Peterson Achieves ‘Wish-List' Objectives

There is a reason the off-season activity at One Arrowhead Drive was perhaps the most aggressive in Chiefs history. Each year any NFL team falls short of their goal of winning the Super Bowl, and especially after seasons with fewer wins than the previous one, the fans and media clamor for change. Be it coaches, players, coaching philosophy, everyone has an opinion on what changes are needed, what moves need to be made, any change that will field a team that can win it all next year.

Following the 2004 season, seemingly everyone from the casual observer to the self-proclaimed "NFL Experts" were of the opinion that Coach Vermeil had assembled an excellent coaching staff, he had built the best offense in the league and he even had the perfect defensive coordinator.

All the Chiefs needed to be legitimate Super Bowl contenders was an upgrade of defensive talent. How many new starters were needed, and at which positions, were strenuously debated among the Chiefs faithful. Everyone hoped Chiefs GM Carl Peterson would be both willing to spend the money and able to find cap room for one or two top caliber defenders.

Would the players we needed be available in free agency? Could we really wind up signing a Pro Bowl Cornerback? Linebacker? Both?? Did we dare to dream that high?

Most years the Chiefs are labeled as one of the more conservative teams in free agency, or so it seems to many fans. The Chiefs bring the top players available in for an evaluation, many times contracts are offered to high profile players only to eventually be out-bid for their services by other teams, and there is always talk about the "ones that slipped through our fingers". When asked why we weren't able to sign them we hear the company line from the GM, something to the effect that it's his responsibility to Mr. Hunt to watch the bottom line, make sound business decisions, there are only so many dollars under the cap, and so on. GM's in the NFL rarely get enough credit for the deals they didn't make, the pots they correctly refused to sweeten. Hugh Douglass was the player that "slipped through the Chiefs fingers" two years ago and many a rant and tirade were endured by Peterson. Yes, one of the tirades was mine. Now I'm glad we didn't sign Douglass, and so is everyone who was mad about it two years ago.

The conservative approach Peterson is known for has served the Chiefs well. Although no Super Bowl victories have been produced yet, the Chiefs won more games in the decade of the 90's than any other team. The style of play on the field is wide open offensively, and will be again defensively, yet with the exception of signing Joe Montana, the front office isn't known for its bold, headline grabbing moves in free agency preferring instead to build mostly through the draft.

In a typical year, the Chiefs head to camp with a few new faces, a combination of young players with potential, veteran role-players to add depth at various positions, and perhaps one new "proven starter" added in free agency or a trade.

I don't think many followers of the Chiefs had any realistic expectations, based on the off-season acquisitions of previous years, of acquiring three veteran defensive starters, each of whom have been selected to pro bowls, potentially the best LB and Punter to come out of the draft in years, not to mention a DE that would start on many NFL teams, another veteran CB, and even a former 1st rd WR, FB, and several other players who could play huge roles in the future. It's been absolutely amazing what Petersons' front office team has accomplished. Most likely the Chiefs will line up with FIVE new defensive starters vs. the Jets on opening day.

If I didn't know better I would swear that Redskins owner Daniel Snyder was at the helm. No, just kidding. I doubt Peterson will ever be accused of foolishly throwing absurd amounts of money around to get a player. You can be prudent and ambitious at the same time. In fact, the Chiefs brass have executed their plan with precision and expertise reminiscent of how offensive coordinator Al Saunders play calling carved up the Falcons and Ravens league leading rush defenses last year. I know I'm supposed to be, but I do a terrible job of being impartial so I will just admit that I'm thrilled about these moves. I can't wait to see the schemes defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham devises to blow up offenses now that he has the talent to play with.

Now that we have established this off-season to be among the most active in Chiefs recent history, what factors finally fell into place that made this year any different from the others? Why was spending this amount of money the right thing to do this year when it hasn't been in others?

A simple answer would be that being this aggressive in free agency just hasn't been the "game plan" in recent seasons like it was in 2005.

