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Defense Wins Championships
Posted By ChiefsWarpath.com On April 16, 2008 @ 6:56 am In Commentary | Comments Disabled
I live in Owings Mills, Maryland, approximately 10 minutes from the Headquarters of the Baltimore Ravens. I have been privileged to be able to see Ray Lewis in person, and in action on the football field. However, despite the fact that I live in Baltimore (Owings Mills is 15 miles outside of Baltimore City), I have been a Kansas City Chiefs fan since 1988. That’s 20 years of Chiefs knowledge and unforgettable experiences. Over that time I have also been honored to have witnessed the football spirit of Derrick Thomas. Even though D.T., as he is called by most Chiefs fans, and Ray Lewis have two totally different styles of how they play the game, both of them are trailblazers. Derrick played the game more like the great Lawrence Taylor, and Ray plays the game more like the intimidating Mike Singletary. But no matter what the differences are, they both have the exact same commanding spirit on the football field. They were both bred to support the philosophy that “Defense Wins Championships.”
Sometimes, I think that the passing of Derrick Thomas was a lot more tragic than most people believe. Not just to his family, God bless them, but also to his many fans across the world. Personally, I feel like I lost my big brother, and his passing still hurts to this very day. May peace and blessing be upon his children. To the Kansas City Chiefs fan, on the level of the game of football, his passing meant that we would experience the loss of a team leader, one who led by example, as well as the loss of a solid defense for ten straight years and counting. In addition to this, we loss a spirit that was geared toward the domination of an opponent. I repeat, defense wins championships.
Since 1997, which was the last time that Derrick Thomas went to the Pro Bowl, the Chiefs have only had three defensive players make it to the Pro Bowl. Those were, James Hasty in 1999, Jerome Woods in 2003, and Jared Allen in 2007. When D.T. was on the field he made those around him better, just like Ray. When he was in the starting lineup throughout a season, others would follow his lead and eventually follow him into the Pro Bowl. Those that followed him were Kevin Ross, Albert Lewis, Neil Smith, Dale Carter, Dan Saleaumua, and James Hasty, and there would have been many more. He played the position of outside linebacker so well, that Willie Lanier (1960′s) and Dino Hacket (1987) are the only other linebackers in Chiefs history to start in a Pro Bowl. No linebacker has had the honor of representing the Chiefs in a Pro Bowl since D.T. Also, D. T. was as special off of the field, as much as he was on the field thus winning the NFL Man of the Year Award in 1993. While the Kansas City Chiefs can’t get D.T. back, they can bring back his football spirit and philosophy. A philosophy that teaches us that a solid defense, with a solid leader is needed in order to win a championship.
For example, look at the 1993, 1995 and the 1997 seasons of the Kansas City Chiefs. One of those seasons was supposed to have produced a Super Bowl title. But it didn’t for one reason or another. For starters, one could argue that in 1993, when Joe Montana tried to bring a title back to Kansas City, he was too old and to banged up to lead us pass Buffalo. Or one could say that from 1991-1994 the Buffalo Bills simply owned the AFC. Moving forward to the 1995 AFC Playoffs, one could argue that the Chiefs threw too many interceptions and missed too many field goals to defeat the Indianapolis Colts. And lastly, one could argue that in the 1997 Playoff run that Elvis Grbac simply “choked,” or wasn’t completely healed from that broken clavicle suffered against Pittsburgh in week ten. However, my opinion is that Elvis Grbac shouldn’t have even been the starting quarterback in that Playoff game against Denver because Rich Gannon had clearly proven to all that had eyes that he could take over as the starting quarterback and march us on to victory. But nevertheless, despite those shortcomings, I hope that one thing was learned if nothing else, and that is that the foundation of a championship team begins on the defensive side of the ball.
The Chiefs haven’t produced a Defensive Rookie of the Year since Dale Carter in 1992. We have not had an NFL Coach of the Year since 1997 when Marty Schottenheimer was our General. In 1995, the Chiefs led the NFL in scoring defense (15.1 ppg), and turnover ratio (+12). In 1997, the Chiefs top four picks (J. Woods, R. Tongue, J. Browning, & D. Edwards) all emerged as starters. In 2008, we need to repeat this difficult, but very possible endeavor, if we ever plan to reclaim the AFC West title.
Currently, the Chiefs are putting the pieces of the puzzle together beginning with the Defensive Coordinator, whom I like to call “Gunny.” His real name is Gunther Cunningham. Gunny has given 11 years of service to the Kansas City Chiefs, eight of which as the team’s Defensive Coordinator, the only offensive or defensive coordinator in franchise annals to hold such a position for three different head coaches. With that being noted, the Kansas City Chiefs still can’t tackle. I don’t believe that this is Gunny’s fault. It’s the lack of a defensive leader, and the lack of a dominating spirit. But there is hope.
There are tandems, and combinations that are currently being built on the defensive side of the ball. For instance, Derrick Johnson and Jared Allen remind me of the early years of Neil Smith and Derrick Thomas. There are Jared Paige and Bernard Pollard, who show a resemblance of Jerome Woods and Reggie Tongue. We must continue to build a defense around this current foundation with the 2008 NFL Draft.
However, this will not be an easy task because we still need an offensive line and a franchise quarterback. For now, Brodie Croyle will have to be that franchise quarterback, and our offensive line must learn to perform together on a Pro Bowl level like the Chiefs of ‘ole. Of course, this is easier said than done. The 2008 NFL Draft must deliver us a young leader on defense, and a future all-pro offensive tackle. In addition to this, we need someone to re-teach our defense how to tackle, and a leader that can lead by example. Someone who can
match, or exceed the intensity of Jared Allen, and someone who wants to change the spirit of the Kansas City Chiefs defense from a team that can’t tackle, to a team that can intimidate and dominate. We will never intimidate anyone as long as our defense has the tackling skills of Greg Wesley.
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