KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs have won six straight AFC West titles, something never before accomplished, and will be hosting a record fourth consecutive conference championship game when Cincinnati visits Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday.
They’ve been to the past two Super Bowls. Won a championship. Set so many league-best marks behind the unparalleled play of Patrick Mahomes and the brilliant coaching of Andy Reid that the rest of the NFL has ample reason to be jealous.
So, are the Chiefs following in the footsteps of the Patriots as the next football dynasty?
Or, are they just the latest “it” team that everyone wants to watch?
“I think it was 2008 or 2009 that (Chiefs chairman) Clark Hunt made the statement that we’re going to strive to create an organization that consistently competes for championships,” team president Mark Donovan recalled this week, “and here we are, hosting our fourth straight championship. Never been done before. It’s special times to be a Chiefs fan, and special times to be part of this organization. I know Andy says it, and I’ll say it: We’re grateful for this opportunity we’re given.”
Perhaps that’s because they don’t have to look far into their history to remember what it’s like to live at the bottom.
When Hunt made that bold proclamation, the Chiefs were a floundering franchise that hadn’t won a playoff game in more than two decades. And they hadn’t even bottomed out, either. That came a few years later when, during a season in which a player killed himself in the practice facility parking lot, the Chiefs were the two-win laughingstock of the league.
They soon began the search for a new coach, and in a case of coincidence or fate, the Eagles had just moved on from their own. Hunt quickly flew to Philadelphia and met with Reid, refused to let him out of the room without agreeing to come to Kansas City, and in one weekend changed the course of the organization.
The Chiefs went from two wins to 11 the very next year, one of the great turnarounds in NFL history, and haven’t had another losing season. The past seven have ended in the playoffs, the past four in the conference championship game and, with a win over the Bengals on Sunday, the past three would be in the Super Bowl.
But is nearly a decade of relative dominance enough to call the Chiefs a dynasty?
Don’t count on Reid to hazard a guess.
“Listen, I might down the road somewhere,” he said of putting the past few years into perspective, “but right now, we’re moving onto Cincinnati. There’s no time to wait. … It’s important that we got on that and make sure our bases are covered.”
That doesn’t mean others can’t — and won’t — opine on the subject. After all, dynasties are purely subjective. The textbook definition, at least from Merriam-Webster, is that they involve “a sports franchise which has a prolonged run of successful seasons,” though in truth that doesn’t define anything.
How successful? And for how long?
Here are some facts: The Chiefs have won six straight home playoff games, one of the 10 longest streaks since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. They are among seven franchises to reach four straight conference title games, and the first to host all of them. A third straight Super Bowl appearance would match the Dolphins of Don Shula in the early ’70s and the Patriots of Bill Belichick from 2016-18 as the only franchises to make that many in a row with at least one victory.
(Yes, the Bills went to four straight Super Bowls. Without winning one, are they worthy of being called a dynasty?)
Of course, there are some NFL dynasties that are difficult to debate.
The Packers that won six championships under Curly Lambeau from 1929-44. The Bears of George Halas won four titles in seven seasons during the 1940s; Paul Brown’s teams in Cleveland seemingly never lost in the ’50s. The Vince Lombardi-led Packers of the ’60s won the first two Super Bowls. The 1970s Steelers of the famed Steel Curtain defense, the 49ers in the ’80s and the Cowboys of the ’90s paved the way for the Patriots of the past two decades.
Besides longevity and success, most have something else in common: historic quarterback-coach combinations. Lombardi had Bart Starr. Chuck Noll had Terry Bradshaw in Pittsburgh. Bill Walsh coached Joe Montana and George Seifert had Steve Young in San Francisco. Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer relied on Troy Aikman in Dallas. Belichick had Tom Brady.
Kind of like Reid and Mahomes in Kansas City.
Whether the Chiefs are already a dynasty or one in the making is up for debate. But with Reid firmly ensconced in the coach’s office, Mahomes signed for most of the next decade and a plethora of playmakers under long-term contracts — guys such as Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill and Chris Jones — the Chiefs don’t appear to be going away soon.
“As long as we keep the people that we have in this organization on this team, with the coach we have, I think we have a chance to be good year-in and year-out,” Mahomes said. “There’s a lot of great football teams in this league, you understand that. But at the same time, you just have to try to get better and be better every year you come in.”