Kansas City Chiefs emerge from months of criticism, challenges

A blowout loss to Tampa Bay in Super Bowl LV was part of a cascade of bad news for the Kansas City Chiefs, including seeing their star defensive end faced with a felony gun possession charge; an assistant coach (and head coach's son) let go after drinking prior to a car accident that critically injured a young girls; and an offensive line in dire need of a full rebuild.



August 27, 2021 - 12:50 PM

Outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett, left, sacks Kansas City Chiefs Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes during Super Bowl LV. Photo by Dirk Shadd / Tampa Bay Times / TNS

Katy Jackson, a 29-year-old Kansas City native, spent more than a year in quarantine, afraid to catch coronavirus and pass it on to her ailing mother. As days in isolation became weeks and the weeks became months, Jackson relied on the Chiefs as a form of remedy.

Shortly into a season dubbed “Run it Back,” she began a scrapbook by the same title, printing out Chiefs articles and gluing them to decorative pages. Inside the book, the final week of the season remained blank for a month — it was March before she finally sat at the kitchen countertop and completed the project.

“There are some articles,” she said, “that I still wish weren’t in there.”

After the Chiefs spent 50 years mostly immaterial in the national pro football conversation, a transcendent quarterback positioned them on the doorstep of a second straight Super Bowl — and as the NFL’s next dynasty.

Instead, they ignited a blaze they’re still trying to extinguish.

During the week of the Super Bowl, head coach Andy Reid’s son crashed his pickup truck near Arrowhead Stadium while allegedly driving drunk, leaving a 5-year-old girl with brain damage. The Chiefs were humiliated in the sport’s biggest game three days later with 97 million people watching. In the offseason, Pro Bowl defensive end Frank Clark was arrested on a gun charge and could face other charges stemming from a separate arrest after he allegedly traveled with an Uzi in his vehicle.

For nearly two years, the Chiefs had stood atop the NFL’s summit. On the field, they could do little wrong. Their fall came in remarkable and stunning fashion — so abruptly that by halftime of the Super Bowl, he would later quip, general manager Brett Veach began sketching a blueprint for rebuilding the team.

Next Friday, the Chiefs will emerge from the Arrowhead Stadium tunnel for the first time since winning the AFC Championship Game there last January. But they are still trying to escape a Super Bowl week that damaged their ego and image.

“I think everybody has still got a bad taste in our mouth on how we finished the season last year,” All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce said. “That’s fueling the fire.”

Still, consequential questions follow.

Will the focus of the Chiefs’ offseason roster moves — a new offensive line firewall to protect the NFL’s highest-paid quarterback — be enough?

Can they put the shame of Super Bowl week and monthslong criticism behind them to get back on top — something only one NFL team has achieved in the past half century?

And will the organization answer any questions — which its leaders have thus far evaded, citing an ongoing criminal case — about whether Britt Reid, the coach’s son and a linebackers coach at the time, was drinking at the team facility before crashing his vehicle less than a mile away?

The Chiefs are eager to keep the conversation on football. They have yearned to move on from the past seven months with their 2021 regular season opener, Sept. 12 against the Browns at Arrowhead Stadium.