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The Kansas City Rock
Posted By ChiefsWarpath.com On July 29, 2011 @ 9:16 am In Commentary | Comments Disabled
He was the last link to a regime most of us would like to forget. An undrafted free agent signed and soon after released by the Dallas Cowboys, the college tight end turned defensive lineman was envisioned by Carl Peterson and Gunther Cunningham to be a potential replacement for their aging one time Pro Bowl center. After a summer in Berlin as one of the brighter stars of the failed NFL Europe, he replaced said center…. Once. New coach Dick Vermeil, perhaps not having much faith in a guy that at the onset appeared to be a long term project, brought in journeyman and occasional starter Casey Wiegmann.
It took an awkward, unproductive tandem of Victor Riley and Donald Willis to bring about a fresh opportunity for the man of many positions. With eight games of neither getting the job done, Dick Vermeil looked at his bench with a critical decision at hand: Darnell Alford or Brian Waters?
Five Pro Bowls. The first and only lineman to be named AFC Offensive Player of the Week. Ten (mostly) brilliant years as a starter at left guard, with a brief but successful ten minute stint at left tackle. Through four head coaches, six offensive coordinators, two GMs, and a plethora of left tackles, most of whom the average Chiefs fan wouldn’t piss on were they on fire, Brian Waters has been this team’s rock.
I’ve never shied away from my respect for Waters. I won’t start now. Jon Asamoah and Ryan Lilja are the future of this team. That much was a given even a year ago. That doesn’t mean Waters isn’t still a starting caliber player, and therein likely lies the reason he won’t be wearing red this coming season. He’s not ready to play backup. He won’t. He’ll start somewhere. It’s true he isn’t the player he was two years ago, but Waters at 50% still trumps a lot of what this league has to offer.
It’s too bad such a large segment of the Kansas City fanbase never appreciated just how special he was. He had the unfortunate distinction at the beginning of his career of being the fourth best lineman on a line that, in many respects, was simply beyond compare. He grew up in the shadow of Will Shields, who challenged the very notion of how the position of guard was to be played. True, he went with Will to Hawaii in Februaries, but he didn’t move the way Will moved. Nobody did.
Will got out before the team imploded. Brian did not. He and Casey both played their worst year of football in 2007. Fans wrote them off. Casey was too small and Brian was too slow. Will and Willie clearly must have been carrying them. By contrast, in 2008 both played some of their best football, albeit in different colors. That last part was key for Casey in terms of repairing his reputation in Missouri. He played Pro Bowl caliber ball for a more successful division rival for two seasons. Meanwhile, back in KC, Rudy Niswanger stank up the joint something fierce. He started merely because the only competition brought in for him was the dregs of the league–Wade Smith and Eric Ghiaciuc. Casey returned to a hero’s welcome in 2010 simply on the grounds that Kansas City had seen for the first time since 1988 exactly what a bad center really looked like.
That, too, is probably what it would take for Waters to get the brand of respect he deserves. If Asamoah flops, Waters will be remembered fondly. I earnestly don’t believe that will happen. The kid is gonna kick ass. Instead, I think Brian will be the forgotten footnote of an offensive line that devolved from one of the best in the league to one of the worst over the course of his career, recovering just in time to see its rock start to crumble. Was it time for him to go? Perhaps. I would have preferred him to stay another season and take on the role of mentoring the new guys, but all good things must pass. I just hope he’ll be remembered more favorably than I suspect.
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