By James Russell
I can still smell the sulfuric aroma of the fireworks as they drifted down in smoking trails from the dark night sky that crowned Arrowhead Stadium.
It was Monday night, Sept. 13, 2010, and the Kansas City Chiefs were set to face off on the national stage against the San Diego Chargers. I had never been as pumped for the beginning of a football season as I was that night.
I had never experienced such a certainty that one single event was about to signal the beginning of something historic as when I listened to the reverberating echo of over 75,000 people roaring “Chiefs!” at the final word of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The very marrow in my bones resonated with the knowledge that I was witnessing the start of something amazing.
And I did.
A playoff game in Arrowhead stadium. Six players selected and five participating in the Pro Bowl. A new energy in Kansas City – a skin-tingling sensation that let you know the city was alive with what could be.
Enter 2011: A ridiculous, money-driven strike decimated any type of offseason. Injury ridden pre- and regular seasons took from the Chiefs Jamaal Charles, Eric Berry, and Tony Moeaki within a matter of three consecutive weeks at the very beginning of the year – as well as Matt Cassel with still seven weeks to go. A local media that gave up on all that was red and gold as soon as things turned sour.
For one of the most historic teams in the NFL – and a fan base just as legendary – we reacted badly to these events. Many fans bought into the media hype and forgot about injuries, coaching issues, and a multitude of problems that could never have been accounted for prior to the 2011 season. Matt Cassel sucked. Our receivers didn’t care. Our rookies weren’t superstars. And such has been the sentiment up until shortly before the time that I find myself sitting and writing these words.
But 2011 was a fluke. No one could have anticipated what was to befall the Chiefs via injury so early. Yet we still fell two field goals away from a second playoff berth. Four of our top-rated players gone, three of them back-to-back by the time we finished our second game, and yet we were still in the race up until the last moment.
After such a disappointing season, this is a team that is about to live up to the fireworks launched that Monday night nearly two years ago. We have created one of the best defenses in the entire NFL, forged an offensive line that protects the quarterback and allows time for those breathtaking plays that we’ve been waiting for and we’ve put together a coaching staff that has learned from recent mistakes and will build on them.
With these things in place Matt Cassel, like it or not, is about to succeed in a way that will leave analysts questioning how they could have possibly missed it. The Chiefs are about to amaze the world – be it this season or next – and once they do, we will again be a dynasty in the NFL, the rightful heirs to a throne we have long vacated.
Get ready, Chiefs fans. Soon the tang of fireworks will once again tinge the air. This time, however, it will not merely be above Arrowhead. It will rain down upon all of Kansas City as we celebrate that which has eluded us for so long.
Lombardi is on his way.
Contact James Russell, sports columnist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.