Chief Debate: Dante Hall

Dante Hall's improbable and spectacular punt return against the Denver Broncos in 2003 is one of the greatest moments in Arrowhead Stadium history. In fact, it might be the greatest of them all. Unfortunately, that moment was authored by a man whose tenure as a Chief has run its course.

As the Masters Golf Classic wrapped up this week, scores were high. Wind conditions, cold temperatures and an improved course made finding par a difficult proposition at best.

But some great golfers who once dominated the sport could not step up and put the ball in the cup. Their skills have diminished. In the NFL, the same rule applies – there are some players who have lost something.

Dante Hall is a member of that class. In 2003, he was the talk of the NFL. He returned kicks for touchdowns in four straight games, appeared on David Letterman and was all set for pure stardom. But what nobody could predict was the fact he'd never reach those heights again.

Former head coach Dick Vermeil made it his personal mission to mold Hall into an every-down player. After drafting him in 2000, Vermeil knew that Hall was raw but possessed enough speed to be a solid return man and an above-average receiver.

Hall was convinced to spend an offseason in NFL Europe. There he made a successful transition from running back to wide receiver, and he developed his return skills to the point the Chiefs felt they might have someone who could be as successful as Tamarick Vanover was in the 90's.

Hall began his NFL maturation in 2002, returning three kicks for touchdowns. You could feel his confidence growing. He was also blessed with a trio of outstanding blockers - running back Derrick Blaylock and linebackers Monty Beisel and Gary Stills.

In 2003, the party was on. Hall started his magical streak Sept. 14 at home against the Pittsburgh Steelers with a score on a kickoff return. The following week at Houston he returned a punt for a score, and then in a tie game at Baltimore in the fourth quarter the next Sunday he ran a kickoff back, giving the Chiefs a 17-10 win.

The following week brought the electrifying return against the Denver Broncos, which also provided the winning points in a 24-23 victory.

Hall nearly set an NFL record with his fifth return a week later, but a saving tackle by Green Bay Packers punter Josh Bidwell prevented history.

But since 2003, Hall has been average at best. He's scored a few more touchdowns via his happy feet - both in the return game and through the air - but his best days are behind him.

When Vermeil left following the 2005 season, Hall lost not only his father figure but the last man in the organization who was willing to stroke his ego and push him to be the best. Hall needed that, and it didn't happen with Herm Edwards. Hall was expected to be at his best but clearly struggled last year.

In March at the NFL Winter meetings, the Chiefs laid the groundwork for a potential trade of the man formerly known as ‘The Human Joystick,' but to date no teams have stepped up.

By waving the white flag at the meetings, the Chiefs have made it clear they intend to move in a new direction – one that does not include Hall in 2007.

With Jeff Webb and Chris Hannon poised to contribute in the return game next season, Hall finds himself the odd man out. It's not unfamiliar territory for Hall, who came into the league with no expectations. Most felt he was a long shot to make an NFL roster.

But he did, and if he's going to return to the All-Pro form that made him a household name, he needs to look inside before he can once again be one of the most dangerous players in the NFL.

More than anyone else, Hall himself has stalled his own NFL career, because he has forgotten how hard it was to get into a position to be magical in 2003. He stopped working as hard as he can and made far more excuses than plays.

That has to change if he wants to be remembered in the same class as his hero, Billy ‘White Shoes' Johnson, who was very similar to Hall.

He has to be willing to do far more to get the ball into the cup, regardless of the conditions around him. If he does that, it'll be with another NFL team.

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