In the 70's, shortly after the Chiefs had won Super Bowl IV, the Pittsburgh Steelers began to rise above the ashes of absolute futility. Then Head Coach Chuck Noll made a decision that he'd turn the ball over to Quarterback Terry Bradshaw. He wasn't very popular among the fan base, much like the Chiefs fan base is with Matt Cassel.
But Noll knew as bad as Bradshaw was early in his career, that he was the right man for the job. And he was rewarded for that patience; he led the Steelers to four Super Bowl wins.
As they began to fade, the next decade belonged to the San Francisco 49ers behind quarterback Joe Montana. He put this organization on his back and led them to a trio of Super Bowl victories. But it didn't almost happen. Montana, a third round quarterback from Notre Dame, wasn't highly regarded coming out of college. But his head coach Bill Walsh was an offensive genius and he knew what he had in the young Montana.
In the 90's the Buffalo Bills made four straight Super Bowls. Sure they lost them all but they built a team around Hall of Fame Quarterback Jim Kelly and young running back from Oklahoma State by the name of Thurman Thomas. In Dallas, thanks to the trade of Hershel Walker to the Minnesota Vikings, the Cowboys re-tooled their entire roster in one NFL draft.
Quarterback Troy Aikman, running back Emmitt Smith and wide receiver Michael Irvin formed the most prolific trio of offensive talent that forever changed the way NFL teams would be built in the future. Without that trade, it might not have ever happened.
When Quarterback Tom Brady arrived in New England there fortunes changed.
In the new age millennium, the New England Patriots changed their fortunes thanks to an injury. When Quarterback Drew Bledsoe went down late in the 2000 season with an season ending injury, a sixth round draft pick from the University of Michigan came out of nowhere to become one of the greatest NFL quarterbacks of all time. In fact, he may end up being the best ever.
Tom Brady led the Patriots to four Super Bowl appearances winning three of them. In 2010, he's poised to add a fourth to his resume.
He wasn't the only quarterback that made an impact during that time frame. In Pittsburgh behind Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the Miami of Ohio product brought a new toughness to the NFL and was able to guide his Steelers to a pair of Super Bowl victories.
But in this decade, it's possible for a team like the Chiefs to put themselves in a position to dominate the NFL landscape for the foreseeable future. Of course there are some usual suspects like the Patriots, Steelers again and there could be one emerging in Atlanta. But what about here in Kansas City?
However, in order for the Chiefs to make that leap and join this elite company, they can't waste the opportunity at hand today in San Diego.
Sure quarterback Matt Cassel is going to be resting comfortably in his home back in Kansas City. And yes back up, Brodie Croyle is going to have to play the game of his life to win. But it can be done.
And I argue to a man from the top of the organization on down that the Chargers rematch today, regardless if the Chiefs win their first division title this season or not, will be the one game – the one moment – where they can shake the stench of missing one opportunity after another since their Super Bowl IV victory back on January 11th, 1970.
The Chargers have their backs up against the wall. They're playing today with everything to lose. If the Chiefs play the same way, it could be a game for the ages.
But we've been here before. Numerous times the Chiefs had the opportunity to claim a division title since there last Super Bowl appearance, but have failed to have a defining moment by winning a big game on the road.
And not many people, if any, really believe that today is going to be that day for the Kansas City Chiefs.
With a win Sunday, the Chiefs can put to rest any thoughts of the Chargers winning their fifth straight division title.
But as fans, especially those that are pushing the half-century mark like myself, we've seen the ebb and flow of this franchise since it's inception. We've lived through modest joy but mostly one bitter heartbreak after another.
Today all that can change. A win in San Diego means the Kansas City Chiefs have arrived and are poised to take their place as one of the elite teams in the AFC.
And should they make a bigger statement today by blowing out the Chargers, knocking them out of the playoffs altogether, they'll lay the groundwork as the team to beat in the AFC West for the conceivable future.
That's what's at stake today.
WARPAINT ILLUSTRATED MESSAGE BOARDS:
If the Chiefs win today, what do you think happens next?