After the 2003 campaign that produced a 13-3 record, a decision was made to focus on keeping the players already on the team, and to improve the defense by hiring Gunther Cunningham, who would change the schemes and overall philosophy of the defensive attack. While it was refreshing to see the old attacking style of defense back in Kansas City, it became clear that the Chiefs just didn't have the defensive personnel for that scheme, or perhaps any other scheme for that matter, to be successful. The plan to acquire the talent was soon developed.

Maybe the Chiefs have had a similar "game-plan" in previous years and the pieces just wouldn't fall together like they have in 2005, but I doubt it. There is a definite sense of commitment in Carl Peterson to get his head coach whatever he needs to win the Super Bowl. Not to just improve, or get things headed in the right direction, which seemed to be the prevailing attitude of the Chiefs leadership in years past. This staff is making a bull run at winning a Super Bowl this year, make no mistake about it.

It's true that due to the effects of free agency, NFL teams have to win now, there isn't time to develop players as in years past. The Chiefs signing Sammy Knight is a good example of the urgency displayed by the personnel team, I doubt Peterson is expecting Knight to still be a pro bowl level starter five years from now, so the only way you justify laying out a signing bonus and contract worthy of a player of his stature is if you think he can help you win in the next two years.

The exact opposite of the situation the Chiefs have been in for the last couple of years was true of the teams of the 1990's, when they had arguably the best defense for most of the decade, yet failed to take advantage of it due to an offense that was very effective rushing, yet was a one dimensional offense that year after year, was good enough to win the majority of their games and earn a playoff spot, but failed to produce enough points in the playoffs to make it to a Super Bowl. Some very good Chiefs defenses went under-appreciated in the 1990's.

As the GM for the Chiefs throughout the 90's, Peterson has experienced the frustration of being totally dominate on one side of the ball and not quite good enough on the other. He is very motivated to make sure that this team isn't under-appreciated and left with an unfulfilled feeling that comes from being so close to a championship but never achieving the goal. That is the most obvious reason he has done such a remarkable job of signing at least one of the players at each position the coaches put on their wish list. He is on a mission to make sure history doesn't repeat itself.

Carl Peterson knows his current coach has built the best offense in the league since….. the last time he built the best offense in the league, when he led the Rams to a Super Bowl victory. With the recent player acquisitions, the defense should improve enough to be ranked in the top half of the league. If the offense can put together another season like 2004, the team has an excellent chance to finally achieve their goal of a Super Bowl victory.

In the NFL, winning the Super Bowl is means everything. The team that loses the Super Bowl should feel proud of the accomplishment of winning their conference title and just having the opportunity to appear in the game, but in the NFL, thirty-one teams are left with a feeling of disappointment. No matter how much success Dick Vermeil has with the Chiefs short of a Super Bowl win, it's possible he could be remembered years from now as, "A great coach who won the Super Bowl with St. Louis".

If he coaches the Chiefs to a Super Bowl victory, he would likely be remembered as "The legendary Chiefs coach who took three different teams to the Super Bowl, and won the last two" Except if Vermeil won a Super Bowl this season, he would probably coach again in 2006 and would have a great chance of winning another. Plus….and this has to be very important to Peterson… when Dick Vermeil is a first ballot inductee into the Hall of Fame, he would likely go in as a Kansas City Chief.

That is, in my opinion, is what sets this off-season apart from all previous years. I've repeatedly asked throughout this article what Carl Peterson's motivation has been to acquire as many of the players as possible the coaches included on their "wish list". To give his friend, and in his opinion the finest coach to ever walk the sidelines, the best opportunity possible to bring the Lamar Hunt trophy to the Hunt family, and the entire Chiefs nation. It's been 36 years, and the fans of the Kansas City Chiefs deserve nothing less.

But the one man who deserves a Super Bowl win more than anyone else in the Chiefs family is Carl Peterson, for bringing the pride and excitement of a winning tradition back to Arrowhead.

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