Friday, 4 a.m.
Even now, there is something magical about their names. Podolak and Lanier, Culp and Stenerud.
They were like something out of the comic books. Big, strong men who evidently felt no pain.
Even now, you can see the horse streaking down the sideline and the moving pocket and whatever animal it was who died on top of Hank Stram's head. They were Tyrer and Garrett and Bobby Bell. They were Big Buck Buchanan and tiny Noland "Super Gnat" Smith and, until they carted him off, Fred “the Hammer'' Williamson.
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They had outsized names, and outsized fame. And maybe that's why they remain as the most over-represented team in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
I know, I know. The Kansas City fans among you are grabbing the torches and pitchforks. They have before when I have written similar things. But it's true.
This is my go-to argument when people question just how many Hall of Fame players the Tampa Bay Bucs, who won only one Super Bowl, should get. It comes up every now and then as I have talked to various voters. Two players, Derrick Brooks and Warren Sapp, are plenty for some folks (especially when you add in a former coach, Tony Dungy). Some think John Lynch needs to get in, and that will be it. Some think Lynch and Ronde Barber, and that's it. Don't even talk about Simeon Rice or anyone else.
Ah, I ask. But what about the Chiefs who, in the annals of time, were not the Packers or Steelers or 49ers.
Kansas City won one Super Bowl, too. That year, they didn't even win their division.
And the Chiefs have eight representatives in the Hall of Fame. They have the owner and the coach and the quarterback and the placekicker. They have five players (two defensive tackles in Culp and Buchanan, two linebackers in Bell and Lanier) and a cornerback (Emmitt Thomas). It isn't hard to find a Kansas City fan who thinks safety Johnny Robinson should get in, too.
It is at this point of the argument I often add this: Bullfeathers.
Hey, those Chiefs were good. They were very good. But they weren't an all-time dynasty by any means.
The 1969 New York Jets, who won the Super Bowl the year before the Chiefs? They had three (coach Weeb Ewbanks, quarterback Joe Namath and receiver Don Maynard). The 1985 Bears, the best team I've ever seen, have four. Heck, the Dolphins, who won two Super Bowls in a row, have only eight.
The Chiefs have eight. Almost as many Chiefs' defensive players are in the Hall of Fame as out of it.
I know, I know. There isn't a solid line saying that one Super Bowl gets you this many players and two gets you that many and three get you that many more. But by and large, a team that wins it a bunch (the Steelers or the Packers, for intance) should get more than a team that stops by once. Right?
That's not the only great question about the Chiefs, though. I was speaking to former Bucs' general manager Rich McKay once, and he posed this question: Who would you would have rather been a fan of in the 1990s: The Chiefs or the Rams?
The Chiefs were in the playoffs seven times under Marty Schottenheimer, but they never won a Super Bowl. Never played in one. The Rams, on the other hand, had nine losing seasons. But they won the Super Bowl in 1999.
Most of us, without hesitation, would pick the Rams. Because there is nothing like winning it all. Sure, we'd all love sustained success. But not at the price of the big trophy.
All in all, the Chiefs are a fun franchise. I remember when the Bucs fired Tony Dungy. I was covering the Super Bowl that year, and I did a story offering the team's coaching job to several former coaches and players who were at the game. Boomer Esiason. Ron Jawarski. Chuck Dickerson. Most of them were in on the joke, and they had a ball with their answers.
Then I asked Hank Stram. He thought I was serious. He started laying out his plans to get the Bucs over the hump, and how the moving pocket could still be effective, and on and on. I felt terrible that, somehow, he thought I was representing the team.
There were great teams in Kansas City. Derrick Thomas was a wonderful guy. Tony Gonzalez reinvented tight end. Priest Holmes was good. Christian Okoye. Joe Montana played for the Chiefs for a brief period of time; he once asked me if I had a beer as he came off the field. (Huh? Me?)
For most of their history, the Chiefs have been very, very good.
Just not eight players off one team into the Hall of Fame good.