasty never did? Go back-to-back. You know, what the Chiefs just pulled off in Vegas.
In other words, this iteration of the Kansas City Chiefs (and as I said earlier, this is the Andy Reid, Steve Spagnuolo, Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, and Chris Jones era) has a very legitimate argument for the greatest five-year run in NFL history. All time. Forever and ever amen.
Talking heads and fans will debate and argue about which teams of those dynasties were the greatest. That’s sports. But you know what they can’t do? They can’t argue that this Chiefs team isn’t a dynasty. And that means every single name at the core of this group will live forever in air that’s even more rarified than that of regular champions. They are champions of champions, and each one of their names will carry that for as long as sports exist.
You start at the top with Andy Reid, whose brilliant play call to close out the game was the latest in a list of many times he’s been so far ahead of the opposing defensive coordinator that the play was won before the ball was snapped. But it doesn’t end with him. It’s everyone in that core group.
Steve Spagnuolo heating up Brock Purdy on 3rd and 4 at the end of regulation will live forever, as he went full Spags one more time when the team needed it most (to cap off one of the greatest seasons of all time by a defensive coordinator).
Spagnuolo may have never gotten enough credit for how terrific a defensive coach he is. Now? He’s the architect behind the defense that helped one of the greatest dynasties in NFL history bring home the Lombardi multiple times. And this one, with the defense carrying the offense for much of the AFC Championship and Super Bowl against the two best offenses in the league? Legendary. The stuff of myth.
Chris Jones… man, I love Chris Jones. I love how unique his style is. I love how much he carries on with fans during the game. And I love how any time there’s a need for instant pressure to end a drive in a gotta-have-it moment, it’s almost always him who gets there. We’ve seen it time after time, whether it requires a superhuman effort and tossing a blocker aside… or the opponent just deciding to… not block him and give him a free run at the QB that he won’t squander.
(My assumption is this is a blown assignment by the RG, but what a closeout by Jones)
I don’t know what the future holds for Jones and the Chiefs, but he’s been the cornerstone of the defense during this era… excuse me, this dynasty (still getting used to that one). And he’ll get the recognition he deserves for it.
Travis Kelce is a first ballot Hall of Famer, and we all already knew it. Has there been a more clutch pass catcher in the history of the sport? You could argue that there is, but you’d be wrong. And of course, as the game hung in the balance, there he was on 3rd and 7, running away from the best coverage linebacker in the NFL.
He makes it look so easy. He always has. Part of me wonders if that’s why his greatness is taken for granted. It doesn’t look like anything special. A little shimmy at the line and all of a sudden he’s pulling away from a desperately sprinting Fred Warner (there was a pick dialed up for him but Kelce had created so much separation that it didn’t matter).
I don’t know what I’ll remember more from Kelce this game, him sprinting away from Warner here or him fighting like a madman for yards in overtime and straining for every last inch he can drag defenders forward to get Kansas City closer to the goal line. Maybe both. But it says a great deal about him as a player that when someone asks me about the insanely clutch play by Kelce in this Super Bowl, I’ll have to ask, “Which one?”
And of course, Patrick Mahomes. What could I possibly say that hasn’t been said somewhere else, and more eloquently? I doubt much, so I won’t try. What I’ll say is this; Mahomes played quarterback essentially perfectly throughout these playoffs, and that’s what it took for this Chiefs team to even get to the Super Bowl. And on a tough day against a very good Niners defense (hats off to San Francisco for giving Kansas City everything they could handle), he had to be perfect late again. So much is asked of Mahomes, and yet he always finds a way to do whatever it takes to lift a burden no on else could shoulder.
The play that will stand out to most from this game will probably be his overtime scramble, but for me it wasn’t that. It immediately prior, where he showed off on back-to-back plays the “whatever it takes” element that makes him the greatest I’ve ever seen, and how he adapted his game for this iteration of the Chiefs.
On 3rd and 6, the Niners sent the house to try and force a mistake (similar to what Spags had done to Purdy late in the 4th quarter). The snap was low to add to the difficulty. But Mahomes, ever calm, read it perfectly and simply waited a beat before firing it over the blitzers’ heads to Rashee Rice.
One play later, Mahomes thought he might have a home run ball to go for the win… and didn’t take the shot. Instead, he checked down for a short gain and lived to fight another down. And of course, it was those next few downs (a screen and then his scramble) that put the Chiefs in position to win the game.
Want to prove you’re the greatest? Do it every imaginable way. Win with your arm talent. Win with your legs. Win with your mind. And finally, win with your discipline, with your willingness to morph into whatever you need to be in the moment. And that’s what Mahomes, at 28 years old, has become. The Chiefs needed a different sort of quarterback to win it all this year, so that’s what he became. And that, along with so many other things, is what makes him genuinely great.
Andy Reid, Steve Spagnuolo, Chris Jones, Travis Kelce, Patrick Mahomes. They will forever be connected with one of the greatest dynasties the NFL has ever seen. That’s not an opinion, it’s a fact. A fact that I didn’t believe would ever be more than just a dream until the moment I watched Mahomes running towards Hardman with his arms in the air.
It’s a great dynasty to be a Chiefs fan.